Archive for Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama announces firm date to end Iraq war he inherited

February 28, 2009


— President Barack Obama consigned the Iraq war to history Friday, declaring he will end combat operations within 18 months and open a new era of diplomacy in the Middle East.

“Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” Obama told Marines who are about to deploy by the thousands to the other war front, Afghanistan.

Even so, Obama will leave the bulk of troops in place this year, contrary to hopes of Democratic leaders for a speedier pullout. And after combat forces withdraw, 35,000 to 50,000 will stay behind for an additional year and half of support and counterterrorism duties.

Just six weeks into office, Obama used blunt terms and a promise to write the last chapter of a war that began six years ago. It has cost more in lives, money and national stamina than ever envisioned.

Like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon before him, Obama came into office with an inherited war he pledged to end without delay. Eisenhower did, in Korea. Nixon didn’t, in Vietnam. Obama says he will.

“Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility,” Obama said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flanked Obama during the announcement. It was a symbolic statement that top military advisers are on board with a strategy some had openly questioned before Obama’s inauguration.

More than five years have passed since Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a statement that proved false as sectarian violence brought Iraq to the brink of disaster.

Obama did not claim a mission accomplished. Instead, he suggested America accomplished the mission as best it could.

“What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals,” he said. “We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected.”

Obama is accelerating the end of the war by withdrawing roughly 100,000 troops by the summer of 2010.

Obama was moving to fulfill in large measure the defining promise of his campaign — to end combat operations within 16 months of taking office. He’s doing it in 19 months instead, and the drawdown will be backloaded to provide security for Iraqi elections late this year.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 3 months ago

Ethnic cleansing and bribing former Sunni insurgents worked. The "surge" was merely coincidental.

"I also watched Obama walk past the Marine guard at the entrance to Marine-1 who had saluted him and Obama didn't return the salute or even acknowledge that the Marine existed."

I never recall seeing Bush salute his marine guards, and certainly recall many times he didn't-- why didn't you ever piss and moan about that? (For that matter, my recollection is that presidents rarely return salutes.)

Chris Ogle 9 years, 3 months ago

My guess is that the troops in Iraq could care less who forgot to salute..... they just want to come home.

vinividivici 9 years, 3 months ago

I'm not in the military, so I am not one hundred percent sure I am recollecting this correctly, but I seem to remember having a conversation with a friend in the airforce who stated that certain higher-ups in the military are not required to salute back. I'm not sure of what proper military etiquette is, so if anyone does, please let us know. I can find logic in a president not saluting and saluting troops, but since there is etiquette for everything in the military, I'm sure someone knows what is appropriate.

Lets bring out troops home!

viewfromahill 9 years, 3 months ago

bozo: "I never recall seeing Bush salute his marine guards...."

mad: "I can't remember President Bush not returning the salute of the Marine guards...."

" Memories Light the corners of my mind Misty watercolor memories Of the way we..." are.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 3 months ago

"My guess is that the troops in Iraq could care less who forgot to salute….. they just want to come home."

Exactly right-- but for knee-jerks like Mike, obsessing over such trivialities is appropriate to his superficial view of the world.

jaywalker 9 years, 3 months ago

"Ethnic cleansing and bribing former Sunni insurgents worked. The “surge” was merely coincidental"

Yeah. YOU know.

"President Barack Obama consigned the Iraq war to history Friday,...."

First, could the headline be a tad more redundant? Anyone NOT know that the Iraq war was going on before Obama took office?
Second, and furthering this sad exuse for journalism, ya can't 'consign' anything to history unless, you know, it's actually in the past. Pathetic.

Here's a little tidbit I got yesterday:


Collision Course — Perhaps this was inevitable. Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service is reporting that President Obama and his CENTCOM Commander, General David Petraeus, are on a collision course over Iraq. Mr. Porter's recent scoop was reprinted by the World Tribune:

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military le aders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilizing public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."


jaywalker 9 years, 3 months ago

You can almost hear the White House source chuckling as they relayed their version of events. It sounds vaguely reminiscent of Mr. Obama's "I won" comment, during a meeting with Congressional Republicans last week. As the new decider-in-chief, President Obama will chart our policy in Iraq (and other global hotspots).

But dismissing the advice of senior generals is usually a bad idea, as Mr. Obama will eventually discover. If Gareth Porter is correct — and no one has come forward to dispute his version of events then President Obama is facing a potential revolt among his senior military advisers. Mobilizing public support is not something that flag officers particularly enjoy, given their collective distrust of the media — the mechanism that will be used to (quietly) convey their dissatisfaction.

More disturbingly, Mr. Obama's preferred withdrawal plan flies in the face of current realities in the Middle East. As Bret Stephens notes in today's WSJ, Iraq is becoming a US bulwark in the Middle East. The gains achieved by the troop surge are holding, and Iraqi forces are assuming a lead role in securing the country. Last weekend's election was a stunning success, and a model for the Arab word.

Still, the situation in Iraq is not irreversible, one reason that Mr. Gates, General Petraeus and General Odierno favor an extended American draw down. Mr. Stephens observes that American "pillars" in the Middle East have met the test of time. In some cases, the bulwark of yesteryear (think Iran) is today's despotic regime that threatens regional security. Other long-standing American allies (including Pakistan and Turkey) face an uncertain future, at best.

In other words, the US needs all the stable, friendly regimes it can find in the Middle East. But Mr. Obama seems more intent on placating his supporters on the liberal fringe, who've been clamoring for an American pullout since 2003. The President seems willing to risk progress paid for in blood and treasure to fulfill a campaign20promise — with less regard for what happens 17 months down the road.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Just days into his presidency, Mr. Obama signed an executive order to shut down the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay by next year. Just where those suspects will be incarcerated (or face justice) has not been determined. Maybe the administration should change its mantra from "Change We Can Believe In," to "Don't Sweat the Details."

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ADDENDUM: We should also note that the Obama-Petraeus collision has a political component. General Petraeus's successful strategy in Iraq caused a fair amount of consternation for Obama and his fellow Democrats. Kicking and screaming, they had to finally admit that the troop surge worked, and was eminently preferable to their "cut and run" approach.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 3 months ago

hey jaywalker- had a bad connection... could you repeat that.

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