Obama in 2002: War Shouldn’t Distract from Fixing Economic Problems

By Matt Cover | March 31, 2011 | 4:01 AM EDT

President Barack Obama gestures during a joint news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Monday, March 21, 2011, at La Moneda Palace in Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama – as an Illinois state senator – said that economic and domestic problems should take precedence over attacking Saddam Hussein, despite his record of humanitarian abuses.

Obama, speaking at a Chicago anti-war rally on Oct. 2, 2002, said that he opposed “dumb wars” that only distracted the country from its economic and domestic problems.

“What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression” Obama said.

“That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”

However, in his March 28 speech justifying attacking the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Obama said that domestic problems “cannot be an argument” against military intervention.

Obama argued that attacking Gadhafi was the right thing to do, despite both the country’s and the world’s laundry list of problems.

“On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.

“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right,” he said.

Obama did not mention the current economic problems plaguing the country, which is still trying to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama also did not mention why his current war in Libya was not a distraction from the country’s persistently high unemployment – 8.9 percent in February – when the war in Iraq was an unacceptable distraction from the economic problems of late 2002 – when unemployment was at 5.7 percent.

Obama did echo the words of former President George W. Bush in arguing that helping an oppressed people achieve freedom was more than enough justification for military action.

“But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.”