July 20, 2008

"Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want."

"And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited. Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki supposed said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months," he said in an interview with Der Spiegel that was released Saturday.

"That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
But he also purportedly doesn't like the idea that people are interpreting that as tantamount to an endorsement of Barack Obama. A spokesman said his remarks "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately." I'm assuming he spoke in Arabic, and the Arabic was translated into German by Der Spiegel and then retranslated into English. There's a lot you can do with a subtle statement that you get to translate twice and the temptation to influence the American election is so strong. I assume al-Maliki himself has his preference, much as he may cloak it, but surely, so does Der Spiegel and the various translators.

Kevin Drum says:
This is, obviously, bad news for John McCain. As Joe Klein says, McCain's original support of the surge, which is his main talking point on Iraq policy, "is a small, tactical truth too complicated to be understood by most Americans. Maliki Endorses Obama Withdrawal Plan is a headline everyone can understand."

True enough, but only if that's the headline the U.S. media actually decides on. Unfortunately, we're in sort of a fluid phase right now in which the press seems unsure of what narrative to adopt on the current state of American foreign policy. Consider: (a) negotiations with North Korea have recently started paying off, (b) we sent a U.S. diplomat to talk with Iran over the weekend and are apparently thinking about opening an interests section in Tehran, (c) the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, leading to calls for an increased troop presence, and (d) Maliki has endorsed the idea of a 16-month withdrawal timeline from Iraq. All of these are directions that Obama has endorsed for some time.

So does the press decide that this means Obama has shown good judgment and good instincts in foreign affairs? That seems like it would be the most reasonable interpretation, but alternatively the press could decide that what this really means is that there are now very few differences between Obama and McCain on foreign policy — without implying any judgment about who was right and who was wrong. That's a stretch, but it would be nice and faux-neutral, something that appeals to reporters.
He's combining 2 quite different things: 1. Whether the press will "decide that this means Obama has shown good judgment and good instincts in foreign affairs." Haven't they pre-decided that Obama is right about things? 2. How the press will write up the stories, i.e., how much they will let it show that they prefer Obama.

Allahpundit notes McCain's response:
McCain’s team put out a statement tonight, too. Quote:
Let’s be clear, the only reason that the conversation about reducing troop levels in Iraq is happening is because John McCain challenged the failed Rumsfield-strategy in Iraq and argued for the surge strategy that is responsible for the successes we’ve achieved and which Barack Obama opposed. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has never ignored the facts on the ground in Iraq, he’s never avoided the warzone before proposing new strategy, and he’s never voted against funding our troops in the field. If John McCain was following Barack Obama’s lead on foreign policy, the United States would have already withdrawn from Iraq in a humiliating defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.
Quite so, although I’d have re-written that as, “If John McCain and Nuri al-Maliki were following Barack Obama’s lead…” Barry O’s accomplished the foreign policy masterstroke here of screaming for withdrawal year after year when it would have been a horrific idea and now, with the jihadis and militias finally subdued to the point where it at least wouldn’t be disastrous, he wants credit for having been ahead of the curve. You truly are a visionary, Messiah.
In this view it doesn't matter so much that "there are now very few differences between Obama and McCain on foreign policy."


Unknown said...

Um - John McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years.

That's a big difference with Obama.

Unknown said...

And if Obama had been President and we listened to his good judgment, we never would have had this pointless war in the first place - and 400,000 Iraqi civilians would not have been slaughtered.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I'll trade 'faux neutrality' and 'media narratives' for stubborn facts.

EnigmatiCore said...

al-Maliki's spokesman says Der Spiegel didn't get it right.

"But a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately."

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush."

EnigmatiCore said...

I call bullspit on the 400,000 number, as should every person with an ounce of common sense.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter who said what. Obama is right. Just ask any member of the mainstream media.

Obama was right, is right and will continue to be right. Let us all join in praising his rightness.

When he said something that sounded like the opposite of what he now says, he was right then, too. His rightness evolves.

The Drill SGT said...

A couple of points.

1. Here is the Iraqi PM's view of the decision to go to war:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, the war and its consequences have cost more than 100,000 lives and caused great suffering in your country. Saddam Hussein and his regime are now part of the past. Was all of this worth the price?
Maliki: The casualties have been and continue to be enormous. But anyone who was familiar with the dictator’s nature and his intentions knows what could have been in store for us instead of this war. Saddam waged wars against Iran and Kuwait, and against Iraqis in the north and south of his own country, wars in which hundreds of thousands died. And he was capable of instigating even more wars. Yes, the casualties are great, but I see our struggle as an enormous effort to avoid other such wars in the future.

2. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Before one names Saint Obama, you need to consider that he's been calling for an impossible to achieve 16 month pullout for 2+ years. If we had done what he wants, we Iraq would be a smoldering ruin right now with unburied dead. We're already decreasing troop strength, but it will take a lot longer than 16 months to pull out unless with cut and ran.

3. a 16 month pullout is not possible. period. You say we rotate troops all the time? yeah, without equipment. Bringing all our troops home in 16 months would literally disarm half the Army. perhaps that's what Obama wants, it certainly would play well in Iran and Syria. about 200 billion in irreplaceable equipment. There is a saying in the Army: Amateurs talk about tactics, professionals speak of logistics. Obama has NO concept of what it takes to move a heavy Brigade with a 1500 heavy vehicles (2 ton to 70 ton), ammunition, people, supplies, etc.

freshlegacy said...

Michael_H said, "His rightness evolves."

The evolution is the product of intelligent design. It is the survival of the fittest idea of the moment which propels Obama through eons of rebirths in the election cycle to attain the transcendant Nirvana of the Presidency.

Thus has Saint Obama bridged the great divide among all philosophies and faiths and reached across the Cosmos to bring the Universe to a singular glowing locus of Truth.

Anonymous said...

To in any way equate McCain's and Obama's position on Iraq is disingenuous at best. More likely it's being deliberately misleading in order to prop up the Democratic waffle candidate.


McCain 1
Obama 0

Unknown said...

Well, Allahpundit also questions whether Der Spiegel changed the original quote, from this "US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes" to the "slight changes" version you have. Big difference.

Cedarford said...

Drill SGT - a 16 month pullout is not possible. period. You say we rotate troops all the time? yeah, without equipment. Bringing all our troops home in 16 months would literally disarm half the Army. perhaps that's what Obama wants, it certainly would play well in Iran and Syria. about 200 billion in irreplaceable equipment. There is a saying in the Army: Amateurs talk about tactics, professionals speak of logistics. Obama has NO concept of what it takes to move a heavy Brigade with a 1500 heavy vehicles (2 ton to 70 ton), ammunition, people, supplies, etc.

It took us two months to ship in all the equipment to Kuwait. Another period to lavishing stock Rumsfelds "permanent American superbases" with 100's of thousands of tons of soldier amenities and crap like complete Burger Kings and Video emporiums for "Morale Boosting".

If our military is saying it is unable summon the logistical skill to move all the crap they want to save 400-600 miles out of Iraq to ports to ship the stuff back stateside in a year, they are lying.

If you look at the reasons some give, they amount to Pentagon bureaucratic BS. "We can't because regulations bar us from sending uncleaned equipment back stateside, and cleaning facilities and workers in Kuwait are limited." BS - send it back and have Americans hired to clean up the Army crap in Michigan and Ohio, instead of Kuwaiti businesses and Indian and Pak guest workers.

Or, "It is just impossible to move an Army any distance without complete chaos". Yeah, right.

Or, "It would be wrong to just abandon our no-bid contractors property and end protection of them and many assure us it would take several years for DOD shipping relocation contracts to wend their way through the system.."
Nope. The Pentagon got it all in fast, it can get it out just as fast if the Will is there.

Or, "It would be wrong to just give stuff we can't easily get out to the Iraqis".

Iraq is sitting on hundreds of billions of undistributed oil revenue. They want 20,000 air-conditioned modern soldier's quarters? They want Rummy's 500 shielded aircraft hangers and his 4 billion worth or radar and aircraft repair facilities? Bush and Rummy's billion-dollar embassy that was planned to be the center of the Neocon imperial rule over Syria, Iraq, Iran???

They want it, they pay for it, or we should bulldoze it.

I'm not saying I approve of 18 months departure. I don't believe Maliki is any more than a patched-together coalition PM and at least a partial stooge to Iran, and the "demands of the PM!" are hardly authoritative - especially with Maliki and others with the oil and political power in no rush to redistribute Iraq's oil revenue and political power to all the other powerful groups - Sunni, Kurds, rival Shia groups as pledged.
So Maliki and his Iran-supported DAWA Party may be doing some typical Arab backstabbing, but if so, he may soon end up blown up by others as the US withdraws it's protection from him.

But lets be honest and say that if Iraq accepts that there will be fighting as power vacuums form as the US pulls out, 18 months are plenty of time. And 300,000 unemployed Ohioans and Michiganites and many, many more in the industrially-gutted towns of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Upstate NY have lots
of time to spiff up Army gear.

Kansas City said...

I realize the Obama/McCain debate is politics and bound to be at best simplistic. It also is complicated because there are two debates: (1) who was correct about the war in the first place; and
(2) who was correct about the surge.

The second is obvious. The first is debatable, but a potential killer for McCain. Obama has very limited qualifications to be president, but he can respond to many criticisms by claiming he was right on the war. I happend to disagree, but recognize it is a legitimate argument. The biggest problem I have is that Obama really did not have an informed judgment about the war or even have a choice to make - with the left wing crowd he hung out with at the time, the only political position he could take was to be against the war. As unusual, he did it very smartly by making a speech claiming he was not against all wars.

So the debate will be Obama claiming he was right on the war and somehow disingenuously claiming he was right on the surge, while McCain must emphasize that Obama wanted to "end" the war in a humiliating defeat that would have jeopardized our future security and McCain wanted to win the war to protect our future security.

So I guess America gets to listen to the debate and decide. I think McCain can win the debate because America will probably accept that we have won the Iraq war and, in a sense, McCain can claim credit for it. America would rather have a president committed to winning a war than a president willing to lose one.

Automatic_Wing said...


You're right, we could get all our stuff stateside in 16 months if heroic efforts were made and normal procedures waived. But why should heroic efforts be made just to meet a completely arbitrary timeline? I don't understand the significance of 16 months.

As far as your carping about our luxury superbases, Saddam built the hardened aircraft shelters and "Burger King" is a fucking trailer with 2 Pakistani guys inside. We really have made few if any permanent improvements to the 3airfields in Iraq that I've seen. Most everything worthwhile can be carted back given a reasonable amount of time.

Terry Kresge said...

From an old vet...the idea of broadcasting your plans to the "enemy" first surfaced during the Vietnam war; doesn't anybody have the intelligence to stop this practice? Giving the "enemy" a date to leave is catamount to broadcasting tomorrow's clandestine or covert activity information. Purely hopeless. The enemy will be standing on the sidelines laughing!
Imagine if you could predict business trends (insider information)...We'd all be wealthy beyond our imagination!
TV coverage at the battlefield is just as stupid! News reporting is one thing, but predicting or revealing your next operation can result in catastrophic casualties for our troops.
Anyone who thinks it's "intelligent" to plan our withdrawal and broadcast the dates of it, needs to be standing ignorantly on the sidelines over there when the last plane leaves! Our military personnel need all the help they can get, especially when the current collection of rule-making idiots in Washington is so inept!~

TJ said...

Awfully quiet thread . . .

The war's over! You guys should be exultant! Or . . . did you want to stay in Iraq?

Fen said...

Why would we be exultant? There's still alot of work to be done.

did you want to stay in Iraq?

Do you really believe we won't have a long-term presence in the region [as with Germany, Japan, Korea] even if its just some "advisors" and air support?

Or do you want us to go back into Iraq in 10 years, because Obama frittered away the gains we made?

TJ said...

We've had a long-term presence in the region for, er, a long term. I (and most Americans and Iraqis) just don't think it's very healthy or cost-effective or helpful for us to have a long-term presence in Iraq.

I like my fritters with apple.

Revenant said...

Obviously if the Iraqi government insisted that we leave tomorrow, we ought to leave tomorrow. The debate in the United States is over whether or not we should leave *before* the Iraqi government asks us to, leaving them high and dry.

Obama says "yes"; McCain, "no". Those are the answers to choose between.