The Washington Post

Obama gives Iraq war a more generous spin

President Obama, whose presidential campaign in 2008 took off in large part because of his criticism of the Iraq war, on Wednesday used that war as a contrast to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Speaking in Brussels, Obama dismissed suggestions by Russia and its supporters that the Iraq war undercuts the United States' credibility in criticizing Russia's incursion into Crimea in Ukraine.

“It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well," Obama said. "I happened to oppose our military intervention there."

Obama added: "But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.”

Obama then made a similar point about Kosovo, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited as another example of the West not walking the walk.

"...NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years," Obama said. "And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized – not outside the boundaries of international law – but in careful cooperation with the United Nations, and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that happened in Crimea.”

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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