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In farewell to military, Obama urges America to uphold its values

Defense Secretary Ash Carter pins the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service on President Barack Obama during the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute held at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall on Jan. 4, 2016.

MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES

By GREG JAFFE | The Washington Post | Published: January 4, 2017

A solemn President Barack Obama, in remarks directed at least partially at his successor, urged the U.S. military and the country on Wednesday never to abandon its "core principles" as it fights the nation's wars.

Obama was speaking at a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall marked by the full pomp and circumstance of the world's most powerful fighting force. But much of his message seemed directed at President-elect Donald Trump, who during his White House campaign voiced support for torture and for killing the families of terrorists, in violation of the laws of war.

Obama thanked the military and stressed the need for the country and its fighting forces to maintain high standards, respect the rule of law and do everything in their power to prevent civilian casualties.

"We cannot sacrifice the very freedoms we are fighting for," he said.

As president, Obama moved swiftly to end the "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, that were practiced during the administration of President George W. Bush and were viewed by some as torture. He pushed unsuccessfully to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Trump has vowed to keep the prison open and has pressed Obama to stop moving detainees out of the facility during the final weeks of his presidency - a request that Obama has ignored.

Obama, in his remarks at the military base outside Washington, emphasized the need to use force to defend the country but also counseled against rushing into war or deploying U.S. forces to battlegrounds because of political expediency. The president spoke slowly and quietly, his voice slightly hoarse. He warned against the deep budget cuts to the military under "sequestration" and expressed pride that despite the "constant partisan haze" that has hung over the country during his presidency, the military retains strong support.

"At times of division, you have shown what it means to pull together," he said.

"It has been a privilege of a lifetime to serve with you," Obama said. "I am a better man having worked with you."

President Barack Obama returns a salute as he conducts a troop inspection during the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute held in his honor at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall on Jan. 4, 2016.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES

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