WaPo wonders whether Obama, media truthful on Iraq

posted at 8:45 am on July 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Washington Post questions the spin that Barack Obama and the media have put on the response from Iraq to Obama’s proposals for withdrawal, and at the same time questions either the intelligence or the honesty of the Democratic nominee on the surge.  In its lead editorial, the Post points out that Iraq in fact fears a rapid withdrawal of US forces, and that Obama’s understanding of the region leaves something to be desired:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki’s timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama’s. More significant, it would be “a timetable which Iraqis set” — not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki “wants some flexibility in terms of how that’s carried out.”

Other Iraqi leaders were more directly critical. As Mr. Obama acknowledged, Sunni leaders in Anbar province told him that American troops are essential to maintaining the peace among Iraq’s rival sects and said they were worried about a rapid drawdown.

All of these points have been made repeatedly by John McCain, and apparently by Petraeus to Obama in their meeting. The 16-month timeframe won’t work logistically in any case, but Obama clings to it regardless. Obama claims that Iraq is still a distraction, and that our attention should turn to Afghanistan instead. The Post scoffs at the notion that Iraq is not strategically important to the US:

Yet Mr. Obama’s account of his strategic vision remains eccentric. He insists that Afghanistan is “the central front” for the United States, along with the border areas of Pakistan. But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country’s strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world’s largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama’s antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.

Exactly.  The “distraction” argument ignores a great deal of obvious reality.  Iraq has massive oil reserves, which in the wrong hands could provide far more funding to terrorists than the Afghan opium crops do now, and with much less international resistance.  Iraq’s central location in southwest Asia, as well as its port of Umm Qasr, make it a highly strategic nation in commerce, politics, and especially in containing Iranian hegemony.  A strong and democratic Iraq makes Iran less able to extend its power in the region.

Afghanistan, however, isn’t the non-entity that the Post somewhat implies here, either.  We need more resources there precisely because we can’t invade Pakistan.   We have to work mostly on the defensive for the next several years while we get Afghanistan’s security forces strong enough to defend themselves, just as we did in Iraq.  Afghanistan could also be critical for Iranian containment, if we can strengthen them enough.  That’s why Afghanistan should be an international project — and why we should be pressing the same allies among whom Obama’s busy holding political rallies for more resources.

We shouldn’t scoff at redeploying resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, but we should do so in a way that enhances the security of both nations rather than worrying about enhancing the political prospects of one particular presidential candidate.


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Obama’s lack of any experience in this crucial situation is becoming so evident that it is embarrassing someone so inept can actually be in a position of running for president. If this is the best the democrats have, they are in deep trouble.

volsense on July 23, 2008 at 8:55 AM

The Washington Post questions the spin that Barack Obama and the media have put on the response from Iraq to Obama’s proposals for withdrawal, and at the same time questions either the intelligence or the honesty of the Democratic nominee on the surge.

I thought Ed Rendell and Bernie Goldberg made great points re: Obama’s Iraq trip last night on FNC. Rendell said the big story out of Iraq was that the Iraqis agreed with Obama’s plan to get us out of Iraq, and put McCain on the defensive. Goldberg said nobody cares how many gaffes or how much media bias is in favor of Obama; all people will care about is that Obama was on the world stage and shook hands with Maliki and the Afghans and various Europeans.

I do find myself very surprised, however, that Obama is taking media criticism. The media must have been really embarrassed over the blatancy of its Obama fawning and figure they have to throw at least a few bad editorials in there to maintain the premise of objectivity.

Outlander on July 23, 2008 at 8:59 AM

The MSM has been in the tank for Obama and against the Iraq war all along so why should they change now?

TooTall on July 23, 2008 at 9:00 AM

Obama seems to be pushing the issue of Afghanistan…could that be because he wants to invade Pakistan? Didn’t he mention in a previous speech that he would consider invading Pakistan so as to get Bin Laden?

Perhaps, he wants voters to think he will be the Chosen One to capture Bin Laden.

I agree that Iraq is the central front still…I feel if we leave too early the “bad guys” will show their faces yet again.

becki51758 on July 23, 2008 at 9:01 AM

All of these points have been made repeatedly by John McCain, and apparently by Petraeus to Obama in their meeting.

And repeatedly by me to AllahPundit while he was chugging down the media’s spin on Maliki’s statements.

Seixon on July 23, 2008 at 9:02 AM

he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010.

Which is, of course, 24 months away from inauguration day, not sixteen.

Akzed on July 23, 2008 at 9:06 AM

I have a great idea!

Let’s let the high school debate champ run this country!

How bout that? What could go wrong???

benrand on July 23, 2008 at 9:06 AM

Can anyone cite the salient differences between Obama’s Iraq plan and Bush’s Iraq plan?

I can’t.

Not since Obama refused to say how many troops he would have remain in Iraq.

And right now US troops are safer in Iraq than in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama cannot end the war in Iraq.

The war is over.

The peace is not secure, but the war is over.

drjohn on July 23, 2008 at 9:22 AM

becki51758 on July 23, 2008 at 9:01 AM

Afghanistan is a whole different animal than Iraq in terms of tactics. I’m not sure throwing lots more troops in will have the same effect it did in Iraq. The terrain is different and so are the indigs. The Taliban is nurtured by Pakistan. That isn’t going to stop without some massive carnage in the Northwest Province and NATO isn’t going to do that. We’re not going to win the hearts and minds of the Pashtuns and we won’t destroy all their villages to break them.

a capella on July 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM

Blind, ignorant, or just plain stupid…

With Democrats, simply take your pick. With Obama, all three fit the mold quite nicely.

Keemo on July 23, 2008 at 9:25 AM

Even WaPo gets it & it ‘s a shame that Fox Special Report panel still don’t.
‘nough said.

Anita on July 23, 2008 at 9:26 AM

a capella on July 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM

I agree…and I haven’t heard anything from Obama about how useless NATO is. He seems to want to use this as another way to slam President Bush. Of course, it is all Bush’s fault there is still violence in Afghanistan.

My son-in-law was stationed in Afghanistan when the war first started. The terrain is horrible..the pictures he brought home showed nothing but desolate landscape…kinda like ANWR.

becki51758 on July 23, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Doesn’t matter. The MSM has now successfully gotten the “Maliki agrees with Obama” meme out there, and they aren’t going to reel it back in.

rbj on July 23, 2008 at 9:33 AM

Obama said he’d listen to the commanders on the ground.

They disagree with him but the water carrying press isn’t focusing on that at all given the thrills up their legs.

It’s not at all clear if Obama will listen. He won’t clarify how many troops would remain in Iraq, but remain they will.

drjohn on July 23, 2008 at 9:44 AM

Lots of not fundamentally evil people are confused by
Obama. Why is he so hopeless? Why is he so inconsistent?
I say Obama is not inconsistent. He has an agenda which
he cannot yet reveal. He has to lie for now, and he’s not
good at lying, but he knows what he wants:

My opinion: Obama is a muslim with a plan to remove American power from the world.

There are five steps, I won’t call them pillars as that might imply some respect for his religion.

1) Ratify The Law of the Sea Treaty. This gives the UN the ability to regulate what happens on the oceans. Eventually the Navy will be unable to operate.

2) Ratify Son of Kyoto. This would force a massive transfer of wealth from the first world to the third world, fatally weakening our industrial base.

3) Give the International Criminal Court at the Hague final authority over our laws. No commander will ever feel safe to engage in war fighting again.

4) Agree that the UN Directive on The Disarmament of Civilian Populations must apply to the USA too. There is a Supreme Court problem, but our victory was down to only one man. That can be dealt with. Don’t just dismiss it.

5) This one is really easy. Ensure that no decent American volunteers continue to enlist in the military and serve under him. All he needs to do is to continue to act like the total asshol that he is.

These five steps will reduce the USA to a second rate country within a few years and make safe the rise of the New Caliphate in the Middle East.
That’s what it has always been about. Obama isn’t stupid. He has to lie and lying is difficult so he makes errors.

I believe that it would be fair to say that Obama is trying to kill the USA.

davem on July 23, 2008 at 9:48 AM

The Left has infantilized this debate for 3 years now, repeating the mantra that the “real war on terror is in Afghanistan.” How many times have we heard Nancy Pelosi repeat that line like a freaking robot? It’s become an article of faith for liberals and no reality on the ground is going to change their minds on it. It’s what they sold America in 2006 to win Congress back, and they think it will get them the White House this year. It’s a slogan, not a policy, but that is all Democrats appear capable of giving us.

Democrats went “all in” for defeat in Iraq in 2006. They were sure we were losing, and they were determined to make sure we did, so they could spend the next 40 years blaming Bush and the Republicans. They blew it, and now we have actually won the war in Iraq, but they are stuck with the tar baby of defeat now. So they are desperately trying to change the subject back to Afghanistan and Osama, hoping that perhaps we can still lose there and give them the defeat they crave.

Barack Obama is really playing with fire here. Trying to act all macho and waving his you-know-what around to Pakistan – a country with a half-billion Muslims, a shaky government, and nuclear weapons. Who gives a crap about Osama bin Laden anymore? We have pretty much wiped out Al Qaeda, and bin Laden is a cipher with no troops and no power. He is exactly where we need him to be. We’ve avoided making him a martyr by killing him and avoided having to give him a lawyer and a trial by capturing him. Yet Obama seems ready to do just that, and risk a nuclear war with Pakistan in the process. If this doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should. If this man is elected President, we may end up with a situation that will make the Cuban Missile Crisis look like a day at the playground.

The Post is doing yeoman’s work here, trying to drag the rest of the media into a reality check on Obama and the rest of the Democrats. As I said following their last editorial, the folks at the Post have had a front row seat for Presidential Potty Training a few times now and they know how ugly it can be. Because all the leading pols do read the Post every day, it may actually have some influence here. Let’s hope so.

rockmom on July 23, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Iraq has the unique opportunity to become the strongest of Arab nations and an international powerhouse.

Now past the need to neutralize (eliminate) Hussein for all of the obvious reasons he posed, Ed points out the concluding rationale that required our attention with Iraq in his paragraph “Exactly. Iraq has…”

Now Obama’s famous quip applies:
Iraq is not the Iraq I knew.”
It is no longer nomads no man’s land to the West.
It is no longer an imposed monarchy.
It is no longer an anti-Western dictatorship.
IRAQ IS AN ISLAMIC CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY.

Congratulations are in order for GWB having midwifed the new Iraqi identity against ALL odds, united resistance from both Islam and Germany/France, et.al. that made our allies buckle under duress.

There is folklore that says once you save a life, you are thereafter responsible for it. Compassionate conservatism may have all of the finest intentions, but that has no power over the new Iraq legitimately elected power players. So beware any “trust” or “friendship” as the slightest tick will set off the worst response. Whatever al-Maliki hints has more relevance in reality than what pussification he publicly endorses. Right now is when the USA has the winning hand of cards in this game called life; don’t fold to pacify the intolerant. At this point of negotiations for transfer of power, we need to stick to our guns and demand our due:
1. Oil in lieu of the lives of our troops and for the huge expense covering their liberation, and a permanent oil sales treaty once the above expenses are paid;
2. Permanent US Military Installation in Iraq protecting our oil interests with them and allowing our deployment through Iraq elsewhere.

Nothing in life is free. And the Iraqis know as well as anyone that there is nothing free about Freedom.

As per future political forecasts regarding Iraq/Babylon, we have our own book of scriptures prophesying what becomes of Babylon the Great in her many incarnations:

Jeremiah 51:49
“Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.

Revelation 14:8
A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

Revelation 18:2
With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.

Heaven forbid Obama leadership into corruption.

maverick muse on July 23, 2008 at 9:52 AM

The media must have been really embarrassed over the blatancy of its Obama fawning and figure they have to throw at least a few bad editorials in there to maintain the premise of objectivity.
Outlander on July 23, 2008 at 8:59 AM

Don’t expect this kind of “objectivity” from Shipley’s “believe it or not” New York Times.

Rovin on July 23, 2008 at 10:04 AM

volsense on July 23, 2008 at 8:55 AM

You would think…but how many voters out there are really paying attention beyond what they see on TV?

WisCon on July 23, 2008 at 10:21 AM

I don’t understand why no one is talking about Obama’s remarks to the press about Gen Petraeus not understanding the costs of the Iraq war and that he (Obama) was looking at the “big picture” and taking into account the overall cost to our economy. I thought he was talking down to our military leaders and I have not heard a single comment from McCain’s campaign? Am I missing something?

luckybogey on July 23, 2008 at 10:21 AM

following up my point above…….. from the NYT:

Mr. Obama conceded that the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, opposed setting a timetable for withdrawing forces. But if elected president, Mr. Obama said he would have to factor in a wider degree of concerns, including boosting the U.s. economy as well as expanding the fight in Afghanistan, a situation he called “perilous and urgent.”

“If I were in his shoes, I’d probably feel the same way,” Mr. Obama said of Gen. Petraeus. “But my job as a candidate for president and a potential commander in chief extends beyond Iraq, so what we saw in Afghanistan, for example, where you’ve got a deteriorating security situation and all the commanders uniformly indicated that two to three brigades would be extraordinarily helpful in allowing =them to accomplish their goals.”

He added, “The only way we’re going to get those troops over there in a meaningful way is if we are taking them from someplace else. So that’s something that I have to factor in.”

Again, I don’t understand by McCain did not address this directly and immediately.

luckybogey on July 23, 2008 at 10:38 AM

He added, “The only way we’re going to get those troops over there in a meaningful way is if we are taking them from someplace else. So that’s something that I have to factor in.”

Translation: I have to figure in the things that Petraeus hasn’t thought about because he doesn’t get the big picture.

So Obama goes to Iraq to speak to a General who has just pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in military history, and he starts implying that the guy doesn’t have a grasp of the situation as profound as his own.

How long ago was it that Hillary said it required a suspension of disbelief to believe the same General?

And people don’t have confidence in Democrats when it comes to national security? Go figure!

drunyan8315 on July 23, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Blackfive noted that in a recent attack article on McCain, Time magazine made a stunning admission. Not only is the Iraq ‘quagmire’ no longer unwinnable, it is, in fact, actually un-losable.

BohicaTwentyTwo on July 23, 2008 at 11:22 AM

WaPo wonders whether Obama, media truthful on Iraq

The Messiah, will give the Iraqis a Chicago gangsta deal they can’t refuse.

byteshredder on July 23, 2008 at 11:38 AM

If the Washington Post thinks that Obama’s strategic view of Iraq is eccentric, and Katie Couric is asking Obama tough questions and not getting a straight answer, Obama is in trouble.

The MSM were willing to fawn over Obama when he was all about vague HopenChange, but when Obama’s stubbornness flies in the face of facts and logic, they have a dilemma: Do they keep propping up Obama, and lose all credibility? After all, even if Obama becomes President, the WaPo will still have to sell newspapers, and CBS will need advertisers in 2009, and who will buy if they’re not credible?

Steve Z on July 23, 2008 at 12:09 PM

Last week (16 July 2008) The Washington Post Editorial Board referred to Sen. Obama’s views on Iraq as “irrational” and “ahistorical” (see Hot Air Archive and links:>http://hotair.com/archives/2008/07/16/the-i-cant-afford-another-flip-flop-timetable/ ).

Today, in speaking about his strategic thinking on Iraq, they say:

Yet Mr. Obama’s account of his strategic vision remains eccentric.

“Irrational”, “ahistoric”, “eccentric”.

These are powerful words.

These are words which “take no prisoners”.

They are not nuanced.

In using language such as this in regard to the foreign policy centrepiece of the media’s annointed Messiah the Washington Post is making significant judgements about Sen. Obama’s intellectual approach…even ability…in dealing with the most important foreign policy issue facing the United States.

This is not coming from McCain, nor from conservative bloggers. This is coming from one of the most important newspapers in the entire United States. This needs to be emphasized by every commentator. Why isn’t the rest of the MSM picking up on this?

If this does not find its way into McCain campaign ads, it leads to another question: “Why did Sen. McCain work so hard to get the GOP nomination if he didn’t want to win the election?”

Blaise on July 23, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Blaise

This editorial from the Washington Post is very surprising to me. They are indeed harsh with Obama. I get the feeling we may see the paper endorse McCain!

Vince on July 23, 2008 at 12:54 PM

I dunno Vince…but something’s going on over there. Maybe someone’s actually looking at what Sen. Obama’s saying/doing.

Blaise on July 23, 2008 at 1:16 PM

The Post supported the invasion of Iraq and stuck to its basic support, even when things looked pretty bleak there. It never went in for the BDS antiwar stuff. So don’t get the idea that this is some dramatic reversal on its part.

The important thing here is that the Post is continuing to send a very loud message to Obama – and the the rest of the media, if they will listen – that he is a lightweight and this stuff is way too important for simplistic sloganeering and talking points. I think the Post fears another Jimmy Carter disaster here.

rockmom on July 23, 2008 at 1:44 PM

“…meme out there, and they aren’t going to reel it back in.
rbj on July 23, 2008 at 9:33 AM

“meme out there” What kind of comment is that?
A writer at Der Spiegel wrote…

The reason the magazine scores so many high level interviews is that the editors agree to allow the subjects to “authorize” the interviews before they go to press. It wasn’t just a slip of the tongue, in other words: Maliki not only endorsed Obama’s plans for withdrawing from Iraq, but his office then explicitly approved the endorsement before it was printed.

“…The denials, then, were doubly facetious. Spiegel couldn’t say so, though, without revealing its embarrassing authorization policy.”

J_Gocht on July 23, 2008 at 2:30 PM