October 6th, 2008
02:35 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact check: What did Obama say about troops in Afghanistan?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/06/art.obama.bridge.gi.jpg caption="Get the facts!"]
The Statement:
In an ad released Monday, October 6, titled "Dangerous," Sen. John McCain's campaign asserts that Sen. Barack Obama "says our troops in Afghanistan are 'just air-raiding villages and killing civilians.'"

Get the facts!

The Facts:
In the ad, the McCain campaign is trying to make the case that Obama is "too risky for America." An announcer says, "Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are..."

The ad then shows video of Obama saying "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians."

The announcer's voice returns. "How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops. Increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous."

The Afghanistan comment, which the ad uses out of context, is something Obama said once on the campaign trail more than a year ago.

On August 13, 2007, Obama spoke to a group of potential voters in Nashua, New Hampshire. He said, "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there." While there is no complete transcript of his remarks, the quote was published by news media including the Associated Press, and video of it was posted on YouTube. The video shows Obama speaking without a script, apparently extemporaneously. The AP said his remark came in response to a question about whether he would pull troops from Iraq to fight terrorism elsewhere.

CNN could not find evidence that Obama ever repeated the remark. CNN asked the McCain campaign for examples of Obama making similar comments. The campaign did not respond.

Obama's remark in Nashua left a different impression from what he had said just twelve days earlier, at a speech in Washington, when he praised U.S. troops in Afghanistan for fighting "valiantly."

Nearly a year later, in July 2008, before leaving on an overseas trip that included Afghanistan, Obama told a pool reporter in Washington, "I want to, obviously, talk to the commanders and get a sense, both in Afghanistan and in Baghdad of, you know, what the most, their biggest concerns are. And I want to thank our troops for the heroic work that they've been doing."

Given his descriptions of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan as "valiant" and "heroic," it is clear Obama does not "say" that the United States is "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians." And in his remark in Nashua, he did not say that directly - but he did open the possibility that it may have been what he believed.

The ad follows the partial quote from Obama with an allegation that he is among the "Congressional liberals" who have voted to cut off funding for active troops. The CNN Truth Squad has previously looked at a statement from the McCain campaign that Obama "opposed funding our troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan." The Truth Squad noted that while Obama opposed a war-spending plan that didn't include a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, he voted for military funding in a different bill that McCain called on President Bush to veto. The Truth Squad verdict on that assertion was "misleading."

The Verdict:
False. The McCain ad inaccurately presents this as Obama's current position, citing a an out-of-context comment from more than a year ago.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check
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