“Just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait.”

—President George H. W. Bush
January 16, 1991

“Good evening. Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq.”

—President Bill Clinton
December 16, 1998

“My fellow citizens. At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

—President George W. Bush
March 19, 2003

“My fellow Americans. Tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

—President Barack Obama
September 10, 2014

Every American President in the past quarter century has now gone on television during prime time to tell the nation and the world that he has decided to bomb Iraq. Last night was Barack Obama’s turn, and it was a vexing performance. This is a President who has been stubbornly dedicated to extricating the United States as much as possible from its post-9/11 wars and resisting—in the absence of any good options for decisive action—being drawn into Syria’s catastrophic civil war. “The greatest responsibility I have as President is to keep the American people safe,” he said, two years ago. “That’s why I ended the war in Iraq.” And he repeated that boast last night, even as he told a very different story, effectively declaring a new war of staggering scope and complexity against forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, and other enemies, in Iraq and Syria—a war that he described as having no end in sight.

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