President Obama heads to Ft. Bragg, speaks to troops Wednesday | Politics
FORT BRAGG, NC (WBTV/AP) - President Barack Obama will make a stop at Ft. Bragg Wednesday, joining a military community that has seen its soldiers repeatedly deployed to Iraq. Mr. Obama will talk to troops who've recently returned while thanking all forces who fought during the nearly nine year long war.
"We've given the Iraqis an opportunity to have a democracy and be successful its now time for us to bring all of our troops home," Obama told CBS affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle.
The President and First Lady Michelle Obama will pay tribute to the troops who served and to their families, and focus a message on making sure returning soldiers have the resources they need to get jobs and educations.
It's the President's fourth visit to North Carolina since June, but his first to Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is home to the 82nd Airborne, 18th Airborne Corps, and Army Special Operations, among others. Special Forces from Fort Bragg were among the first soldiers in action during the 2003 invasion.
North Carolina, which Obama narrowly won in 2008, also is an important state for the 2012 presidential election and will host the Democratic convention.
To underscore the political significance, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the leading GOP presidential contenders, addressed an open letter to Obama and sent it to the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer decrying the unemployment rate for veterans.
All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq Dec. 31, though Obama has pledged the U.S. will continue to help Iraq as it faces an uncertain future in a volatile region of the world.
Even as majorities in the U.S. public favor ending the war, some Republicans have criticized Obama's withdrawal, arguing he's leaving behind an unstable Iraq that could hurt U.S. interests and fall subject to influence from neighboring Iran.
Obama has on several occasions addressed his reasons for ending the war, casting it as a promise kept after he ran for president as an anti-war candidate and speaking of the need to refocus U.S. attention on rebuilding the troubled economy at home.
On Wednesday, his focus will be principally on the troops and their role and his commitment to ensuring veterans get the jobs and resources they need once they're back home. His audience will be those people most personally affected, including troops back from Iraq and their families.
The president said, in total, the war will likely end up costing the US more than $1 trillion and that history will judge whether or not going to Iraq was a mistake.
The deadline to pull US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 was actually set by the Bush administration. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the Iraqis have made major progress in the past few years.
"They've got a democracy that's established, it's not perfect by any means there's a lot of work to be done but they've clearly much better off than when Saddam Huessin was in charge" Cheney said.
Both the Bush administration and the current White House wanted some US troops to stay behind for security, but were ultimately denied that opportunity by the Iraqis.
"It's important for us to continue to have a security partnership with Iraq but it's not going to be with our folks based inside of Iraq," Obama said.
The last few thousand remaining troops are packing up equipment; many of whom are hoping to be home by Christmas.
220 service personnel from Fort Bragg have died in the Iraq war in nine years of fighting.
WBTV's David Whisenant, Seth Bowman, and Troy Bowlby are at Fort Bragg to cover the remarks by the President and First Lady. Look for live reports starting this afternoon at 4 on WBTV News, On Your Side.
Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.
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