Panetta memoir blames Obama for collapse in Iraq

posted at 10:41 am on October 2, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s memoir has a release date of next Tuesday, but it may make headlines for the next several days. According to Taegan Goddard at Political WireWorthy Fights blames the Obama administration for allowing Iraq to collapse, thanks to a political desire to pull out trumping the security needs that should have had us maintain our presence and exert our influence to keep Sunnis and Shi’ites working together:

Panetta writes that “our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.”

The Washington Free Beacon has a longer excerpt:

Through the fall of 2011, the main question facing the American military in Iraq was what our role would be now that combat operations were over. When President Obama announced the end of our combat mission in August 2010, he acknowledged that we would maintain troops for a while. Now that the deadline was upon us, however, it was clear to me–and many others–that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together.

Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval.

That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal. We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.

To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

In other words, this mirrors the reporting at the time — that Obama allowed the opportunity to slip away through apathy and a lack of leadership. No doubt the failure of that effort to reach a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) fit within his political goals. Obama wanted to be able to claim that he’d achieved his promise of withdrawing all troops from Iraq, a major theme of his 2012 re-election campaign; in fact, he sounded offended during one of the debates when Mitt Romney suggested that Obama had actually wanted a new SOFA.

“What I would not have done,” Obama declared in October 2012, “is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down — that certainly would not help us.” And that was the party line until the ISIS onslaught of the summer, when Obama tried rewriting history in mid-June:

Panetta’s memoir sets this record straight once and for all. Obama might have tolerated a SOFA if it was handed to him on a silver platter (making what he said in October 2012 a flat-out lie), but wasn’t going to lift a finger to get it (making his June 2014 statement untrue as well).

This isn’t a new revelation from Panetta, however. A week before Obama went on 60 Minutes to claim that the ISIS surprise was caused by the intelligence community underestimating the threat, Panetta preceded him on 60 Minutes to discuss the withdrawal from Iraq. Panetta told Scott Pelley that it was a mistake, and he knew it at the time, but that Obama was determined to abandon Iraq:

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says his old boss, President Barack Obama, erred when he failed to leave a residual military force in Iraq – and when he didn’t opt to arm the Free Syrian Army earlier.

“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Panetta said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Panetta said he and Obama’s other advisers thought that at least 8,000 U.S. troops should have stayed in Iraq. “And frankly, having those troops there I think would’ve given us greater leverage on [Prime Minister Nouri al-]Maliki to try to force him to do the right thing as well.”

Panetta also says that Obama ignored the advice of his national-security team in regard to Syria as well:

Panetta says in his new book “Worthy Fights” that he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey all urged Obama in the fall of 2012 to arm the Syrian rebels, who are fighting a three-way civil war with ISIS and the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

Panetta says he believes Obama feared that providing weapons to the Free Syrian Army might have been a mistake if they had wound in the hands of our enemies.

But Panetta told “60 Minutes” he believes arming them at the time would have helped.

“And I think in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS,” he said.

In the same show, Panetta also warned that it would take a very long time to defeat ISIS, and that the American public isn’t being warned sufficiently of the time and resources it will take:

Scott Pelley: When we see these ISIS soldiers on these videos say, “We’re coming for you, America.” Is that idle boasting? Or are they a threat here at home?

Leon Panetta: I think they are a threat. I think they’re as dangerous, as fanatical as terrorist as Al Qaeda was. And they have a large number of foreign fighters with foreign passports that make them particularly dangerous to the safety of this country.

Scott Pelley: How long does it take to destroy ISIS?

Leon Panetta: I think it’s going to take a long time. And I think the American people need to know it’s going to take a long time.


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Comments

What does Panetta know, it’s not as if Dog Eater appointed him or anything.

Bishop on October 2, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Another Clintonite throwing Obama under the bus.

GOPRanknFile on October 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Its all for Hillary. Every word is designed to distinguish her from Barack Obumbles.

The truth is these are progressive Democrat failures. Hillary never objected, and she certainly didnt resign in disgust. Panetta either.

The Progressives brought these disasters to America, and Panetta played his part just as Hillary played her part. BO wasn’t out there fighting against conventional wisdom every step if the way, they were all in lockstep together.

Get a life Panetta.

MTF on October 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Artificial peace was never sustainable.

Iraq was always going to be a mess as long as it’s inhabited by Muslims.
It doesn’t matter if we left in 2014 or 2100.
The end result would have been the same.

And before some neo-con comes back and says “we still have a presence in Germany!!!”

You keep ignoring the Muslim element, well that’s your problem.

weedisgood on October 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

It never pays to piss off the intelligence community…..

sorrowen on October 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

MTF on October 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Spot on – great post

jake-the-goose on October 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Obama lied….again. In other news, the sun came up this morning.

GarandFan on October 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Panetta, you cowardly POS.
Nice of you to grow a spine once you’re gone. You got yours, so now all bets are off. How about if you had exposed the POSUS while you were in one of your several appointments?
Better late than never, I guess.

freedomfirst on October 2, 2014 at 10:59 AM

To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them.

Gee, who could have foreseen that someone with absolutely no accomplishments and no executive experience couldn’t lead on anything?

rbj on October 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM

What does his book say about Benghazi…?

d1carter on October 2, 2014 at 11:03 AM

This may be the biggest no-brainer of this idiots presidency: Not negotiating a status of forces agreement leads to anarchy. Even a dead cockroach could have figured this one out. Unless it smokes weed, of course.

NotCoach on October 2, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Its all for Hillary. Every word is designed to distinguish her from Barack Obumbles.

The truth is these are progressive Democrat failures. Hillary never objected, and she certainly didnt resign in disgust. Panetta either.

The Progressives brought these disasters to America, and Panetta played his part just as Hillary played her part. BO wasn’t out there fighting against conventional wisdom every step if the way, they were all in lockstep together.

Get a life Panetta.

MTF on October 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Thought this could use a “reset”.

M240H on October 2, 2014 at 11:11 AM

I’m like others who worry this is just to show that Hillary knew the right thing to do.

Cindy Munford on October 2, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Panetta is not that bright but he is honest.

Schadenfreude on October 2, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Operation Enduring Clusterfvck.

TXUS on October 2, 2014 at 11:21 AM

And before some neo-con comes back and says “we still have a presence in Germany!!!”

You keep ignoring the Muslim element, well that’s your problem.

weedisgood on October 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Except that in Europe we have a European element.

Remember, we’ve had to rescue the Europeans from their own disastrous experiments with socialism in two world wars.

Given that the President has unwisely chosen to reduce America’s military and its influence around the world, its unlikely that we’ll be able to accomplish that feat a 3rd time around. A concern that is highly relevant considering the world stage seems to be setting itself up for a 3rd world war.

The European element in Europe, is analagous to the Muslim element in the Middle East.

Iraq was largely stable when George W. Bush stepped down. It really only swung wildly out of control increasingly as our presence there was diminished by our unwise President.

Star Bird on October 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Panetta is looking for a job in the Hillary Cabinet…

albill on October 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Thought this could use a “reset”.

M240H on October 2, 2014 at 11:11 AM

The bimbos at the State Department just bought some more.

Star Bird on October 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

No doubt the failure of that effort to reach a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) fit within his political goals.

Obama is all politics all of the time. He is unable to comprehend a more complex strategy other than forwarding his own narcissistic ambitions. He totally lacks any semblance of leadership skills, even if he actually placed the interests of this nation above his own. He sacrificed American interests in order to further his own stated political goals.
Panetta is now coming forward when the horse is out of the barn. Where was he when it really mattered? He’s just another Dem shill who has the talent to do better, but like Obama, places politics at the forefront.
Regrettably, it seems doubtful that such stooges can be purged from political office, due to the abundance of LIV’s, and the continuing illegal importation of a populace completely ignorant of the responsibilities of a citizen of a republic to refrain from voting such idiots into public office.

bobthm3 on October 2, 2014 at 11:32 AM

History is being written. Panetta’s book will be around long after people remember him as a Clinton stooge.

Mallard T. Drake on October 2, 2014 at 11:35 AM

This may be the biggest no-brainer of this idiots presidency: Not negotiating a status of forces agreement leads to anarchy. Even a dead cockroach could have figured this one out. Unless it smokes weed, of course.

NotCoach on October 2, 2014 at 11:06 AM

BINGO..!!

Politics – in the mind of our very first and only “Post-Partisan POTUS” – once again trumped the best interests of our Nation.
Idiot indeed.

Pelosi Schmelosi on October 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

I hate these post-office tell-alls filled with stuff that the “author” should have been pounding the table about AT THE TIME. I don’t recall Panetta being critical of pulling troops out of Iraq at the time it would have mattered.

Happy Nomad on October 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Scott Pelley: How long does it take to destroy ISIS?

Leon Panetta: I think it’s going to take a long time. And I think the American people need to know it’s going to take a long time.

Precisely translated: “It will take the next two years while Obama is still in office, and then the next eight years while Shrillary is in office, at which time it will be they be blamed on Republicans again.

parke on October 2, 2014 at 11:37 AM

Panetta is not that bright but he is honest.

Schadenfreude on October 2, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Actually, I understand that Panetta, Gates and Petraeus were all considered bright by those who dealt with them. Sadly, that is not the case with some other officials.

KW64 on October 2, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Panetta is now coming forward when the horse is out of the barn. Where was he when it really mattered?
bobthm3 on October 2, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Just my opinion but it seems that a number of Obama’s Cabinet types and advisors have provided POTUS O’Blamer with a whole bunch of information on a host of subjects. But being the narcissist and “smartest man in the room” that he is, OBlahBlah simply won’t listen.
Smug, arrogant, stupid SOB.

Pelosi Schmelosi on October 2, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Jimmy Carter, reloaded.

Ward Cleaver on October 2, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Gee Leon, why were you so silent while you were SecDef? Why come out now? Maybe if you and others had sounded the alarm a few years ago – we might not be facing another ground battle in Iraq.

Thanks you POS.

Hill60 on October 2, 2014 at 11:53 AM

All of the sweat,blood,and hard work gone in a flash.I hope that bunch that made those decisions lose their heads to ISIS first.We’re in deep Kim Chi.

docflash on October 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Great to see Panetta’s using his ex boss strategy of passing the blame. Poetic justice.

RdLake on October 2, 2014 at 12:05 PM

I wonder if his book will tell the truth about the Osama-kill mission, like at what point was Barry told that the mission was underway.

slickwillie2001 on October 2, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Obama is a better national-security team than his national-security team!

Look for Obama to sic all of his Heathers on Panetta now.

OxyCon on October 2, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Great to see Panetta’s using his ex boss strategy of passing the blame. Poetic justice.

RdLake on October 2, 2014 at 12:05 PM

and clear the way for Killary 2016

workingclass artist on October 2, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Rats ratting out larger rats, in order to shift blame.

It’s the Democrat way.

orangemtl on October 2, 2014 at 12:46 PM

New daytime game show entitled, “The Blame Game” in 3…2…1….

vnvet on October 2, 2014 at 12:59 PM

History is being written. Long after it is remembered that Panetta is a Clinton stooge, this book, by Obama’s SecofDef, will still be on the shelves.

Mallard T. Drake on October 2, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Obama’s memoir should be a hoot. Working title, “Pointing Fingers, My Time in the Oval Office.”

Mallard T. Drake on October 2, 2014 at 1:04 PM

And like Obama, you think if you ignore it long enough you can pretend the mess will resolve itself instead of metastisizing.

How’s that goin’?

And before some neo-con comes back and says “we still have a presence in Germany!!!”

You keep ignoring the Muslim element, well that’s your problem.

weedisgood on October 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Recon5 on October 2, 2014 at 2:57 PM

So according to Panetta, all the interested factions in Iraq wanted the deal but refused to approve it when Maliki “concluded” he had to take it to the Parliament.

Even Obama, the guy that told us repeatedly he wanted no such deal in his campaign speeches and his interviews and his debates.

This contradicts information in other reports, and from our own Ambassador.

Panetta doesn’t disclose why Maliki concluded he had to get the approval of his Parliament. Other reports say he reached that conclusion after State told him it would be necessary, instead of the executive agreement he’d discussed with our Iraqi Ambassador.

Recon5 on October 2, 2014 at 3:17 PM

Panetta’s doing his part in trying to salvage the Democratic Party from the legacy that is now the ruination called Obama.

If Panetta was all this aware and disagreeable with Obama’s wants, why the heck say so now? Where was he years ago?

This is Panetta trying to look out for Hillary and any other Democrat who wants a big office. And it’s too little too late.

Lourdes on October 3, 2014 at 10:07 AM