President Obama spoke on Thursday about the United States' future relationship with Iraq, a response to the increased violence in the nation we recently left, and the concerns of Americans tired of war. He said as many as 300 military advisers could be heading to Iraq to help with training. He reiterated that no military forces would be returning to the country. Secretary of State John Kerry will also be heading to the Middle East to provide assistance.
The announcement was yet another sign that, as much as Obama's political career has depended upon his desire to keep the United States out of Iraq, it's the one part of politics he can't seem to avoid. Here's a quick history of Obama's remarks on the war -- and how they changed as Obama went from the campaign trail to the White House and as Iraq continued to deteriorate. Click on the dates to read Obama's complete remarks in each instance.
October 2002: "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war."
March 19, 2003: A U.S.-led military coalition begins bombing Baghdad.
May 1, 2003: Bush announces "Mission Accomplished" to the U.S. military in Iraq.
Oct. 5, 2003: "Our government seems more intent on rebuilding Iraq than they are rebuilding here at home."
July 26, 2004: ''But, I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. 'What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point, the case was not made.''
Oct. 18, 2004: "If it is not stable, not only are we going to have a humanitarian crisis, I think we are also going to have a huge national security problem on our hands -- because, ironically, it has become a hotbed of terrorists as a consequence, in part, of our incursion there."
November 2004: Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama is elected to the U.S. Senate.
Jan. 7, 2006: "If we don't see significant political progress ... over the next six months or so, we can pour money and troops in here until the cows come home, but we're not going to be successful."
Nov. 21, 2006: "[My plan] includes opening a dialogue with both Syria and Iran, an idea supported by both James Baker and the incoming secretary of defense, Robert Gates. We know these countries, Iran and Syria, want us to fail, and we should remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions. But neither Iran nor Syria want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, terrorism, refugees, and violence, as it could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region and within Iran and Syria themselves."
January 2007: President Bush announces the troop surge.
Jan. 30, 2007: "The need to bring this war to an end is here. That is why today I am introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation: more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of United States forced with the goal of removing all United States combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008."
June 22, 2007: "A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal offers our commanders in the field and our diplomats in the region insufficient flexibility."
Feb. 27, 2008: "As commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."
July 9, 2008: "When I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I am sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies."
Nov. 4, 2008: Sen. Barack Obama is elected president.
Nov. 17, 2008: Iraq and the United States agree that the U.S. will withdraw by the end of 2011.
Feb. 27, 2009: "Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community. In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation. ... Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."
April 7, 2009: "They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty. And in order for them to do that, they have got to make political accommodations. They're going to have to decide that they want to resolve their differences through constitutional means and legal means."
Aug. 31, 2009: Less than 50,000 troops remain in Iraq. Those left are not combat troops -- they are instead focused on training Iraqis.
Dec. 10, 2009: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."
Aug. 3, 2010: "The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq. But make no mistake: Our commitment in Iraq is changing -- from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats."
May 2, 2011: Osama bin Laden is killed.
Oct. 21, 2011: "We don't have concerns about Iraqis being able to exercise the kind of sovereignty they want."
Dec. 14, 2011: “The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages."
Dec. 18, 2011: Only 150 troops remain at the U.S. Embassy. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died since the war began.
Nov. 6, 2012: Obama is re-elected.
Dec. 23, 2012: Major protests start in Iraq, pushing for President Nouri al-Maliki to step down.
Sept. 4, 2013: "Keep in mind, I’m somebody who opposed the war in Iraq and not interested in repeated mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence."
Sept. 24, 2013: "For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation. And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria. We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders; they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves."
2013: Nearly 10,000 civilians died in Iraq in 2013.
April 30, 2014: Maliki is re-elected.
May 28, 2014: Seventy-four civilians died in a single day.
May 28, 2014: "This should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development. They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security. It is part of what makes us strong."
June 13, 2014: “It’s fair to say that, in our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily."
June 12, 2014: "I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge. Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces."
June 19, 2014: "American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well."