Both parties work to churn out myths regarding the President's announcement that all troops will leave by year end
Topics: Politics News
(updated below – Update II – Update III [Sat.])
President Obama announced today that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, and this announcement is being seized upon exactly the way you would predict: by the Right to argue that Obama is a weak, appeasing Chamberlain and by Democrats to hail his greatness for keeping his promise and (yet again) Ending the War. It’s obviously a good thing that these troops are leaving Iraq, but let’s note three clear facts before either of these absurd narratives ossify:
First, the troop withdrawal is required by an agreement which George W. Bush negotiated and entered into with Iraq and which was ratified by the Iraqi Parliament prior to Obama’s inauguration. Let’s listen to the White House itself today: “’This deal was cut by the Bush administration, the agreement was always that at end of the year we would leave. . . .’ an administration official said.” As I said, it’s a good thing that this agreement is being adhered to, and one can reasonably argue that Obama’s campaign advocacy for the war’s end influenced the making of that agreement, but the Year End 2011 withdrawal date was agreed to by the Bush administration and codified by them in a binding agreement.
Second, the Obama administration has been working for months to persuade, pressure and cajole Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain in that country beyond the deadline. The reason they’re being withdrawn isn’t because Obama insisted on this, but because he tried — but failed — to get out of this obligation. Again, listen to the White House itself:
The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq expires at the end of the year. Officials had been discussing the possibility of maintaining several thousand U.S. troops to train Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqis wanted troops to stay but would not give them immunity, a key demand of the administration. . . .
“The Iraqis wanted additional troops to stay,” an administration official said. “We said here are the conditions, including immunities. But the Iraqis because of a variety of reasons wanted the troops and didn’t want to give immunity.”
The Obama administration — as it’s telling you itself — was willing to keep troops in Iraq after the 2011 deadline (indeed, they weren’t just willing, but eager). The only reason they aren’t is because the Iraqi Government refused to agree that U.S. soldiers would be immunized if they commit serious crimes, such as gunning down Iraqis without cause . As we know, the U.S. is not and must never be subject to the rule of law when operating on foreign soil (and its government and owners must never be subject to the rule of law in any context). So Obama was willing (even desirous) to keep troops there, but the Iraqis refused to meet his demands (more on that fact from Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin).
Third, there will still be a very substantial presence in that country, including what McClatchy called a “small army” under the control of the State Department. They will remain indefinitely, and that includes a large number of private contractors.
None of this is to say that this is bad news (it isn’t: it’s good news), nor is it to say that Obama deserves criticism for adhering to the withdrawal plan (he doesn’t). It would just be nice if these central facts — painfully at odds with the two self-serving narratives that started being churned out before the President even spoke — were acknowledged.
I believe the country has not even gotten close to coming to terms with the magnitude of the national crime that was the attack on Iraq (I think that’s why we’re so eager to find pride and purpose in the ocean of Bad Guy corpses our military generates: tellingly, the only type of event that generates collective national celebrations these days). Needless to say, none of the responsible leaders for that attack have been punished; many continue to serve right this very minute in key positions (such as Vice President and Secretary of State); and (other than scapegoated Judy Miller) none of the media stars and think-tank “scholars” who cheered it on and enabled it have suffered an iota of stigma or loss of credibility. The aggressive war waged on Iraq began by virtue of a huge cloud of deceit and propaganda; perhaps it could end without that.
* * * * *
The schedule for my book tour, beginning next week, has been updated and changed; that will likely continue to happen, so those interested should periodically check that schedule, though I’ll try to note significant changes here as well.
UPDATE: Over at Wired, Spencer Ackerman documents the ongoing reality in Iraq and writes: “President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. ‘That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,’ he said. Don’t believe him.” Digby adds that the administration ”clearly didn’t want this outcome and lobbied hard to get the Iraqis to push back the deadline” and thus concludes: “after everything our government has done in this region over the past few years, I think these facts argue for skepticism rather than celebration.” But as we’ve seen over and over, nothing is less welcome that these sorts of clouding facts that get in the way of a political celebration.
UPDATE II: Here’s the headline and first couple paragraphs on the “Iraq withdrawal” from National Journal:
Watch to see whether these facts are included or ignored in the prevailing narrative about this event.
UPDATE III [Sat.]: This Washington Post article provides more details about the private contractor force being assembled by the State Department (h/t Teri49):
The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military . . . . Attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that could remain in Iraq. But those forces will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.
Think Progress previously described the State Department’s efforts to block oversight actions with regard to its new private army.
More Related Stories
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of three New York Times Bestselling books: two on the Bush administration's executive power and foreign policy abuses, and his latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, an indictment of America's
two-tiered system of justice. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.