Obama at foreign policy forum in DSM

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama now is on stage here at the Holiday Inn just across the street from the Des Moines Airport, thanking the crowd gathered in this ballroom and opening with a pitch to the Iowans in the room to attend the Caucuses — and vote fof him.

"This is a pivotal moment in our history," Obama said, launching into his stump speech.  "….Iowans understand this everywhere I go…I’m constantly asked about the changes we need to make in our foreign policy….Our own security & prosperity is tied to what happens around the world…."

Obama then tells the crowd he won’t "demand a loyalty pledge" of his foreign policy advisors, something he accused George Bush of doing.. 

"There are moments when we’re called to stand up for what is right even through it’s not popular," Obama said.  "….I am running to do more than end a war in  Iraq.  I know that that has been at the heart of our foreign policy debate…but I am even more interested in ending the mindset of what got us into the war."

Obama, without naming names, takes a swipe at rivals who voted for the Iraq war resolution.  "George Bush did not take us into war alone," he said. 

"….It’s not clear that we have learned the right lessons," Obama continued, adding the Bush Administration has "resources focused on the wrong war….We still do not have our priorities straight."

Obama argues it’s time to refocus resources on Afghanistan.

On Iran, he suggests diplomacy, economic sanctions and a warning:  "Continue what you are doing and you will face isolation."

Obama concludes after a 14 minute speech, and starts taking questions from the crowd.

The first questioner asks why Obama didn’t mention the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Obama replies he starts with the premise that Israel is an ally, but the status quo is unacceptable.  Mentions Bush Administration was tardy in dealing with the issue, and promises it will be priority on day on eof an Obama Administration.  Obama promised not to dictate terms, but added: "Both sides are going to have to make…some politically difficult choicss."

A woman rises to ask a question, but admits she already asked one of the panel members so Obama says it’s not fair to the rest of the crowd.

"I think I’m going to ask you a hard question.  Are you ready?" the next questioner begins, asking whether Obama wold stop funding General Musharaff.

"We have made a mistake," Obama begins, suggesting the US has "made a mistake" and has "the worst of both worlds" in holding to an alliance with Parkistan’s president rather than making clear the alliance is with the country.

"If anything, because of his anit-democratic practices that has strengthened the capacity of Islamic extremists in Pakistan….so I would absolutely cohdition much of our military aid on better democratic practices in Pakistan," Obama said.

Next question is about Ike, JFK, Carter and their efforts to "interfact with the rest of the world."

"The more the American people are engaged, the more they udnerstand what’s happening in the world…the safer we are going to be," Obama said, adding he wants to "build a civilian counterpart" to the U.S. military.  Obama lets one of panel members weigh in, then concludes that American schools must start teaching more foreign languages.

Next question about US policy toward China and Taiwan.

"I do not believe that China is an enemy.  I think it is a competitor, economically, and I think it is a potential adversary depending on how we manage this relationship," Obama said. 

The next question came from a man who seemed to choke up when he talked about American soldiers who are dying in Iraq.  "I see this conflict very much like the Vietnam War," the man continued, then criticized the media for not writing about what’s happening to the oil in Iraq.

Obama says Iraqis own the oil, but Iraqis haven’t agreed how to allocate oil resources within Iraq.

Next question is about NIE and Iran, plus Russia’s recent delivery of material to Iranians.

Iran in the "catbird’s seat" because of the US invasion of Iraq, according to Obama.  "We’re like the boy who cried wolf," Obama said of the recent NIE that Iran abandoned nuke program, but adds he believes Iran is "still a potential problem" as a nuclear weapon-holder. 

Final question of Obama:  what will he do in terms of foreign policy towards the Sudan.

Obama talks about the "turmoil" in the region.  "We’ve got a lot of work to do in Sudan, but we’ve got a lot of work to do in all of Africa," Obama said.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.