President Barack Obama on Tuesday ended the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, declaring no victory after seven years of bloodshed, and telling those divided over the war: "It is time to turn the page."
From the White House's Oval Office, where President George W. Bush first announced the invasion that would come to define his time in office, Obama said bluntly: "Our most urgent task is to restore our economy." It was a telling of the domestic troubles weighing on Obama's nation and his own presidency that he would put such emphasis in a war address to the dire state of U.S. joblessness.
Even as he tries to cap one of the most divisive chapters in recent American history, Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. He pledged anew that the United States would keep up the fight in that war, the longest once since Vietnam.
And in Iraq, for all the finality, the war is not over. More Americans will likely die.
Obama is keeping up to 50,000 troops in Iraq for support and counterterrorism training, and the last forces are not due to leave until the end of 2011 at the latest.
The Iraq war, and the country itself, is now mainly in the hands of Iraqis.
The White House released excerpts of Mr. Obama's speech in advance of his Oval Office address:
"[T]his milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that our future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment. It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century."
"At every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families."
"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. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq's Security Forces and support its government and people. That is what we have done. We have removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. We have closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq."
"Ending this war is not only in Iraq's interest - it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people - a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page."
"Today, our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President."