Excerpts from President Obama’s speech at Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Commentary

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Excerpts from President Obama’s speech at Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention

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Posted: Monday, August 17, 2009 11:00 pm

(Delivered at Phoenix Convention Center)

 

“Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I am honored and humbled to stand before you as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military the world has ever known...

“Whether you wear the uniform today, or wore it decades ago, you remind us of a fundamental truth. It’s not the powerful weapons that make our military the strongest in the world. It’s not the sophisticated systems that make us the most advanced. The true strength of our military lies in the spirit and skill of our men and women in uniform. And you know this...

“To all those who have served America – our forces, your families, our veterans – you have done your duty. You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. And that is what I want to talk about today...

“First, we have a solemn responsibility to always lead our men and women in uniform wisely. And that starts with a vision of American leadership that recognizes that military power alone cannot be the first or only answer to the threats facing our nation...

“In recent years, our troops have succeeded in every mission America has given them, from toppling the Taliban to deposing a dictator in Iraq to battling brutal insurgencies. At the same time, forces trained for war have been called upon to perform a whole host of missions. Like mayors, they’ve run local governments and delivered water and electricity. Like aid workers, they’ve mentored farmers and built new schools. Like diplomats, they’ve negotiated agreements with tribal sheikhs and local leaders...

“And that’s why I have made this pledge to our armed forces: I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary...

“Which brings me to our second responsibility to our armed forces – giving them the resources and equipment and strategies to meet their missions. We need to keep our military the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped fighting force in the world. And that’s why, even with our current economic challenges, my budget increases defense spending...

“By moving forward in Iraq, we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan...

“This strategy acknowledges that military power alone will not win this war – that we also need diplomacy and development and good governance. And our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies...

“As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight and we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a – this is fundamental to the defense of our people...

“Now, even as we lead and equip our troops for the missions of today, we have a third responsibility to fulfill. We must prepare our forces for the missions of tomorrow...

“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen adapt to new challenges every day. But as we know, much of our defense establishment has yet to fully adapt to the post-Cold War world, with doctrine and weapons better suited to fight the Soviets on the plains of Europe than insurgents in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan. Twenty years after the Cold War ended, this is simply not unacceptable. It’s irresponsible. Our troops, and our taxpayers, deserve better...

“But here’s the simple truth: we cannot build the 21st century military we need, and maintain the fiscal responsibility that America demands, unless we fundamentally reform the way our defense establishment does business. It’s a simple fact. Every dollar wasted in our defense budget is a dollar we can’t spend to care for our troops or protect America or prepare for the future...

“This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue – it’s about giving our troops the support that they need. And that’s something that all Americans should be able to agree to...

“If a project doesn’t support our troops, if it does not make America safer, we will not fund it. If a system doesn’t perform, we will terminate it. And if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it. We will do right by our troops and taxpayers, and we will build the 21st century military that we need...

“Finally, we will fulfill our responsibility to those who serve by keeping our promises to our people. We will fulfill our responsibility to our forces and our families...

“And since there’s been so much misinformation out there about health insurance reform, let me say this: one thing that reform won’t change is veterans’ health care. No one is going to take away your benefits – that is the plain and simple truth. (Applause).

“We’re expanding access to your health care, not reducing it...

“And we’re keeping our promise to fulfill another top priority at the VA – cutting the red tape and inefficiencies that cause backlogs and delays in the claims process...

Veterans of Foreign Wars, you have done your duty – to your fallen comrades, to your communities, to your country. You have always fulfilled your responsibilities to America. And so long as I am President of the United States, America will always fulfill its responsibilities to you.”

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