September 25th, 2008
03:15 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact check: Was Obama against the troop 'surge' in Iraq?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Was Obama against the surge?"]The Statement:
In his campaign speeches throughout the presidential campaign, including an appearance before the Disabled American Veterans convention, Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has attacked Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama's stance on the "surge" of troops in Iraq. "First, he opposed the surge - then he
confidently predicted that it would fail ... ," McCain said in his August 11 speech. "Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and to brave Iraqi fighters, the surge has succeeded. And yet Senator Obama still can't quite bring himself to admit his own failure in

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The Facts
In a January 10, 2007, speech, President Bush announced plans to increase the number of troops in Iraq by about 20,000 in an effort to quell violence throughout the country and especially in Baghdad. By spring 2008, as the number of deaths and other violence in Iraq began to drop, Bush and other supporters - including McCain - were hailing the "surge" as a success and giving it much of the credit for the improvements.

In Congress, Obama was one of many lawmakers who spoke against the plan. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse," he said in a response to Bush's speech. On at least some occasions, Obama - who has campaigned on a promise to end the war in Iraq - said he wasn't questioning the ability of U.S. troops, but the long-term political impact the surge would have.

"Even those who support the escalation have acknowledged that 20,000, 30,000, even 40,000 more troops placed temporarily in places like Baghdad are not going to make a long-term difference," he said in a March 19, 2007, interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

In a September 4 interview this year, Obama said the military surge "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," but that goals laid out by Bush, including turning over control of all Iraqi provinces to that nation's security forces, have not been achieved. "There's an underlying problem with what we've done," Obama said. "We have reduced the violence, but the Iraqis still haven't taken responsibility."

The Verdict: True, but incomplete. Obama did oppose the surge, but has acknowledged military success "beyond our wildest dreams."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
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