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On Iraq Anniversary, Obama Speaks of 'Security Gap'

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., hugs a supporter prior to speaking about Iraq and national security, Wednesday, March 19, 2008, at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, N.C. (AP.)

By Shailagh Murray
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Sen. Barack Obama drew a stark contrast with Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain, portraying his rivals as political opportunists who made the wrong call by voting to authorize the war.

"In 2002, when the fateful decisions about Iraq were made, there was a president for whom ideology overrode pragmatism, and there were too many politicians in Washington who spent too little time reading the intelligence reports, and too much time reading public opinion," Obama told an audience of military and community leaders, in a speech titled "The World Beyond Iraq."

"Here is the stark reality. There is a security gap in this country -- a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions," Obama said.

Just 24 hours after delivering the biggest speech of his political career, on race relations and his controversial former pastor, Obama turned back to the issue that fueled his candidacy: the Iraq war, which he opposed from the outset. Obama will speak tomorrow in West Virginia about the conflict's economic costs.

It is a day full of Iraq assertions. Speaking at the Pentagon, Bush defended the war and called the success of last year's troop surge "undeniable." Clinton will meet with veterans later today in Huntington, West Virginia. She also released a video of military officials advocating her foreign policy credentials.

McCain issued a statement reiterating his strong support for the war: "Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism. The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable." Even Vice President Cheney appeared on "Good Morning America."

Obama directed most of his fire at the presumptive Republican nominee. "If you believe we are fighting the right war, then the problems we face are purely tactical in nature. That is what Senator McCain wants to discuss - tactics," Obama said.
"We know what we'll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war," he continued. "They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender. That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer."

He noted that McCain yesterday had mixed up Sunnis and Shiites while discussing the terrorist threat in Iraq, during the Arizona senator's trip through the Middle East. "Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al-Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America 's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades," Obama said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 19, 2008; 12:53 PM ET
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