Barack Obama held a second press conference today to respond to numerous web posts suggesting he was either backing away from his planned Iraq troop withdrawal timelines or laying the groundwork to do so.
See these posts as examples:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/07/03/obama_softens_on_iraq_withdraw.html; http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/07/barack-obama-ir.html; http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/obama-open-to-refine-iraq-withdrawal-timeline/
As a result of this coverage, Obama met with reporters a second time to explain what he meant at his first press conference.
Here is his opening statement:
"We are going to try this again apparently I wasn’t clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq. I have said throughout this campaign that this war was ill conceived that it was a strategic blunder and that it needs to come to an end. I have also said that I would be deliberate and careful in how we got out, that I would bring the troops home at a pace of one to two brigades a month and that at that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months.
That position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position. What I said this morning and what I will repeat because it is consistent with what I have said over the last two years in putting this plan together. I will always listen to the advice of commanders on the ground but that ultimately I am the person making the strategic decisions.
It is my view that strategically that for us to perpetuate this war in Iraq the way that John McCain has proposed and neglect the extraordinary problems that we are seeing in Afghanistan, to continue to spend 10 to 12 billion dollars a month, to continue to put enormous burdens on our military and military families is not the best way to make the American people safe.
So we are going to go visit Iraq. I want to have conversations with commanders on the ground and Iraqi officials. When I come back that information will obviously inform how we shape our plans moving forward. For example, what is the current training situation and how many residual troops might be needed in order to train Iraqis to stand up both the army and the police? What is the current posture in terms of negotiations between the various Iraqi factions on critical issues like how oil is distributed oil revenues are distributed?
But, you know, let me be as clear as I can be. I intend to end this war. My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in and I will give them a new mission and that is to end this war responsibly deliberately but decisively.
And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month and again that pace translates to having our combat troops out in 16 months time.
So the last point I would just make is this is the same position that I had 4 months ago, it is the same position that I had 8 months ago, and it is the same position I had 12 months ago."
More on the questions and answers soon.....