Bloomberg News

Obama Says Iraq Withdrawal, Qaddafi Pave Way for New Priorities

October 22, 2011

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama called the death of Muammar Qaddafi and the removal of all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year “two powerful reminders” of U.S. leadership on the global stage.

“In Libya, the death of Muammar Qaddafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do,” Obama said today in his weekly radio and Internet address. “In Iraq, we’ve succeeded in our strategy to end the war.”

While the U.S. has spent a trillion dollars on war over the last decade, Obama said, it “invested too little in the greatest source of our national strength -- our own people.” There must be renewed focus on the economy, he said, urging Congress to channel the strength of U.S. troops and pass his $447 billion jobs proposal.

“Now, the nation we need to build is our own” and helping the U.S. economy should be met “with the same urgency and unity that our troops brought to their fight,” he said.

Obama announced his decision yesterday to bring back all remaining U.S. troops from Iraq after conducting a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Obama said both governments agreed on the next stage in the relationship as the U.S. withdraws its remaining 41,000 troops.

He said in the radio address that more than 100,000 troops have already been removed from the country, and “now the rest of our troops will be home for the holidays.” When Obama became president, there were about 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Opposition to War

Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war was a central element in his rise to national prominence, and his vow to bring U.S. troops home was a building block of his 2008 campaign for president.

“After a decade of war, we’re turning the page and moving forward, with strength and confidence,” he said. The drawdown in Iraq helped his administration refocus on Afghanistan and find al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, he said.

In Libya, Obama said, the NATO-led mission -- criticized by some lawmakers because the administration failed to seek congressional approval under the War Powers Act -- “helped prevent a massacre” and gave the “Libyan people the chance to prevail.”

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives,” Obama said.

Qaddafi was killed on Oct. 20, the third autocrat to be deposed and the first to die in this year’s Arab Spring uprisings.

NATO-Led Campaign

Obama committed the U.S. to a NATO-led campaign in Libya in March, drawing criticism from some members of Congress. The president said on Oct. 20 that Qaddafi’s downfall vindicates his strategy of bringing together allies to meet the objective of supporting the Libyan rebels without putting U.S. troops in ground combat. It also follows other U.S. successes overseas, he said.

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, in the weekly Republican address, said that “getting government out of the way” will help lower the jobless rate.

“The government of the future has to be smaller and less expensive if we want the prosperity of the American people to win out,” he said.

Burr said the president has ignored the suggestions of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which Obama created in 2010 and was led by former Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, and former Clinton Administration White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Economic Growth

Burr listed parts of the Republican jobs plan that he said would lead to economic growth, including simplifying the tax code, limiting government regulations and spending and increasing exports.

He said replacing the president’s health-care overhaul with “common-sense reforms that actually lower the cost of health care for all Americans” and increasing energy exploration within the U.S. will also lead to a stronger economy.

Obama has said his jobs plan will spur growth and lower the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. On Oct. 24 he will bring that message with him on a three-day trip to Nevada, California and Colorado.

--With assistance from Margaret Talev, Roger Runningen, Laura Litvan and Brian Faler in Washington. Editors: Jim Rubin, Don Frederick.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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