From the Fact Check Desk: Did Obama Say During the Debate Over the Surge That "There's No Doubt that Additional U.S. Troops Could Temporarily Quell the Violence?"

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on January 10 2007 predicted (watch HERE) that the surge of troops in Iraq would fail. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he told MSNBC. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Four days later he told CBS's Face the Nation, that "we cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality -- we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don't know any expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground."

Asked about these predictions on Sunday's Meet the Press, Obama told NBC's Tom Brokaw that "I know that there's that little snippet that you ran," referring to the MSNBC clip, "but there were also statements made during the course of this debate in which I said there's no doubt that additional U.S. troops could temporarily quell the violence. But unless we saw an underlying change in the politics of the country, unless Sunni, Shia, Kurd made different decisions, then we were going to have a civil war and we could not stop a civil war simply with more troops."

This has become an Obama meme -- that during the debate over the surge he acknowledged that more US troops would mean a temporary reduction in violence.

But is it true?

I asked the Obama campaign to provide me with any information of Sen. Obama saying the surge would reduce violence "during the course of this debate" over the surge.

The earliest quote they provided from Obama suggesting the surge might reduce violence came in March 2007, when Obama told Iowa's WQAD that "I don't think there's been any doubt that if we put U.S. troops in that, in the short term, we might see some improvement in certain neighborhoods because the militias are going to fade back into the community. That's one of the characteristics of what we've seen. The problem is that we don't see any change in the underlying dynamic which is Shia militias infiltrating the government, Sunni insurgents continuing the fight, that's the essence of the problem and unless we say that we're going to occupy Iraq indefinitely, we're gonna continue to see problems. I would disagree the bombings and the deaths that have been occurring over the last several weeks, you hadn't seen any real significant difference over what we've seen in the last year.” 

From there, it doesn't seem he made any comments along those lines until August 2007.


The first official Senate debate over the surge came in January and February 2007.

The surge of 21,500 US troops was officially announced by the President on Jan. 10, 2007.

The first surge brigade was the 2nd brigade of the 82nd Airborne that moved up to Iraq from Kuwait in mid-January.*

On February 16, 2007, the House passed legislation disapproving of the surge, 246-182.

One day later the Senate failed to do so. The resolution needed 60 votes; it got 55, with 34 voting against it.

Of course, the larger debate over the surge did not end in February; it continues through today.

But it seems, well, debatable for Obama to say "there were also statements made during the course of this debate in which I said there's no doubt that additional U.S. troops could temporarily quell the violence."

He said it, but not until March 2007. So the accuracy of this claim depends on when you consider the "debate" over the surge to have taken place.

- jpt

* Since corrected. Originally stated the first surge brigade arrived in early February.

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