The McCain campaign implied on Wednesday that Barack Obama's commitment to preventing a future genocide was not sincere, attacking the Democratic candidate during his appearance at the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem.
In an early morning press release, entitled "Obama on Genocide," McCain aide Tucker Bounds emailed reporters a quote from Obama's appearance in which the Illinois Democrat reiterated the cry "never again." He followed that quote with one taken a year ago from an interview that the Senator gave with the Associated Press in which he said that genocide or humanitarian crises were not a prerequisite for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq (a statement he has since walked back)
"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces," said Obama, "then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now."
The message was fairly explicit: Obama's commitment to stopping future Holocausts is in doubt. Asked for clarification, McCain aide Michael Goldfarb responded:
"Today he says 'never again.' A year ago stopping genocide wasn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Doesn't that strike you as inconsistent?"
It's a heavy charge to make, not least because Obama had just wrapped up his visit to the Holocaust memorial. In addition, there are, for better or worse, outstanding implications when discussing genocide when it comes to Jews -- and the insertion of the issue into the presidential campaign will border for some, on the taboo. Moreover, on the topic of Iraq, Obama has said he would leave a residual force to intervene in potential humanitarian crises and that he reserves the right to intervene militarily with international partners in order to "suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq."
"I'd love to know more about Obama's residual force," said Goldfarb, when asked about it. "How big is it, where is it based, what is its mission, how long will it remain in Iraq? Nobody knows the answers to those questions, and I'd encourage the Huffington Post to inquire further with the Obama campaign."
UPDATE: Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), one of the most high-profile Jewish supporters of Obama, tells the Huffington Post that McCain's attack is "shameful" and "unconscionable."
Here is the full press release:
Obama on Genocide
Obama today at Yad Vashem:
"Let our children come here and know this history so they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.' And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us and who have become symbols of the human spirit."
Obama on July 20, 2007:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now -- where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife -- which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.