Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Going On The Offensive On Iraq

Two months before being elected President

Barack Obama said the surge of American forces in Iraq has ``succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,'' though Iraqis still haven't done enough to take responsibility for their country.

``The surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,'' Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a recorded interview broadcast tonight on Fox News's ``The O'Reilly Factor'' program.

Obama has come under repeated criticism from Republican rival John McCain for opposing President George W. Bush's decision last year to send 20,000 extra combat troops to Iraq. While Obama said before that the additional forces have damped insurgent violence, his comments on the program were some of the strongest he's made on the issue.

Barack Obama, running for the highest office in the land in 2008, was loyal most of all to his own campaign for the presidency, which thankfully saved us from a Vice-President Sarah Palin.

Now, however, as Jeremiah Wright and millions of Americans have put it over the years, "the chickens have come home to roost."  Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday, John Ellis Bush (spinning the tale five days earlier, below) stated

So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?

That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill – and that Iran has exploited to the full as well.

ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.

And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?  Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge…then joined in claiming credit for its success … then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.

Author and Slate contributor Fred Kaplan demolishes John's argument as he explains

Bush got a crucial fact wrong in this chronicle: His brother’s administration—not Obama’s—signed the status of forces agreement, on Nov. 17, 2008, which stated, in Article 24: “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”

Article 30 of that same agreement stated that its terms could be amended “only with the official agreement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in effect in both countries.” These “constitutional procedures” included a vote by the Iraqi Parliament—and at no time between 2008 and 2011 was the Iraqi Parliament going to take such a vote.

Granted, President Obama did want to get out of Iraq; he won the White House in large part on that promise, and there was no more support in the United States than in Iraq for a continued presence of American troops. And yet Obama did send emissaries—among them former aides to George W. Bush—to seek an amendment to allow a few thousand residual forces. The Iraqi government refused. Unless Obama wanted to re-invade the country, there was nothing to be done.

There was another fallacy in Bush’s description of the surge: Though it was a huge tactical success, it did not pave the way toward “victory.” As its architect, Gen. David Petraeus, said on several occasions, the surge was meant merely to create some “breathing space,” a “zone of security,” so that Iraq’s political factions could form a unified government. The problem was that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki didn’t want unity: He didn’t want to make a deal on power-sharing, oil revenues, or land settlements with Sunni or Kurdish leaders; he wanted to maintain Shiite dominance—and it was Maliki’s stubbornness that revived the sectarian violence and left a lane open for ISIS, whose leaders exploited their fellow Sunnis’ resentments.

Unfortunately, the surge as a success is an idea deeply embedded in American journalism and as a result, influential with the American people. It has not been a dominant argument because voters understand that Gulf War II, initiated by George W. Bush under false pretenses, was a mistake and bears more responsibility than anything for unleashing dangerous forces in the Mideast.

Still, John Ellis Bush's argument is dangerous, one which might resonate with voters in a general election, whether the candidate is the former president's brother or someone else.  It would not have fooled anyone, had Democrats pushed back against it when it was continually claimed by John McCain. Worse yet were those Democrats, such as Barack Obama, who lacked the fortitude to rebut the false argument that the surge, largely a failure, was a smashing success.

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