Today, after presiding over the removal of U.S. forces in Iraq, and as he authorized the return of military advisers to Iraq in the midst of an emerging civil war, President Barack Obama said: “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.”
“After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administrations pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance,” Obama said in 2002, “and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.”
“What I am opposed to is a dumb war,” Obama said then, deriding the “weekend warriors” in the Bush administration advocating the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein by force. “What I am opposed to is a rash war.”
“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences,” the state senator said. “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al- Qaeda.”
“I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
Winning election to the U.S. Senate after its authorization of the U.S.-led invasion and then the White House in 2008, President Barack Obama ultimately wound down that nearly decade-long war and removed U.S. combat forces three years ago.
Obama also has set an end to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the final withdrawal of troops set for the closing of his final term in 2016, after presiding over the military action that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader behind the attacks of 9/11, hiding in Pakistan.
Yet today, stepping to a podium in the West Wing of the White House, Obama announced that U.S. military advisers will return to Iraq, where militant Sunnis are threatening the government of Nouri al-Maliki. Marines already have been dispatched to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. And U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance has been stepped up, he said today, and as many as 300 military advisers will be sent to assist the Iraqi military.
These will not be combat forces, the president said today — after the Pentagon reportedly recommended the deployment of 100 special forces. The U.S. will not engage in military action against one side fighting another in Iraq, he said.
“What’s clear from the last decade is the necessity for the United States to ask hard questions before we take further actions abroad,” he said.
Asked about these advisers becoming the beginning of more “boots on the ground,” he said: “We always have to guard against mission creep… American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.”
“Ultimately,” he said, “this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.”