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Obama: Impact of the Bush-McCain War on Communities, Economy

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In Charleston, West Virginia, Mar. 20, Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama continued his criticisms of Bush's handling of the Iraq war. To a standing ovation, Obama pledged to bring the Iraq war to an end in his first term as president.

Focusing his remarks on the costs of war and the obligation to veterans, Obama stated, "We honor the brave men and women serving this nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. A grateful nation slautes them."

No one pays as a high a price for war as troops themselves and the people who love them, he said. But we are all paying a high price for the war in other ways.

When National Guard troops are diverted to Iraq and aren't here to provide aid during natural and other disasters in their home states, that is a cost of this war, Obama pointed out. He cited the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and recent flooding in West Virginia and throughout the Midwest and upper South.

Obama also described the Bush administration's diversion of resources from the fight in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda to Iraq as a strategic blunder that has not made anyone safer.

Additionally, the Iraq war has cost US prestige and leadership on major global issues that impact our country as well, Obama added, including global poverty, disease, genocide, and nuclear proliferation.

The diversion of federal resources to give tax breaks for the wealthy and no-bid contracts to administration-friendly corporations like Halliburton has come at the expense of providing adequate funding for veterans health care. Obama cited Ft. Drum in New York, Hillary Clinton's home state, where recent reports indicate that returning veterans are waiting months to gain access to the VA health care system there due to a lack of adequate funding.

Describing the commitment to veterans as a "sacred trust" that has not yet been lived up to, Obama pledged to fully fund the VA. "We shouldn't have a VA that falls short half way through the year every year," he said.

Economically, Americans are paying for the war in other ways as well, he continued. Each household is paying about $100 per month for the war. Skyrocketing gas prices – four times higher now than before the war – are not only taking a toll on working families' pocketbooks but also on the general economy pushing up prices across the board.

"The cost of this war has been far higher than what we were told it would be," Obama said. Obama appeared to refer to recent estimates by prominent economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz that put an estimate for the final cost of the war conservatively at $3 trillion.

Endless war and endless tax cuts for the rich, the hallmarks of the Bush administration have wounded the US economy, he continued. In addition to massive new debt piled onto the backs of future generation, Bush-McCain war and economic policies have forced the US to deepen its debt to other countries like China, Obama said.

Bush administration officials convinced many Americans to support the war by promising it would cost as little as $50 or $60 billion. Bush didn't tell us the truth, Obama said.

Obama did not limit his criticisms to Bush, however. "John McCain refuses learn from the failures of the Bush years. Instead of offering us an exit strategy from Iraq, he's offering us a hundred year occupation," Obama said.

"No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush term," Obama stated.

"Senator McCain is embracing the failed policies of the past. But America," Obama added, "is ready to embrace the policies of the future. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America."

Obama also raised the issue of Hillary Clinton's "tragically ill-considered decision" to vote for the war. It is difficult for Clinton to now criticize John McCain for supporting Bush's endless war policies and the burdens of their costs having cast her vote for the war in 2002, he said.

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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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