Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, arguing that US policy is still focused on the defunct Soviet Union instead of combatting the nuclear threat from rogue nations and terrorists.
In a speech that also highlighted his early opposition to the Iraq War, Obama said he does not want the US to disarm unilaterally, but instead to work with other nations to phase out nuclear weapons and control nuclear material.
"America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons," Obama said.
"The best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons -- it's to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists," the senator said. Aides said the process Obama envisions would take many years, not just a single presidency.
The Republican National Committee criticized the proposal as unsafe and an example of Obama "playing to the fringe elements of his party." But the concept has the backing of at least two former Republican secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.
Obama delivered the foreign policy address on the fifth anniversary of his speech at an anti-war rally where he announced his opposition to invading Iraq. He predicted then that the US would get bogged down in an unending war that would inflame world anger.
Speaking at DePaul University, Obama pointed out that the campus was filled with students for whom the Iraq war has been a constant for four years.
Obama was a state legislator in Illinois when Congress voted in October 2002 to give US President George W. Bush the authority to use military force to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In his speech, Obama criticized Bush, the media and Congress, arguing that they failed the nation in the rush to war.
"Let's be clear: Without that vote, there would be no war," Obama said in his speech.
Obama took a swipe at his Democratic rivals who were in the Senate and voted for the war -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden -- but never mentioned them by name.
"Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren't really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the administration, the media and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002," Obama said. "And we need to ask those who voted for the war: How can you give the president a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?"
Obama cites his early opposition to war as evidence that he has the judgment to be president despite arriving in Washington less than three years ago.
Obama's comments on Iraq and nuclear weapons were part of a broader call for an aggressive new approach to international affairs.
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