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. Knoxville NObama

    Does Barack Obama really think the American people are stupid enough to believe that, if we believe in him and elect him president, he'd be able to solve our problems in Iraq in less time than he has been the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on European Affairs, the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NATO and the efforts against Osama and the Taliban in Afghanistan, which he has supposedly chaired since January 2007?

    He could have been doing something about enhancing our security and dismantling terrorist organizations around the world with his power as a U.S. Senator for the last 18 months, but has done nothing other than give us his own style of deceptive flip-flop politlics and empty promises.


    Knoxville NFIL

    July 15, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Ms. D


    Iraq is a distraction because we should have never been over there in the first place. Afganistan is the ones who attacked us and Bin Laden!! They hunted Saddam Hussein down like a dog and continue to let Bin Laden go. Our intelligence is not that dumb, they found Saddam!!

    July 15, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  3. Eric in Ca

    Reading the dissenting comments I gather Four things
    1. An ill-informed electorate. (read info from other websites other cnn)

    2. Please show me where anyone of the 9/11 terrorist highjackers were from Iraq. Show me where we've found WMD (the reason to attack a sovereign nation). Meanwhile the Al-Q and Taliban (9/11 conspirators) forces have hidden in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. When we had Pakistani Prez Musharef in our corner we did nothing.

    3. Bush & Co. where enablers of the Taliban & OBL

    4. I know most of you won't do any research but yet you'll continue to type divisive words on a blog, rather than truly understanding the issues.

    So why should Latino, Black, Asian, Gay, whomever trust the McCain /GOP? When you spit your divisive & bigoted rhetoric at one group/individual we know it's only a matter of time before you turn on another group! Think!

    July 15, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. fairandstraight


    Do you really believe those comments you made? Or is it that you think others will believe you. Obama has done and is doing what he is elected to do. He is not he first U.S. Senator that ran for president while he was still serving and won't be the last. In that case, Clinton nor McCain was doing what they were elected to do.

    Hate has really blinded many people to the point that when the man tells the truth, it is still negative comments about him. This is a sad day in America.

    Obama 08

    July 15, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. SUE, Michigan

    CNN has not posted this for two days now, but it does relate to this article. Read Vincent Bugliosi's "The Prosecution of George W Bush for Murder" and tell me that Bush had anything other than distraction and cash for his buddies...the man should be impeached, and CNN should be covering that! Bet this will never be posted by the status quo loving CNN.

    July 15, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. Eric

    This war did not show the real threat from the middle east. There would not be 9/11if the Bush adminstration did not sit in a school reading a children book while terrorist attacked our country. If the leaders of the United States of American would have chosen more of diverse energy policies instead of pading the pockets of the big oil industry, and decimating the lands, and interfering in the lives of the people of the middle east like everythings else that you touch, we would not be in this current situation. Don't blame Barrack Obama for the failings of the Bush, and the Republicans because they got in there. Someone needs to get us out. There is no way that you can pin this on Obama.

    Is is a shame because some people will object even in the end for party favor against the best interest of this country.

    July 15, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. jean HUISSEIN




    July 15, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. William, from Cali!

    The war in Iraq started 5 years ago, those were different times; and that situation, had to be dealt with, then. This is a "new" day, with different threats, but "our" enemies are still "out there", with the same goal.................................." to kill, us!". What's different , now!

    July 15, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Joe, New York City

    Blah, Blah, Blah....Obama is big talk. He is a light-weight and does not have the qualifications for President...EXPERIENCE.

    He would be a great debate professor at a liberal University, but not a President of the Greatest Country in the world.

    This is not time for amateures...the Presidency isn't like a Union apprenticeship; it's not on the job training.

    He may have been a good Community Organizer in the South side of Chicago, but is not Presidential material.

    July 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. JBH

    Question I would like to know. If barack hussin obama wants our children to learn spanish in our wonderful country and he doesn't speak the language. Then what language(besides English) can he speak, read, or write that would then give him the oppurtuntity to be accepted in Harvard Law school? I do know that to be accepted in any major college you have to have at least two years of any language beside English.


    July 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Mark

    When this war is over whats the pay back going to be a post dated check

    July 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Julian

    Thiss is a very good approach. Gets my nod because it goes against the grain of what the Bush/McCain has tried and is obviously failing. I am prepared to give it a try.

    July 15, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. Vic of New York

    It's about time!

    July 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Neal

    Where is Osama? You remember him, the guy who planned 911.
    Saddam is dead, but Bin Laden is still free.

    July 15, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. marianna


    NAACP endorsed Obama!

    July 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. floridian

    The frustrating thing to me about all of this is that it appears that Sen. Obama and many of the Democratic leaders in the Congress do not accept the fact that WE ARE IN IRAQ and we need to deal with that fact. It is not a "distraction", it is a reality. The Dems keep harping back to "..we should have never gotten here...", as if they want to go back five years and start all over. We can't, so let's figure out what is best considering where we are and what is happening in the Middle East - look at the entire area, not just Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan singly. For one, there has been a significant shift in the internal affairs and actions of the Pakistani leadership, which has significantly contributed to the increased activity in Afghanistan.

    Do you think our success in Iraq has driven the bad guys to seek new territory to exploit? I do. Do you think our Congressional leadeship's continued talk about failure and withdrawal and the success of Sen. Obama's campaign - based on ending the war and immediate withdrawal - has emboldened the bad guys? I do.

    Now, if I were them, what would I do? I'd seek a safe haven, like undeveloped Pakistan, attack the lesser forces in Afghanistan for training, and await the outcome of the United States' presidential election and then decide what my next strategy is.

    So why are the Democrats showing the rest of the poker players their hold cards while the betting is still occurring? Because, in my humble opinion, success in Iraq will prove them wrong and their actions since the war began will have been shown to be arrogant, their judgement will be shown to be poor, and they don't like crow.

    July 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. Annie

    Like another poster wrote above, why have you not convened your committee which has jurisdication over that area in Afghanistan? Yes, that's right, you've been too busy running a campaign to worry about Afghanistan until now when the rhetoric benefits you, but your actions haven't. I ask of you to stop talking and tell us what you have done already in your brief time in the Senate – like running on hating the war but voting for evey funding and Iraq war bill going rather than voting against them. Talk is cheap – your actions or lack of, speak volumes! What it says to me is you vote on what you think is best for your own political career and nothing more. Purely self interest!

    July 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  18. Mark NJ

    Bravo....God help this country if this man does not become the next President of the USA. Just look at where we are right now vs. 2000. George Bush and the neo-cons have single handedly destroyed this country.

    July 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. Robert NYC & Miami

    Mr. Obama, I don't trust anything that comes out of your mouth. One day you say this and tomorrow you say that.

    McCain will win.

    July 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. Michigan for Obama

    Obama's comments are not disrespectful toward those that are serving...they are MORE respectful than those that have promoted this war and what have we gained for it?

    If I had a child serving, I would be very angry...but very supportive of him/her and ....thankful to those that are serving....but want their service to be MORE respected!

    I watched "The Selling of Iraq" last night....I would suggest more people watch this movie which I think will answer some questions as to who really benefit from the US at war at the expense of our honored soldiers serving and losing their lives. Very eye-opening and disheartening if true..

    July 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. Brian

    Do you realize how much American wealth has been lost promoting this pointless war in Iraq? I can't believe anyone with half a brain would want to go on with it for another 100 years.

    President Obama will find a way to exit Iraq with dignity, respect, peace and victory.

    OBAMA '08!!!

    July 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  22. CK

    From Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama:

    'I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.'

    July 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  23. proud army and navy mom


    This soldier's family does not find anything offensive about what Senator Obama is saying. My nephew and daughter will be in Iraq this week and my son in Kuwait. what I do find offensive is you and ignorance.

    They are going to do their work but we all know is that their work is rooted in lies. The warmongers that currently take up space in the whitehouse are war criminals. They have sent and are continuing to send our US troops on missions that they have deceived and flat-out lied to the American public about.

    Yes, our troops are brave and good, but they are not dumb. They follow politics and knows that they have a mission to do, regardless of the idiot that commands them. Have you served in the military? Well please, do us a favor and try not to show your ignorance, ok?

    July 15, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  24. James in Idaho

    As an Iraq veteran I agree 100% with Senator Obama. I get enraged whenever I hear people invoke 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence. These are the same people who freak out about the rise of Iran; and yet they seem to forget that Iran rose to power because of us. As much as we hated Saddam, he kept Iran in check.

    Of course once I point out that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 people respond with how evil Saddam was and that he had to go. Granted, he was a bad man, but yet you don't see us invading Darfur or Burma either. How many people are dying over there because of evil dictators?

    Senator Obama is 100% correct in that the War on Terror is not in Iraq. We are fighting thugs and militias over there, but yet we are not doing a thing that will bring those to justice who were actually responsible for 9/11. Granted no plan for withdrawal from Iraq is going to be a good one, but then again neither is "staying the course." In Iraq you have bad solutions and worse solutions. Obama's call for withdrawing is a bad solution, but McCain's call for us to stay is worse.


    July 15, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  25. JA Cook

    We need to stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to defeat the Iranian Al Quada terrorists. We should not get distracted by going after Bin Laden and the Taliban. As a true war hero, John McCain is automatically qualified to be President and understands the long term commitment needed to win in Iraq.

    Stay the Course!
    McCain 08

    July 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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