President of the United States (Finally) Declares War in Iraq Over

He did it.

I was actually in the parking lot at the Matteson, IL, Walmart during the President’s address tonight.

The 7 ½ year war in Iraq, fought for no reason whatsoever, is over.

Yes, I’m pleased. This liberal feels good. And I feel good about the President of the United States.

The President of the United States ended Operation Iraqi Freedom, ended the war in Iraq.

4,417 American soldiers killed. 3,494 killed in combat.

Total American soldiers wounded: 31,929.

Iraqi deaths due to the U.S. invasion: 1,366,350, as of this moment in time.

War is over.

Thank you so, so much to our men and women who serve in the military.

And thank you so, so much to those of you who made the ultimate sacrifice.

And thank you, President Barack Hussein Obama.

Thank you for ending this madness.

The President’s address:

Having returned hours earlier from a conversation with troops in Fort Bliss, Texas – troops who had seen every phase of what has become one of America’s longest wars – the President spoke to the Nation for just the second time from the Oval Office to announce the end of America’s combat role in that war.  Americans in high school today may barely remember a time when America was not at combat in Iraq, and young adults – including so many of our troops who have sacrificed so much – have almost by definition gone their entire adult lives in a country divided over the war.  Today, as the President put it, was a day to begin to “turn the page” – a day when America could turn its focus towards building itself back up from a devastating recession.

Over all that time, though, as the President pointed out, “there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides”:

At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.  As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians — and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people — Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. Having drawn down 100,000 troops since taking office, a much smaller force will stay to train and assist the Iraqi forces during the transition period.  The President was unambivalent on what would happen after that time: “all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.”

The President mentioned that Vice President Biden is in Iraq now, having spent the day meeting with Iraqi leaders about working with America’s diplomatic team going forward.

Vice President Joe Biden Meets with Iraqi Vice President Adil Al-Mahdi at the Presidency Diwan in Baghdad, Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Vice President Adil Al-Mahdi at the Presidency Diwan in Baghdad, Iraq August 31, 2010. (by David LIenemann)

As one war winds down, the President spoke directly to questions about the war in Afghanistan that continues:

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders — and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies — have been killed or captured around the world.

Here too, though, the President made clear that lessons of Iraq have not been lost: “And next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility.  The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.  But make no mistake:  This transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

President Barack Obama Delivers an Oval Office Address on Iraq

President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the end of the combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office August 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The President then spoke on one of the most important reasons he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, and one of the most important benefits of the drawdown – the ability for America to refocus its energy and resources on challenges at home, including taking care of our veterans:

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we’ve not done what’s necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity.  We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.  For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.  As a result, too many middle-class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.  They have met every test that they faced.  Now, it’s our turn.  Now, it’s our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for — the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.  To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.  We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.  We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.  This will be difficult.  But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor.  As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  This is a sacred trust.  That’s why we’ve already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades.  We’re treating the signature wounds of today’s wars — post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.  And we’re funding a Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education.  Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II — including my grandfather — become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy.  Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

Why Was This Dude (Now Deceased) Riding a Bike On The Dan Ryan At Night?

So what was this dude doing on the Dan Ryan, on a bicycle, at 9:15 p.m.?

We’ll never know, because he’s dead.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A male victim on a bicycle died after he was struck by a vehicle on the Dan Ryan Expressway tonight, officials said.

The accident happened at about 9:15 p.m. on the northbound lanes of the express lanes near 55th Street, said Illinois State Police Trooper S. Matias.

Police did not have any information about the victim and did not know why he was riding a bicycle on the Dan Ryan.

Too bad for him. And too bad even more for the driver of the vehicle that hit him.

Park Forest Prepares for 2010 Scenic 5 and More

Scenic 5 and More

Runners begin the Park Forest Scenic 5 and More. (Photo: Wendy Heise)

This Labor Day, plan on joining the fun in Park Forest during the 2nd Annual running of the Park Forest Scenic 5 and More. The race has been reconstituted onto a 5 mile course and augmented with a 5 mile family bike ride
on the same course, a 5K nature walk around the Central Park Wetlands and include a
variety of other activities at the Park Forest Aqua Center. Check out the course and invite
your friends to come out and cheer on the runners and bikers, or better yet, join in the fun
and fitness of the event.

Click here to register on-line through signmeup.com and receive a $2 discount.

Scenic 5 Mile and more…Race Brochure/Registration Form

Race features:

  • 5 mile family bike ride on the same course,
  • 5K nature walk around the Central Park Wetlands, and
  • A variety of other activities at the Park Forest Aqua Center, 30 N. Orchard, Park Forest.

Events begin on Monday, September 6 at 8 a.m. and include:

  • Beautiful Scenic 5 Mile Route (USATF #IL08085 certified course)
  • Musical Entertainment
  • Children’s Fun Run
  • CARA Runners’ Choice Series
  • Free T-shirt and refreshments
  • Prize money and awards
  • Post race Food Fest/Pool Party (bring the family)
  • Shower facilities
  • Marks and splits every mile
  • Aid stations at the Start, Finish and along the route
  • Marshals along the route

Click here to register on-line through signmeup.com and receive a $2 discount.

Scenic 5 Mile and more…Race Brochure/Registration Form

The race is a fast and flat picturesque run beginning Downtown (Orchard & Main St)
and cruising past the 90 acre Central Park/Wetlands. At 1.5 miles, runners
will dive onto the straight, flat and shaded Old Plank Road Bike Trail for
another 1.5 miles then onto the curving streets of Park Forest.

The home stretch will be Orchard Dr, passing under the Trail (only
significant hills on the course) and finish at Central Park and home
of the Village’s 4-Pool Aquatics Complex (feel free to jump in). Along the
way, townspeople are out in crowds encouraging you, giving water and
cheers. You will discover musical surprises all along the route. This
picturesque course is a CARA Runners’ Choice Series, and certified by
USATF #IL08085.

Check out the course and invite your friends to come out and cheer on the runners and bikers or better yet join in the fun and fitness of the event. For additional information, visit the Village’s website at: www.villageofparkforest.com.

Click here to register on-line through signmeup.com and receive a $2 discount.

Scenic 5 Mile and more…Race Brochure/Registration Form

“Every time I saw him, he was Alex”

"Every time I saw him, he was Alex."

So said Joe Stith, a Chicago Heights police officer for 17 1/2 years, remembering his former high school buddy Alex Lopez, on the untimely death of the 44-year-old mayor.

The quote is from an excellent article at the Southtown Star.

Rest In Peace, Mayor Lopez.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lopez family, and the city of Chicago Heights.

Chicago Heights Mayor Alex Lopez Dies of Apparent Heart Attack

Alex Lopez

Mayor Alex Lopez of Chicago Heights. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Chicago Heights Mayor Alex Lopez died this evening of an apparent heart attack according to a press release from Attorney T.J. Somer, corporate counsel for the municipality. Lopez, 44, was city’s first Latino and minority mayor:

It is with great sorrow that I must announce that at 6:39 p.m., this date, Mayor Alex Lopez, 44, Mayor of the City of Chicago Heights, Illinois was pronounced dead after collapsing from what is believed to be a heart attack. Mayor Lopez was with his daughter watching a basketball practice at the time of the collapse, and was transported to St. James Hospital, Chicago Heights, unresponsive.

Mayor Lopez was appointed to the office of Mayor in July of 2008 to fill the vacancy of the former Mayor Anthony DeLuca. He thereby became the first Latino and minority Mayor in the history of Chicago Heights. Mayor Lopez is survived by his Wife, Sandra and two children.

We ask that you please respect the family’s privacy as they attempt to endure this tragic ordeal. The City will follow up with further information regarding services and arrangements as it becomes available.

T.J. Somer
Corporation Counsel
City of Chicago Heights

Steelers Defeat Giants, 24-17; Bears Lose

From Steelers.com:

The Steelers improved their preseason record to 2-0 with a 24-17 win over the New York Giants at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

“A lot of things we can get better at and we could have done better tonight,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “That is what the preseason and the remainder of the preseason is about. We intend to work on a lot of things in those areas.”

Ben Roethlisberger started the game for the Steelers getting his first playing time of the preseason. Roethlisberger completed six of eight passes for 76 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 64.6.

“The first time out for him I thought he did some nice things,” said Tomlin. “He moved us. It was a good start.”

Roethlisberger played 20 snaps, which Tomlin was pleased with the time for it being his first outing.

“For the first time out, he got what he would have gotten had it been like last week under normal circumstances and the starters going out playing for his first time out,” said Tomlin. “That was our intention. He probably got a little more than that because one of those drives ended in an interception and we weren’t going to let him walk off like that. He got a decent amount of work. It was good for him. We will see where we go from here.”

From ChicagoBears.com:

10:18 PM – Robbie Gould’s 25-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 27-17 with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter. Desmond Clark had a big grin on his face after a successful snap on the kick.

10:30 PM – Dan LeFevour’s overthrown pass was intercepted by safety Stevie Brown, who returned it 46 yards to the Bears’ 9-yard line. The turnover led to Swayze Waters’ 28-yard field goal, widening the Raiders’ lead to 30-17 with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter.

10:36 PM – Brad Maynard just had a punt blocked out of the end zone for a safety for the second straight week as Slade "Don’t Call Me Chuck" Norris blew past Juaquin Iglesias and blocked the punt. That makes the score 32-17. Well … I’m heading down to the field to do post-game interviews. Thanks for following along with the blog. Stay logged onto ChicagoBears.com for expanded game coverage.

Just reporting.

But the Steelers’ writer is a better reporter.

Yup.

Just sayin’.

One in Five Americans Obtusely Assert that Obama Is Muslim

Who are these Americans obsessing over the falsehood that Barack Obama is a Muslim? And how can we remain silent as the right wing continues to twist the word "Muslim" into a pejorative?

In the midst of the last presidential election, I spoke with friends of mine who are Muslim. They were understandably disappointed with the rhetoric of those "accusing" then-Senator Barack Obama of being a Muslim. They were equally disappointed with Barack Obama’s vehement denials. What would they have preferred him say? Something like this: "No, I am not a Muslim, but Islam is a beautiful religion, and why should it matter if I was?"

That statement itself would have been twisted by the right. "Obama loves Islam! Obama said it doesn’t matter if he’s Muslim!"

Candidates today are between a rock and a hard place sometimes.

Today, however, the tail wags the dog again. Just as the right tried to turn the word "Catholic" into a pejorative when John F. Kennedy ran for president, the right is working overtime to do the same with the word "Muslim." Everyone knows what happened on 9-11, but what happened was not Muslim, any more than the Crusades were Christian acts of love. In any group of human beings, you will find 95% to 99% of the people who are fine to excellent. You will also find as much as 5% who are either a**holes or criminals. No matter where they are, this 5% will work to pervert their environment for their own sick reasons.

Today, this 5% of the GOP is working overtime and has succeeded in scaring up to 20% of the right wing into believing that Muslims as a whole are people to be feared, and that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

From ENEWSPF:

Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information — and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.

Pew: Nearly "one-in-five Americans" now say Obama is a Muslim. On August 18, the Pew Research Center released a survey on Obama and religion, conducted in early August. The poll found that "nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009," while "[o]nly about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009." The survey also found that "43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is." Pew went on to state: "The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers."

This "view" that Obama is a Muslim is "more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers" because this argument is simply ugly politics, at the expense of Muslims and everything good that America stands for.

The GOP should be ashamed.

Will the Chicago Tribune Die in the Aftermath of the Bush Recession?

Okay, so take some points away from me for sensational headlines.

But, still, the Chicago Tribune, the only newspaper I faithfully subscribed to at the University of Notre Dame in the 80s, remains in trouble.

From the SUN-TIMES:

The Tribune Co.’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy has unraveled in the wake of an independent report concluding that talks leading up to the company’s 2007 leveraged buyout bordered on fraud, attorneys said Friday.

The report released last month by a court-appointed examiner forced Tribune and its creditors to rethink a settlement agreement that formed the basis of its reorganization plan.

Under Tribune’s plan, JPMorgan Chase and distressed-debt specialist Angelo, Gordon & Co. would have been among the new owners of the company’s media properties, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, other daily newspapers and 20 broadcast stations.

But attorneys told Delaware bankruptcy judge Kevin Carey on Friday that JPMorgan and Angelo Gordon had dropped out of the agreement, and that talks on a consensual reorganization plan had broken down.

"The debtor has tried mightily to bring the parties together," Tribune attorney James Conlan. "That has not happened."

Conlan also confirmed that Tribune had not been party to separate negotiations among its creditors.

The Tribune Co. sent a memo to employees saying the restructuring plan “is moving more slowly and has become noisier than we had hoped.” The memo, signed by Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels and Chief Operating Officer Gerry Spector, noted that all of the Tribune Co.’s media businesses are profitable, and that the company’s monthly operating report for July will show that its financial results are strong.

The memo thanked employees for their creativity, innovation and dedication, and urged them not to get distracted.

Look: I hope the paper survives. And I hope the news industry finally gets the guts to lock down its online content for subscribers only. Free online content is the killer, right now.

I hated it when the Pittsburgh Press went under. I really did. Even though I delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from age 13 through the end of high school.

Competition is good. Competition is healthy. And I don’t want to be left with just one news company for the Chicagoland area.

But then, if they all go under, we’ll always have ENEWSPF.

I’m just sayin’.