After Calling It a ‘Dumb War’ in 2002, Obama Proclaims Iraq War ‘Part of What Makes Us Special As Americans’

By Fred Lucas | December 15, 2011 | 10:21 AM EST

President Barack Obama speaks to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( – President Barack Obama, speaking to soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C. Wednesday, said the success of the United States in Iraq is “part of what makes us special as Americans.” The U.S. made sacrifices on behalf of Iraq, he added, “because it’s right.”

This is a departure from Obama’s opposition to the war in the 2008 presidential campaign, and particularly a previous speech which positioned him as having opposed the war, even though he was not in Congress at the time it was voted on.

“Now, nine years ago, American troops were preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf and the possibility that they would be sent to war,” Obama said. “Many of you were in grade school. I was a state senator. Many of the leaders now governing Iraq – including the prime minister – were living in exile.”

Obama was a state senator from Illinois in October 2002 when he was preparing a campaign for the 2004 U.S. Senate race, when he called it a “dumb war.”

Obama met earlier this week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House, to officially announce an end to the war and the return of U.S. troops. The U.S. is maintaining a diplomatic presence in the country.

Speaking in North Carolina, an important swing state in the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama conceded that there was controversy about the war in the United States, but praised the effort for helping the people of Iraq.

“Because of you – because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny,” Obama said. “That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources.

“We do it because it’s right. There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are,” he added.

Speaking in Chicago on Oct. 2, 2002, Obama said he supported going after al Qaeda, but not sending troops to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Huessein.

“I don't oppose all wars,” Obama said. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

The 2002 speech allowed Obama to campaign in the Democratic primary against a host of other Democratic candidates who voted for going to war in Iraq while in Congress, including Sen. Hillary Clinton.