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. Angie, MS

    That's my next president. I love it.

    Obama 08

    July 15, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. Reality Check Richmond Virginia

    Its been a distraction since Dubya started beating the war drums. Its sad that so many have lost lives so that the Bush Administration could line the pockets of Haliburton, KBR, Blackwater, etc.

    Obama is 100% correct here. For all his so called experiance, I wish McCain understood that.

    There are so many issues facing our great nation, that it is important as voters that we understand where both candidates stand on the issues and not get distracted by crazy talk. Both candidates have very comprehensive layouts on their websites. It our duties as Amercican voters to read and listen to both.

    July 15, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. Uncle Sam

    Terrorism does have a way of distracting us and the rest of the world. While the war in Iraq may have been mishandled, it very well may serve as a step in defeating the forces of evil. There were those who unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with the Nazis, but there occasionally arise enemies who are hell-bent on destruction and no amount of diplomacy will deter them. This is when resolute strength is needed.

    Americans for McCain '08

    July 15, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  4. Upon Further Review,Texas

    Obama in a landslide.

    July 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. karen-phoenix

    Listen to Obama!!! He has been RIGHT on everything he has said!!! He has forsight and great judgement!!! He says sometimes he is an imperfect messenger. People listen to this man!!! He has common sense, education, youth and NO OLD EXPERIENCE!!!!

    July 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    So then why is Candidate Obama going to Iraq?

    He needs to visit Afghanistan, where the REAL war on terrorism should be being fought.

    July 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Tori, Oregon

    Um Carol,

    My Dad is in Iraq AND BOTH OF US AGREE WITH OBAMA!!!!!

    July 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. Chris from San Antonio

    re: Griff

    Couldn't we keep America on it's toes for less than 4000 lives and 1 trillion dollars in debt?
    For instance, we could go after the real Al-Queda threat instead of one we created. Or we could shore up our port security.

    July 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. DflateMacsStr8TalkXpress: Econ MIA, AWOL on facts, POW from reality

    So far, Mr. Obama has been right on Iraq, right on Iran, right on Afghanistan, right on Pakistan, right on Syria. So far, Grampy has been confused about Sunni and Shia, confused about Czechoslovakia still being a country, wrong about Al Qaeda in Iraq, wrong about Afghanistan, vague if at all aware of Pakistan and Syria.

    July 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. Sue

    Obama IS the dangerous threat facing our country.

    July 15, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. MD

    He isn't against a secure country, and he's not against our troops. If you look at what he says, he says he wants to make sure our troops are not stretched to thin. He says he wants troops to be where they will be most effective and successful. He says that when they come home, they come home as heroes, who are taken care of. How are any of those things offensive to soldiers?

    I don't understand those who say Obama doesn't give details. I could explain to you, in detail, his plans for the economy, environment, national security. He says them all the time, in detail. I just think some people don't listen or choose not to hear those aspects.

    July 15, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Benny

    McCain, the one that's supposed to be more knowledgeble about world events just talked about Checkoslovakia recently, which hasn't been a country since January 1, 1993. It split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    Obama is the one that should lead this country, not McCain. McCain should retire.

    July 15, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. Brenda of Saginaw ,Michigan

    It's better to start somewhere with a little hope than to stay at the bottom of the pole looking up. We have become a country of nay sayers, no one in their right mind wants to be involved with us. America we need help we are so aligned with hate and haters that the anti christ is laughing all the way to the bank and his aides are lapping at our heels.

    July 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  14. DEBBY


    July 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. gotcha

    Blah, blah, blah. Easy to say but how do you plan to do all this? Empty rhetoric, empty words. Empty suit. You will do and say anything to get the office, but NOT WITH MY HELP. It would be a disastet. I pray the idiots who support you wake up in time.

    July 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Dr.No

    he's so right.iraq has been a debacle,based on lies,at the cost of so many lives.bush should go on trial alongside the leader of sudan,for causing approximately the same number of deaths.while not genocide,it is an awful lot of dead people he is responsible for.

    July 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. jen

    Wow now CNN has started to parce a couple of words out of Obama's speeches before he even delivers them. I know there are some folks at CNN with connections to McCain but you should at least try to look impartial. By the way isnt it funny how Obama continues to always be right before others come to that conclusion such as the growing threat in Afghanistan. No mention about the new poll....You spent a week going over the bogus newsweek poll.

    July 15, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Liz from Atlanta, GA

    If you read the statements made by both Obama and McCain, a difference is apparent. Obama has goals. Ideas for making us a safer nation. To end this war with Iraq, to defeat the terrorists, to make friends with other countries again. I agree with him and maybe he doesn't exactly know how we aregoing to achieve these things, but it's a better start than John McCain whose only goal is to attack Obama about not going to Iraq yet.

    Obama '08

    July 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  19. Luke

    With all due respect Carol, I don't see how Obama's analysis of the war can be construed as an attack on the military and their families. He simply realizes that our single-minded focus on the war in Iraq is causing the situation in Afghanistan and other places to deteriorate. And the job soldiers "were hired to do" is whatever their commanding officers tell them to do. So if the next president feels that they better serve our country somewhere else, that is where they will go.

    July 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  20. No McCan't

    Iraq has been a distract from the beginning. It distracted us from Afghanistan, the Economy, Mortgage crisis, National Debt, No Congress and the Bush Mafia & Friends tell us to Shove It.

    July 15, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  21. Jeremiah 29:11

    Get our troops out of Iraq and, if you have to, send them where they should have been sent in the first place – Afghanistan.

    You have the judgment to make the right call and we trust you to be our next leader.

    Let the haters hate and the naysayers say "nay" but in the end you are Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

    God already knows your future, you are merely walking it out and those of us who know the word of the Lord can see Jeremiah 29:11 manifesting in you. Let Messy Jesse say what he will and let the GOP do what they will and the New Yorker draw what they will; however, the word of the Lord spoken before the foundation of the Earth regarding your life is what will stand in the end.

    God Bless You Sen. Obama

    July 15, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  22. Andre' of Maryland

    Leave the politics out of this and us just common sense. We entered this war in response to 9/11. We waged a war on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. For that reason alone this was wrong. The war that we should have waged took a back seat to the President's own agenda to control more oil. If we do not want those 3000 americans lives lost on 9/11 to be for nothing we have to get those who did harm to them. Right now we do not have enough troops or money to wage both wars.

    By using common sense we can only EFFECTIVELY fight one war at a time. We have to stop fighing a war that should have never happened and somehow ralley the country to win the war in Afghanistan. Whether you ae a Dem. or a Rep. you have to agree with that. The Iraq's want us out and we have a war we have to win elsewhere.

    July 15, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. freddy

    The man is dangerous. Plain and simple. I pray for the troops and what this man will put them thru. Don't trust him.

    July 15, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. Esther

    Obama's point is correct in that we are in Iraq as a result of bad strategy to begin with. McCain's response about making strategic recommendations without understanding the ground issues is wrong. That was the problem with Iraq in the first place.

    One must know his intent prior to taking action and then one plans actions to achieve the intended outcomes. That was not done in Iraq.

    "Sen. McCain said _ just months ago _ that Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq. I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq," Obama said.

    While McSame has accused Obama of favoring surrender in Iraq by outlining a troop withdrawal timetable, McCain told reporters on Monday, "I think we need to do whatever is necessary (in Afghanistan) and that could entail more troops." (You see? Why wait until things turn haywire before you take action – because you lack good judgement like Obama!!!)

    July 15, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  25. J Houston, TX

    The debt from Iraq is nowhere near 1 trillion dollars. If we are going to be concerned about national debt, let's be concerned about our purchase of foreign oil. We spend 5 times more money on oil than we do on Iraq. And the Iraq war debt partially goes to American companies, while the oil debt goes directly to foreign governments. It's time to address the energy solutions we have at home and to uncouple the limitations on energy providers to access resources right here in America. America needs clean renewable energy, but it needs access to fossil fuels while we develop the infrastructure to move past them. We cannot return to the stoneage if we are to advance to an eco-friendly era of conservation.


    July 15, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
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