The President’s Speech

President Barack Obama marked the end of combat operations in Iraq with an Oval Office address. I heard it on the radio, just absorbing the words and the tone.

The words were sober, the tone almost somber. I recently read President Nixon’s ‘Peace With Honor’ speech, marking our exit from Vietnam with nothing really accomplished of whatever the mission was.

This exit from Iraq wasn’t inevitable. A different President might have marched us deeper into the Big Muddy. A less wise President might have declared victory.

But most of us know, and history will uncover, that we were lied into invading Iraq.

The hope of a stable Iraq, run by Iraqis under rule of law, is something I have wished for from the first days. Not to vindicate the invasion– but to allow us to get out and to bring our troops home.

American soldiers will continue to risk their lives in Iraq for the indefinate future, but under a different mission.

The President acknowledged the loss of over 4,400 American troops, and other Coalition forces, and the sacrifices of the Iraqi people. But Iraqis were not a volunteer army. They did not enlist in a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. They were thrown on to the front lines– men, women and children– with the bombing of Bagdhad. By some counts, nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in this war.

Every person who died in this war was irreplaceble and their loss will leave a hole in the fabric of their community. We will feel the grief, and the Iraqis no less because humanity doesn’t diminish with distance and borders.

We are still at war in Afghanistan, a place with no good choices or safe course of action. I hope President Obama will make good on his pledge to get us out, but the prospect seems dim.

The whole tone of the speech seemed constrained. President Bush invaded two countries, and the voters elected a President we hoped would end the wars. Changing course when a war machine is grinding forward requires more than good intentions. Any action the President and the US might take is full of risk.

Ultimately, we have to get out. Americans do not want another South Korea. We want to repair our own house.

We still have the power to use our Democracy to counter the power of the military-industrial complex– grown stronger in the last eight years. Our troops are sent across the world in complicated games of politics. We owe it to them to stay awake and to stay engaged.

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3 responses

  1. It takes at least two to tango.
    We didn’t ever need to go into Iraq,but as far as keeping strategic forces in ready mode around the world,we really have no choice as long as we have potential enemies with similar weapons.
    There will be no disarmament,and no end to confrontation and distrust in our lifetimes or those of our grandchildren either.
    You can be distressed by that fact,but it’s there.
    David Segal suggested turning from military production(Virginia class submarines)to “green industry”.I hope he doesn’t shop that around any groups of Electric Boat employees.He won’t like what he hears.
    The Chinese,Russians,Iranians,North Koreans,Brazilians,Indians,Pakistanis,and even the Venezuelans are not cutrailing thier military build ups at all.Quite the opposite.

  2. I’m glad to hear that David Segal seeks to shift spending from useless weapons to “green jobs” aka alternate energy that not only helps the economy and environment, but also starts to reduce our dependence on far away foreign oil supplies that surely are a factor in our current wars.

    “Observer” needn’t worry about our military preparedness, we apparently spend more on weapons that the rest of the world combined. Can’t see how even more submarines, of little use in modern counter-insurgency efforts, can help us. We have more than enough, and we can’t afford useless weapons any longer,

  3. I certainly don’t see submarines as useful in counter insurgency efforts.
    The US is a sea power as opposed to a naval power.Alfred T Mahan explained this in his famous book,”The Influence of Sea Power Upon History”.
    We need a strong navy to ensure the integrity of oceanic supply routes and to provide a force projection capability that cannot be easily targeted.
    Therefore I disagree with you “useless” remark in this context.
    I think we waste an enormous amount of defense in some truly useless projects and programs.
    “Green” projects aren’t ready to provide the number and quality of jobs that the defense industry does.
    Segal has never worked full time for any long period and has no family to support.
    It’s hard for him to understand.
    He obviously believes everything he says,but he isn’t realistic.
    China is spending enormous amounts of money on the military.Russia too.

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