It can’t be surprising that the US OIF endeavor in Iraq will, once again, be taking center-stage for political spin. What will also be unsurprising is that again the wool will be pulled over the eyes of a nation who apparently suffers from short term memory dysfunction, and gets a failing grade in current events. And the last non-surprise is that the political bear trap of spin, carefully being laid by the left, clamps tight on the appendages of the GOP, happy to saunter right on in, blind to it’s presence.
Case in point? As per the originAL SOFA agreement, negotiated between the Bush admin and Iraq at the end of 2008, and signed by Ryan Crocker US armed forces are to be totally withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the three year contract on Jan 1st, 2012.
There were mitigating circumstances that could change the agreement, were both parties to mutually agree. For example, the timeline could have been accelerated had either party given one year’s notice to the other. This did not happen. It also left open the ability to renegotiate at the end of the period for a new agreement and terms, should either party do so. However there was no obligation to renegotiate, nor to agree to any terms in advance.
So what we have is a Bush withdrawal of troops, as negotiated. And a kudos to Obama for not choosing to renege on that good faith contract – despite his 2007 attempt as a soon-to-be-campaigning-for-POTUS Senator Obama – to push legislation for a March 2008 withdrawal. This is a perfect success story of Iraq independence and troop withdrawal for the GOP to embrace on the campaign trail.
But since the GOP seems to play the part of unwitting dupes well, and current events is not the forte of either media, or a vigilant citizenry, the wheels are in obvious motion for Obama to steal the thunder. Just as was done by a fawning media in 2009, not calling out deception when Obama was portraying the SOFA’s timeline as his own shortly after his inauguration, the media myth is perpetuated today by MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien, declaring adherence to the deadline is “in keeping with the timeline Obama first established in early 2009, when he first laid out a timetable for withdrawal.”
It’s a good line, as long as you can find enough history challenged citizens to buy into it. And just to make sure this Bush/Iraq SOFA, signed over a month before the Obama’s moved their duds into the White House, is continued to be attributed to the wrong POTUS, we have a year of presidential campaign political wrangling and spinning to repeat the lie in order to revise history.
But such bland stuff of honoring a three year old contract doesn’t have the punch without some accompanying drama, and the predictable attempts to make the opposition look like war mongers. Enter the quiet attempts between Iraq and the Obama admin reps on leaving about 5000 troops for training post the Bush SOFA deadline. The sticking point? They want to change the rules about immunity for our troops while there, allowing them to be prosecuted in Iraqi courts for any offenses.
The original SOFA clearly laid out jurisdictional powers in Article 12.
1. Iraq shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the United States Forces and of the civilian component for the grave premeditated felonies enumerated pursuant to paragraph 8, when such crimes are committed outside agreed facilities and areas and outside duty status.
2. Iraq shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over United States contractors and United States contractor employees.
3. The United States shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the United States Forces and of the civilian component for matters arising inside agreed facilities and areas; during duty status outside agreed facilities and areas; and in circumstances not covered by paragraph 1.
4. At the request of either Party, the Parties shall assist each other in the investigation of incidents and the collection and exchange of evidence to ensure the due course of justice.
As part of their request for an add’l 5000 troops for training – down from last year’s considerations for 8000 to 20,000 – Iraqi officials and Parliament wanted to remove the US jurisdiction… and to the Obama admin officials credit, they said absolutely not. I couldn’t agree more.
Max Boot, in his Oct 21st op-ed for Commentary Magazine, opined this refusal to comply with the additional troops, and not negotiate some compromise for immunity by forcing an Iraqi Parliamentary vote for protections, is “…far from being cause for celebration.” Boot, while noting there is still time for US attorneys to enter the picture, believes that 10,000 – not the 5000 that the Iraqis requested – are necessary to maintain the stability that the US has helped to achieve.
However the opinions of Iraqi lawmakers are mixed on both extending the US troops welcome and the questions of their immunity. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has point blank told US officials that the votes to keep troop protections post SOFA are simply not there. The other aside is that both al-Maliki and Obama are astutely aware than no agreement benefits them both politically with constituents.
Naturally Huffpo writers, LARA JAKES and REBECCA SANTANA, seize the opportunity to hype the already laid out process with a screaming headline that the US is “abandoning plans to keep troops in Iraq”. Wouldn’t it be prudent for someone to advise them that, according to the original agreement, there were no plans for troops beyond Jan 1st, 2012?
Of course, one might ask one’s self just why a left leaning rag like Huffpo would want to imply that their hero, Obama, was “abandoning” Iraq. After all, aren’t they, as a community, well documented as being anti-Iraq from the get go?
That’s exactly the point. The direct answer to why Huffpo is screaming “abandonment” is the politics of a political campaign. Is there any credit and admiration due to Obama – who has been vocally against US troops in Iraq since prior to his US Congressional arrival – for honoring terms in the Bush/Iraq agreement, decided prior to the “da one’s” rise to power?
Of course not….
Then again, if the left spin media can portray this as an agonizing decision, emphasizing a great deal of risk to the cost of blood and money the US has shed in helping Iraq become an Arab democracy, they can effectively pull their anti-war left back on the Obama bandwagon by casting him as a leader who “kept promises” to withdraw, despite overwhelming odds.
Of course, for that argument to fly, you’re going to have to convince a war weary public that either 5000 or 10,000 troops for training purposes are going to significantly alter Iraq’s own course of progress and stability. That’s a long stretch for anyone’s imagination. But the Iraq withdrawal event has no positive impact for a flailing Obama presidency without some adversity to overcome, resulting in the favor of his far left base. So the drama and hype must be spin for any kind of tangible political benefit.
MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien (linked above in paragraph five) fully admits this is the case when he says:
And for as much friendly fire that the president has taken from the left for unfinished campaign trail promises, Obama’s move to withdraw troops marks a moment of deep satisfaction for his base, whom he’s courting again heading into next fall’s election.
It also helps burnish Obama’s foreign policy credentials on top of a string of accomplishments this year. Khaddafy’s death Thursday in Libya provided some measure of validation of the president’s measured strategy toward the rebellion there. U.S. predator drones also managed to assassinate a major al-Qaeda figure, Anwar al-Awlaki, last month. And Obama’s scored perhaps no greater achievement than the successful killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year in Pakistan — something to which Obama made reference Friday.
Of course, we have the added problem of GOP candidates falling for this trick, hook line and sinker. It’s no coincidence that Michael O’Brien tag teams his hype by reporting that Romney is up in arms about the decision to honor the original SOFA… and that unnamed scores of GOP agree.
Romney sharply criticized the announcement this afternoon by Obama that all troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, fulfilling one of Obama’s main promises from the 2008 campaign, that he would end the war in Iraq.
“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women,” Romney said in a statement. “The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”
Romney’s sentiment is in tune with what Republicans have said Friday afternoon; most GOP voices have expressed concern that the withdrawal would imperil progress made after almost nine years’ worth of war in Iraq.
“I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the President is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the most vocal proponents of the war, in a statement.
MSNBC isn’t the only one to seize the moment of opportunity. The LA Times official (meaning “unnamed”) op-ed takes the ball and runs with their title, “On Iraq, Obama’s GOP critics take the political low road.”
Are you getting a grip on the game plan yet? Have you kept in mind this is all about *five thousand troops there for training purposes only?* Sucker punch, indeed.
Yes… one can hear the leftist MSNBC’s drums of war soundtrack – probably an old Paul Simon archived track – snickering as they gleefully set up the GOP fools for playing the war mongers over the next year….
… did I mention this was all over 5000, not combat, but training personnel???
Unfortunately, Herman Cain’s handlers didn’t prepare the candidate for the trap either. Cain stepped into the bear trap not only willingly, but made sure it clamped tight around his ankles when he not only donned the war monger mask, but blamed the SOFA agreement on Obama.
….sigh… It appears that consultants for the GOP field better start getting educated to the way the game is played, and stop helping the opposition by being the moth drawn to the light in the bug zapper.
So it will be another year of Iraq as a campaign issue… only this time attempting to make a non story, *the* story of Obama heroism, while still hijacking the credit and truth of withdrawal timetable schedule from Bush and the Iraqis. And, of course, the GOPers are already jumping on the band wagon to claim the war monger title that, if they thought for a minute, is far more attributable to this Commander in Chief. Talk about letting a great moment go to waste…. it’s a time to be shouting that the Bush withdrawal should be adhered to, and not allow that wind to go into Obama’s sails.
In the end, enough is enough. The troop numbers requested, and their tasks, will not make a dent in the Iraqis continued progress. And if they are so necessary, they can acquiesce to US terms for their presence. If not, it’s time to go home and see how the Iraqis do on their own.
Mini-update here with another lost opportunity, slipping thru the GOP’s fingers on Iraq. It was never the Bush admin’s intention to have permanent bases in Iraq, as even the liberal Salon pointed out in 2006. Within that article are quotes from Def Sec’y Rumsfeld, CentCom commander Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett, and Karen Hughes, reiterating we wanted to get the job done, and leave.
But all that has changed, and it is now the Obama administration, playing war monger-in-chief. Why? The less than stellar harbingers of those so called “freedom fighters” in the Arab Spring uprisings, and the unstability in their aftermath, providing inroads to radical anti-American jihad groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
The question now is why the US is insistent upon keeping up the presence despite the costs.
For sure, the recent developments in the Arab world, the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators and the prospect of change in the configuration of the Persian Gulf Arab regimes would affect the US decision to remain in Iraq.
The changes, which have so far taken place, are definitely not in the interests of the US and the Israeli regime. Washington is, therefore, seriously concerned about the upheavals.
The crisis in the tiny island of Bahrain has compelled the US to seek a new location for its Fifth Fleet.
From the perspective of the US, Iraq, having passed the stage of the Arab uprisings, will enjoy greater stability in the future compared to other small Persian Gulf states.
Again… sucker punched. Letting Obama seize the Bush/Iraq success as his own, twisting the negotiations to make him look like the leftist hero to appease his base, and dodging the reality that it is Obama – not Bush – who wants to permanently occupy Iraq.