Obama: Time to turn page on Iraq

2010-09-01 09:23

Washington - President Barack Obama on Tuesday ended the US combat mission in Iraq, declaring no victory after seven years of bloodshed, and telling Americans and the world: "It is time to turn the page."

From the Oval Office, where George W Bush first announced the invasion that would come to define his presidency, Obama addressed millions who were divided over the war in his country and around the world.

Fiercely opposed to the war from the start, he said the US "has paid a huge price" to give Iraqis the chance to shape their future.

In a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on the United States and his own presidency, Obama turned much of the emphasis in a major war address to the dire rate of US joblessness.

He said the Iraq war had stripped America of money needed for its own prosperity, and he called for an economic commitment at home to rival the grit and purpose of a military campaign.

Strengthening Afghanistan

The speech, lasting slightly less than 20 minutes, was only his second address from the Oval Office.

Obama looked directly into the TV camera, hands clasped in front of him on his desk, family photos and the US and presidential flags behind him. His tone was sombre.

Even as he tries to cap one of the most divisive chapters in recent American history, Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. He pledged anew that the US would keep up the fight in that war, the longest once since Vietnam.

In Iraq, for all the finality, the war is not over. More Americans probably will die. The country is plagued by violence and political instability, and Iraqis struggle with constant shortages of electricity and water.

Obama is keeping up to 50 000 troops in Iraq for support and counter-terrorism training, and the last forces are not due to leave until the end of 2011 at the latest.

Clearly against war

As the commander in chief over a war he opposed, Obama took pains to thank troops for their sacrifice but made clear he saw the moment more as a mistake ended than a mission accomplished. He spoke of strained relations with allies, anger at home and a "huge price" of the highest order.

The toll includes more than 4 400 US troops dead and many more Iraqis, tens of thousands more Americans wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.

To underscore his point of ending the divisiveness over Iraq, Obama said he had called Bush, whom he had taunted so often in the 2008 presidential campaign. He prominently praised the former Republican president in the heart of his speech.

"It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset," Obama said.

"Yet no one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security."

In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, the Iraq war began with bipartisan congressional backing, based on what turned out to be flawed intelligence that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Today, Iraq is in political turmoil, its leaders unable to form a new government long after March elections that left no clear winner.

Time for Iraqis to take charge

The uncertainty has created an opening for insurgents to pound Iraqi security forces, hardly the conditions the US envisioned for this transition deadline, which Obama announced 18 months ago.

Obama pressed Iraq's leaders, saying it was time to show some urgency and be accountable.

At once, Obama sought to assure Americans that the war was finally winding down, and yet also promise Iraq and those watching across the Middle East that the US was not simply walking away.

"Our combat mission is ending," he said, "but our commitment to Iraq's future is not."

The American public has largely moved on from the Iraq war. Almost forgotten is the intensity that defined the debate for much of the decade and drove people into streets in protest.

Bloodshed not in vain

Yet what grew out of the war was something broader: Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive force against perceived threats. Running for office, Obama said the war inflamed anti-American sentiments and undermined US standing in the world in addition to stealing the focus from Afghanistan.

He made mention of it again on Tuesday: "Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone."

Obama, though, was also presented with a tricky moment - standing firm in his position without disparaging the sacrifice and courage of those who fought.

Earlier in the day, at Fort Bliss, Texas, a post that has endured losses during the war, Obama tried to tell the stretched military that all the work and bloodshed in Iraq was not in vain. He asserted that because of the US efforts in the Iraq war, "America is more secure".

Not everyone was ready to embrace the White House view of the day.

"Over the past several months, we've often heard about ending the war in Iraq but not much about winning the war in Iraq," said John Boehner, Republican leader in the House of Representatives.

  • JaY - 2010-09-01 10:13

    Puppet Obama is just telling the people what they want to hear. There is no "war" in Iraq or Afganistan in the first place. Its just another word for "invasion". Don't believe what puppet Obama is saying about his false opinion on the Bush administration and their "war" efforts. Next on the American list of things to invade and "spread democracy" is Iran & Syria. It seems they completely forget about Osama Bin Laden- who was just a reason to go into Afganistan and a bridge into Iraq. Don't believe any of the crap these "leaders" are saying or doing. September 11 2001 was allowed to happen...

  • 50 CALIBER - 2010-09-01 10:19

    The Americans cannot afford to stop their wars. Their whole economy revolves around their military might. 80% of the American people are employed in one way or the other by doing military work.
    North Korea is their next stop.
    They will get their butts kicked again as usual.

  • philip - 2010-09-01 10:26

    Whatever...the USA have raped and plundered Iraq for no reasons other than to secure oil for themselves and a fresh water pipeline for the Jews in Israel - Obama and Bush should both rot in HEll !!!

  • Isaac - 2010-09-01 10:31

    Western hypocrisy is the order of the day in these countries. Bush and the other war criminal Tony Blair should be on trial for War crimes at the hague, for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and for the one million orphans and widows in Iraq. Saddam Hussain was bad, but this did not justify the murder of so many people. They are also to blame for alqaeda and all these other so-called muslim extremists who have been funded by the US to the tune of over a billion dollars in their campaign against the soviets in afghanistan.

  • david - 2010-09-01 10:32

    At least listening to a real leader that has the knowledge and experience to do so. We as South Africans should be so jealous that we do not have leadership like this in our country, "AT ONE POINT YOU CAAN'T BELIEF" how our politicians relate to the foreign countries

  • R1 IN YOUR FACE - 2010-09-01 10:56

    YUP the usual american story, create a war to sustain the economy. And it is true Iran will be next, if the Israelis dont kick their arses first. Oil was the reason for the Iraqi war, thats a fact.America only looks out for itself. Dead soldiers for nothing, Iraq is even m ore unstable now and will in all likelyhood never recover. oh well

  • chameleon - 2010-09-01 11:01

    obama is a great statesman and a true mensch. he has inherited an awful legacy and is doing the best any person can do in rectifying the misconduct of his predecessor. the republicans aren't helping him, aren't helping america. i wish we had an obama.

  • Mich - 2010-09-01 11:32

    Ha ha ha! Ending the 'war'? Obama is a puppet of the elite, who has zero power in the grand scheme of things. To believe him is to believe in Santa Claus, the US agenda is to instill fear through propaganda in order to fight a non-existent enemy. Funny how the apparent 'terror dry-run' occurred yesterday. Convenient. Drum up the fear, then, next stop, Iran...

  • George Bush - 2010-09-01 11:49

    That war cost them over $1trillion,
    with all their sophisticated hitech machines and thousands of soldiers,they declare no victory in a war against a country with no worthy army.And they cant even claim the world is now a safer place...The "so-called" Super-Power!!!!

  • brad k - 2010-09-01 12:00


  • predator drone - 2010-09-01 12:13

    IT IS THE SOLDIER WHO....salutes the flag,serves under the flag and who coffin is drapped in the flag, who else the protester to burn the flag.

  • Fred - 2010-09-01 12:17

    'The end'? Iraq is doomed. It has no government, no national unity and there are still private armies and militias waiting for the yanks to leave. The army and police are not able to curb them down. Does anyone remember VIETNAM?

  • Fair Deal - 2010-09-01 12:23

    You cant reason with extremists or think that withdrawing will solve the problem. They will simply bring the war to your door.So you will just end up fighting terorism in your own backyard.

  • Majesty - 2010-09-01 12:37

    Guys dont be so negative. This could be positive, because now maybe the USA can invade us. They will not face any resistance, because the army will go on strike, and the civilians will welcome them with open arms because a US occupation would be better than the kleptocracy that we have here. They can have all the minerals, and we get decent governance! Please invade us Mr Obama!

  • brad k@Fair deal - 2010-09-01 13:02

    "You can not attack the main land of America.. there will be A RIFLE BEHIND EVERY BLADE OF GRASS"

  • Fair Deal - 2010-09-01 13:16

    Can you imagine how traumatised the local allies of the American troops must be. They have been left to defend a cause initiated by the USA and then abandoned to their own devices. What chance have they got of surviving when the US troops withdraw.What horors will they and their families face when the troops withdraw. I wonder if Obama cosidered their plight.

  • james usa - 2010-09-01 13:53

    Lieberman, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Krauthammer were the major instigators of these wars. The Mossad fed Bush bs. re wmd. We are conned into a mid east war that has been going on for thousands of years.

  • mp3's mentor - 2010-09-01 14:03

    good to see there are some people in SA that arent as dumb as the yanks and poms when it comes to the BS being fed to us via the controlled media. all the wars wont end and everything that happens politically is orchestrated. you should check infowars and wikileaks to see how the US and CIA manipulate us to further their cause. the empire wants to take over the world using the invisible al-Queda they created as an excuse. soon we will all be regarded as terrorist and it'll be their duty to pre-emptively attrack us all one country at a time...

  • Steve - 2010-09-01 14:09

    Reminds me of the "allied" leaders 2nd world war sellout of nations and indirectly their own people, continuing today. Whilst concurring with some statements on this forum thus far, let us never forget the American and allied lives sacrificed for the vast freedoms we all enjoy today despite both Bush's & Obama's devilish political rhetoric & propaganda directed at his own nation and at us, peoples of the "free" world. Tragically, the result is again evident of human failure,militarily but more importantly politically and we are all losers, far weaker moralistically, again the common man merely butchered by over egotistical politians, military men and gung-ho individual expendables. Destabalizing political (in this case foreign)policy histories starkly bear testimony to the economical and political intentions of politicians. Cold wars continue only visable walls come down making for more diabolic genocide. Nothing new under the sun. Homo-sapiens' empires will always rise and fall ! Can our or for that matter "the global order" politicians ever be trusted?? They merely persue their own "expedient" policies at the common-mans' extreme expense. What does their brand of "Democracy" really entail ?? I do not think Americans or others within themselves truly feel "FREE" with our globalistic power-lusting politicians spinning their ever entwining sticky webs. The huge cost of wasted human life sacrificed directly due to these politicians' games should instead be somberly reflected upon and we who are left should be most grateful to all those who gave their lives, and to those who today bear the scars of these diabolical and murderous attacks, directed at all peace and freedom loving peoples. Politically expedient wars are what it's all about as people will always defend what they hold dear-just what "the doctor/politican" ordered. Let us the RSA "common people" not fall into the political trap of deflecting the truth of our own and our nations downfalls and rather concentrating on making this land a better one for all our people.

  • Juan - 2010-09-01 14:44

    Found those WMD's yet, yanks?

  • Fair Deal - 2010-09-01 14:46

    @ Brad k
    So what good where those rifels in 911.Terorists do not fight a convential war so those tactics are of no consequence.

  • onemantribe - 2010-09-01 15:16

    People - drop the word "terrorists". This has NEVER been about terrorism. It's about access to mineral wealth. Full stop.
    Visit to see what left-of-centre Yanks have to say on the matter. Very illuminating. As one writer points out - this is just recolonisation under another name - he points to the 100 000 "contractors" in country, all armed, all para-military. Ain't no way the West (not just America - your car runs on oil too) is giving up one drop of oil in these lands. And then there's Afghanistan's mineral wealth. Do you think the military advisors in the Pentagon don't know about the lunacy of invading Afghan - the death of empires? Of course they do, but the West is desperate to control the trillions of dollars of mineral deposits there. Coz it's either them or China.
    So please stop going on about "terrorists". The people who blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11 were criminals, not terrorists. The masterminds should have been hunted down and brought to justice. Not by declaring war on two (Iran will make three) sovereign countries!! Until you see this, you are dancing to the war-profiteers tune. You and your children.

  • paty - 2010-09-01 20:14

    Thanks to all the men and women in uniform who have given so much of themselves for this war. God Bless You...By the way I found a website that give you prizes for your opinions and 4 play games here is the topic about this:

  • predator - 2010-09-02 11:15

    Its not just about the Oil or Suddam some...."Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter. "

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