WASHINGTON (AP) Aug. 2 – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said he would not use nuclear weapons “in any circumstance” to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” Obama said, with a pause, “involving civilians.” Then he quickly added, “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
Obama was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance where he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a major foreign policy speech that he would use U.S. military force in Pakistan even without Musharraf’s permission if necessary to root out terrorists.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is politically unstable, raising concerns that the current military leadership could be replaced by religious fanatics who would be less cautious in using the weapons.
Messrs. Biden and Dodd said it was unwise to telegraph his strategy in advance, a line that Senator Clinton echoed yesterday. “Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons,” she told reporters at a press conference at the Capitol. “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.”
Asked later about taking military action against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, she said, “Everyone agrees our goal should be to capture or kill bin Laden and his lieutenants, but how we do it should not be telegraphed or discussed, for obvious reasons.”
Messrs. Biden and Dodd also escalated their criticism.
“Over the past several days, Senator Obama’s assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused,” Mr. Dodd said in a statement. “He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options.”
Mrs. Clinton’s warning not to “telegraph” war strategy came even as she stepped up her efforts to force the Pentagon to disclose its contingency plans for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. After she and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee received a classified briefing from an undersecretary of defense, Eric Edelman, Mrs. Clinton joined with Senator Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator Boxer of California to introduce legislation that would require such briefings in the future.
Mr. Edelman agreed to the meeting after initially rebuffing Mrs. Clinton’s request with a letter in which he suggested that her calls for troop withdrawal were “reinforcing enemy propaganda.”