Obama ends Iraq war where it began — the Oval Office
The Iraq war ended where it began — at the president’s desk in the White House Oval Office.
President Barack Obama declared the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq with his hands folded on the desk where 7-1/2 years earlier President George W. Bush announced the beginning of military operations.
“Much has changed since that night,” Obama said in the second Oval Office prime-time televised address of his presidency.
Obama in his 19-minute speech praised the former president’s patriotism. But he did not do what Republicans had wanted — credit Bush’s troop surge, which Obama had opposed, with leading to the end of combat operations.
Instead, Obama spoke about the “rough waters” endured during one of America’s longest wars that divided the country and turned increasingly unpopular.
“A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency,” Obama said, referring to the original justification for the war — that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction which never surfaced.
“Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested,” Obama said.
He said it was time “to turn the page” on the divisiveness of the war at home, and in the next breath mentioned that he had spoken with Bush that afternoon.
“It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security,” Obama said.
“As I’ve 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 hopes for Iraqis’ future,” he said.
Obama sounded emotional when he spoke of the “over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq.”
And he kept a campaign promise when he declared: “So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama addresses the nation about end of U.S. combat mission), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Bush announces start of Iraq war on March 19, 2003)