President tells Bragg war in Iraq over
FORT BRAGG/POPE FIELD -- President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama marked the end of the Iraq war at Fort Bragg and Pope Field Wednesday with a tribute to the troops who fought and died.
The First Couple arrived on Air Force One just after 11 a.m. and were greeted by Gov. Bev Perdue and several other Fort Bragg officials and their spouses.
The President saluted troops returning from Iraq Wednesday, by declaring that the nearly nine-year conflict is ending honorably, "not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home."
Marking the conclusion of the war at this military base that's seen more than 200 deaths over nearly nine years of fighting in Iraq, Obama never tried to declare victory. It was a war that he opposed from the start, inherited as president and is now bringing to a close, leaving behind an Iraq still struggling.
But he sought to declare a noble end to a fight that has cost nearly 4,500 American lives and left about 32,000 wounded.
"The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages," he said, applauding their "extraordinary achievement."
All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq Dec. 31, though Obama has pledged the U.S. will continue to help Iraq as it faces an uncertain future in a volatile region of the world. Even as majorities in the U.S. public favor ending the war, some Republicans have criticized Obama's withdrawal, arguing he's leaving behind an unstable Iraq that could hurt U.S. interests and fall subject to influence from neighboring Iran.
Obama has on several occasions addressed his reasons for ending the war, casting it as a promise kept after he ran for president as an anti-war candidate and speaking of the need to refocus U.S. attention on rebuilding the troubled economy at home.
It was the president's first visit to Fort Bragg, which is home to Army Special Operations, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne, among others. Special Forces troops from Fort Bragg were among the first soldiers in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and its paratroopers helped lead the 2007 troop increase.
The last time President Obama was in North Carolina was in October as part of his bus tour to talk about jobs.
Mrs. Obama recently visited the Fayetteville area in July to help the ABC show Extreme Makeover Home Edition build a house for a local shelter for female veterans and their families.
North Carolina, which Obama narrowly won in 2008, also is an important state for the 2012 presidential election and will host the Democratic convention.
fort bragg, barack obama, michelle obama, pope field, local/state, greg barnes
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