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U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: The troops aren’t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out.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.

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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

Who Lost Iraq?

Who Lost Iraq?
Frank Gaffney
Monday, April 05, 2010

Back in February, Vice President Joseph Biden declared: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Even for a politician much given to strategic ineptitude compounded by foot-in-mouth disease, that was a doozy.

As has been pointed out innumerable times since, if Iraq turns out to be a truly “great achievement” in any ordinary sense of the word, Mr. Biden and Barack Obama – two of the most insistent opponents of George W. Bush’s efforts to consolidate Iraq’s liberation – are among the last people in Washington who should take such credit.

Worse yet, unfortunately for the Iraqi people and others who love freedom, it looks increasingly as though the Obama administration will have the loss of Iraq as one of its most signal accomplishments.

Three murderous suicide bombings in Baghdad over the weekend are but the latest indication of the renewed reality there: Those determined to use violence to destabilize the country, foment sectarian strife and shape Iraq’s destiny can do so with impunity.

The fact that the Iranian embassy was one of the targets suggests Sunni extremist groups – perhaps including the once-defeated al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) – are responsible for this round of attacks. Elsewhere in the country though, Shiite death squads that may or may not have ties to the pro-Iranian factions currently running the country are ruthlessly liquidating prominent tribal leaders and others associated with the movement in Anbar Province known as The Awakening. The latter were instrumental to the success of the U.S. surge and to the opportunity thus created for an Iraqi future vastly superior to its despotic and chaotic past.

Among the objects of the growing violence are individuals who stood for office in the recent parliamentary elections. This amounts to post facto disenfranchisement of the Iraqi voters whose turnout of over 60 percent – in the face of threats by anti-democratic forces that voting would be deemed a capital offense – powerfully testified to their desire to exercise the right enjoyed by no others in the Mideast except Israelis: to have a real say in their government and future.

Sadly, all other things being equal, that popular ambition seems unlikely to be realized. There is an unmistakable vacuum of power being created by President Obama’s determination to withdraw U.S. “combat” forces no matter what, starting with the cities a few months ago and in short order from the rest of the country.

Increasingly, that vacuum is being filled by Iran and its proxies on the one hand and, on the other, insurgent Sunni forces, both those aligned with al Qaeda and those that have, at least until recently, been suppressing the AQI. On what might be called the third hand, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing their own internal problems as well as an increasingly ill-concealed inclination to assert their independence from the rest of the country.

The signal of American abandonment was made the more palpable by Team Obama’s decision to dispatch Christopher Hill as its ambassador to Iraq. Hill is the diplomat best known for his determination during the Bush 43 years to appease, rather than thwart, the despot most closely enabling the realization of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. The unreliability of the United States as an ally – a hallmark of the Obama presidency more generally – is reinforcing the sense that it is every man for himself in Iraq.

The prospects of any “great achievement” in Iraq are being further diminished by the direction to the Pentagon to shift personnel and equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan. The President himself reinforced that commitment during his speech to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base last week. The detailed planning and ponderous logistics associated with such a transfer increasingly foreclose options to change course. Our commanders will soon be hard pressed to preserve today’s deployments of American forces in Iraq, let alone to have them take up once again the sorts of positions in the urban areas that they held to such therapeutic effect during the surge.

The inadvisability of relocating U.S. forces from the strategically vital Iraqi theater to the marginal Afghan one is made all the greater by another grim prospect: The mounting evidence that our troops will be put in harm’s way in Afghanistan simply to preside over the surrender of that country to one strain of Shariah-adherent Taliban or another. There, too, President Obama has publicly promised to begin reversing his mini-surge by next summer, again irrespective of conditions on the ground. And his insistence on “engaging” at least some of those who allowed the country to be used as a launching pad for al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks augurs ill for the Afghan people (especially the female ones) – and for us.

It may be that Team Obama is calculating that the American people are so sick of these conflicts and the associated costs in blood and treasure that they will consider cutting our losses to be a “great achievement” – irrespective of the consequences. After all, a generation ago their ideological forefathers led the United States in abandoning the South Vietnamese, without obvious political fall-out here at home. To the extent the Republicans are increasingly signaling a determination to run next Fall on a platform silent on national security matters, they may be right, at least in the short run.

There should be no doubt, however: The repercussions of the Obama administration losing Iraq will cost us dearly in the future as adherents to Shariah around the world are reinforced in their conviction of that our defeat and submission is preordained. Even if, at the moment, we cannot fully comprehend the implications of such a perception, we will know from here on out whose “great achievement” precipitated the resulting horror for America and the rest of what was once the Free World.

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.

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

Witness

Witness

By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | 1/25/2008

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the Palestinian Intifada. One of his recent documentaries, Suicide Killers, explores the psychology of suicide bombers. It is based on interviews with the victims of suicide bombers, the families of suicide bombers, would-be bombers themselves, and experts on suicide killer mentality. He is currently in Iraq filming a new documentary on the psychology of suicide killing.

FP: Pierre Rehov, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Rehov: Thank you.

FP: So let’s begin with why you decided to go to Iraq.

Rehov: After the success of Suicide Killers, and you have to remember that I invented the term by contraction of “Suicide Bombers” and “Serial Killers,” I decided to make a new film about the “proliferation” of suicide killing. After addressing this dangerous trend in “Suicide Killers,” I decided to go deeper into the psychopathology of individuals who are ready to sacrifice their lives as long as they kill others.

The question I am asking myself in making this film is: “What do kamikazes from WWII, Palestinian suicide killers, the murderers of Columbine, Cho at Virginia Tech and other suicide criminals around the world have in common?” “Proliferation” (The tentative work title for now) is a new survey of this phenomenon.

I am trying to answer another very important question: “How do we stop it?” Knowing that the US attacked Iraq in part as a response to 9/11, I wanted to see how this was handled. That’s why I went to Iraq.

But we also went to Japan to interview former Kamikazes, to Virginia Tech to understand what really happened there, to Gaza so we could follow the “making” of a suicide killer, to Bethlehem to find families and neighbours of these killers, and also to interview the family of Professor Librescu — who sacrificed his life also at Virginia Tech, not to kill others, but to save as many lives as he could.

FP: Your impressions in Iraq?

Rehov: I came to Iraq not knowing what I was going to find exactly. To report on war is not always an easy thing. Since I am here to include Iraq in my next documentary on suicide bombing (the international part of SK), I have been trying to find an angle to use the events here. The army actually found it for me.
The job that the US army is doing here is remarkable. Forget all CNN, left wing NYT and other anti-Bush critics, reports, images. The strategy that they are building here is to interact with the Iraqi population, make them understand that they care, try to solve their daily problems and, at the same time, show them that US soldiers are strong, and that they won’t let them down.
Basically, the US army is replacing a corrupt, non-efficient government, and it is trying to train the population to the idea of democracy. For a long time, I thought that you could not change things among Arab-Muslims, since their culture is so different from ours. But I was wrong to a certain extent, since I forgot one part of the deal. Yes, you can make changes by bringing hope for a better life and help the growth to grow, but on one condition: you have to take care of it yourself.
Corruption is so embedded in the Arab mentality (and accepted by the non-corrupted ones) that you cannot just “give them” things. The first thing you have to show them is strength. I would actually call any article I would write “Strength and wealth.” You cannot give anything to the leaders and let them take care of their populations. But, when those nice boys with a high ideal go, everyday, at high risk, in every single house, to talk to every single mother, father, of each family, asking questions, gathering intelligence, offering help, you can see the streets of Baghdad crowded again, and people waiving with enthusiasm when the US Humvees go down the street.

FP: So is this really an “occupation” then?

Rehov: Not at all. I have memories of my childhood, when my father was telling me about how the US army conquered Algeria, and delivered them from the Nazis and the French collaborating government. Sixty years later, the US army is acting the same. It is not an occupation army. It is an army of liberation.

When I was a kid, my father always told me about the night when the US Army delivered his city, in Algeria. Jews suffered a lot under the Vichy regime, and even in Algeria they knew how Germans treated the Jews. So, during one full night, while sounds of war could be heard in a distance, the rumor spread that the Germans had defeated the Allies and that they would arrive in the morning. French people and Arabs would go down the streets where some Jews lived, chanting : “tomorrow we’ll get you, tomorrow you’re dead.” At dawn, a first armored car arrived in the city. It was bearing an American flag. Next day, life changed for everybody.

Everybody who has been through this, remembers the US army bringing freedom and amelioration to their life. The well known image of American soldiers distributing chocolate, coffee, food rations and cigarettes to the population is vivid in my memory, like as if I had been there, in 1942, many years before I was born.

What I discovered in Iraq is very similar to these naïve but powerful symbolic images. Therefore, I believe that the impact of the US troops, in the long run, can be the same to the Iraqi population. Everywhere we go, kids are waiving at us, parents too. Every house we go in, the first word we hear is “welcome,” “thank you for being here.”

Certainly the dictators of the world don’t appreciate any kind of democratic success. But, on the field, no matter what political side I would be on, I have to admit a very simple thing: democracy is contagious, when it spreads among the people, despite all the efforts made by their leaders, whether religious or secular.

Yesterday, I saw something which could be given as a perfect example of what is going on here. A young kid, too young to talk, had been found in the street, crying, lost. Some of the volunteers working with the US army stopped our Humvee and started talking to the interpreter. They had found the kid, did not know what to do with him. They had gone to the local Imam, asking him to use the speakerphones he uses to call for the pray, to ask if any family had lost a kid. The Immam refused.

Therefore, our Captain called one of the translators and ask him to jump on a humvee and to go in every single street of our “mallaha” (neighbourhood) asking through the very loud speakerphones if any family had lost a 2 or 3 years old kid. The humvee moved. The captain said, half serious: “and now, the rumor will spread that the US army has kidnapped a kid.”This kind of anecdote is happening 10 times a day here. Families left alone, with the husband in jail for being an Al Qaada member. And, every day, the same patrol visits this family, making sure that they don’t need anything.

FP: Why do you think the Western Left despises such a promising thing that is happening? Why is it in league with the Islamists? Why does it gnash its teeth when America succeeds in bringing people freedom?

Rehov: I can talk about the European type of Left, but I believe their kind of thinking is similar to the American Left’s. The leftwing mentality in Europe is generous, but not realistic or romantic and certainly not courageous. Their system of analysis, mostly based on Karl Marx and his followers, is not updated, yet they can see the failure of most socialist systems around the world. Their “key of lecture” is economical at every level of their understanding. Since the simple 19th century black and white image of the “rich” against the “poor” has been proven to be outrageous, and no longer in service, and since poverty is not necessarily the result of exploitation of innocent populations by cynical capitalists, they have had to change their system of values and their icons of reference.

Actually, for left wing people, capitalism and liberal economy continue to be the enemy, no matter what. The “other” is always the good to protect and defend. In other words, you are not to be protected just because you are poor, humiliated, tortured, spoiled or expelled. You become of interest at the very moment you are the “victim of the capitalist system.” The same left wing “heroes” who would march in the streets each time an Israeli or American soldier fires a weapon, mostly do not protest when China invades Tibet, when Arab dictators massacre millions, or when Radical Islam expresses genocidal intentions and acts on them.

In the Left’s view, by definition, radical jihadists are not the enemy – they are the result of past accidental mistakes. Bin Laden ? He would not exist if he had not been trained by the CIA. Hamas? Well, it was created by Israel to undermine the PLO. According to this mentality, the West cannot have good intentions, only greed. How could greed succeed in an ideal world — that exists only in their imagination?

Of course, the US made a mistake when they attacked Iraq 6 years ago. The mistake was not to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who was a blood thirsty dictator. That was the right thing to do. The mistake was not to have a long-term plan to re-establish the sovereignty of Iraq, and to make it an ally of the West – in the same way Japan and Germany became allies after having been defeated. So, all leftwing intellectuals of the world could grab this mistake like a dog grabs a bone, and for 6 years it has been their main concern, while American families were losing their children on the battlefield. The U,S, government has been smart enough to understand this mistake, it took time, but I see that they are doing the right thing now. Once more, the Left has missed the train. They are still using the same arguments.

FP: What advice would you have for American policy makers toward Iraq?

Rehov: From what I see here, the worst of all mistakes would be for the US to withdraw now. They are on the right path. It will take a few more years, but the end result might be good. Iraq is a rich country, full of good people who are tired of the ancient Arab mentality and who want to see a better future for their children. This silent majority is what counts. As long as the US is here, taking care of their security, they can feel strong enough to defeat Al Qaeda and other radical groups from inside. If tomorrow the US withdraws, radical groups are still strong enough to take over power. It would be the biggest mistake the US could ever make. Iraq will plunge into darkness.

FP: Thank you Pierre Rehov for helping us see the light.

Rehov: Thank you.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.