Opinion: Obama tries to get more aggressive on Iraq


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Barack Obama has been taking increasing heat from liberal bloggers for not being more assertive in pushing for an end to the war in Iraq. Late last week, a posting that attracted particular attention on Daily Kos was headlined: ‘Take the damn ball, Senator Obama.’

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Democratic presidential contender today offered a more specific plan, calling for troop withdrawals to start immediately and setting a goal of removing all U.S. combat forces by the end of 2008. (Also perhaps not coincidentally, he delivered his remarks in Clinton, Iowa).


The full text of Obama’s speech can be read here.

How it will play with Americans is yet to be determined. But two of his rivals in the Democratic race who are trying to break into the top tier wasted little time blasting Obama’s proposal as offering less than meets the eyes.

Chris Dodd, in a release that also takes shot at Hillary Clinton, expressed disappointment that Obama ‘didn’t include a firm, enforceable deadline for redeployment.’

Bill Richardson, in a release, noted that removing the ‘combat’ troops isn’t the same as fully ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Obama, he said, ‘did not tell us what he would do with the tens of thousands of non-combat troops who also are stuck in the middle of a civil war.’

Richardson, as he seeks to stress at every candidate debate, wants all troops, including so-called residual forces, gone in six months or so (a scenario that another of the lagging Democratic contenders, Joe Biden, rarely hesitates to dismiss as impractical).

In seeking to gain some momentum within the antiwar community, Obama also has to overcome what many viewed as a botched opportunity when it came his turn to question Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the U.S. envoy to Iraq, at Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations hearing.

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times provides a pithy critique here.

-- Don Frederick