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. eric

    It's amazing how Obama haters give McCain such an easy ride with all of the mistakes he's made and his utter lack of details in his own plan. There isn't a single McCain policy proposal that makes any genuine sense, and yet it's Obama's intelligent ideas that get ridiculously picked apart as though some word-mincing is proving anything. Nothing that McCain has done has made this country any better. in fact, it's a lot worse with his help. Why would you vote for someone with a proven track record of hurting the country and promises more of the same? Get real people

    July 15, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  2. Susan

    We never should have gone into Iraq in the first place. We need to get out of there as soon as humanly possible, and Mr. Obama is the only candidate who can get us out.

    July 15, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  3. Olivia

    Carolflowery, why don't you wake up? I am so sick and tired of the delusional people in this country thinking that somehow keeping our military in danger, we are "supporting the troops." Obama wants to support our troops in the best possible way – by leading them out of harm's way instead of continuing to risk their lives in an unwinnable war. The best way to support the troops would be to give them the resources to succeed; not by extending their stays, not providing them the proper equipment, and keeping them away from their loved ones for months on end. Obama is right that this country should focus on using all of its resources in our foreign policy, instead of solely focusing on military solutions. If we used all our resources, we could better manage the military, could bring our troops home on leave after they've been overseas for a reasonable time period, provide better compensation and benefits, provide better veteran care, etc. If you supported our troops, you would agree that they should not bear the burden alone, rather than just letting them all lay their lives on the line while you sit in the comfort of your home typing away, happy to let them continue fighting a pointless war.

    July 15, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. McCrazy

    Dodd? Really? This is a man who thinks Americans are overreacting to the financial crisis, while getting the sweetheart deal on his mortgage. Webb was a good possibility, but if Obama were to pick Dodd, and claim "new politics", i guarantee he will lose even more support than he already is.

    July 15, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  5. NC Attorney

    Carolflowery: What are you talking about? The reason why he is adament about making sure that we are focused on the right war, is because we have our sons and daughters in harms way. He wants to make sure that if we are putting them at risk, we are doing so in a smart, and necessary way. He understands that there are soldiers' families who are grieving. So, because he wants to make sure that their grief and mourning is not caused by incompetence of the government, he is being offensive to those families? Surely, there is no way that you can find fault with the fact that he wants to make sure that we are doing only what is absolutely necessary and not keeping our children in the lines of fire just so that our ego will be satisfied.

    July 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Bill

    I fail to see why saying that Iraq is a distraction would be offensive to soldier's families?!? As a veteran, I would think those soldiers and their families would welcome somebody who understand just has useless this war is, and who plans to resolve the issue. Folks, the most peace loving people I know are military – because when somebody decides to go to war, THEY have to fight it!

    So stop the "shame on you" posts while you're safe in front of your computer at home... Iraq IS a distraction and we need to regroup. Most of the ignorant will say that leaving now is surrender – but we lost this war the moment we entered it. America – WAKE UP or you deserve the crud that our politicians keep feed us!

    July 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  7. Raymond Duke

    Obama is full of crap as usual. The only reason we haven't won in Iraq is because we are not fighting to win and using are full force. We have enough power in two weeks of proper use to put these countrys back a 100 years. Instead we want to build nations and make everybody a democracy on the republican side and the democrats don't want to kill anybody and have human rights. Personally I think we should have never attacked Iraq and left Hussien in charge of these fanatics. The type of leadership he used was approipiate for these nut jobs. History shows you that the people who conquered the world did not try winning their hearts and souls but killed as many as they had to to win and get in control and they let "GOD" sort out the good ones from the bad ones.

    July 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  8. Adam

    I agree that the war is taking away resources that could bolster the economy, but Mr. Obama can you please come up with an economic plan that is not pure junk? I seriously question your economic knowledge if your planning to almost double the capital gains tax and create an oil windfall tax. Those are some scary policies. I agree with Obama on the war but I can't support him unless he comes up with better economic plans. McCain's economic plan at this point is significantly better than Obama's and could swing my vote to the red if Obama doesn't smarten up.

    July 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  9. Phil, FL

    He's right.

    We're paying for the war – while the Iraq government is handing out their "oil profit" money to their citizens. It's been tough for them, but they need to stand up now and fight for their own country – they have the money and the people.

    July 15, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  10. DM, Let talk about the truth!!

    War cost who's getting Paid:

    Nicholas D. Chabraja Chairman and CEO General Dynamics Corp. $17,683,972

    Robert J. Stevens Chairman, President and CEO Lockheed Martin Corp. $15,687,137

    There salaries is small in comparison to Friends of Vice President Chaney..

    While Military Men and Women die on the Battle ground..

    July 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  11. Shirley

    The editor of the New Yorker is suffering from a serious case of "being out of touch" and hubris if he does understand why most people find the cover image offensive. The message of fear should have been delivered another way....this is truly a disasterous case of bad judgement.

    July 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. Another old white woman for Obama

    I am quite sure that their families would rather have them home than fighting a never ending war. Their is no victory in Iraq. It is a civil war that has been waged for centuries by religious factions.

    July 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  13. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    The current "administration" dropped the ball on the "War on Terror" when they outsourced the job of getting Osama bin Laden to the drug dealing warlords at Tora Bora who let him go. Iraq should never have happened and was always about the oil...Don't believe it? Ask Ray Hunt!

    July 15, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  14. Obama-Junkie, IL

    BREAKING NEWS: GW Bush plans to hold a news conference at 10:20 AM e.s.t. today. He will open with a statement about steps to help stabilize the housing and financial markets and his lifting of the executive ban on offshore oil drilling

    Bush did this last minute news conference in an attempt to steal attention away from Obama's Iraq policy speech today at 10:45 am e.s.t. The GOP is playing presidential political games with Bush and McCain, because McCain is suppose to offer a rebuttal to Obama's speech today only a few minutes after he finishes.

    Hopefully Bush will deviate from his news conference so that Obama can effectively tie McCain and Bush together on major policies!

    July 15, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  15. MMN-Milwaukee WI

    The purpose of the war has changed so many times its not even funny.

    At one time it was WMD, we found them and destroyed all of them (Saddam and his sons).

    After WMDs were gone Bush took up 27 million Iraqis that he didn’t know what to do with. Iraq sunk to the blink of civil war and Al Qaeda found a new haven in Bushes watch in Iraq.

    Then we decided to spread democracy in the Mid-East. I don’t care what rock you just crowed from under. There has never been one success story of spreading democracy with the barrel of a gun.

    Sad thing is we are $1 trillion in debt and nothing to show for it.

    July 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Shannon

    blah blah blah, that's what I hear when he talks. How can anyone trust this man's statements. He has abandoned every policy that got him the nomination. He out and out lied about public financing, He betrayed the American people with FISA, he flipped on gun control and faith based initiatives, he let women down with his abortion stance. He sounds more and more like George Bush on the war everyday. He's going to listen to the Generals on the ground, he is now telling us. Isn't that what the Bush administration has been telling us all these years. I'm so glad I didn't support this man, HIllary would have stood by her primary promises, this man is a fraud.

    July 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. Herman in LA

    If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem." — George W. Bush, Jan. 2001. Before the war, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsay estimated the cost at $100 to $200 billion. So the White House got rid of him and "re-estimated" the cost at $50 to $60 billion. It's now over $500 billion.

    Obama sir please bring our troops home and end this war...

    July 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  18. Retired Vet For McCain

    Obama has no idea what he is talking about.....We are not in a time that we need a democrat as a President. Seriously, look how bad things were when we had our last democratic president Clinton.

    As a nation we were attacked 5 times while he sat back and did nothing. I dont agree with Bush going into Iraq however that created a place for the military to fight Al Qaeda to which they are doing a fine job.

    Clinton on the other hand we just kept getting sucker punched by Al Qaeda and the democrats seemed to be fine with it.

    Lesson learned now is not the time to roll over

    July 15, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. Vote Nader

    Why is it a "major speech" everytime he talks?


    ** Nader/Gonzalez 2008 **

    July 15, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  20. Ms. RDS

    Ok what do you people want....You say you want details about his Iraq plan, the minute he does people come out and explain, people complain that he shouldn't give specific details about his plan. Common sense is going to tell you that he can't give out very specific details to the public. John McCain on the other hand hasn't said anything beyond I was right about the surge. Ok, well what's next? (crickets chirping...). We can not sustain the war in Iraq look at our economy job losses, bank failures, wall street crashing, high gas prices. I mean come on. I shudder to think about what this country would look like if we 4 more years of these ridiculous policies. His own supporters can't even say what he would do different than Bush, when asked the question they draw a blank. They don't know where McCain stands b/c he has flip flopped 61 times this election.

    July 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. Mike - Texas

    And proceeding with recless abandon as you are proposing Mr. Obama is shear lunacy!!!!!!!!!!

    July 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. anonymous

    This man is dangerous! Sure, we all would like to end the war in Iraq, and everywhere else. Do you people really think we can just say – whoops, that's it, we're going home".? Come on, climb back down out of the NOBAMA cloud and join in reality. And, fools who think that one partial black man can do all of this all by his little ol self, better think again!

    July 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  23. ran

    Obama is right again. Iraq was never a threat and is not one now except in the eyes of the republicans. The true threat is the taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    July 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  24. Jay

    Another Major speech from Obama..blah, blah, blah, yakkitty schmakkity, yadda , yadda.... How many speeches is this now about 200 ?
    This guy is full of hot air and loves to hear himself talk. If he is elected President, prepare for the "Dark Ages" ( no pun intended)

    July 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. Jan From Boca Raton, Fl

    Why is everyone making such a big fuss over the cover of the New
    York Magazine? They are showing the truth, Oboma needs to get
    used to the truth being printed.

    July 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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