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Obama's Iraq Visit Brings War Back to the Forefront

President Obama's decision to detour from his planned trip home from Turkey today to make a brief stop in Iraq comes amid a series of polls that suggest the conflict has faded as a priority in the minds of most Americans.

In a mid-March CNN poll, just six percent named the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the nation's most pressing priority -- roughly one tenth the percentage of people who chose the economy (63 percent).

With that as a backdrop, Obama's decision to stop off in Iraq seems to be aimed at reminding people of the struggles and sacrifices still happening in the region as he prepares to ramp up America's military presence in Afghanistan.

Obama is scheduled to meet with General Ray Odierno, commander of forces in Iraq, at Camp Victory as well as personally award medals of honors to a handful of soldiers.

The visuals likely to come out of this side trip will be powerful, and the visit is sure to dominate news coverage on a day when most people expected no news from the White House given the logistics of his travel back to the United States.

And, coming just one day after the first public viewing of a soldier killed in Iraq (the first time such an event was open to the public since 1990), the trip reminds Americans of the ongoing war and the sacrifices being made by the soldiers serving there.

A new CBS News/ New York Times survey released this morning showed that Obama is on solid ground when it comes to Iraq. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) approved of the way he is handling the situation while 24 percent disapproved. The public has also grown increasingly optimistic about the progress being made in the country. Sixty two percent of the CBS/NYT sample said the American efforts to bring "stability and order to Iraq" were going either "very well" (12 percent) or "somewhat well" (50 percent). Twenty three percent said those efforts were going "somewhat badly" while seven percent said they were going "very badly."

New CNN polling also shows a large majority of Americans back Obama's plan to have most American troops out of the country by next August. Sixty-nine percent favored that plan while just 30 percent opposed it, according to CNN data released this morning.

The increased confidence in Obama and the general direction of the war in Iraq comes amid an ever-decreasing amount of attention being paid to it by average Americans. For an issue that served as (one of the) impetuses for Obama to enter the primary race against Hillary Rodham Clinton way back in 2007, Iraq has largely fallen off the radar -- eclipsed by the massive financial collapse that has dominated Obama's first eleven weeks in office.

This side trip -- coming at the conclusion of Obama's eight day foreign trip -- effectively pushes Iraq back into the front of peoples' minds (at least for a day or two) and reasserts he continued need for sacrifice as the country seeks to deal with its continued economic problems.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 7, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  White House  
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Next: Mitt Romney's Quiet Campaign


I've been away for awhile. Didn't Jack Murtha's and the other Dem leader's proposed surrender work?

Posted by: leapin | April 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

kos, the problem you have with criticizing Obama for allowing the N. Koreans to launch the missile 10 weeks into his presidency, is that Bush allowed them to develop it and . . . what was the other thing he let them develop . . . oh, that's right: a nuclear warhead!

Forget a failed missile launch. What did Bush do when the N. Koreans *successfully* tested a *nuclear warhead*, eh? I guess maybe Obama should also sternly disapprove and start multi-national talks, and that will make you happy, just like with Bush, right?

So Bush-Bambi is the one that seems to be the major league wuss here, and Obama is stuck with the result of his pansy-*ss policies, no?

Koz, words fail to describe your pathetic lack of pud.

Posted by: nodebris | April 8, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama did much to repair the damaged US image in the world. Yet he concluded with a big mistake. He went to Iraq without an invitation -- a practice Bush employed -- which shows a complete lack of respect for Iraq's sovereignty. It's also counter to American's interest of getting Iraqi's to stand up for themselves when we constantly remind them that we don't respect their sovereignty. This final "photo op" undermined the very message Obama worked so hard to promote.

Posted by: purplehaze2 | April 7, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Where is moveon dot org now... only one player has changed in the Iraq show.. no uprising in the non-Arab streets?

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 7, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

in response to N Korea firing off missiles against UN orders, and offering to sell them to Iran who is developing nukes to arm them with, the obambi admin follows the carter policy of surrender and weakness by immediately cutting missile defense funding and promising to eliminate US nukes. Oh and getting the UN to fix the problem.

Makes sense. If you're a witless lib.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | April 7, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

In the 1980s, young Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a jihad (or holy struggle) against the Soviet Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin, was one of them. Following the defeat of the Soviets in the late 1980s, Bin Ladin and others formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 7, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

tropicalfolk, are you proposing that we withdraw from Afghanistan to attack the Saudis, Europe, and the U.S., because that's where the 9/11 terrorists were born, recruited, and learned to fly?

The organization that coordinated and directed the attacks was not lead from nor did it operate openly in Saudi Arabia or Iraq, but in Afghanistan/Pakistan, where it was and is tolerated, encouraged, and protected.

Bin Laden and most other central leaders were and still are in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

The groups directly responsible for planning and directing the 9/11 attacks are building a military force in Afghanistan/Pakistan with the intention of freely controlling sovereign territory from which they can continue their larger plan, of which 9/11 was only a part.

Saudi Arabia has taken substantial steps to destroy the organization within its borders, as has Iraq, Europe, and the U.S.; but neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is willing and/or able to tackle the organization within their borders.

It would be foolish in the extreme to withdraw from the area. Although Bush seriously muddied the waters with his attack on Iraq, the U.S. government has the justification, the right, and the responsibility to operate against our declared enemies in that region.

Posted by: nodebris | April 7, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"We are in Afghanistan to prevent another 9/11, because that's where the attackers came from. That and Pakistan. Simple, eh?"

Posted by: drindl | April 7, 2009 1:52 PM


You are ABSOLUTELY wrong!!!

Check the facts:

- Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
- They were not recruited in Afghanistan but in Germany, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
- They learned the most critical skill for 9/11 -fly airplanes- in the U.S.
- The money required to keep those nuts in the U.S wasn't wired from Afghanistan, but from Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: tropicalfolk | April 7, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

troops liking obama...

BAGHDAD – Cheered wildly by U.S. troops, President Barack Obama flew unannounced into Iraq on Tuesday and promptly declared it was time for Iraqis to "take responsibility for their country" after America's commitment of six years and thousands of lives.
"You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country," the president said as he made a brief inspection of a war he opposed as candidate and now vows to end as commander in chief. "That is an extraordinary achievement."
A total of 4,265 U.S. troops have lost their lives in Iraq since March 2003, and Obama said American forces had "performed brilliantly ... under enormous strain."
"It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis," he said as an estimated 600 troops cheered. "They need to take responsibility for their country."

Posted by: drindl | April 7, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

not to mention all the doughnuts that have to be made for the mandatory 30,000 troops that are needed to run the brand spanking new US Embassy.....
that Baby Bush just had to have open before he left office.

hmmm....i wonder if we will hear the same complaints about "running the Iraq embassy" that we do about "running the white house"....

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 7, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"What do we gain by leaving Iraq if this simply permits us to get more involved in another hopeless war in Afghanistan?"

I stopped to visit some friends on Saturday. Nancy had directed Nate to go to the store to buy flour. The flour was necessary to make donuts (Nate's idea, not Nancy's). When he went outside to go to the store, Nate decided to shovel snow (which was melting already anyway) before going to the store. When he came back, he started fiddling with a doorbell that required installation. The donuts that could have been ready at 9 were just getting started when I got there at 11.

By leaving Iraq, we're refocusing on the task at hand - making donuts - rather than on the distractions that are keeping us from getting the job done.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 7, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

We are in Afghanistan to prevent another 9/11, because that's where the attackers came from. That and Pakistan. Simple, eh?

Posted by: drindl | April 7, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

ravitchn, in my opinion, there are many many differences between the invasion of Iraq, and the conflict going on in Afghanistan. #1 reason- NATO is with you and wants to squash Al Qaeda, and the oppresiveness of the Taliban. #2- the invasion of Iraq was ill-thought out, ill planned, arrogant, and ignorant of the culture of the people. Plus the coalition of the willing was a pretty big joke; when Brittain and Australia elected Liberal governments, they pulled out of Iraq for the most part. But noone has pulled out of Afghanistan, even with political party changes. What does that tell you? Canada would have been in Iraq too if our then PM hadn't have said"Proof? I see no proof" when it came to WMD's. If your Bush had kept his eye and resources trained on Afghanistan, instead of wasting billions in blood and treasure, Afghanistan would be alot further towards being a real country with elections, liberties, schools for girls, etc. Notice how I refer to Iraq as an invasion and not a war?

Posted by: katem1 | April 7, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

the day President Obama was to visit Ramstein, there was a death threat.

i have a PR stunt for ya...
let's kill Osama bin Laden, born in Saudi Arabia, 17th son of a Arabian millionaire who is training 34 of his children to follow in his footsteps.
or that other one, Dr. Zawahiri.

Oh but Afghanistan is a lost cause.
Not when it is now called the Afghanistan-Pakistan War.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 7, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"another hopeless war in Afghanistan."

Can't never could.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 7, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

oh brother, i'm having a great day.

another hopeless war in afghanistan.

Yeah, that 9-11-2001 disaster was so freaking hopeless.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 7, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

What do we gain by leaving Iraq if this simply permits us to get more involved in another hopeless war in Afghanistan?

Posted by: ravitchn | April 7, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

armpeg is just another no-neck thug, get used to it. Might as well ignore him, he's useless.

But in real news -- gay marriage comes to Vermont. Welcome to the modern world!

Posted by: drindl | April 7, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

arm peg: name calling is absurd, and so is grasping at the straw of the old disproven story of then candidate Obama's visit to Germany. Got any constructive critisism of his policies or any alternatives? Didn't think so. Can we have civil discourse here?

Posted by: katem1 | April 7, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

armpeg; that's it? the best you can come up with is slogging the dead horse of a story about his prior visit to Germany? A story that was proven to be incorrect by the way. And the name calling, come on, can't you show more maturity than that? Disliking your president and his policies is one thing, but the name calling just further perpetrates the idea that Republicans have no alternatives to offer, just groundless, immature name calling and fear mongering. You are obviously grasping at straws here, and your desperation is showing. Critsize his budget or his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, fine, but name calling? C'mon. That is neither constructive nor mature.

Posted by: katem1 | April 7, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse


The Iraq visit underscores the dichotomy between candidate Obama and President Obama in the handling of the wars in both Iraq
and Afghanistan.

The fear is that Obama has come under the "ambit of suasion" to which all incoming presidents are subjected.

Some might even posit that POTUS is a constant target of "psy ops" (psychological operations) intended to influence his decision-making.

President Obama would be well advised to re-read Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address, in which he warned of the insidious influence of the "military-industrial complex."

His staff should order an independent review of the environment in and around high government officials to ensure that their mood and behavior is not subject to external alteration or manipulation by technological means.


"When you see the abuse of power, you've got to speak."

-- VP candidate Joseph Biden, Aug. 27, 2008, Democratic National Convention


Bush-Cheney Constitutional Abuses Continue...





And federally-funded programs equip and train the "community gang stalkers" who are terrorizing their neighbors as police look the other way -- destroying their livelihoods and degrading their health with widely-deployed microwave radiation ("directed energy") weapons

A parallel array of federal "programs of personal financial destruction" slowly decimate the family finances of "target" families -- surely a factor in the mortgage meltdown that precipitated the global financial crisis.

When victims complain, they are told there is "nothing to investigate."

True -- because federal and local authorities KNOW ALL ABOUT IT.

Will the national press corps -- and Team Obama -- wake up and realize that democracy and middle-class wealth are being stolen at the GRASSROOTS?

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 7, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Get real Chris. Bozo Obama's side-trip to visit our soldiers in Iraq is nothing but a PR stunt. What he wants to avoid is the bad PR he got from the non-liberal-controlled MSM when he chose to go to his gym for his workouts, rather than for his scheduled visit to our wounded soldiers in the Ramstein Hospital in Germany during the elections. While Bozo Obama got away with it then because the MSM was, and still is, in his hip pocket, he doesn't want to risk that again. The MSM would have crucified Bush if he would have snubbed our wounded soldiers as Bozo Obama did.

Posted by: armpeg | April 7, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I guess our new economic base will be constant war. We had no reason at all to be in Iraq, but we will never leave, and Afghanistan is a lost cause. If we must have our revenge for 9/11, how about going after Saudi Arabia? Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from there.

Posted by: monbac07 | April 7, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

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