Taking a few questions following a statement on the dire situation in Iraq that President Obama gave on the White House lawn as he departed for his Martha’s Vineyard vacation (White House transcript here, White House video here), President Obama availed himself of the any port in a storm tactic that has helped him so much along his way. The reporter asking the last question Obama deigned to field wondered whether he had any second thoughts about pulling all of our troops out of Iraq. You may recall that only yesterday the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq was Obama’s boast. ‘Twas a famous victory. Indeed, it was one of the predicates of Obama’s reelection campaign. That was then, however, and this is now:
Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. — is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.
And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice — which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.
So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were — a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.
Obama was, as always, exploiting the ignorance of low-information voters. The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack recalls that during the 2012 foreign policy presidential debate, Obama told the American people that he didn’t support leaving any troops in Iraq. “Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” Obama told GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day.”
John then retrieves the transcript reflecting Obama’s denial that he had ever supported a status of forces agreement that would have left troops in Iraq:
MR. ROMNEY: [W]ith regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement. Did you —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s not true.
MR. ROMNEY: Oh, you didn’t — you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, but what I — what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.
“Here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander in chief,” Obama said at the end of the exchange. “You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. Now, you just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.”
McCormack has more on the complexities underlying our withdrawal here.
Obama’s dishonesty is blatant and habitual. It seems to me to reflect a bad character allied with great confidence that he can get away with it.