July 30th, 2007
03:58 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama: Wouldn't leave Iraq immediately

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Monday if U.S. troops aren't out of Iraq by the time he's president, the first thing he'd do in office is order the Joint Chiefs of Staff to "get a plan to begin withdrawing" troops from Iraq. He was careful not to say he'd try to bring troops home immediately."This will be a messy withdrawal," Obama said. "People who say we'll just pull them out are irresponsible."

Obama made his comments at a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a group of about 600 people, according to the campaign.

The Illinois senator also devoted a substantial amount of time to ethics reform in Washington, taking a few shots at the Bush administration and "no-bid" contracts.

"When our government gives Halliburton seven billion dollars in taxpayer dollars to put out Iraqi oil fires that don't exist, when we hand over Katrina contracts to more of George Bush's FEMA friends, it doesn't just violate the American people's trust," Obama said. "It takes away the tax dollars they've earned and the valuable services they need."

Obama said that lobbyists "stop us from addressing issues that matter" and that the country needs to "change the way business is done in Washington."

"It's not our agenda being moved forward in Washington," he said. "Special interests dominate on a day to day basis in terms of legislative activity.  If we can't change that, we're not going to change anything."

Touting what he says is his refusal to accept money from political action committees has become a staple in Obama's bid for the nomination.

-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • Iraq
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. nogibbons.blogspot.com

    Nice. It seems Obama was taking a direct shot at Fred "#1 Lobbyist" Thompson with that lobbyist comment. I trust Barack Obama 100% to change the way business is getting done in Washington. Guys like Fred Thompson and others running on the "Conservative" side will guarantee status quo buddy deals and foreign war to make their buddies more money.

    A vote for Thompson is a vote for status-quo.

    July 30, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. A, Ny NY

    Very smart to say this.. I know not saying you are going to pull troops out of Iraq on day 1 is not popular, but Obama seems to really care about what is best for our country and for our men and women in uniform, and I appluad his courage to stand up to lobbists, its about time someone did!!

    July 30, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  3. Everton

    Now Obama wants to call OTHER people "irresponsible"??? Either he is trying to emulate Hillary, or he is a hypocrite. I like him, but please. For someone who has only been in charge of some Harvard lawyers club, and thinks that is bonafide experiance, he should avoid throwing stones.

    Bush-Cheney light? I think Obama is Clinton-or-Edwards light. Still, he is much better than the repubs.

    July 30, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. ReadBtwthlins

    Of course no demorat has yet to defined how to pull them out or what to do with Iraq once their out. Pre-9/11 mentality is all we're being offered and we already know where that leads..

    July 30, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. David, Gilbert Arizona

    I gotta give Obama credit for taking on the tough issues. The argument whether or not we should be fighting a war in Iraq is really meaningless. We are already fighting the war. To argue over the vote to go to war or not to go is pointless. We're there. Now how do we get out?

    Pulling all the troops out of Iraq could indeed create a vacuum as many military analysts will tell you. It is good to know Obama, if elected, would take a pragmatic view toward resolving Iraq.

    What I don't like about Obama is his pandering. Halliburton is the company most people love to hate. The reality is that Halliburton is uniquely suited to situations like Iraq. Any other company trying to do what Halliburton has done would more than likely flounder and scramble to get out.

    The Halliburton "sweetheart" contracts that everyone complains about are cost plus, meaning Halliburton is reimbursed for their expense plus a margin of 3 – 7 percent. This percentage of profit is in line with any average Wall Street traded corporation (typically 5 percent). Yes, Halliburton has made a lot of money in Iraq but their profit margin is consistant with any other American corporation.

    Obama also knows that the Director of FEMA is appointed by the President. If Obama were to be elected President he would appoint his own FEMA director. Hopefully he would appoint someone with better credentials than a manager of a horse training facility but even so the FEMA Director will still be a friend and ally of Obama.

    Obama is definitely a "go getter" and I applaud him for that however my gut instinct tells me the office of President requires more experience than Obama has.

    July 30, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Matt Houston Texas


    At least it is being considered. The Dems dont have complete access to the top military minds to present a clear and current withdrawal strategy. Until they can have the undivided time of those in charges how can they come up with a detailed plan.

    Obama is very wise to say that the withdrawal wont be immediate because you cant do that...but to say that he will look at a staged withdrawal is quite smart and really the best option. Until we force the Iraqis to govern themselves, they never will.

    So far the Republican strategy of throw more money/lives at the war isnt working wouldnt you agree?

    July 30, 2007 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. DJ, Los Angeles CA

    Yes I agree with David and continue to be impressed by Barack's ability to talk about the real issues.

    Barack is also showing solid leadership values for tackling the very core of voter discontent and addressing the serious issue of outright corrpution in the White House.

    It is about time someone starts to speak-up and offer some solutions to put an end to this type of robber-baron

    Keep it up Sen. Obama!

    July 30, 2007 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  8. kris, St. Paul, MN

    Hillary said this things long time ago but Obama’s tube light lighten now. Hillary might play moderate and liberal game but Obama plays game of being extreme liberal, liberal, moderate and conservative game. I wonder what he exactly believe. I think Hillary is more practical and trust worthy than Obama.

    July 30, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Independent Voter

    This sounds like something that the left wing base of the party will be scratching their head over.

    The fact that we have troops in Iraq is the number one issue of the campaign. They want all troops out "now" from what I gather. Will this not distance Obama from the base? Are Kucinich and Richardson now the leaders on this issue (they both think we can start pulling out immediately). Will Obama supporters now have to modify their stance (a la Hillary).

    Interesting development...

    July 30, 2007 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  10. ReadBtwthlins

    The last thing we need are shortsighted politicians making military decisions. That's what generals do.., and they are holding weekly press conferences you know. Wheres CNN's coverage of that?
    Got any bright ideas, Obama?? Please share with us already..., before more troops have to "needlessly" die. Generals are always open to valid ways of winning.

    But its obvious that the dems only plan is to continue blaming Bush for the war, not face the realities of it. They give comfort to our enemy while making it harder for the peace loving Iraqi's to achieve their dreams of freedom. Shameful comes to mind.

    Who are you expecting to fight for your freedom?

    July 30, 2007 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  11. PDM Tampa, FL

    Give us a break Obama! What in the world have you and your fellow Democratic Senators accomplished regarding "special interests" and a "more open government" since taking majority control. Nothing. It is so much easier to criticize than to lead. Many of us will never take you seriously until you've actually accomplished (not talked about) something significant in your political life.

    July 30, 2007 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. James Atlanta, GA

    Am I the only one who interprets this latest comment from Sen. Obama as a soffening of his anti-war position? For months we have been hearing from him, as well as from many Democrats, that we should immediately start pulling troops out, we should implement troop withdrawls, and that we should end this war now.

    Could it be that the reports from both strategic and bipartisan sources all confirming that an immediate withdrawl would only leave a bloodbath in Iraq have anything to do with this new "clarified" response. What about the fact that editorialists from the Washington Post, NY Post, and even the NY Times (of all places) have been writing that the recent troop surge is already showing clear results after only one month.

    We should all watch and see how opinions soften, and clarifications begin coming out in the next couple of months. Leadership is not about follwoing opinion polls. And, a Commander in Chief listens to his generals not the public in how to conduct a war.

    July 30, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  13. MCD, San Francisco, CA

    ...it will get messy...???? What do people think is going on over there now? Millions of Iraqis have fled the country. Millions more are pleading for food. Hundreds of thousands have died. Yes people will die when we leave... but people are dieing everyday while we are there. It is a no win situation... why do more of our troops have to die?

    July 30, 2007 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. Jeremy, Gastonia, NC

    I hate to say this way, but with this thing, I don't totally trust his answer. Iraq is a civil war right now regardless, and either way the US does this it is going to be messy. Plus to me, this sounds like a sort of flip flop, may not neccessarily be, but it looks like something.

    July 31, 2007 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  15. Walter Stewart, Sunnyvale, CA

    The author of the Cancer blog censures all the comments and does not post comments that question his article. Mine certainly wasn't posted. The comments are slanted and opposing views not posted. Take it with a grain of salt. Ann Romney is a kind human being.

    July 31, 2007 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  16. Mark Garrity, Downers Grove, Illinois

    Obama is right. We won't leave Iraq in one day. But Biden who says it'd take a year and Hillary who says it'd take a month per brigade (for 15 to 20 brigades) are wrong.

    The American people want us out. The Iraqi people want us out. Even Maliki said we can leave whenever we want. Just about everybody in the world except Osama Bin Laden wants us out of Iraq.

    Iraq is a sovereign country with a democratically elected government. Our presence keeps them from doing what they need to do, whether it's compromise or an even more massive civil war, to forge their future as one nation or three. In any case 160,000 US troops can't and shouldn't try to decide the political outcome for them anymore than it would have been right for the French to dictate how we governed ourselves after they helped us
    defeat the British.

    For those who worry about Iranian and Saudi influence let me ask you, if the mighty USA can't bend Iraq to our will what makes you think Iran or Saudi Arabia are going to have any better luck? They may be able to lead the horse to water with guns and money but they can't make it drink and they can't make them fight once Iraqis realize that they, just like Bush, would gladly sacrifice all of Iraq for their own ends.

    It should take less than 6 months to redeploy our military out of Iraq. It took 3 and half weeks to fight our way to Baghdad. Leavings 10s of thousands behind to train Iraqis or hunt down terrorists is pointless. Iraqis know very well how to fight and once we leave the few thousand foreign Al Qaeda wannabes will be driven out or exterminated.

    Staying bogged down in Iraq is exactly what our enemies want us to do. Occupying Iraq isn't the solution to the problem, it IS the problem.

    July 31, 2007 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. Ashley, Des Moines, Iowa

    Obama is the only one with his head on straight. He is not concerned about pleasing the political parties, he's concerned about the country. Doing the right thing doesn't mean staying extremely liberal, liberal, moderate or conservative. The right thing to do is right regardless of what political party you belong to. Obama is speaking to issues that will affect all of us and he's creating solutions that will help all of us. Maybe his so-called "lack of experience" will prove beneficial as it opens the door for fresh ideas and energy to get things done. Let's put someone in office that will work for and with us instead of against us.

    July 31, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    When will people realize that the Democrats are NOT going to end the war? The democrats are in charge in congress and all they have done his throw more money to Bush. Clinton, Obama, Edwards etc. are all people who want to win a popularity contest because they want power. They want their names etched in the history books. They don't care about you or your family. They only care about themselves, their families and the corporations allied with them. If you want someone honest and someone who has a voting record that proves intent, take a look at Ron Paul who is running. There are other options out there besides the big 3 on both sides.

    July 31, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Judyinnm, Silver City NM

    ReadBtwnlins: "Pre-9/11 mindset" precluded our invading, destroying and occupying a country who never did ANYTHING to harm us. It left intact the freedoms & rule of law afforded by the Constitution of the United States of America; and disallowed the president the right to wiretap us all, and forbade the suspension of habeas corpus except in the event of rebellion or invasion. In short, "Pre-9/11 mindset" didn't require that we try to appease the terrorists (who we were told "hate us for our freedoms") by destroying those freedoms....

    August 1, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. don obarm ma.

    it simply does not matter who the next leader is so lets go to chna to buy one ooooh lead free please

    August 16, 2007 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |