(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama issued a statement today, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that praised U.S. troops but did not mention President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, after being pressured by a reporter, only said there was a “causal relationship” between Bush’s decision to invade and Saddam’s ouster.
As a U.S. senator from Illinois and as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama opposed the Iraq war launched by President George W. Bush on Mar. 19, 2003. In today’s statement, President Obama said, “As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars.”
“We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who, during multiple tours, wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service,” Obama continued. “We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship. And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home-front, especially our Gold Star families who remain in our prayers.”
In his statement, Obama did not mention his opposition to the Iraq war as a senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
In 2003, then-President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Ira to depose dictator Saddam Hussein. At the time, U.S. intelligence believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, as did many in the international community, including opponents of the U.S.-led invasion. Bush entered the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in 2008 with the Iraqi government, and combat operations ended after Obama took office in 2009.
The president’s statement was issued at 12:10 p.m. The White House daily press briefing ended at noon. During that briefing, a reporter had asked Carney whether Iraq was better off today than 10 years ago.
Carney said, “Historians have to make the judgment. I think ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was a welcome development for the world and for Iraq. But again, the president opposed the policy as a candidate for Senate of invading Iraq, as a candidate for president as well.”
“He made a commitment as a candidate to end that war in a manner more responsible than the manner we entered it,” Carney said. “He has fulfilled that promise. The Iraqi people are proud and capable people and they have enormous potential for building a future for that country. With the assistance of friends and partners in the international community, it is far brighter -- not just in the past but even the present. We remain committed to that relationship and assisting Iraq in that effort. It was entirely the right thing to do to wind down and end that war.”
Another reporter asked, “When you stand here and tell us Iraq has the option for a much better future than in the past, that is, as a matter of factual history, because President Bush decided to launch this war and send those servicemen and women into this mission -- and so, if credit is due to those servicemen and women, it seems to me as a matter of logic that some credit would also be due to President Bush and his advisers on this occasion. Do you not see it that way?”
Carney apparently did not see it that way.
He said, “I would take your first proposition about engaging in counterfactuals that don’t exist about what might have happened had we not gone to war in search of weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. There is no question, as I made clear in several answers, that the president believes Iraq has potential for a better future today because of the remarkable sacrifice and service of American men and women in uniform as well as civilian men and women who served in Iraq. That is without question, without doubt.”
The reporter later asked, “For what you call the ‘welcome development’ of Saddam Hussein being gone, you are unwilling to accord President George W. Bush even a single iota of credit for that development?”
Carney said, “There is no question that Saddam Hussein was removed from power thanks to military efforts of U.S. armed forces and they were sent to Iraq by President Bush. So there is an obvious causal relationship. To the extent credit is due, credit is due to him for that. That does not change, I think, assessments made by this president as a candidate or by many others on this day 10 years after on the judgments made to go to war in Iraq and invade the country.”