U.S. Troop Withdrawal Motivated by Iraqi Insistence, Not U.S. Choice

U.S. Troop Withdrawal Motivated by Iraqi Insistence, Not U.S. Choice

By Yochi J. Dreazen

                                    Updated: October 21, 2011 |  4:21 p.m.
October 21, 2011 |  1:42 p.m.

Evan Vucci/AP

President Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House on Friday.

President Obama’s speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: The troops aren’t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They’re leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay.

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.

From National Journal:

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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.

The White House said Obama was pleased with the coming troop withdrawal because it kept to his “core commitment” – frequently enunciated during the campaign – of pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. “We never wanted a residual force in Iraq,” a senior administration official insisted.

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

Election ’08 Backgrounder

  

Financial Crisis | Iraq | Defense | Background & Character | Judges & Courts | Energy

 

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Quick Facts:

  • Democrats created the mortgage crisis by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them.
  • In 2006, McCain sponsored a bill to fix the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Barney Frank and other Democrats successfully opposed it.
  • Obama was one of the highest recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations in Congress.

Related Editorials

 

IRAQ


Quick Facts:

  • When the U.S. was on the verge of losing in Iraq, McCain chose to stand and fight.  Obama chose retreat.
  • Even after the surge succeeded, Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran he would still oppose it if he had the chance to do it all over again.

Related Editorials

 

DEFENSE

Quick Facts:

  • Obama has promised to significantly cut defense spending, including saying “I will slow our development of future combat systems.”
  • John McCain has vowed: “We must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies.”

Related Editorials

Obama Video: Watch Now

 

 

BACKGROUND & CHARACTER

Quick Facts:

  • Obama voted “present” 135 times as a state senator, and according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “gained a reputation for skipping tough votes.”
  • McCain has taken stances unpopular with his own party and/or the public on controversial issues, including immigration, campaign finance reform, judicial nominations, the Iraq War and more.

Related Editorials

 

 

JUDGES & COURTS


Quick Facts:

  • In a 2001 interview, Obama said he regretted that the Supreme Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.”
  • In the same interview, Obama criticized the Supreme Court because it “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”
  • Obama has focused on empathy, rather than legal reasoning and restraint, as his basis for appointing judges, saying, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy…to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”
  • McCain opposes judicial activism, saying, “my nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power.”

Related Editorials

Obama 2001 Interview: Listen Now

 

ENERGY


Quick Facts:

  • McCain has proposed building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 and is in favor of drilling in sectors of the Outer Continental Shelf.
  • Obama has refused to take a stand, saying only “we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix” and he will “look at” drilling offshore.

Related Editorials

»
McCain: The Energy Candidate

» McCain On Nukes: Yes We Can
» Breaking The Back Of High Oil

 

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Obama tried to sway Iraqis on Bush deal

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama tried to sway Iraqis on Bush deal

EXCLUSIVE:

At the same time the Bush administration was negotiating a still elusive agreement to keep the U.S. military in Iraq, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tried to convince Iraqi leaders in private conversations that the president shouldn’t be allowed to enact the deal without congressional approval.

Mr. Obama’s conversations with the Iraqi leaders, confirmed to The Washington Times by his campaign aides, began just two weeks after he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June and stirred controversy over the appropriateness of a White House candidate’s contacts with foreign governments while the sitting president is conducting a war.

Some of the specifics of the conversations remain the subject of dispute. Iraqi leaders purported to The Times that Mr. Obama urged Baghdad to delay an agreement with Mr. Bush until next year when a new president will be in office – a charge the Democratic campaign denies.

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Mr. Obama spoke June 16 to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari when he was in Washington, according to both the Iraqi Embassy in Washington and the Obama campaign. Both said the conversation was at Mr. Zebari’s request and took place on the phone because Mr. Obama was traveling.

However, the two sides differ over what Mr. Obama said.

“In the conversation, the senator urged Iraq to delay the [memorandum of understanding] between Iraq and the United States until the new administration was in place,” said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.

He said Mr. Zebari replied that any such agreement would not bind a new administration. “The new administration will have a free hand to opt out,” he said the foreign minister told Mr. Obama.

Mr. Sumaidaie did not participate in the call, he said, but stood next to Mr. Zebari during the conversation and was briefed by him immediately afterward.

The call was not recorded by either side, and Mr. Zebari did not respond to repeated telephone and e-mail messages requesting direct comment.

Mr. Obama has called for a phased U.S. withdrawal of all but a residual force from Iraq over 16 months, a position the Iraqi government appears to have embraced.

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U.S. and Iraqi officials have been struggling for months to finalize a deal that will allow U.S. troops to remain after Dec. 31, when a U.N. mandate sanctioning the military presence expires. Iraqi officials have said that the main impediment is agreement over a timeline for U.S. redeployment and immunity from Iraqi prosecution for U.S. troops and civilians.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Mr. Obama does not object to a short-term status of forces agreement, or SOFA.

Mr. Obama told Mr. Zebari in June that a SOFA “should be completed before January and it must include immunity for U.S. troops,” Miss Morigi wrote in an e-mail.

However, the Democratic nominee said a broader strategic framework agreement governing a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq “should be vetted by Congress,” she wrote.

She said Mr. Obama said the same thing when he met in July with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Mr. Zebari in Baghdad.

A recent article in the New York Post quoted Mr. Zebari as saying that Mr. Obama asked Iraqi leaders in July to delay any agreement on a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq until the next U.S. president takes office.

Miss Morigi denied this. She said the request for Senate vetting was bipartisan and noted that the first Obama-Zebari conversation took place 12 days after four other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – including Republican Sens. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska – wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging consultation over any agreements committing U.S. troops and civilian contractors to Iraq “for an extended period of time.”

When Mr. Obama spoke to Mr. Zebari, he was speaking in his capacity as a senator and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Miss Morigi said. “It’s obvious that others are trying to mischaracterize Obama’s position, [but] on numerous occasions he has made it perfectly clear that the United States only has one president at a time and that the administration speaks with one voice.”

Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who accompanied Mr. Obama in Iraq along with Mr. Hagel, said they made “no suggestion of any type of delay” in any agreements.

A congressional aide who was also present and spoke on the condition of anonymity said the senators asked for a congressional role similar to that required by the Iraqi Constitution for Iraq’s parliament.

Still, the fact that the Illinois Democrat on June 3 clinched enough delegates to be assured the Democratic presidential nomination gives his comments special force – something that also applies to the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key proponent of the surge of extra U.S. forces to Iraq last year.

As a U.S. senator, Mr. Obama “has a foot in both camps,” said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “It’s within the jurisdiction of his committee and something he’s entitled to speak about. It doesn’t raise a red flag for me.”

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment on the matter.

Leslie Phillips, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, also declined to comment even though an embassy note-taker was present during the senators’ meeting in Iraq. “The embassy’s role is purely to facilitate the meetings,” she said.

Presidential nominees traditionally have not intervened personally in foreign-policy disputes, although campaign surrogates have done so.

Historian Robert Dallek has documented meetings with South Vietnamese diplomats in 1968 by Republican vice-presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault, widow of Gen. Claire Chennault, the commander of “Flying Tiger” forces in China during World War II.

Mr. Dallek, author of “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973,” obtained tapes of the conversations from bugs the Johnson administration had placed in the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.

Negotiations to end the Vietnam War were taking place in Paris at the time between the Johnson administration and the North and South Vietnamese.

Mr. Agnew and Mrs. Chennault “signaled the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal with Richard Nixon as president instead of the Democrat” Hubert Humphrey, Mr. Dallek said.

“Johnson was furious and said that Nixon was guilty of treason,” Mr. Dallek said, but neither he nor Mr. Humphrey disclosed the matter before the election, which Mr. Nixon won.

Hussein’s Own People Leak To Press That He Tried To Negotiate With Iraq Behind Bush’s Back, Delay Troop Returns – Has 5 Hour Meeting To Invent A Workable Lie!

OBAMA IN THE EPICENTER: Will he admit mistake in opposing the “surge” in Iraq?

 http://joelrosenberg.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OBAMA IN THE EPICENTER: Will he admit mistake in opposing the “surge” in Iraq?

 

UDPATE: Joel will be on Janet Parshall’s nationally syndicated radio show at 2:15pm eastern today — Tuesday — to discuss the Iranian threat to the U.S. and Israel
————————–
The race for President of the United States is currently in a dead heat. I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this thing, and anyone who tells you they do is just guessing. Remember: a year ago, the pundits said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “sure thing” to win the Democratic nomination, and Sen. John McCain was a “sure thing” not to win the GOP nomination. The pundits were wrong then. I wouldn’t put much stock in them now….That said, Sen. Barack Obama faces a very real and daunting hurdle to victory in November. Only 48% of Americans think he would be a strong and decisive enough Commander-in-Chief to lead the U.S. through what could be a tumultous next four years, according to a poll released last week by ABC News. Another 48% are convinced Sen. Obama would specifically not be a good Commander-in-Chief. By contrast, 72% of Americans believe Sen. John McCain would lead our military forces well, while only 25% say he would not. Understand that gap and you’ll understand precisely why Obama this week is in the epicenter….With all eyes fixed on Israel and her neighbors and the conflicts that consume them, the junior Senator from Illinois realizes his international record does not inspire confidence. He has no military experience and precious little foreign policy experience, certainly none to compare with to Sen. McCain, a bonafide war hero who has been engaged in every major foreign policy debate of the last quarter century. To win in November, Obama has to close that perception gap. He has to convince more Americans that he is ready for whatever comes next, be it more terrorism from al Qaeda, or an orderly transition of power in Iraq, or — heaven forbid — a full blown war with Iran. So he is meeting with foreign leaders as well as U.S. military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Israel and hoping at the very least that the pictures Americans see on TV and in the newspapers from his whirlwind tour will cause them to begin to see him as a world leader and ease their many doubts….While it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, even a week’s worth of photos may not be enough. After all, the Senator’s core problem is not simply that he lacks the requisite experience. It’s the widespread perception that he lacks the necessary judgment when it comes to the most troubling issues of the Middle East. Consider two examples, Iraq and Iran.
—————————–
IRAQ — From the moment President Bush announced that he was taking Sen. McCain’s advice to send more U.S. troops to Iraq to crush the insurgency and restore order, Sen. Obama has been a fierce critic of the “surge,” arguing not only that it would not help, but that it would actually make the situation worse. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going tosolve the sectarian violence there,” Obama said on January 17, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” Eighteen months later, the results are in: the “surge” has been an astounding success. Things didn’t get worse. They got better. Much better. Violent attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians are down 80%. More than 90% of Iraqi terroritory is now quite safe. More than 70% of combat operations in Iraq are now led by Iraqi forces, with U.S. assistance. Yet Sen. Obama struggles to acknowlege the success and refuses to describe his decision to vote against the “surge” as a mistake. Consider this exchange yesterday with Terry Moran of ABC News.
Moran: “‘[T]he surge of U.S. troops, combined with ordinary Iraqis’ rejection of both al Qaeda and Shiite extremists have transformed the country. Attacks are down more than 80% nationwide. U.S. combat casualties have plummeted, five this month so far, compared with 78 last July, and Baghdad has a pulse again.’ If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you — would you support the surge?”
Obama: “No, because — keep in mind that -”
Moran: “You wouldn’t?”
Obama: “Well, no, keep — these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. Hindsight is 20/20. I think what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate, because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.”
Moran: “And so, when pressed, Barack Obama says he still would have opposed the surge.”
—————————-
IRAN — In May of this year, Sen. Obama told a town hall meeting that he thought of Iran as small and relatively harmless country, hardly a major threat to the United States, Israel or our allies in the Middle East. “I mean think about it.,” he told a group of supporters. “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us….You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military.” His aides and advisors were horrified. Even Sen. Clinton conceded Iran was a major threat — particularly given the regime’s lust for nuclear weapons –though she refused to offer a plan to neutralize the threat. So the next day, the Senator flip-flopped. He told a new audience a new story, that he actually does believe Iran is a threat. But Obama’s original, unscripted remarks were telling. In his heart, Sen. Obama does not actually believe the regime led by the Ayatollah Khameini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are deeply and inherently dangerous. He sees Iran as a nuisance, not a forthcoming nuclear-armed power. That is why he is so adamant about wanting to sit down and negotiate personally with Ahmadinejad, without preconditions. His official website actually boasts about this position. “Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions,” it reads. But to what end?….Has Sen. Obama actually studied the speeches of Khameini and Ahmadinejad? Has he studied their eschatology, or end times theology? Has he been properly briefed on how this eschatology is driving Iranian foreign policy? No one who truly understands what the current Iranian leadership believes could honestly conclude that they can be successfully negotiated with, much less deterred. Ahmadinejad, after all, believes it is his God-given mission to annihilate the U.S., Israel and Judeo-Christian civilization as we know. Why? To create the conditions that will bring the Islamic Messiah known as the Mahdi or the “12th Imam” to earth. Ahmadinejad is not just another power-hungry dictator in the mold of the Soviet or Chinese leaders of yore. He is a Shia Islamic fascist. He believes his life destiny is to kill millions of Jews and Christians and usher in an Islamic caliphate. He believes he is a John-the-Baptist, a forerunner, of the Islamic Messiah. If he dies, he believes he will spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins. But he doesn’t really believe he’s going to die. He believes he has been chosen for a divine appointment, and that nothing can stop him. That is what makes him so dangerous. Unfortunately, too many Washington politicians — Sen. Obama included — do not understand this….Bottom line: I am glad Sen. Obama and his team are traveling through the epicenter this week. My prayer is that aside from all the lights and cameras and political stagecraft, the Senator is able to hear and discern true wisdom about the actual conditions and trendlines in the region. I hope he is able to come away with a new sense of the high stakes of American failure or success in Iraq, and a palpable sense of the rising threat from Iran. The eyes of the nations are riveted on the Middle East for a reason. The future of the world increasingly depends on what happens there, and the future of America depends a great deal on having a President who understands the times and knows what the U.S. should do.

Iraq PM Not Endorsing Obama Timeframe on Troop Withdrawal

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Al Sadr Forming New Fighting Force To Attack Americans – “Those Who Disobey Will Not Be With Me”

The Party of Defeat’s Top Five Lies About Iraq

The Party of Defeat‘s Top Five Lies About Iraq

By Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | 6/10/2008

FROM THE BEGINNING, THE WAR HAS BEEN BASED ON LIES, DECEPTION, AND PROPAGANDA: the war against President Bush, that is. Beginning five years ago next month, the Party of Defeat‘s attempts to discredit the commander-in-chief in the midst of a war have continued without quarter, undeterred by factual refutation, rational discourse, measurable progress in Iraq, or palpable damage to the morale of American soldiers in a very hostile part of the world. The Left’s campaign against the very war many of its banner-wavers voted to authorize has been built upon a tissues of lies layered upon one another, big and small, consequential and unspeakably petty, political and military, and aimed at the war’s rationale and prosecution — and those implementing both.

Of the scores of such fabrications, it would be difficult to quantify the most damaging or widely held. However, here is in an attempt at recounting some of the most commonly parroted lies of the antiwar echo chamber.

1. “Bush Lied, People Died.”

One of the chief targets of any enemy campaign is not one reached by any bomb, biological agent, or terrorist attack: it is psychological. If the enemy can undermine his opponents’ self-confidence or feeling of certainty in his own moral purpose, he can win without firing a shot. This is the most successful aspect of the Left’s campaign against President Bush and the war in Iraq, embodied in one pithy, vapid saying: “Bush Lied, People Died.”

The specific instance of the president’s alleged mendacity is ever-shifting. Its sources have sometimes been Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, both proven to be liars themselves by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The theme of the president’s alleged lies tends to be the case for the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. However, as one prominent politician has stated:

The intelligence from Bush I to Clinton to Bush II was consistent. That intelligence…was very strong on the continuing presence of biological and chemical programs…It was also very consistent on the continuing effort to develop nuclear capacity

This picture of a threatening Iraq projected itself far beyond the U.S. intelligence community:

The consensus was the same, from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration. It was the same intelligence belief that our allies and friends around the world shared.

These quotations do not come from John McCain, Donald Rumsfeld, or another fire-breathing “neocon”: they were spoken by Hillary Clinton, one of the voices now declaiming the president misled her about the war.

If Bush lied to her, so, too, did the best and brightest of her own fantasy administration. According to the print media, “She said she confirmed Bush administration assessments with private briefings from experts from her husband’s administration.” This may explain why she did not bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Although the NIE had been requested by Senate Democrats, only six senators took the time to peruse its contents. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was not among them, either.) Yet the NIE simply codified the foregoing intelligence consensus on Iraq shared by previous administrations and the CIA’s colleagues around the world, all well beyond the controlling hand of Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, and Alcoa. This broad agreement on the threat of Saddam Hussein, however wrong it may have been, represented bipartisan territory, explaining why so many left-wing Democrats echoed the president on Baghdad’s continuing danger.

This intelligence — similar to that given to the president every morning, though less alarmist — was available to Congress, yet they refused to read it, because they based their votes on political expediency. As David Horowitz and I document in our book Party of Defeat, the war-against-the-war (and by extension, the war against the American soldiers fighting to secure victory in that war) began in the summer of 2003, led by Ted Kennedy and Ellen Tauscher. In July 2003, the Democratic National Committee launched an ad entitled, “Read His Lips: President Bush Deceives the American People.” Yet many nationally elected Democrats had voted for the war just months earlier. There had been no sea-change, no windfall revelation of the president’s deception (aside from those errants cited earlier); the Democratic Left simply tired of its charade. After the first Gulf War, savvy leftists resolved never to get caught on the wrong side of a popular war; thus, they hedged their bets, voting for the war as an act of cowardice, then turned on the war they set in motion at their earliest convenience. 

In this muddled mess, somehow it is President Bush who is tarred as inauthentic.

2. “Iraq was not an ‘imminent threat,’ as Bush said.”

“CIA Denies Claims That Iraq Posed ‘Imminent’ Danger,” blares a headline at one leftist “news” website. The contention, magnified by constant repetition, holds that, to justify spilling the blood of Iraqi innocents which he secretly lusted after, President Bush labeled Iraq an “imminent threat” to the United States. Yet, the Left contends, this is not true; thus, “Bush Lied, People Died.” (See above.)

This tactic is most shamefully embodied in the words of Sen. Ted Kennedy, belched to the Associated Press just six months after the beginning of the war:

There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.

However, the president specifically said Iraq was not an imminent threat — and must never be allowed to become one. In his 2003 State of the Union Address, George W. Bush declared:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Although the president did not declare Iraq’s danger imminent, some on the Left came close. Future war critic Al Gore, remembered now for how breathless hatred stained his cellulite-riddled cheeks in speech after speech before MoveOn.org, declared in February 2002 that Iraq “represents a virulent threat in a class by itself…As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table.” His successor in the also-ran column, Sen. John Kerry, agreed Saddam posed “a real and grave threat to our security.”

Although rhetoricians have cleared the president of ever making this assertion, some have claimed an implied threat of imminence, in that President Bush said Saddam had WMDs and the means to deliver them. Yet that’s exactly what Carl Levin said when he confessed Saddam had “ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.”

Even in his attempt to extricate foot-from-NIE, months after leaving office former CIA Director George Tenet wrote:

Given what we knew then, the NIE should have said: “We judge that Saddam continues his efforts to rebuild weapons programs, that, once sanctions are lifted, he probably will confront the United States with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons within a matter of months and years. Today, while we have little direct evidence of weapons stockpiles, Saddam has the ability to quickly surge to produce chemical and biological weapons and he has the means to deliver them.

3. “The war was  about WMDs, which don’t even exist.”

Perhaps the most pervasive of the five myths holds that the United States only toppled Saddam Hussein because of his alleged possession of WMDs. Since no such weapons have been uncovered, this allows the Left to accuse President Bush of “lying” about their existence to precipitate a war. (See lie #1.) However, the possession of WMDs was never the full rationale for hostilities. The actual cause for the war was Saddam Hussein’s violation of more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions about his program during his “decade of defiance.” These actions invalidated the ceasefire agreed to at the end of the Gulf War. As a 1998 law declared, Iraq was at that time in “direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire.” It concluded:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations, and therefore the President is urged to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.

President Clinton signed that bill on August 19, 1998.

Shortly thereafter, Clinton signed Public Law 105-338, “The Iraq Liberation Act,” which “expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, which precipitated the present war, authorized the president to “strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts” and to “obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.” The president did so by passing UN Security Council Resolution 1441, declaring Saddam “in material breach” and demanding his compliance or assuring he will face “serious consequences.” Had Saddam Hussein verified his compliance, there would have been no war; instead, he turned in another false report. Hostilities ensued.

President Bush explained to the United Nations on September 12, 2002, that Saddam Hussein must act, or the UN must force him to act, but “Security Council resolutions will be enforced.” Among the many violations he cited were Saddam’s support of international terrorism, his persecution of his own people, and his exploitation of the Oil-for-Food Program (the extent of which was then still unknown). He may have also cited the continual attack of Iraqi forces upon UN-empowered aircraft patrolling the “No Fly Zone,” under almost daily fire. Nevertheless, his stated purpose was to enforce numerous UN resolutions dormant under Bill Clinton’s Decade of Dereliction.

Ironically, this “unilateral, go-it-alone war” was fought to uphold the integrity of the United Nations.

4. “The war is a distraction from the War on Terror.”

The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, famously called Iraq a “diversion,” “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” a conflict launched because the president took his “eye off the ball.” His successor, Barack Obama, has repeatedly spoken of “the distraction of Iraq.”

Far from a “distraction,” the war in Iraq is the War on Terror’s central front — according to both commanders of that war. The New York Times reported that al-Qaeda sees “the sectarian war for Baghdad as the necessary main focus of its operations”– last March, in a story that relies upon intelligence Americans found on laptops seized the previous December. Osama bin Laden himself verified this assessment, stating,

The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War…It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world’s millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate…The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries; the Islamic nation, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other. It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation.

Al-Qaeda has plans for Iraq upon America’s withdrawal. Nearly three years ago, al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri sent a letter to the then-respirating Ayman al-Zarqawi containing Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s marching orders. They begin thus:

Expel the Americans…Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate – over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans.

The next steps were to launch jihad against Iraq’s neighbors before enlarging the war to Israel, and ultimately America.

This is their quest. Preventing it is no diversion.

5. “Opposing the war has no demoralizing effect on the troops.”

In theory, it is possible to oppose a given war without opposing those fighting it. However, as Henry Mencken said about Christianity, “nobody’s tried it yet.” If one believes American soldiers are pawns in “an imperial grand strategy” to “maintain [American] hegemony through the threat or use of military force”;  that the invasion of Iraq is “an immoral and illegal war”  (a charge also made by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government in its most craven days); that such a war makes us “an international pariah”  (as John Kerry said, alongside former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami); if you see the United States “as the aggressor” and a “belligerent bully”; it is impossible to wish those waging such a war well.

Soon, such a critic will be casting aspersions at the troops he claims to support. Witness John Kerry telling CBS’s Bob Schieffer that “young American soldiers” are “going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children – you know, women – breaking sort of the customs of the, of, the historical customs, religious customs.”

Hear Jack Murtha bellow, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

See timid Dick Durbin prattle in monotone that soldiers guarding al-Qaeda henchmen in Iraq are no better than “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings,” with no more forethought than if he were weighing in on the merits or demerits of a farm subsidy bill.

Soon, such critics will write openly that Osama bin Laden “made sense to me.” If you share these views, Osama may one day take his cues from you, cribbing his videotapes from your movies, citing your phony war statistics, or calling you “among the most capable” of his fifth column.

This fifth column, this Party of Defeat does what no external power can dream of: undermine the war from within.

Party of Defeat is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $15, a 30 percent discount and less than Amazon.com. Autographed and personalized copies are also available; details are on the Bookstore webpage. Please call your local bookstores and ask them to stock the new book Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, if they don’t already have it in stock.



Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Charitable Giving.

Iraq Rising

Iraq Rising

By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | 5/27/2008

A fascinating scene played out in Basra, Iraq, last week. Troops from the Iraqi Army stood sentinel over the once restive city as followers of rogue cleric Muqtada al-Sadr muttered dispiritedly that they had been driven from power. In this Sadrist fiefdom, the erstwhile epicenter of a Shiite insurgency that many doubted could be contained, the Iraqi army was now law.

Credit this remarkable transformation to Operation Sawlat al-Fursan, also known as operation Charge of the Knights, which began with little fanfare and much skepticism in late March. A make-or-break test for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi armed forces, the operation was largely led by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Security Forces. Their success in routing militia elements in cities like Basra would reveal much about what could realistically be expected from Iraq.

Democrats were anything but optimistic. Presumptive nominee Barack Obama allowed that the operation had “resulted in some reduction in violence” but insisted, counterintuitively, that this only strengthened the case for rushed troop withdrawals. Hillary Clinton, never one to be pinned down on policy substance when grandstanding is an option, offered her standard refrain that the “surge has failed to accomplish its goals.” More candid was Joe Biden, who back in April was prepared to call a victory … for Sadr. Of Basra, he pronounced, it “looks to me like, at least on the surface, Sadr may have come out a winner here.” In the Democrats’ dismal exegesis, the surge had failed, Iraq was doomed, and withdrawal was the only viable option.

But despair, like hope, is not a policy. Two months on, the Democrats’ fatalism on Iraq looks woefully off base. By all significant indicators, Iraqi security forces have turned the tide against Shiite insurgents. Their improbable control of Basra is only the latest sign of the shifting balance of power. On the strength of the success in Basra, the military reports that violence in Iraq has plunged to its lowest level in over four years. Even the New York Times – no instinctive friend to the Bush administration – reports of Basra that with “Islamist militias evicted from their strongholds by the Iraqi Army, few doubt that this once-lawless port is in better shape than it was just two months ago.” Basra has indeed produced a winner. But contra Joe Biden, it’s not Muqtada al-Sadr.

Just as Shiite die-hards have suffered a devastating reversal, their Sunni counterparts in al-Qaeda are also in retreat. Witness the results in Mosul. Considered by the U.S. and Iraqi forces to be the terrorists’ last urban stronghold in Iraq, Mosul less than a month ago was a soulless Shari’a state. In keeping with Islamist mores, public expressions of joy were forbidden and local cultural traditions ruthlessly suppressed. Locals couldn’t even sell tomatoes and cucumbers side by side at the market, as the juxtaposition was deemed intolerably provocative by prudish jihadists. Since the beginning of a joint U.S. Iraqi operation earlier this month, however, attacks are down by 85 percent, at least 200 al-Qaeda terrorists have been netted in sweeps, and normalcy has been reestablished. Tomatoes and cucumbers, no longer sins against Islam, are just vegetables again.

It speaks to the misdirection of the party that what is good for Iraq and coalition forces is bad for Democrats. Thus, Democrats cannot applaud the recent rollback of al-Qaeda, since doing so would discredit their assurance that Iraq is wholly disconnected from the fight against bin Laden’s network. Neither can they celebrate the Iraqi forces’ success in Basra. That would contradict the narrative that Iraq is a lost cause best surrendered to its internal chaos. To acknowledge gains in security, meanwhile, would be to concede that the American troop presence – that is, the surge that Senator Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were confidently declaring a “failure” last fall – is helping to pacify the country. Acknowledging that would, of course, nullify the logic of precipitous withdrawal. The only remaining option is to mouth the mantra that Iraq is a failure and hope that reality dovetails with defeatism.  

Wiser and more principled is the position of John McCain. As an early proponent of the troop surge, McCain can lay claim to a prescience that not only eluded many of in his party but that continues to evade his expected Democratic opponent. Last week, for instance, Barack Obama cast a vote against the $165 billion funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That didn’t derail the funding bill, which passed the Senate anyway, but it did place Obama squarely on the side that has given up on the surge and, by extension, on the Iraq war. Buoyed by some polls, Obama is clearly betting that military defeat in Iraq will translate into political victory at home.

McCain may yet have the better of that argument. Against the increasingly tone-deaf attacks from Democrats, he can point out that Iraqi troops have defied expectations to perform competently and sometimes impressively, even without U.S. support; that the Shiite and Sunni terrorists have been substantially repelled; and that political reconciliation is for the first time visible on the horizon. He can add, too, that all this is dependent on the surge strategy that he championed and that Obama threatens to undo.

Seen in this light, the Democrats’ tactic of calling the surge the “Cheney-Bush-McCain” strategy may well boomerang to their disadvantage. Naturally, there will be those who scoff at the notion that Iraq could be an asset for McCain in the general election. But it’s worth bearing in mind that these same prognosticators just a month ago were instructing that Iraq’s future belonged to Sadr’s brigands and al-Qaeda’s killers. Of the presidential candidates, only John McCain can credibly pledge that he won’t let that happen.


Jacob Laksin is a senior editor for FrontPage Magazine. He is a 2007 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow. His e-mail is jlaksin@gmail.com