Obama: Combat Operations Over in Iraq, Now to Afghanistan and the Economy
By Kevin Robinson in News on Sep 1, 2010 2:00PM
In his second address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq last night, while pivoting to Afghanistan and a lagging economy that has plagued the United States since before he took office.
In his remarks, Obama talked about Iraqis taking the lead in the future direction of their nation, and turning to wrapping up combat operations in Afghanistan. Noting the length and scope of the war in the Middle East, Obama mentioned his predecessor by name. “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," Obama said, noting the differences between the two while acknowledging that, for better or for worse, it's become his war to deal with.
Perhaps speaking to those in his own party that are frustrated with the United States' ongoing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama explicitly said that it was time to move on. "As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. ... The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda."
Obama's speech, while subdued, didn't just address America's shift from combat in Iraq to operations in Afghanistan. The president also spoke to the anemic economic recovery that has dogged his presidency thus far and his party's prospects at the ballot this fall. "Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk."
With midterm elections just over two months away, however, Obama's primetime speech wasn't given in a vacuum. In fact, Republican House leader John Boehner, R-OH, gave a "prebuttal" to the president's remarks last week, releasing an op-ed column to the press, and following up with a web video and a speech to a veterans group. Like an earlier speech he gave on the economy, Boehner was heavy on criticism of the president, but light on specific policy proposals. In his remarks, Boehner faulted Obama for opposing the surge in Iraq and not giving Persident Bush enough credit for success in Iraq. "Today we mark not the defeat those voices anticipated -- but progress. And I want to thank President Obama for setting aside his past political rhetoric and recognizing the importance of the surge and the diplomatic agreement signed by President [George W.] Bush and Prime Minister [Nuri al-] Maliki," Boehner said. And alluding to the early days of the 21st Century, Boehner slammed Obama on his terror policies. "We see signs of a return to this pre-9/11 mentality in proposals to house terrorists on American soil just to fulfill a political promise," Boehner said. "We are a nation at war. A patchwork of political promises does not represent a coherent strategy to confront and defeat the terrorist threat."
The total number of U.S. troops in Iraq has now fallen below 50,000 -- the lowest level since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, and those remaining will train, assist and advise the Iraqis.