Jim Kouri
Obama changes tune as Iraq war ends for US
By Jim Kouri
December 17, 2011

Critics have accused Obama of ending the war hastily to coincide with his re-election campaign. Many of them have warned that the pullout could embolden still-active insurgent fighters as well as Iraq's neighbor Iran

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama addressed the impending end of the US mission in Iraq. "When the last U.S. troops in Iraq case their colors and move to Kuwait, they can leave with their heads held high, secure in the knowledge they did what was right for America and peace in the region," President Barack Obama told service members at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Obama noted the end of the war in Iraq during his speech to thousands of service members — many of whom served multiple tours in Iraq since 2003, according to American Forces Press Service's Jim Garamone.

Soon the last soldiers will leave Iraq, and the achievements of Americans who fought there will belong to history, the president said. He compared them to the men and women who fought for independence from Great Britain and who defeated fascism and communism. He also recalled the Civil War saying this generation, like the one that fought for union, has been "touched by fire."

The young men and women at Fort Bragg represented more than 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq. More than 30,000 Americans have physical wounds from the conflict with tens of thousands afflicted by unseen wounds like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, according to Garamone.

However, Obama's Fort Bragg speech was decidedly different than his past speeches regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In fact, President Barack Obama was an early and ardent opponent of the Iraq war, although he was a state senator when the U.S. Congress authorized the invasion and he didn't have to cast a vote for or against military action to topple Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime.

In 2002, Obama, then a state senator from Illinois, delivered a memorable speech in Chicago against the Iraq war. "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war," he says. The mainstream news media gushed over his words.

July 2007, in an op-ed published in Foreign Affairs magazine, Obama called the Iraq invasion a war "that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged." He called for the withdrawal of US forces "with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008."

As a presidential candidate, Obama promised to withdraw all US troops out of Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration, which meant the US departure would have occurred in May 2010. And then on inauguration day, when Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th US president, he promises his supporters that "we'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people."

The Actual Withdrawal

During Obama's Fort Bragg speech on Wednesday, he totally avoided reiterating his promises regarding Iraq War and the fact he called it a "dumb war."

Instead, President Obama said, "For all of the challenges that our nation faces, you remind us that there's nothing we Americans can't do when we stick together," he said. "For all the disagreements that we face, you remind us there's something bigger than our differences, something that makes us one nation and one people. Regardless of color, regardless of creed, regardless of what part of the country we come from, regardless of what backgrounds we come out of, you remind us we're one nation."

That fact is why the American military is the most respected institution in the country, the president said.

"Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice, including 202 fallen heroes from here at Fort Bragg — 202," Obama said. "So today we pause to say a prayer for all those families who've lost their loved ones, for they are part of our broader American family."

This 9/11 generation has earned its place in history, the president said.

"Because of you, because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny," he said. "That's part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don't make these sacrifices for territory or for resources; we do it because it's right.

"There can be no fuller expression of America's support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people," he added. "That says something about who we are."

"All of you here today have lived through the fires of war," Obama said. "You will be remembered for it. You will be honored for it, always. You have done something profound with your lives."

© Jim Kouri


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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)


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