In this week’s address, the President detailed why he authorized two operations in Iraq – targeted military strikes to protect Americans serving in Iraq and humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help Iraqi civilians trapped on a mountain by terrorists. The President saluted America’s brave men and women in uniform for protecting our fellow Americans and helping to save the lives of innocent people. The President also made clear that the United States will not be dragged into another war in Iraq – that American combat troops will not return – because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.
Click below to listen to the audio only:
President Obama addressed the nation this evening about the current situation in Iraq. He has authorized aid to the victims of the terrorist group currently taking control of much of that nation and has also authorized “limited” air strikes against those terrorists if the safety of United States personnel is threatened.
Under no circumstances, he stated, will there again be U.S. “boots on the ground.” We will not fight another war in Iraq.
The full transcript of the President’s statement follows the break.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Thank you, President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown, Prime Minister Harper, and Prince Charles for being here today. Thank you to our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, for making the trip out here to join us. Thanks also to Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather began this mission 65 years ago with a simple charge: “Ok, let’s go.” And to a World War II veteran who returned home from this war to serve a proud and distinguished career as a United States Senator and a national leader: Bob Dole. (Applause.)
I’m not the first American President to come and mark this anniversary, and I likely will not be the last. This is an event that has long brought to this coast both heads of state and grateful citizens; veterans and their loved ones; the liberated and their liberators. It’s been written about and spoken of and depicted in countless books and films and speeches. And long after our time on this Earth has passed, one word will still bring forth the pride and awe of men and women who will never meet the heroes who sit before us: D-Day.
Why is this? Of all the battles in all the wars across the span of human history, why does this day hold such a revered place in our memory? What is it about the struggle that took place on the sands a few short steps from here that brings us back to remember year after year after year?
Thank you, Admiral Mullen, for that generous introduction and for your sterling service to our country. To members of our armed forces, to our veterans, to honored guests, and families of the fallen — I am deeply honored to be with you on Memorial Day.
Thank you to the superintendent, John Metzler, Jr., who cares for these grounds just as his father did before him; to the Third Infantry Regiment who, regardless of weather or hour, guard the sanctity of this hallowed ground with the reverence it deserves — we are grateful to you; to service members from every branch of the military who, each Memorial Day, place an American flag before every single stone in this cemetery — we thank you as well. We are indebted — we are indebted to all who tend to this sacred place.
Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.
A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we’ve gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.
Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.
Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago. Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don’t know exactly why. Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.
They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.
Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war. They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution. They strained to hold a young union together. They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle. And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world’s stability.
Their stories are the American story. More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington. They’re etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.
To walk these grounds then is to walk through that history. Not far from here, appropriately just across a bridge connecting Lincoln to Lee, Union and Confederate soldiers share the same land in perpetuity.
Just down the sweeping hill behind me rest those we lost in World War II, fresh-faced GIs who rose to the moment by unleashing a fury that saved the world. Next week, I’ll visit Normandy, the place where our fate hung on an operation unlike any ever attempted, where it will be my tremendous honor to address some of the brave men who stormed those beaches 65 years ago.
And tucked in a quiet corner to our north are thousands of those we lost in Vietnam. We know for many the casualties of that war endure — right now, there are veterans suffering and families tracing their fingers over black granite not two miles from here. They are why we pledge anew to remember their service and revere their sacrifice, and honor them as they deserve.
This cemetery is in and of itself a testament to the price our nation has paid for freedom. A quarter of a million marble headstones dot these rolling hills in perfect military order, worthy of the dignity of those who rest here. It can seem overwhelming. But for the families of the fallen, just one stone stands out — one stone that requires no map to find.
Today, some of those stones are found at the bottom of this hill in Section 60, where the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan rest. The wounds of war are fresh in Section 60. A steady stream of visitors leaves reminders of life: photos, teddy bears, favorite magazines. Friends place small stones as a sign they stopped by. Combat units leave bottles of beer or stamp cigarettes into the ground as a salute to those they rode in battle with. Perfect strangers visit in their free time, compelled to tend to these heroes, to leave flowers, to read poetry — to make sure they don’t get lonely.
If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they’d be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they’d be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn’t possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.
What is thing, this sense of duty? What tugs at a person until he or she says “Send me”? Why, in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of the narrowest self-interest, have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others? Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?
Whatever it is, they felt some tug; they answered a call; they said “I’ll go.” That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform — their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.
My grandfather served in Patton’s Army in World War II. But I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle. I’m the father of two young girls — but I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child. These are things I cannot know. But I do know this: I am humbled to be the Commander-in-Chief of the finest fighting force in the history of the world.
I know that there is nothing I will not do to keep our country safe, even as I face no harder decision than sending our men and women to war — and no moment more difficult than writing a letter to the families of the fallen. And that’s why as long as I am President, I will only send our troops into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and I will always provide them with the equipment and support they need to get the job done.
I know that military families sacrifice more than we can understand, and feel an absence greater than we can comprehend. And that’s why Michelle and I are committed to easing their burden.
And I know what a grateful nation owes to those who serve under its proud flag. And that’s why I promise all our servicemen and women that when the guns fall silent, and you do return home, it will be to an America that is forever here for you, just as you’ve been there for us.
With each death, we are heartbroken. With each death, we grow more determined. This bustling graveyard can be a restless place for the living, where solace sometimes comes only from meeting others who know similar grief. But it reminds us all the meaning of valor; it reminds us all of our own obligations to one another; it recounts that most precious aspect of our history, and tells us that we will only rise or fall together.
So on this day of silent remembrance and solemn prayer I ask all Americans, wherever you are, whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing, to pause in national unity at 3:00 this afternoon. I ask you to ring a bell, or offer a prayer, say a silent “thank you.” And commit to give something back to this nation — something lasting — in their memory; to affirm in our own lives and advance around the world those enduring ideals of justice, equality, and opportunity for which they and so many generations of Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.
God bless you, God bless the fallen, and God bless the United States of America.
May 1 shall forever be known as Mission Accomplished Day.
It was six years ago today that George W. Bush declared combat operations over in Iraq. The United States was victorious. (That wouldn’t be one of those teleprompter thingies I see in that photograph, would it?)
BAGHDAD (AP) – The U.S. death toll for April rose to 18, the military said Friday, making it the deadliest in seven months for American forces in Iraq. The sharp increase from the previous month came as a series of bombings also pushed Iraqi deaths to their highest level this year.
In the latest violence, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant on the reservoir of Iraq’s largest dam near the northern city of Mosul. At least five people were killed and 10 wounded, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials…
Two U.S. Marines and one sailor were killed Thursday while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, according to a statement. Anbar is a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad that has been relatively calm since Sunni tribal leaders turned against al-Qaida in Iraq.
The U.S. military did not give further details about the attack but said the Americans were providing requested support to Iraqi forces when it occurred.
The attack raised to at least 18 the number of American troops deaths in April, double the nine killed in March, which was the lowest since the war began in March 2003.
That made April the deadliest month for U.S. forces since September, when 25 American troops died.
April also saw the most troops killed in combat so far this year, as opposed to other causes. Thirteen of last month’s 18 deaths were in combat compared with four among the nine in March.
In all, at least 4,281 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began, according to an Associated Press count.
Civilian deaths in Iraq in April were also higher than previous months following a series of high-profile bombings.
At least 371 Iraqis were killed – in addition to 80 Iranian pilgrims – in violence in April, compared with 335 Iraqis killed in March, 288 in February and 242 in January, according to an AP tally.
President Obama made a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq today. Unfortunately, like George W. Bush, he had to arrive under the cover of secrecy and extremely tight security. Unlike Mr. Bush, he arrived in the light of day and without a plastic turkey.
BAGHDAD — President Obama made an unannounced trip Tuesday to Baghdad, punctuating his week-long overseas trip with a stop to talk to American troops and Iraqi leaders.
Mr. Obama told American troops gathered at Camp Victory military base that it was time for Iraqis to “take responsibility for their country,” winning enthusiastic applause.
“You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country,” the president said. “That is an extraordinary achievement.”
Mr. Obama’s trip here was his first since becoming president. Mr. Obama opposed the war and has quickly moved to reshape it since his inauguration, announcing plans to draw down troops as he begins to shift the military’s focus to the troubled war in Afghanistan.
Although violence has dropped substantially in Iraq in recent months, Mr. Obama’s visit came a day after at least 33 people died in six car bombings. On Tuesday, another car bomb blew up in Baghdad; a police official said that eight people were killed.
Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport under heavy security at 4:42 in the afternoon after military officials shut down the airport. Mr. Obama then traveled by car to Camp Victory, a sprawling base near the Baghdad International Airport. About 300 troops, standing about 5 to 8 deep, saluted Mr. Obama on the ride to the camp.
Mr. Obama had planned to take a helicopter from the airport into the city to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but poor weather conditions canceled the trip. Officials said that Mr. Maliki would travel to Camp Victory to meet with Mr. Obama.
President Obama addressed the troops inside a marble hall at the center of a Saddam-era palace on the base, a enormous sandstone-colored two-story building on a manmade lake. Scores of troops held digital cameras above their heads, snapping pictures and recording video.
UPDATE: Video added:
OOPS! Wrong video! Here you go:
A transcript of the President’s remarks follows the break.
President Barack Obama today announced his plans to end George W. Bush’s War in Iraq. He plans to have all combat troops out of that country by August 31, 2010 and all remaining troops out by the end of 2011…
The full text of the president’s speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina may be read after the fold.
BAGHDAD – On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the war that defines his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference.
“This is the end!” shouted the protester, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadiya television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.
Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him. In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When U.S. Marines toppled Saddam Hussein’s statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.
“All I can report,” Bush joked later, “is a size 10.”
The U.S. president visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
In many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely unpopular in the United States and across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.
With all that is going on at home — Blagojevich, recession, job losses, home foreclosures, Republicans — it is good to be reminded from time to time that our troops are still fighting George’s War in Iraq. Even if it takes a pair of size tens to do it.
(I will have to admit that I was rather impressed with Mr. Bush’s quick reflexes, as well as his publicly expressed attitude toward the incident.)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened his international climate change summit on Tuesday by upstaging himself with an even bigger political star – President-elect Barack Obama.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican whose efforts to combat global warming in California have generated worldwide acclaim, wants to show that governments can balance environmental protection and economic growth. He hopes his summit will influence negotiations over a new climate treaty during a U.N. gathering in Poland next month.
In a taped message to attendees, Obama said his administration is committed to a cause that has all but languished at the federal level during the term of President George W. Bush.
“Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change,” Obama said.