Barack Obama after his Meeting on Iraq with President Bush Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld

January 25, 2006

Complete Podcast Transcript

Hello everybody, this is Senator Barack Obama, and today is Wednesday, January 25, 2006. First of all, let me say that I am glad to be back from the Middle East. It was a wonderful trip, but it is good to be back in the States. It was especially good to hug my kids and my wife. So in case they're listening out there, I love them, and appreciate them. I also want to apologize for some of you who have listened to our last couple of podcasts. I know I was a little bit long in each of those pod casts, but when you're on the road talking into a cell phone, sometimes you loose track of time. I obviously had a lot of information I wanted to transmit. I appreciate you guys bearing with me. I will try to be as succinct as possible in the future.

Today I just had a meeting with George Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice-President Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice, as well as some other officials, to discuss the situation in Iraq. Myself with eight other senators had a frank exchange of views as to what is taking place in Iraq, and how we can improve the situation there. As many of you know, this is a difficult issue for me because I was strongly opposed to the war; felt very strongly that once we were in, it would be very difficult to extract ourselves honorably. Now that we are in, I believe we need to bring our troops home as quickly as possible, but to do so in a way that does not precipitate all out civil war in Iraq.

As I indicated in my pod cast from Iraq, what was clear to me from my visit was that there is no military solution to the problem in Iraq, that the only way we're going to solve the situation there is for all the parties involved to arrive at a political accommodation. In the discussions that we had, I reiterated that view to the president. Ambassador Kaizaad participated in the meeting, as did General Casey. They gave us an update in terms of political situation there. One of the biggest concerns, as I may have mentioned in previous pod casts is that the police and defense security forces in Iraq in particular that are there have to be governed by non-sectarian leadership that the ministries of the interior and defense cannot be subject to the say of either Shia militias or Sunni militias. They have to operate professionally to generate trust from the general public. I also pointed out to the president what I heard in Iraq in regards to reconstruction. How vital it was to have competent institutions in place that would show the Iraqi people that a unified central government would work to improve their lives in a concrete way.

Another point of discussion had to do with troop levels. Obviously, I am extremely interested, as a number of the other Senators were, in figuring out when we can actually start brining troops home. We tried to press both the President and other members of the administration on how we can start reducing troop levels in a meaningful way. I do believe that some progress has been made as respect to training of Iraqi security forces. If in fact we are seeing more trained Iraqis, both in the police and security apparatus, then it seems to me that we should be able to start rotating some of our troops out. We didn't get any firms commitments from the president, but that is something that we will continue to press them on.

There was one final point that came up in discussion. The president insisted that regardless of whether or not agreed about going into Iraq, that all Americans had a stake in the success of Iraqi democracy. I agree with that proposition. I also shared with the President my belief, however, that bipartisanship can only work if the administration and political operatives within the White House are not using national security as a means of supporting chief political points. Obviously that is not something that is restrictive to Republicans; Democrats do it as well sometimes. But, the stakes are too high to suggest that Democrats who have critiqued the war effort, or have dissenting views are un-American. I am hopeful that out of this conversation there is some discussion and consideration of these issues within the White House.

So, thanks for listening, everybody. I appreciate it, and I will talk to you next week. We'll probably have some discussion, at that time, about the Alito nomination.