Hugh Hewitt has been making news regularly lately. If you haven’t been listening to his radio show, you should. Tonight I was driving home from work and heard the following exchange between Hugh and Lindsey Graham. First, this observation: Graham is not my favorite Republican by any means, but he is smart and generally sound on foreign policy. In addition, he has been personally involved in some key events of recent years. Now, his exchange with Hugh on Iraq:
Hugh Hewitt: Now Senator Graham, I want to turn to a couple of other things I covered with Jeb Bush. First, he laid the blame for the collapse of the Iraqi government authority and the rise of ISIS squarely on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for the failure to reach a status of forces agreement. I pointed out his brother entered into the S.O.F.A. that expired on December 31st, 2011 and Maliki deserves some of the blame and he said no, this was our fault. Do you agree?
Lindsey Graham: I think it was our fault. The president got the answer he wanted when it comes to troop levels. He wanted zero. He got zero. He promised to end the War in Iraq. He actually lost the War in Iraq.
But this is something that most people don’t know. I want to make sure you understand. Secretary Clinton called me to go over to Iraq to talk to all the parties to see if we can find a way to achieve a residual force to be left behind. I went with Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman. We met with Mr. Allawi who’s is the Aratia party leader, the former prime minister. He is a Shia, but it was a Sunni coalition. We flew up to meet with President Barzani – not president – but Barzani, the head of the Kurds. … Then we met with Maliki.
So we had Ambassador Jeffrey – U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Gen. Austin, the commander of Iraq forces at the time in the meeting with me, Maliki, and McCain. I asked Prime Minister Maliki, “Would you accept troops?” He says, “If other will, I will.” Then he turned to me and said, “How many troops are you talking about?” I turned to Gen. Austin and then Ambassador Jeffrey – “What’s the answer to the prime minister’s question?” Gen. Dreyfuss says, “We’re still working on the number.” The number went from 18,000 recommended by Austin down to 3,000 coming out of the White House.
General Dempsey answered Senator McCain’s question and my question as to how the numbers went down – “What is because the Iraqis suggest too many?” He said, “No, the cascading numbers came from the White House.” I was there. They were all ready to accept a residual force. But when you get below 3,000, it was a joke. And we got the answer we wanted. I was on the ground. I asked the question. I heard the answer from Gen. Austin – the White House hasn’t made up their mind, yet.
Hugh Hewitt: Jeb Bush is right. This is truly at the feet of Obama-Clinton.
Lindsey Graham: You know, Maliki has got a lot of blame for Iraq falling apart, but I lay this at the foot of the President of the United States solely. The Iraqis to a person would’ve accepted a residual force, but he wanted to get to zero. He would never come forth with a number. They never had a number.
At one point Barack Obama and Joe Biden basked in the success of the surge that was authorized by George W. Bush and carried out by Gen. David Petraeus. They proclaimed Iraq one of the Obama administration’s greatest accomplishments, taking credit for a military and diplomatic effort that had nothing to do with them. And then that ideologically-obsessed dummy, Barack Obama, threw it all away.