Obama on Iraq

Here is the text of President Obama’s speech to the nation from the Oval Office on the end of combat operations in Iraq.  This was provided by the White House.

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_______________________________________________________________________________________

EMBARGOED
UNTIL DELIVERY

August 31,
2010

 

Remarks of President Barack Obama –
As Prepared for Delivery

Oval Office Address on Iraq

Washington, D.C.

August 31, 2010

 

As
Prepared for Delivery–


Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the end of our combat
mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to
rebuild our nation here at home.


I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many
Americans. We have now been through nearly a decade of war. We have endured a
long and painful recession. And sometimes in the midst of these storms, the
future that we are trying to build for our nation – a future of lasting peace
and long-term prosperity may seem beyond our reach.


But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future
is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It
should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America
intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

 

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 those shifting tides. At
every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and
resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all
Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their
families.


The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.
They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and
coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought
block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted
tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took
out terrorist leaders. Because of our troops and civilians -and because of the
resilience of the Iraqi people – Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new
destiny, even though many challenges remain.


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.


This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last
February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq,
while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support
its government and people. That is what we have done. We have removed nearly
100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We have closed or transferred hundreds of
bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of
Iraq.


This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.
U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have
moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow
citizens. Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security
incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. And Iraqi
forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in
Iraqi-led operations.


This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout. A
caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the
results of that election. Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward
with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just,
representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government
is in place, there should be no doubt: the Iraqi people will have a strong
partner in the United States. Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment
to Iraq’s future is not.


Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a
different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting
Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our
civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S.
troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our
dedicated civilians -diplomats, aid workers, and advisors -are moving into the
lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political
disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and
the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the
Iraqi people through his visit there today.


This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq-one based upon
mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our
combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi
civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists
will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected
sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They
understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and
police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.
What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both
a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest- it is 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 have
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 is time to turn the
page.


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. 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 could doubt President Bush’s support for our
troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have 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 hope
for Iraq’s future.


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.


Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those
who attacked us on 9/11. Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in
Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions
about our mission there. But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we
speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains
anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt,
dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving
as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able
to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19
months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders -and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist
allies-have been killed or captured around the world.


Within Afghanistan, I have 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 cannot do for Afghans
what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan
Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems.
And, next July, 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.


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. We must use all
elements of our power -including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the
power of America’s example -to secure our interests and stand by our allies.
And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears,
but also on our hopes -a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist
around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time.


Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential
partners. New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas. A new
push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow. Billions of young
people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict. As the leader
of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield
those who offer hatred and destruction -we will also lead among those who are
willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

That effort must begin within our own borders. Throughout our history, America
has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity
overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security. But we have
also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly
anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be
a growing middle class.


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.


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 is our turn. Now, it is 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.


Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to
those who have served our country with such valor. As long as I am President,
we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and
do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. This
is a sacred trust. That is why we have already made one of the largest
increases in funding for veterans in decades. We are treating the signature
wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while
providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.
And we are funding a post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their
families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI Bill helped
those who fought World War II- including my grandfather- become the backbone of
our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply
their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war
responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.


Two weeks ago, America’s final combat brigade in Iraq -the Army’s Fourth
Stryker Brigade -journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness. Thousands of soldiers
and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into
Kuwait in the early morning hours. Over seven years before, American troops and
coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time
no shots were fired. It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way
home.

 

Of
course, the soldiers left much behind. Some were teenagers when the war began.
Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from their families who bore a
heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a
mother’s kiss. Most painfully, since the war began fifty-five members of the
Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice -part of over 4,400
Americans who have given their lives in Iraq. As one staff sergeant said, “I
know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably
mean a lot.”


Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts
of our people for over two centuries. Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans
who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never
knew. They stared into the darkest of human creations -war -and helped the
Iraqi people seek the light of peace.


In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success
of our partners and the strength of our own nation. Every American who serves
joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg;
from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar – Americans who have fought
to see that the lives of our children are better than our own. Our troops are
the steel in our ship of state. And though our nation may be travelling through
rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond
the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.


Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America,
and all who serve her.

 

 

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