October 21, 2011

Iraq - Obama spins another policy failure into a success?

(Note: This should be read in conjunction with my July 30 article - click here or on image to open in new tab).

October 21 - President Barack Obama announced today that after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that the United States and Iraq were in "full agreement" on the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of the year. I am surprised that the announcement was not accompanied by a warning to DC area residents to remain in their homes or be swept up by the vortex caused by the incredible spinning coming from the White House.

Today's claim goes beyond the normal spinning we have come to expect from this Administration. Today's spin was replete with references to the deaths of al-Qa'idah leader 'Usamah bin Ladin and Libyan dictator Mu'amar al-Qadhafi and the continued - and ill-advised - scheduled draw down of American troops in Afghanistan. We should expect that, after all, the death of bin Ladin and al-Qadhafi are successes, albeit a bit more nuanced than the President would have you believe (see my earlier article, Mu'amar al-Qadhafi dead in Libya - what took so long?). However, to spin this obvious foreign policy failure into a success is a stretch for even this White House - the claim that Iraq and the United States are now in "full agreement" is disingenuous and misleading. That's a polite way to say that it's a lie.

The President continued, "The last American soldier (sic) will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops." On this, he is correct - the American troops (I am including the marines, airmen and sailors in addition to that soldier he mentions) should hold their heads high. They did their part, they were successful. However, this Administration has not been. The "full agreement" the President cites is actually an admission of failure.

Over the past six months, the Administration has been in almost crisis mode trying to secure an agreement whereby some American troops could remain in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 deadline established in the Status of Forces Agreement of 2008. This Administration has had almost three years to make an arrangement with the Iraqis - as provided for in the SOFA. Now we have today's admission that the effort has failed. American commanders wanted to keep between 15,000 and 25,000 troops in Iraq as trainers of the not-ready-for-prime-time Iraqi forces and as a contingency force. This failure will put at risk many of the gains achieved by almost nine years of the expenditure of American blood and treasure.

Given Iran's constant meddling in Iraqi politics and its lethal operations against American troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the fact this region is critical to American national interests, it is important that we have a presence in the region. Thanks to this failure, there will be almost no American troops on the ground in the Middle East. That may come back to haunt us the next time a crisis - and there will be one - erupts in the region.

Mr. Obama, you may think that this ends our involvement in Iraq and frees you up to focus on your domestic agenda - national security has never been your strong suit - but I venture to say we will be dealing with the fallout from this failure for years to come.

You have committed one of the worst sins of a President - you have broken faith with the troops.