Washington Extra – End in sight

December 13, 2011

President Obama didn’t bite when asked by a White House reporter today if he still thought the U.S. war in Iraq was “a dumb war.” Back in 2002, he could get away with such a blunt statement. As president, and with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at his side, he needed to be more subtle.

Up the two men went to Arlington Cemetery, their motorcade driving past the white grave stones of wars past and present, canon shots firing in the background, until they arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A military band played both countries’ anthems, Obama stood with his hand over his heart for both songs while Maliki stood erect with his hands by his sides.

Obama said it was Maliki who wanted to go to Arlington, but it turned out to be a fitting, if somber way for Obama to close this chapter. By going to a place where the costs of war are so much in evidence, he was able to answer the “dumb war” question in a serene, statesman-like way.

Obama must feel relieved to be pulling the last troops out of Iraq by year end. There may be some celebration and even some political points to score out on the campaign trail. But today was about remembering the untold number of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 Americans who died in the war, not to mention the tens of thousands of troops wounded and maimed and the more than 1 million Americans who deployed to Iraq. Obama urged Americans and Iraqis “to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.”

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama says US will be loyal partner for Iraq
President Barack Obama pledged that Washington would remain a strong partner for Iraq as U.S. troops exit by year-end, and played down the risk this departure creates a power vacuum Iran can exploit. The withdrawal of almost all U.S. troops from Iraq by Dec. 31 has created uncertainty at a time the region remains roiled by the Arab Spring, and amid fear Syrian instability could spread sectarian strife into neighboring Iraq.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Jeff Mason, read here.

U.S. Supreme Court to decide Arizona immigration law
The U.S. Supreme Court said it will rule for the first time on one of several tough, new state immigration laws, with a decision coming in the middle of the 2012 presidential election campaign. Potentially deepening political divisions over the contentious immigration policy issue, the court will decide if key parts of an Arizona crackdown can proceed. The ruling could have implications for similar tough laws adopted recently in other states.

For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.

For more of this story by Alexandra Alper, read here.

FEATURE-Long-term U.S. jobless eye bleak future as benefits end
George Parks has been out of work for 21 months and his unemployment benefits will run out at the end of the month. At 60, he fears his prospects of getting a job are very slim, even though he has a degree in civil engineering and has vast experience in project management. Parks is one of nearly 7 million Americans receiving jobless benefits under seven different state and federal programs. Around a quarter of those will fall off the rolls in January if Congress does not renew an extended benefits program that expires at year end.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Gingrich may be vulnerable in Iowa: poll
Newt Gingrich leads other Republican presidential candidates in the key state of Iowa but his support could be slipping, according to a University of Iowa poll. Gingrich has enjoyed a quick jump to the top of opinion polls in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, which vote early in the state-by-state nominating process but “our results show that his support may be starting to slide, as it has with previous frontrunners,” said Frederick Boehmke, an associate professor of political science at Iowa and an adviser to the Hawkeye Poll.

For more of this story by Lily Kuo, read here.

For a factbox on early nominating states, read here.

From elsewhere…

Tea Party group drops depiction of Obama as skunk
A Kansas group in the grass roots conservative Tea Party movement compared President Barack Obama to a skunk on its website, but then withdrew the image after objections that it was racist. The Patriot Freedom Alliance, based in Hutchinson, Kansas, posted a photo of a skunk, stating it had replaced the eagle as a symbol of the president because “it is half black, half white and almost everything it does stinks.”

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.


Photo Credits: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  (Obama, al-Maliki, Arlington National Cemetery); REUTERS/Joshua Lott (Border fence in Naco, Arizona); REUTERS/Brian Snyder (Gingrich campaigning in New Hampshire)

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