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. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX


    Bush isn't done yet. He's liable to launch on somebody at the eleventh hour just to prove what a big, tough, smart guy he is.

    Then talk about distracted!!!

    Everything about the Bush Administration evolves around a carefully crafted network of distractions so they can get their agenda done while everybody is focused elsewhere!

    And to those who think Iraq was a threat in the first place, go back and read the published reports by the Mossad where they laid out Iraq as a blowhard, eunoch nation of no substance, because if Iraq had had the WMD's, Israel would have handled it in the same fashion they handled Iraq's nuclear power plant when it went on line – they destroyed it, immediately!!!

    Right now we need real leadership, and that starts at the round table of peaceful discussion with a firm hand. The people's of lower Asia, the Moslem-dominated regions, do not want Western interference or presence on their soil, and they have made that clear. The British, at the height of their power, found this out and had to withdraw. Now is the time to stabilize that part of the world and allow them to settle their internal differences just like our country had to do after the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and we did it with no outside interference!

    And keep in mind, if that part does become a bonafide threat, we have the capability of "solving that problem" with any of the weaponry at our disposal, if that becomes the last resort.

    July 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  2. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    That’s why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.,” says Obama.

    From his own words, Obama wants to go to war with Pakistan. What happened to all the anti-war people? Why are you not singing the blues about this? I know, you can't because you fallow Obama to the end of the earth and he can do no wrong.

    If McCain said that you all would be out in force saying Mcwar doesn't care about the troops. Well now it is my turn to say Owarmonger doesn't care what happens to our troops, he is putting his presidency above the lives of the sons of America. I believe that is what you would be saying If McCain said he wanted to go into Pakistan. Isn't it , tell the truth.

    July 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  3. THE O

    There are more soldiers who are with Obama then mccain. I know this becuase I am one of them, bush, cheny, hannaty, oreily, limpbau,
    coltergiest, and malkin are all cowards they talk tough but like dick cheny would rather get diferments instead of fighting the fight they got us into, dick cheny got 5 diferments during the veitnam war, and bush joined the national guard like the cowards that they are....... This war is and will forever be know as an absolute disaster.

    BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!!


    July 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  4. Gene

    Pray tell, what is his plan for Irag? First is he going to start wthdrawing troops as soon as he take office or is he going to consult with the joint chiefs of staff and the officers in the field. He has been on both sides of these questions. We know he is a serial flip flopper and how can we be sure of anything he says. He has 'flipped on the war, abortion, trade,guns, FISA and on and on and on.

    July 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. Deb, Allentown, PA


    THANK YOU for your service!! We all owe you a debt of gratitude.

    July 15, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. Eric

    It is painful for the intelligence to still read comment defending the war in Iraq. Beyond the fact that Iraq was no real threat, that the war was badly managed and is responsible for big deficit, that it gave Iran more influence to the whole region, that war diverted us to really go after real threats, including Afghanistan. It is quite scary that the average american, and I include Mccain, has no clue about foreign affairs and other cultures. Let's not forget Mccain still does not make the difference between Shia and Sunni. We can not afford four more years of GOP politics. The economy, our security and our reputation in the world would not survive such a disaster.

    July 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Jason

    Iraq is distracting because things are starting to turn around in that regain... and afterall only doom-and-gloom issues can ensure an Obama victory in November

    July 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  8. Chris from Delmar

    The government of Iraq is demanding a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. What are we going to do, refuse? The Iraqi prime minister is calling for that because his rival Al-Sadr is demanding a popular referundum on a U.S. withdrawal. That referendum would win by over 70%. Are we supposed to ignore that?
    I think that many nationalist groups in Iraq are now reducing their attacks on our soldiers because they think that the Iraqi government might succeed in standing on their own two legs without the American troops.
    This is a window of opportunity, where we can have real victory for democracy and self-determination, isolate the Al Qaeda types from the Iraqis, and bring our troops safely home.

    July 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. James Hussein, SC


    So our answer is to vote in John McCain who has stayed less time at the job and voted on fewer bills than any other senator, Even a senator who has been out for almost ten months due medical illness?

    You are an idiot who tries to look smart!

    July 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. James in Idaho

    To Janey in Michigan: IRAQ HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11. Please stop pretending there is a correlation betwen the two. And Senator Obama has thanked us plenty by supporting legistlation such as the new GI Bill (which both Bush and McCain opposed). Tell me, who REALLY supports our veterans?

    Jan – I love the comment about how "Osama's terrorists were in Iraq until we chased them out." Are you THAT delusional??? Al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist until sometime around 2005. THEY WEREN'T THERE BEFORE WE SHOWED UP.

    DWE5050 is absolutely correct. Though I cannot give specific numbers, suffice it to say that large numbers of soldiers who have either served in Iraq or are there now are Obama supporters. I still serve in the military and the number of those who have declared they are voting for Obama grows every day.

    But what do I know? I guess since I support Obama I must not be a patriotic; never mind that I've worn the uniform of this Nation for the last 14 years...

    July 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. Jon

    So, Obama is making a "major" speech concerning Iraq and Afghanistan BEFORE actually going on the fact-finding mission? So then what is the point of the fact-finding?

    Also, if Obama believes Afghanistan to be the real threat, why has he not convened a single meeting as chair of the subcommittee that can actually do something about NATO forces in Afghanistan?

    July 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. whiner

    jan,you are aliar!al-qaeda was not in iraq ,until we invaded ,based on more lies,that you and yours perpetuate.

    July 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. MD in GA

    One thing I notice is that Senator McCain is always happy to travel overseas to check on the war and other countries. This speaks to his life long military background. He's a permanent soldier. So it's easy for him to say that Senator Obama shouldn't have an opinion on the war until he goes on a "Fact Finding Mission."

    The problem with that logic is that Reagan wasn't a military man, neither was Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Maybe Bush should have gone on a few more fact finding missions and listened to some real intelligence (instead of fabricated intelligence.) before sending our children into Iraq.

    Bottom line is who ever becomes the next President will have to make sound decisions with or without military experience. Reagan did it and so did Clinton. As for GW, well.....

    July 15, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. Voter

    Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ......................................................................................................................................................................................blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.............................................................................................blah blah blah blah..........................

    July 15, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Josh

    Bravo, Olivia!

    July 15, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. dave g, Minneapolis

    It's hard to understand why people keep saying that Obama could have more pull as President and then be able to implement policy...First, the two dem candidates Hillary and Obama are Senators in the majority party, each on powerful committees: Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations, respectively.

    How, after the Dems promised to pull out of Iraq (to win senate elections), can they keep whining that we can't get out of Iraq? They have the power, but want to blame someone else for it not getting done. If they can't do it as Senators, why would one do it as President. They are just pandering to emotion to get elected.

    Vote for real freedom and change....Barr '08!!

    July 15, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. David in Illinois

    The troops can take a little criticism about the war. It's NOT about the troops, it's about the POLICY. God bless our troops and all who have gone before them, defending our freedom, and all who will follow. But remember, they're that key word FREEDOM - as in freedom to dissent, to question, to oppose.
    I too think Iraq has been one collossal distraction from the true war on terror. This war was 100% UNNECESSARY. And now it's bankrupting our country, threatening our very economic survival; even more dire, it has cost us precious young men and women. Their families are the ones paying the ultimate price. Their sacrifice can NEVER be repaid. And we honor them. But those deaths didn't have to happen, not in Iraq, to further the fight against terrorism.
    Obama has it 100% correct.

    July 15, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Mike, Syracuse NY

    US military policy had been to be able to conduct two regional conflicts simultaneously (eg Afganistan and Iraq). However, Bill Clinton gutted the military to the point that we can only conduct one, and that not without extensive use of the reserves. From 1989 to 1999 US active duty forces were reduced from 2.1 million to 1.4 million people. The Democrats have always been soft on defense, expecting our troops to do more with less. If we had the force structure we need, we could do both Iraq and Afganistan.

    July 15, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |





    July 15, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Independent-Minded American

    Obama is absolutely right!
    The sole purpose of the Iraq war was for OIL and for Bush to settle his father's score.
    Now that oil is almost $150/barrel (compared to $20/barrel when the war started), it's clear that the war was a complete waste of time, money and precious lives (both American and Iraqis).
    What we need to do is get out of Iraq and go after the terrorists who attacked us – they are hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    Why is this so difficult for some of you nut-jobs to comprehend?

    July 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. A Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square


    July 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Eric in Ca

    People Your Ignorance is Frighting!
    JBH – don't look now but Schools are already teaching our children other languages – duh! In a global world what would suggest? Please return to the stone-age!
    And for the millions of Harvard grads before Obama, just maybe learning a second language wasn't a requirement as it is and should be for most universities! Knowledge is Power! Stop being divisive !

    July 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. NObama


    Give me a break! Look at the facts and the context before regurgitating leftist propaganda.

    July 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. kim hussein taylor portland, oregon

    "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"

    FINALLY, a politician who actually has a clue about REALITY!!!!

    we are NOT safer, we have INCREASED and STRENGTHENED our enemies, our economy is TANKING, our troops need to be HOME with their families, oil is a FINITE resource and needs to be left in the past where it belongs...and we can thank bush/cheney for every single one of these fiascos!!!

    bush/cheney are a DISASTER. and january cannot get here soon enough, i want president obama leading MY country, not these greedy, elitist thugs!!!

    July 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. whiner

    president bush is calling us whiners ,now,too.says we dont know anything about economics.jan. 20th cant come soon enough.at least hes not on the ballot.

    July 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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