In this morning’s New York Times, Barack Obama published an op-ed on Iraq that presumably previews his “major speech” on the subject tomorrow. Even by Obama’s standards, the piece is breathtakingly dishonest.
Obama admits that he opposed the surge, and the attendant change in strategy and tactics, that have brought us close to victory. But he somehow manages to twist his being wrong about the surge–the major foreign policy issue that has arisen during his time in Congress–into vindication:
But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.
Actually, however, Obama opposed the surge not because of those “factors” but because he thought it would fail. He said, on January 10, 2007, on MSNBC:
I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.
On January 14, 2007, on Face the Nation, he said:
We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality — we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.
On March 19, 2007, on the Larry King show, he said:
[E]ven those who are supporting — but here’s the thing, Larry — even those who support the escalation have acknowledged that 20,000, 30,000, even 40,000 more troops placed temporarily in places like Baghdad are not going to make a long-term difference.
On May 25, 2007, in a speech to the Coalition Of Black Trade Unionists Convention, Obama said:
And what I know is that what our troops deserve is not just rhetoric, they deserve a new plan. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe that the course that we’re on in Iraq is working, I do not.
On July 18, 2007, on the Today show, he said:
My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.
On November 11, 2007, two months after General David Petraeus told Congress that the surge was working, Obama doubled down, saying that the administration’s new strategy was making the situation in Iraq worse:
Finally, in 2006-2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn’t withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled them and initiated a surge and at that stage I said very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we’re actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.
In short, Obama bet the farm on his prediction that General Petraeus and the American military would fail. He was as spectacularly wrong as John McCain was spectacularly right. But his op-ed somehow twists this history into vindication on the theory that Afghanistan has deteriorated, the Iraq war has been expensive, and Iraq’s political leaders “have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.”
Let’s start with the last point. Obama completely fails to acknowledge the remarkable political progress that has resulted from the surge, as manifested by the fact that the country’s largest Sunni bloc has rejoined the government, and the U.S. Embassy reports that 15 of the 18 benchmarks of political progress that were set by Congress are now being met. Those benchmarks were set precisely for the purpose of measuring the “political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge,” yet Obama fails even to mention them.
Still more dishonest is Obama’s failure to acknowledge what would have happened if his policy prescription, precipitate withdrawal regardless of military conditions, had been followed: chaos, sectarian violence, possibly genocide, a resurgent al Qaeda in control of part of Iraq, with Iran possibly in control of other areas of the country. This would have been a foreign policy disaster, yet Obama, with vague references to cost and Afghanistan, claims vindication!
As to al Qaeda–the elephant in the room–Obama simply dissimulates:
Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.
That’s not what Osama bin Laden (Iraq is where the “Third World War is raging”) or Ayman al-Zawahiri (Iraq is “the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era”) say. Al Qaeda summoned jihadists from around the Muslim world to go to Iraq to fight American troops, declaring that this effort is the central front in their war against civilization. Those jihadists have been devastated by American armed forces, who have thereby scored what may, with hindsight, turn out to have been the decisive victory in the war against Muslim extremism. Obama denies all of this in a single sentence, without citing any evidence whatsoever.
Finally, Afghanistan: Obama would have us believe that he urged defeat in Iraq because he was so firmly committed to victory in Afghanistan. Once again, he misrepresents the record.
In fact, Obama has never supported our troops in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he said on August 14, 2007–less than a year ago–that our forces there are mostly committing war crimes:
We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.
Obama has been so uninterested in Afghanistan that when he went to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East with a Congressional delegation in January 2006, he skipped the opportunity to continue on to Afghanistan, which was taken by others who made the trip with him, including Kit Bond and Harold Ford. And, in an embarrassing gaffe, Obama claimed on May 13, 2008, that we don’t have enough “Arabic interpreters, Arab language speakers” in Afghanistan because they are all being used in Iraq. Obama thereby demonstrated the intellectual laziness and incuriosity that characterizes his campaign: they don’t speak Arabic in Afghanistan, and, anyway, interpreters are drawn from local populations, not shipped around the world.
Worst of all, far from being committed to victory in Afghanistan, Obama voted to cut off all funding for all of our military efforts in Afghanistan on May 24, 2007 (H.R. 2206, CQ Vote #181), thereby seeking to bring about defeat there as well as in Iraq. His current effort to portray himself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing on Afghanistan is a complete fraud.
It is possible that at some point in American history there may have been a major politician as dishonest as Barack Obama, but I can’t offhand think of such a miscreant.
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