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Barack Obama on Iraq: Then and now; Update: We are all patriots…for the moment

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 31, 2010 09:42 AM

Scroll for update…

Barack Obama, 2002:

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Barack Obama, 2010:

In a radio interview with CBS News, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama will emphasize that “We are putting the Iraqis in control of their history and their future. They’ll have responsibility for security and responsibility for providing for the citizens of that country. That is a milestone worth barking.”

Just hours before the president speaks from the Oval Office, Gibbs said the speech would emphasize “the milestone of the end of our combat mission,” and said Mr. Obama will say, “The story of the Iraqis will be written by the Iraqis.”

…While Iraq has seen political turmoil for months, Gibbs insists the caretaker government is stable. He predicts “in very short order” the Iraqis will have a government in place. The spokesman said the president will tell Iraqis, “with our help as allies, you will be able to chart your future and your course as you determine.”

Gibbs also had a terse response to Republicans challenging the president to give credit to the troop surge ordered by former President George. W. Bush — a move opposed by then-Senator Obama.

Gibbs acknowledged that “the surge improved security conditions in Iraq.” But, he added, “I think the only question that matters for them (Republicans) today — we can look back in history, but the question that matters today is, where are you on bringing more than 90,000 troops out of Iraq right now? Do you support the president’s timeline for ending our combat operation in Iraq? That’s the question I’d like to hear answered by those Republicans.”

President Obama will also call George W. Bush today for what Gibbs describes as an “appropriate time” to thank him for his “love of country as we end the combat mission.”

No word on whether Obama will apologize for his past political hackery and cynical attacks on those in the Bush administration who supported the troop surge that made his speech tonight possible.

The Denver Post reminds folks in my state that while the combat mission is “ending,” our troops are not coming home anytime soon. The mission that Obama once mocked as a “dumb war” continues:

While 80 troops recently returned to Fort Carson from Iraq, 3,400 members of the Fort Carson-based 3rd Brigade Combat Team are still posted there, conducting “stability operations” until March.

Another 800 soldiers from 4th Infantry Division headquarters are preparing to deploy to Iraq this fall.

…The mission for those deploying into what will now be called Operation New Dawn, rather than Operation Iraqi Freedom, includes advising Iraqi commanders on intelligence, supplies and training, he said. The unit will work on existing bases around Iraq for a year.

No fanfare was expected at Fort Carson around Obama’s speech at 6 tonight, said base spokeswoman Dee McNutt.

The Fort Carson troops who remain in Iraq are among 50,000 U.S. military and 70,000 contract personnel scheduled to remain until December 2011.

Related: Troops yet to give Obama full salute

Related: Boehner’s reminder for Obama

In advance of President Obama’s Tuesday night speech on Iraq, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, was set to remind thousands of veterans attending the national convention of the American Legion that Mr. Obama and other Democrats had opposed the military escalation credited with gains in Iraq.

“This day belongs to our troops, whose courage and sacrifices have made the transition to a new mission in Iraq possible,” Mr. Boehner said in excerpts of the speech he was to deliver Tuesday at the legion’s national convention in Milwaukee.

“Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results,” Mr. Boehner’s speech said.

Words do matter, then and now.

***

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan:

The top U.S. Marine general made a sharp departure from the White House’s talking points on Afghanistan, saying President Barack Obama’s promised July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing troops from the country had given “sustenance” to the Taliban.

“We know the president was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011,” Gen. James Conway told reporters on Tuesday. “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance….In fact, we’ve intercepted communications that say, ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’”

***
Update: Here is the full speech transcript.

Your takeaway:

As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.

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