Obama takes aim at Clinton's decision to back war in Iraq

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The Independent US

The US presidential candidate Barack Obama outlined his vision for a new style of American foreign policy yesterday, pledging to put diplomacy before bombs. He also sought to bury claims that he is an inexperienced lightweight and not a global statesman.

Five years ago this month, Mr Obama's two leading Democratic opponents voted to authorise the invasion of Iraq. Mr Obama, then a little-known state legislator from Illinois, publicly opposed the war in what was seen at the time as an act of political suicide.

Now his judgment on Iraq is being hailed as evidence that it is he who can be trusted to make the right call on matters of war and peace, rather than his main rival for the Democratic White House nomination, Hillary Clinton. She backed the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Obama's speech in Chicago yesterday, which coincided with anti-war rallies in 16 US cities, was designed to drive his point home to the electorate. His campaign continues to excite swing voters, including many who backed their Republican president George Bush in the last ballot but are now sickened by the war in Iraq.

Mr Obama chose to focus on the conflict again yesterday. In some of his most withering remarks to date, he attacked politician from both sides for failing to challenge the Bush administration's Middle East policy before the 2003 invasion.

"The American people weren't just failed by a President, they were failed by much of Washington," he said. Without mentioning Mrs Clinton by name, he also took a swipe at her vote to go to war, saying: "There is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. Who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong?

"This is not just a matter of debating the past. It's about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future.

"You might think that Washington would learn from Iraq, but we've seen in this campaign just how bent out of shape Washington gets when you challenge its assumptions. This election is about ending the Iraq war, but even more it's about moving beyond it."

Mr Obama's day in the spotlight was spoiled somewhat by Mrs Clinton, who revealed that she raised $22m during the summer towards the cost of her election campaign, slightly more than Mr Obama's £19m. However, his election war chest is still bigger than Mrs Clinton's and he has far more individual donors.