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When President Obama announced that all US troops will be coming home from Iraq by the end of the year, he said it was a campaign promise fulfilled. He didn't bother to remind us it was George W. Bush's promise that was being fulfilled, not his own. Obama's campaign promise was to have us out of Iraq in sixteen months. That Obama promise was broken. Bush is the one who negotiated with the Iraqis to have US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Obama stuck to the Bush timetable. Obama also forgot to tell us that the USA has been negotiating to extend our troop stay in Iraq:
Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq but had instead spent the past few months trying to extend it. A 2008 security deal between Washington and Baghdad called for all American forces to leave Iraq by the end of the year, but the White House -- anxious about growing Iranian influence and Iraq’s continuing political and security challenges -- publicly and privately tried to sell the Iraqis on a troop extension. As recently as last week, the White House was trying to persuade the Iraqis to allow 2,000-3,000 troops to stay beyond the end of the year.
Those efforts had never really gone anywhere; one senior U.S. military official told National Journal last weekend that they were stuck at “first base” because of Iraqi reluctance to hold substantive talks.
That impasse makes Obama’s speech at the White House on Friday less a dramatic surprise than simple confirmation of what had long been expected by observers of the moribund talks between the administration and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which believes its own security forces are more than up to the task of protecting the country from terror attacks originating within its borders or foreign incursions from neighboring countries.
In Washington, many Republican lawmakers had spent recent weeks criticizing Obama for offering to keep a maximum of 3,000 troops in Iraq, far less than the 10,000-15,000 recommended by top American commanders in Iraq. That political point-scoring helped obscure that the choice wasn’t Obama’s to make. It was the Iraqis’, and recent interviews with officials in the country provided vivid evidence of just how unpopular the U.S. military presence there has become -- and just how badly the Iraqi political leadership wanted those troops to go home.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, for instance, is a hugely pro-American politician who believes Iraq's security forces will be incapable of protecting the country without sustained foreign assistance. But in a recent interview, he refused to endorse a U.S. troop extension and instead indicated that they should leave.
"We have serious security problems in this country and serious political problems," he said in an interview late last month at his heavily guarded compound in Baghdad. "Keeping Americans in Iraq longer isn't the answer to the problems of Iraq. It may be an answer to the problems of the U.S., but it's definitely not the solution to the problems of my country."
Shiite leaders -- including many from Maliki’s own Dawa Party -- were even more strongly opposed, with followers of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatening renewed violence if any American troops stayed past the end of the year. The Sadr threat was deeply alarming to Iraqis just beginning to rebuild their lives and their country after the bloody sectarian strife which ravaged Iraq for the past eight and a half years.
Only the Kurds were willing to discuss the possiblity of US troops staying longer. The Sunnis and Shia are against it. Maliki recently said the only way US troops could stay was if they had no immunity from prosecution under Iraqi laws, which he knew the Pentagon would never agree to.
We're leaving because the Iraqis want us to leave, not because of any campaign promise. The Iraqis don't want US troops in their country, period. You can't blame them. It is their country, after all. I think it was a mistake to go there in the first place, even though Saddam was a complete scumbag who deserved his fate. Things in the Middle East are never as easy and straightforward as our leaders would like them to be, and getting involved there is fraught with risk and unintended consequences.
Thus, Obama is doing his usual spin job and trying to take credit, also as usual, but what the heck, the important thing is that we're leaving !!! Our troops can come home at long last !!! Iraq will be left up to the Iraqis, as we knew it ultimately would be. It's not like we were ever going to make Iraq our 51st state.
Now everybody should be happy, right ???
Of course not. This is politics. The last time everybody was happy in politics was probably back during Garden Of Eden times, before Democrats and Republicans started arguing about whose fault it was that Adam and Eve got booted. Let the naysaying begin:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement that the Iraq withdrawal represents an “astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq.”
Romney also said it could put U.S. gains in the war at risk. “The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government,” Romney said.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Obama is “putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment.”
Jon Huntsman Jr. and Michele Bachmann, two other Republican presidential contenders, also released statements criticizing the withdrawal as premature and the result of a failure to work out a deal with Iraqis to protect U.S. troops.
Arizona Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 election, said the withdrawal “marks a harmful and sad setback for the United States in the world.”
McCain, a prominent voice in his party on defense matters, said military commanders have told him the Iraqi military still needs assistance from U.S. forces.
Sigh. You just can't please some people. Is this all merely partisan political posturing by GOP presidential contenders ? Sounds like it to me. Remember, BUSH was the one who originally setup the Iraq withdrawal timetable, not Obama. Haven't we been in Iraq long enough ? Haven't our troops paid enough of a price ? Here are some Iraq statistics from Bloomberg:
There have been 3,525 U.S. personnel killed in action in Iraq; an additional 957 died of other causes. More than 32,000 have been wounded. The war has cost at least $752 billion, including training for Iraqis and related diplomatic missions, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in January.
GOP presidential hopefuls are not the only ones saying an Iraq pullout is premature, a big mistake. Some generals are saying the same thing, including an architect of the 2007 troop surge that transformed the Iraq War. That general called the pullout an "absolute disaster":
“Forty-four hundred lives lost,” Gen. Keane said. “Tens of thousands of troops wounded. Over a couple hundred thousand Iraqis killed. We liberated 25 million people. There is only one Arab Muslim country that elects its own government, and that is Iraq.
“We should be staying there to strengthen that democracy, to let them get the kind of political gains they need to get and keep the Iranians away from strangling that country. That should be our objective, and we are walking away from that objective.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday warned Iran not to miscalculate the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops.
“No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward,” she said in an interview with CNN from Uzbekistan.
“In addition to a very significant diplomatic presence in Iraq which will carry much of the responsibility for dealing with an independent, sovereign, democratic Iraq, we have bases in neighboring countries, we have our ally in Turkey. We have a lot of presence in that region,” she added.
Are we making a huge mistake ? I wish I could tell you, but I don't know. I'm in Akron, Ohio, not Baghdad. If this is a mistake, I guess we'll soon find out.