Obama: ‘Turn the Page’ on Iraq, Time to Focus on ‘Our Own Prosperity’
September 1, 2010
(ChattahBox)–Pesident Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office last night to mark the end of our combat mission in Iraq. The end of the war came at a huge price, with over 4,000 soldiers killed and a trillion dollars spent, most of it borrowed money. The mission of Iraqi Freedom has now been transitioned to one of an advisory role in nation rebuilding, called New Dawn. Obama praised the troops, acknowledged former President Bush’s patriotism, reminded us of the continuing conflict in Afghanistan that will also soon come to an end, and he turned to our problems at home. The President told Americans “Now, it’s time to turn the page.” “As we do, I’m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home,” said Obama.
Some excerpts from President Obama’s Iraq speech below:
From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.
These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars. Yet there has been one constant amidst these shifting tides. At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service. And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families. [...]
So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.
Obama talked of the huge price Americans paid for the Iraq War, with loss of life and placing our own prosperity on hold:
Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest — it’s in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people — a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.
As we do, I’m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it’s time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I’ve said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.
Obama then turned to the continuing conflict in Afghanistan:
Within Afghanistan, I’ve ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we can’t do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we’re training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: This transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.
On domestic issues, Obama spoke of the need to restore our economy and prosperity, and to rebuild the middle class in America:
And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. They have met every test that they faced. Now, it’s our turn. Now, it’s our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for — the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.
Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.
The full text of the President’s speech can be found here.