July 15th, 2008
09:05 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama: Iraq 'distracts us'

Barack Obama says the war in Iraq has been a distraction.

Barack Obama says the war in Iraq has been a distraction.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Barack Obama says that the war in Iraq has become a dangerous distraction and that if elected president, he would deal with the dangerous threats facing the country.

The Senator from Illinois and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is expected make those comments when he gives a policy address on Iraq and Afghanistan and national security at the International Trade Center here in the nation’s capital, in what his campaign calls a major speech.

Watch: Obama stands by his Iraq plan

“This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe,” Obama says in excerpts released by his campaign.

“Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America – once again – to lead,” adds Obama.

Obama will also repeat again that ending the war in Iraq and removing U.S. combat troops from that country remains a top priority.

Watch: Obama's Iraq dilemma

“As president, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy – one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin. I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” says Obama.

John McCain is also speaking out today on the war in Iraq. The senator from Arizona and presumptive Republican presidential nominee is expected to start a town hall in Albuquerque, New Mexico today, that starts just minutes after Obama’s speech is scheduled to end, with a rebuttal.

"Senator Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I note that he is speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he has even left, before he has talked to General Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq, and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time. In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy,” says McCain in an excerpt released by his campaign.

Watch: McCain says Obama is shifting his Iraq stance

A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows that Americans are split between Obama’s proposed timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, and McCain’s plans to oppose a specific timetable.

In his speech today, Obama will also say that more emphasis should be place on the battle in Afghanistan.

“In fact – as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain – the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That’s why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.,” says Obama.

Obama is expected to see the situation on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan this summer as part of a Congressional codel.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. FL_Independant

    thoughtful, pragmatic, realistic.....excellent.

    July 15, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. LAC


    July 15, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. NotFallingInLine.org

    Really, Obama? Iraq distracts us? Maybe so, but what has distracted you from doing the work you were elected to do in the U.S. Senate, like convene the subcommittee on European Affairs that has jurisdiction over NATO and the efforts against Osama and the Taliban in Afghanistan, which you have supposedly chaired since January 2007?

    Do you really think the American people are stupid enough to believe that, if we believe in you and elect you president, you'd be able to solve our problems in Iraq in less time than you've been the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on European Affairs?


    Knoxville NFIL

    July 15, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. Tony


    Typical politcal rhetoric. All politicians talk, lie. Don't tell us, show us!

    July 15, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. Matt, Manchester, CT

    "I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free." So what does Obama propose he do, specifically, to accomplish this? His supporters get so indignant whenever people ask for specifics, it's really telling of their shallow support and lack or real substance. Let's stop patting ourselves on the back for supporting a black candidate and get down to the details of what he will actually do.

    July 15, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. What!!!

    It sounds good, but how are you going to do this?

    July 15, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. not important

    McBush thinks that Iraq needs democracy. McCains friend Charlie Black was a lobbyist for dictators and then said the he didn"t do anything wrong.

    July 15, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |

    Mr. Obama, you are absolutely correct, while we focusing strictly on the Iraq war, our men and women were crying out loudly for help in Afghanistan. We the "Retired Vets for Obama" are so happy that we will finally get a president that concentrate on more than one security issue at a time. We salute you Barack Obama!

    July 15, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. ANGIE

    barack obama has been right all along the terriost are not in iraq but in afghanstan the taliban has been gaining strenght due to our strechted military and most of our troops in iraq we have negletected afghanstan that is no flip flop on his part he has been right all along the iraq war has not made us any safer well i know who im voting for and not the canidate that wants to stay in iraq oh maybe 100 years im voting for the canidate thats been right all along obama 08

    July 15, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  10. Griff

    No! Mr Obama. What it does is show the real threat from the Middle East. It keeps America on it's toes... To ignore Iraq would be a major mistake...

    July 15, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  11. David, Silver Spring, MD

    The current president has waged this war as if there were no cost to us. When asked about the wisdom of the war, he says the world is safer without Saddam Hussein. That may be true, but is the world safer with a U.S. govt. under the burden of an extra $1 trillion in Iraq debt? Is the world safer with U.S. troops stretched thin across the globe because of our Iraq commitment? Is the world safer with Osama bin Ladin on the loose and Afghanistan slipping back into civil war with a resurgent Taliban?

    Obama knows that war comes with costs, and that any such expenditure must be weighed against other possible investments, such as going after al Qaeda, improving domestic infrastructure, etc.

    July 15, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  12. Nick - Arlington, VA

    That is correct

    Obama '08

    July 15, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  13. geen

    au contraire...

    July 15, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  14. carolflowery

    In all due respect sir, dont you realize there are soldier's families that are laying their lives on the line that probably find your words very offensive no matter what you or others might think. By the way, they are doing their job they were hired to do. They are finishing their work.
    Unlike you who has never completed anything but a couple of books and speeches, oh yeah, and graduating from our most prestigious law schools. You couldnt have done this without a secure country.

    July 15, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  15. Greg, NY

    For those that noticed the fact that Obama is the 'presumptive' nominee and like to say it because they think he won't be the nominee, please realize that McCain is also the 'presumptive' Republican nominee.

    At the convention, the presumptive nominee becomes the nominee. It's the same basic effect that after the November 4th elections, one of the candidates will be the president-elect.

    Once he is sworn in in January, he becomes the president.

    July 15, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  16. stephy

    He's right, Our government has tunnel vision when it comes to Iraq. It's like they don't see the forest they only see one tree. We as americans are better served when we have made our country as save as possibe. A good offense is what we need.

    July 15, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. A Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square


    I can tell you what won't work for us, "Staying the course" in Iraq by electing McSame. Anybody will be better than McBush.

    July 15, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  18. TheTruthHurts

    After 8 years of Bush, it should be abundantly clear that there is a vast difference between withdrawing as soon as practical and staying as long as necessary.

    Barack understands the need to not have a failed state in Iraq, but unlike the right, he seems at least aware that that needs to be balanced against OTHER PRIORITIES. That level of pragmatism is lost on Bush and McCain seems to be followng in that same direction.

    July 15, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  19. JD

    Peace Through Victory!

    July 15, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  20. Moderate Republican Supporting Obama

    I like the excerpts of the speech. Obama must be very direct and very aggressive in his tone. He must take control of the Iraq issue again, an issue that defined his primary campaign and that defines him. As a firm supporter of the U.S. military, our fighting men and women in uniform, and our veterans I TRUST OBAMA 110% to free America from Iraq, concentrate our focus back on the "Forgotten War" of Afghanistan, capture Bin Laden, and bring our brave men and women home, finally, back to their loved ones.

    July 15, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  21. geen

    to paraphrase some stats from Trumbo '4000 dead=300 tons of bone and flesh=12,400 pounds of brain matter=5000 gallons of blood=184,000 years of life not lived=10,000 children who will never be born (the last, we can probably afford; there are already too many starving children in the woeld today...'..relevance? some other stats:
    720 million dollars (what we spend in Iraq in a day) would provide 423,529 children with health care, 34,904 four year scholarsips for university students, and 6,482 families with homes.
    My point being, barack...lest you lost your bearings (for which, incidentally, by voting FOR FISA last week–which has essentially rendered the 4th amendment moot "Say it aint so, Barack!", you have gave a pretty good indication that you have), IRAQ is STILL the main issue...it is from the Moron's incompetence, deception, ineptness, waste of American blood for oil that is, in the last analysis at the base of all the problems we have faced in past 8 years. It is time for the Moron to go...unless you return to the roots which you spoke of in the campaign...the number one issue being Iraq...and, even though you said you would have all the troops out within 16 months (subsequently moving to the right on THAT statement, do not lose sight of the fact that, at an average of 2 a day, another 900 plus americans will have lost their lives in that time....I'm depressed.

    July 15, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  22. Janey/Michigan

    So Iraq is a distraction to this man? Maybe he should rather thank all of the brave soldiers for making his country safe–I am sure people who have lost loved ones in 9/11 and Iraq do not consider this a "distraction". Whether he believes in this war that his fellow dems voted for or not, he should be more patriotic towards soldiers who have given him the right to say such awful things. What an offensive man! Every American should be insulted by this coward. My nephews fought in both Gilf wars, and still love the USA.

    July 15, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  23. Deb, Allentown, PA

    carolflowery, how in the world are BO's words offensive to soldier's families? Please tell me how a concern for our armed forces and a plan to best utilize their abilities can offend anyone?

    July 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  24. Bulldog

    McCain NEVER talks about Afganistand because it is failing. He only talks about Iraq and always loves to tout how the death toll has decreased but never mentions the surges main purpose was to get the Iraqi government to get itself together which has been a failure. McCain only tells PART of the story. You want to tout a fact finding mission. Then McCain needs to go back and check out the facts because he isn't telling them.

    July 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  25. Brian

    Obama is the only one distracting us.

    July 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
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