President Barack Obama formally ended the U.S. combat role in Iraq after seven long years of bloodshed, declaring in an Oval Office speech to the nation Tuesday night: “It’s time to turn the page.”
Adamantly opposed to the war from the beginning, Obama said the United States “has paid a huge price” to give Iraqis the chance to shape their future – a cost that now includes more than 4,400 troops dead, tens of thousands more wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.
“We have met our responsibility,” Obama said. “Now it is time to turn the page.”
After praising the men and women in uniform for their sacrifice, Obama said “Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. Having drawn down 100,000 troops since taking office, a much smaller force will stay to train and assist the Iraqi forces during the transition period. …All U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.”
Obama said he had telephoned Bush, whom he had criticized so often in the 2008 campaign, and praised the former Republican president in the heart of his speech.
“It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset,” Obama said. “Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.”
In a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on the United States and his own presidency, Obama turned much of the emphasis in a major war address to the dire state of U.S. joblessness. He said the Iraq war had stripped America of money needed for its own prosperity, and he called for an economic commitment at home to rival the grit and purpose of a military campaign.