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. VB Lincoln Park NJ

    Thanks for telling the truth, Senator Obama!

    January 20, 2009 END OR AN ERROR!!!

    July 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. Chad, Wisco

    I heard he has another "MAJOR" speech scheduled for today. So what exactly are non-major speeches for Obama.

    July 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Saad from NJ

    Yes it distracts us but there's nothing we can do about it.... Iraq is like a child of your own... when we invaded it, we hoped it would turn out great. It turned out like the biggest idiot.... who does one blame? the child or ones own sperms? but regardless, if the child turns out an idiot, it will absolutely distract us, but we still have to pay attention to it otherwise it might become a bigger idiot!!!!

    July 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. Really

    These are just words, just words. Great talking points. No substance. Boy I feel so much better listening to him. I can't wait until he sits down with Iran and talks to them. He better becareful on Afghanistan. The war is starting to go bed there too. Once that starts than the small group will be protesting that war too. Then what will he do. I know Immediate surrender and withdrawl.

    July 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Jan

    David, MD–who made you the expert on which war to wage? Just another elitist who has no idea of patriotism! Just follow Obama to the ends of the earth–He doesn't want to finish the war because of his ego -wants to make afghanistan his own war! Hypocrite. Osama terrorists were in Iraq until America chased them out.

    July 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  6. obama is a DISGRACE

    obama,you are such a disgrace. You don't have the slightest idea what you are doing.God help this country if we allow you to go any further.

    July 15, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  7. MSM

    I just got back, and its refreshing to have a public figure speak intelligently about this war. A sober approach to cleaning up this disaster is greatly appreciated.

    July 15, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  8. Really

    Good point McCain. Obama already has his mind made up. He will not be viewing Iraq with an unbais opinion. Obama just loves giving speeches. It is very helpful for his campaign to tell me if his speech is a major one or not. I want to know when he gives an average one or even a minor one.

    July 15, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  9. katiec

    A friend once said, "Our enemies will win by destroying us

    Well, McCain/Bush/republicans have certainly made that
    possible. We are well on our way to destruction, due to
    an unjustified war, an economy falling apart, broken
    education,medicaal systems, innocent men and women
    dying daily, largest deficit in the history of our country.

    We are more secure? That most certainly is up for

    July 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. Obama-Junkie, IL

    Go get 'em Obama! Any fool can become single-mindedly focused on only one task, like McCain and Bush are on Iraq.

    Over 4,000 troops dead, continuing war costs of $10 billion per month, current total cost of Iraq War over $600 billion, Afghanistan becoming more deadlier than Iraq for troops, Al Qaeda operating in Pakistan, Iran taking a more militant posture against America, and the strain of military troops threatens to break the US army and marines.

    Meanwhile, McCain has not offered a clear and concise policy on Iraq. The only thing McCain says is that "we will be there a long time, maybe 100 years. My friends, we must not surrender!"

    What kind of freakin' plan is that?!?!

    July 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  11. John McShame, Obama Is Going to Tax You & Cindy, but Not Me & 95% Americans Making < $250,000/Yr

    we are fighting the WRONG WAR........the real threat is in afghanistan and pakistan.

    OBAMA '08

    July 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  12. PG

    Iraq is not only a distraction but a complete failure. Our brave men and women continue to fight a "war for oil. "

    I am still waiting for all those "couch warriors" to step up to the plate and fight this war they defend. Enough is enough!

    Latinos for Obama!

    July 15, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. Johnny C.


    Iraq is a distraction?

    Why is everything except talking about Obama's empty rhetoric a distraction?

    I really can't believe this clown is doing as well as he is.

    July 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. Eric in Atlanta

    This just goes to show that Obama really has no clue about foriegn policy. If he gets elected (which is doubtful) he's going to screw up this country worst than Bush. I'm African American and I will not vote for this guy just because he's black, charismatic and gives emotional speeches.

    July 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  15. Oh! The Irony

    carolflowery July 15th, 2008 9:18 am ET

    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.

    How are his words offensive to the families of soldiers? He described the soldiers as "brave men and women". In fact, in this politcal season I've heard no disrespect from both McCain and Obama towards are soldiers and their families. Some of McCain's comments have been questionable, but you can gather their true meaning.

    We have already toppled Saddam years ago. The Iraqi government is requesting a timeline for our removal. The surge worked in some aspects. What is our purpose there? We need to withdraw with careful deliberance.

    July 15, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  16. lisa

    ----he is 100% right----

    July 15, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. john

    Carol and everyone else critizicing Obama, why dont you join the military. To all who talk about being real americans and how if we leave it will be the same as surrendering, why dont you join the military? I have been there twice and never want to go back. Many in my unit never wanted to be there but you cant say that, because it would lower morale.I now have a new leg and a new arm. I say leave the Iraqis to their country and let us attack the real people who attacked us. We are only there to have a friend of ours in power, Mailiki is not even respected where I was.

    July 15, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. Cynthia

    Senator Obama has always said that Afganistan was more of a threat to us than Iraq. Maybe if we had gone to Afganistan instead of Iraq especially after the relevations that have come out in recent months.

    July 15, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  19. Dwe5050


    For your information, most soldiers in iraq support obama! They all wanna come home. One of the worst thing you could do to a soldier is to ask him or her to fight in a war he or she does not believe in. Most or our soldiers don't believe in iraq war.

    They know that those that killed thousands of americans on sept. 11 have never been in iraq, they are in afghanistan and the wazaristan territories of pakistan. The sooner we realized this, the better.

    Pls bring our troops home. May God bless america.

    July 15, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. RJ, CA

    And Obama forgot to mention that he will line our streets with gold. So this one man will now solve all our problems - how exciting - a bit "touched in the head," Obama?

    July 15, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  21. Oh! The Irony

    NotFallingInLine.org July 15th, 2008 9:11 am ET

    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

    What's distracted him since January 2007? It's called running for Commander in Chief, where ultimately, if elected, he can effect greater change than chairing a subcommittee, which really has no true pull.

    July 15, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. TerryDo

    America will once again lead the world, but she first needs a great leader and you Obama will never be that leader...

    H.R. Clinton is the only true legitimate leader America has at this time and place.

    You are the illegitimate nominee and we will correct that come the Denver Convention when H.R. Clinton's name will be placed in nomination for The First Roll Call.

    PumaPac, Just Say No Deal, the Denver Group and thousand of other for Clinton affiliations will see to it!!!

    Come and join us in Denver August 24, 2008 and witness an historical fact, where in America every vote counts. Where candidates are ELECTED and not SELECTED!

    July 15, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. Another old white woman for Obama

    Tony: "Put up or shut up"

    He can't show you unless he is elected. So vote for him.
    Obama '08-16

    July 15, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  24. BR

    Hitler Gave Great Speeches Too....Didn't mean he was qualified to lead.

    July 15, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  25. Ambrose Smith, Borrego Springs, California

    President Cheney and puppet Bush took their eye off the ball and went after Saddam Hussein and giving Iraq FREEDOM AND LIBERTY. (blahblah blah)

    Meanwhile we let Buin Laden go and the Taliban regain strength in Afghanistan.


    Bush may be a "war president"--but he and his boss Dick Cheney do not know how to fight a war.

    Obama will change the course and focus more on Bin Laden!!

    McCain wants to "stay the course" (as Bush would say).

    July 15, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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