NYT Baghdad bureau chief: The White House lied to Americans for years about what bad shape Iraq was in

Via Ace, something to keep in mind tonight while The One is doing his johnny-on-the-spot shtick about fighting jihadism in Iraq. “Lie” is my word, not Tim Arango’s, but read his comment and tell me what’s more likely. That the vast American intelligence community was “ignorant” of how bad things were in a country where we’d spent eight years developing assets? Or that the White House had every reason to know how dangerous Iraq was becoming but chose to suppress that information because the truth was problematic?


Is “ignorant” really the best word to describe willful blindness to a politically inconvenient truth? Obama got elected promising to bring the troops home; the only way he could do that without major domestic headaches was to claim that Iraq didn’t need them anymore. So he did, the truth notwithstanding. Imagine how many low-information voters will watch tonight’s speech and wonder where this bolt-from-the-blue known as ISIS came from. Last they heard, Iraq was doing just fine.

You guys know better, though. I’ve linked it more than once before but it’s worth re-reading Peter Beinart’s post from a few months ago about Obama’s history of malign neglect in Iraq. He had one Iraq goal as president — to get out, come what may, just as he promised voters he would do in 2008. And he did it, even though that meant denying Iraq a small but potent residual American force that could have held Maliki’s sectarian impulses in check (which in turn would have made Iraq’s Sunnis less inclined to turn to ISIS) and would have been well positioned to smash ISIS once it crossed the border from Syria. Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker has written about this at length. Quote:

“We used to restrain Maliki all the time,” Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, the deputy commander in Iraq until January, 2011, told me. “If Maliki was getting ready to send tanks to confront the Kurds, we would tell him and his officials, ‘We will physically block you from moving if you try to do that.’ ” Barbero was angry at the White House for not pushing harder for [a Status of Forces] agreement. “You just had this policy vacuum and this apathy,” he said. “Now we have no leverage in Iraq. Without any troops there, we’re just another group of guys.” There is no longer anyone who can serve as a referee, he said, adding, “Everything that has happened there was not just predictable—we predicted it.”

The American ambassador at the time told Filkins that he and his staff got no guidance from the White House while they were trying to negotiate an agreement with Maliki. “[T]hey wanted to leave,” said Iyad Allawai, “and they handed the country to the Iranians. Iraq is a failed state now, an Iranian colony.” And now we’re going to be fighting on the Iranian side against the Wahhabi monster our absence helped create, a prospect so dismal and dangerous that even the famously hawkish David Frum thinks we should leave ISIS alone for fear of empowering Iran even further. Obama checked out on Iraq and now, thanks to his neglect, he has no choice but to check back in under the worst circumstances.

Like I say, read the Beinart piece. That’s how we got here.