President Obama urged Americans Tuesday night to “turn the page” on the Iraq War, as he declared the end of official combat operations and also added his own call for action on the U.S. economy.
From the Oval Office, where President Bush had made the decision to go to war on Saddam in 2003, Mr. Obama noted his stern differences on Iraq with his predecessor, but saluted his opinions.
“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,” said the President.
Even as he noted the milestone of the withdrawal of combat troops, Mr. Obama made clear that American efforts in Iraq are definitely not over, with 50,000 “advisers” remaining behind.
“Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not,” he declared. “Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest- it is in our own.”
In the speech, there was a definite theme that while goals may have been achieved in Iraq, they came at the expense of programs on the home front.
“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,” Mr. Obama said, adding that his most important mission right now is restoring the economy.
“Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.”
The speech itself drew the usual kind of reaction in the political arena, with Democrats praising his words and Republicans parsing them for criticism.
I did get one very interesting comment via Facebook from a listener, Gale Cottom Poindexter:
“My son was killed in Iraq in the surge – May 2007. I am feeling very sad tonight like a door has been closed in a chapter in history that many will forget. Did those kids die for nothing? Sometimes it seems that way with the politicians sweeping it aside and moving on to their next agenda. I found him very boring, detached and professorial. It left me feeling cold and empty for the loss of our fine young men and women who should never be forgotten.”
Poindexter’s comments were a reminder that this was is not over for many families.