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March of the Imperial Senators

Revisionist history is en vogue among Republicans this summer.

As Ramadi falls, hawks offer comfort in the argument that at least Iraq’s current troubles with ISIS can all be laid at President Obama’s feet. In the face of well-documented Iraqi reality, they are reviving the stale Vietnam-era trope to say that—if only the United States had the conviction to stay a little longer—it would have “won.”

The reviser-in-chief is none other than Sen. John McCain. McCain was Washington’s greatest advocate for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and he hated that the U.S. ever left. No doubt he dislikes President Obama, who thwarted the elder man’s bid for the White House in 2008, even more.

Just last week [1] he told reporters that President Obama’s strategy for curbing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was “one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history.” McCain’s widely known and tolerated flair for the dramatic now places an “episode” [1] that most Americans could not rightly pin down, much less explain without the aid of Google, alongside slavery, the Trail of Tears, the federal crackdown on World War I-era Bonus Marchers [2], and the entire Vietnam War.

His partner in this long-running routine, Sen. Lindsey Graham, also reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove’s Gen. Buck Turgidson [3] (“Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap! [4]”), laid out the latest talking points in an interview [5] about the ISIS takeover of Ramadi [6] in Iraq this month:

It’s a predictable outcome of withdrawing all forces back in 2011…The military advised [Obama] to leave 10,000 troops. When he refused to take their advice, everything you see before you is a result of that big mistake.

Graham, McCain, and their fellow Republican hawks, energized by an election over a year away, are once again using foreign policy overseas to bludgeon Obama, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and by extension, the whole Democratic Party in the arena of domestic politics here at home. It’s a deadly fandango that places national security in the balance, while lawmakers play rhetorical games [7], often crossing, if not leaping [8], the usual boundaries of diplomatic propriety and control.

“Imperial senators, basically that’s what they are … playing this real life version of Risk,” said Matthew Hoh, an Iraq War veteran, referring to the strategy board game in an interview with TAC. Hoh was the highest U.S. official to resign [9] in protest of the Afghanistan war policy when he quit his State Department post in 2009.

Hoh says playing “real life Risk” is all about deception, and in the case of Iraq, a larder of revisionist history, which, as McCain and Graham have demonstrated, involves an elaborate tweaking of the story of how the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011, and why. It also requires the ambitious assumption that a) American forces had every right and opportunity to stay there indefinitely, and b) there would be no consequences if they did so.

Therefore it is “Obama’s fault,” as Graham has said repeatedly [10], for not renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement [11], which codified the complete pull-put of U.S. combat troops by 2011. His failure to do so was evidence of his willingness to put politics before the long-term security of the Middle East, or so they say. This not only squandered the surge “victory” led by Gen. David Petraeus’ in 2007 [12], but the vacuum Obama left set the stage for the Islamic State and its rampage across Syria, and Iraq.

“It’s revisionist, and it’s for political reasons, and it’s the same thing you hear from those who said we could have won the Vietnam War—we could have tried harder if the media had allowed it, or the hippies had allowed it,” said Hoh. “The reality was that Iraq was not going to allow us to stay. There was very little opportunity to let us stay in Iraq.”

Republican President George W. Bush deliberated and signed the withdrawal agreement in 2008 with Prime Minister Maliki, a man who the U.S. spent enormous sums of money and political capital keeping in office since 2006. When Obama was elected soon after, he endeavored to see it through. Publicly, he advocated for a small residual combat force to stay in the country to help the Iraqis. Privately, according to numerous reports, he and his staff argued with the Pentagon over how big that force would be. He wanted 5,000 or less, they wanted upwards of 10,000.

But it turned out that the Iraqis had other plans. There was plenty of Kabuki theatre, as Maliki was forced to manage a government his opponents said he did not rightfully earn the right to form [13] after the 2010 election, while needing to appease the Iraqis who wanted to see the Americans go. He seemed to be telling the Americans privately he wanted a big U.S. presence left behind, while explaining to the Wall Street Journal in 2010, [14] “this (SOFA) is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.”

Negotiations reportedly wore on until the eleventh hour, but finally broke down when Maliki could not promise criminal immunity for U.S. troops there. “Frankly, given that less than 20 percent of the Iraqi public wanted American troops to stay, and given the great resentment in the Iraqi population …there wasn’t much sympathy to grant Americans full legal immunities in the Iraqi parliament,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey in 2014 [15]. The withdrawal was complete in 2011.

The rest as they say is history, but Republicans have written their own chapters to the story, seizing on private memoirs from departing members of the Obama court, either scorned and ready to talk or just eager for the limelight and their own political makeovers. A narrative has been woven into existence that says Obama didn’t “try hard enough,” that Maliki was willing to bend but wasn’t given the proper inducements, that the White House flubbed tactically, etc. From the reliably Republican Washington Times in June last year [16]:

Once Mr. al-Maliki repeated his demand for criminal jurisdiction over U.S. forces, the Obama administration stopped talking, a former defense official said. The White House planned to pull out of Iraq instead of engaging in tough negotiations to reach a compromise.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left his job in 2013 and wrote ruefully about the Iraq withdrawal a year later. In Time magazine [17], following the release of his memoirs in 2014, Panetta wrote, “the White House was 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.” He claims “we had leverage,” but offers nothing but the weak threat of withholding reconstruction aid. Nevertheless, his “tell all” was a boon for the war hawks, and Republicans have gobbled it up [18].

Writer Gareth Porter, on the other hand, argued in a 2011 article [19] that it was Maliki’s design all along to boot the Americans, and the SOFA was crafted that way despite the objections of Bush and the U.S. military. In the end, Bush was forced to agree to the 2008 document, lest he leave it up to chance that an incoming Democratic White House might pull out much sooner.

“A central element of the Maliki-Iran strategy was the common interest that Maliki, Iran and anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shared in ending the U.S. occupation, despite their differences over other issues,” wrote Porter.

Dexter Filkins breaks this down in his extensive, “What We Left Behind” for the New Yorker in 2014 [20]. Maliki needed al-Sadr’s coalition support in the new parliament, so a deal was struck. Sadr would weigh in for Maliki, as long as Maliki promised that U.S. combat forces would leave.

While behind the scenes Iraqi politicians reportedly expressed interest in a long-term American combat presence, wrote Filkins, “(Maliki) argued that the long-standing agreement that gave American soldiers immunity from Iraqi courts was increasingly unpopular; parliament would forbid the troops to stay unless they were subject to local law.” It gave him the out he needed.

The war hawks argue that if Obama had renegotiated the SOFA (basically forced a longer occupation), the U.S. would have helped the Iraqis repel growing al-Qaeda elements before they morphed into the Islamic State. This completely ignores the fact that it was our friend Maliki’s suppressive and discriminatory treatment of the Sunnis that empowered the extremist elements. It also ignores the very real possibility that al-Sadr’s Shia army, which had been standing down per agreements, may have re-emerged to fight the Americans themselves, along with the Iranian-backed militias that are now fighting ISIS in places like Ramadi.

“Sadr said he would put his army back on the streets if we were to stay,” Hoh said. Furthermore, “even if we put troops back there, the Islamic State and the Sunni were going to fight against the Shia-dominated military anyway. So we would have our troops in the middle of a civil war.”

Revisionism is a shopworn playbook employed to maintain support for the military and its operations overseas. The rewritten chapter on the Vietnam War, which claims the conflict would have been won if Washington had been more willing, was carried forward like a torch by Gen. Petraeus and his counterinsurgency “crusaders” [21] in 2007 to garner support for escalating and protracting the Iraq War.

But not all history is so easily glossed over. The war hawks conveniently forget that McCain lost to Obama in 2008 for a host of reasons, not the least of which was that Bush had promised the American people both retribution after 9/11, and a transformation of the Middle East. What they got was endless war, with the worst yet to come in Afghanistan. They were tired, and preferred the so-called “anti-war” candidate to McCain’s dusty, faintly jingoistic rhetoric, which smelled like more of the same.

Despite what McCain & Co. say today, the country is split [22] over putting so called “boots on the ground” in Iraq, or in Syria. The more the hawks call for military intervention, in fact, the more they remind Americans of the debacle that mired the U.S. there in the first place. The Wall Street Journal [23] recently called it “an awkward election issue” that Republicans feel the need to dodge on the campaign trail.

“The GOP debating position is in tatters,” writes Juan Williams for The Hill [24]. “Republican leaders refuse to admit that a Republican president made a terrible mistake in starting the war in Iraq. This sad political reality is a reflection of a culture of political polarization which has left much of the GOP base with their own set of beliefs, regardless of the objective facts.”

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance reporter and TAC contributing editor. Follow her on Twitter [25].

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "March of the Imperial Senators"

#1 Comment By bacon On May 29, 2015 @ 4:36 am

In re revisionist history, senators McCain and Graham, most other republicans, and many democrats have no realistic choice than to attempt a revision. The truth paints them as ideologically driven dopes.

#2 Comment By Philip Giraldi On May 29, 2015 @ 8:47 am

Thanks Kelley! It was perfectly clear in 2011 that the Iraqis would not budge on the issue of a SOFA that would give immunity to American soldiers. Obama may have been a reluctant warrior but he wanted to retain some presence in Iraq, an option that al-Maliki rejected. That the outcome is now being hung around Obama’s neck is all too typical of the way our stalwart Republicans avoid facts that are inconvenient.

I would also note that the troika in the photo have plenty of baggage of their own – McCain likely collaborated with the North Vietnamese, Petraeus never actually served in combat and Lindsey Graham…well, enough said!

#3 Comment By Andrew Zook On May 29, 2015 @ 10:55 am

I’ve about had it with militarists/interventionists and many other types on the right not taking responsibility for their role in USA/or global ills…

(this is not to discount the responsibility of those on the left either)

But the militarist class in this country is mostly to the right and “it’s all Obama’s fault”
The business class is mostly to my right and unemployment, income disparity, failing families; that’s “all the liberal’s fault” (as they ship jobs overseas and force joe and jane to work full-time to make ends meet and give their children the possibility of a decent future…)

And a lot of the religious class is also to the right… and again, the declining attendance, scandals, etc are “all those liberals/Dem’s fault” (as that same religious class willfully and gleefully splinters into a myriad of denominations, unaccountable “independents” and spineless, neutered just-Jesus-and-me, moralistic-therapeutic-deism, all-words-and-no-action “faith”…

Tired of it: Stop scapegoating and clean up your own act (starting with some contrition, honesty, asking for forgiveness and then repentance)

#4 Comment By Johann On May 29, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

Patraeus strikes me as the guy who gets ahead by pandering to whoever he thinks has the power, whether its political power, media power, or so-called think tank deep state expert adviser power.

It was hard not to lose my lunch when I read the Washington Post piece on Patraeus’ shameless patronizing of the Fred Kagans.

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#5 Comment By Anonymous On May 29, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

Mr. Giraldi – What is the basis for your comment that “McCain likely corroborated with the North Vietnamese”? I am no fan of McCain but you have essentially accused the man of treason. Do you have any basis for doing so? Even assuming that you have evidence of some act by McCain that could be viewed by some as being supportive of the North Vietnamese, are you saying that act, or acts, were not done under duress, perhaps extreme duress? If so, then, in my opinion, they hardly can be deemed as “baggage” on McCain’s part. I am a long time supporter of Buchannan and TAC but I find your flippant accusation regarding McCain to be extremely unseemly and not in keeping with Buchannan’s tradition of journalistic and professional integrity. State publically the basis of your accusation against McCain. If you do not, your credibility and trustworthiness is at an even lower level than that of the 3 individuals pictured at the top of this piece, a most dubious accomplishment.

#6 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 29, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

Excellent.

A few other points.

Bush signed the agreement because, without it, it was arguable that American troops had no immunity at all in Iraq. Prior to the SOFA going into effect, the US troops had, originally, been part of an invasion force, and, once Baghdad fell, there was no Iraqi government in place. So, obviously, there was no concern at that point about them being hauled in front of a non existent Iraqi court. Then, under the US viceroy, again, there was no issue, because the Iraqis were at this stage merely being “consulted,” and still had no power. After the Iraqi government took office, the US troops’ presence was justified under a UNSC mandate, and, as I understand it, the mandate provided for their judicial immunity. That UN mandate was renewed at least once, but it was set to expire on 31December2008. Without a mandate, and without a SOFA, Bush, who was still the president, would have had to preside over a situation, until Obama took office, in which the arrest and prosecution of a US soldier in an Iraqi court was possible. Even if that had not happened, the absence of judicial immunity would have conceivably given the incoming Obama the perfect “excuse” to end the US military presence entirely and immediately. And so Bush signed the SOFA that provided for full US withdrawal by the end of 2011.

As for Panetta, he testified long and loudly in front of the US Senate at the time (either late 2011 or early 2012), and he insisted, over and over again, that it was the failure of the Iraqis to agree to ironclad immunity that scotched any further SOFA. That Juan Cole guy documents all of this, if anyone wants to go and check the archives. But that was before Panetta decided to go revisionist to sell books and/or re establish his hawk cred.

Beyond Panetta and the US Ambassador to Iraq, other high ranking DOD officers have also stated, clearly and repeatedly, that it was the judicial immunity question which killed the deal.

Another point is that Maliki did once make a stray comment about doing an “executive agreement” end run around the Iraqi Parliament, and including judicial immunity in the deal. Some critics of Obama have run with this. However, Maliki himself soon backed off it. Furthermore, the SOFA Bush signed was ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, and, at that time, the speaker of the parliament insisted such ratification was necessary. There was a real possibility in 2011 that an executive agreement based judicial immunity would not have been honored in an Iraqi court.

Beyond that (and, again, that Cole guy documents all of this), Maliki would not go to the mat in parliament for the deal. Most of the MPs did not want it, still, there was a chance that logs could be rolled, but only if Maliki gave in on some other issues. Maliki chose not to do so.

One has to remember that late 2011 was not the same as late 2008. For whatever reason, Iraq certainly appeared more secure in 2011. And so, Maliki was not desperate for a deal. On the US side, Obama had won both the primaries and the general on the basis of his alleged opposition to the Iraq war. He had pledged to end US involvement immediately upon taking office. Nevertheless, and against his better judgment, and the wishes of the people who actually voted for him, he was willing to go along, to some extent, with the hawks in his Administration who favored a continued US troop presence. But he, no more than Maliki, and unlike Bush in 2008, was not desperate for a deal. Nor should he have been.

If Obama HAD agreed to a deal without ironclad judicial immunity, can you imagine the outcry if a US soldier was hauled before an Iraqi court? Americans, particularly right wing Americans, find it hard to stomach the idea of American soldiers having to answer to a court even in a trusted, long term US ally like Japan, never mind in Iraq.

So, all in all, there is really no basis at all for the Obama blew it or Obama tanked it claims.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 29, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

The turgid “precious bodily fluids” are the loads of crap being dumped on the American people, whose opinion is only precious to these bucksters insofar as it can be manufactured via propaganda.

#8 Comment By Rossbach On May 29, 2015 @ 8:44 pm

I wish you hadn’t mentioned the mine shaft gap. Senator Graham might read this article, and then where should we be?

#9 Comment By Brian Allan Cobb On May 30, 2015 @ 3:15 am

Sunni ISIS is the problem of the Shia governments of Iraq and Iran.

Not ours.

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 30, 2015 @ 5:20 am

I am going to go a step further in addressing Vietnam. We didn’t lose and by the record of events, had we maintained a military presence, the North would have abided by the treated of 1973.

I am not inclined to cave into any nonsense that we lost Vietnam, by anyone for any reason beyond a data set that demonstrates as much. It does not exist. Once the Vietnam conflict was defunded and Pres. Nixon resigned any real hope of a return was gone.

There are few analogies and comparisons that can be drawn to Vietnam in relation to Iraq. Maintaining a military presence is very hard to do because the issues were vastly different.

When the treaty was signed in Paris. The two sides had ceased fighting and did so for about a year after the withdrawal of the US forces. Before that withdrawal, the model posture for vietnam was that of Korea.

Unlike Vietnam the US invasion of Iraq did not target a nation state. It was not even open civil war. There were no demarkation lines as existed with respect to Vietnam.

The battle lines in Iraq were so fluid that while a surge was effectual in one area of the country, it was nonexistent and useless in other areas, where violence could be exerted by varous platers. In short we never had the country under control. That was not the case in Vietnam, it was ultimately, the constant losses by the North, and failure to advance that forced them to the table. In otherwords, Ho Chi Mihn’s prediction and concern about the consequence of US involvement was proved correct.

But in the fight for Iraq, and who governed the country remains unclear, because in spite of US presence, the violence was constant. Based on reprts by US Marines as they approached the Bahdad Airport, the civil conflict that was unleashed by our invasion was underway and the Marines were ordered to stand down. The elctions which should have served as some form of peaceable agreement only served to divide the Shia Sunnis and others urther, in fact, may have made these groups clearer targets. In either case, the quota systems ostracized here in the US as unworkable, were implemented thoughtout Iraqi buearacracy did not create an atmosphere of peace as ddid the ultimate treaty in Paris with difinitive parties. Those systems in Iraq made clear the internal factions and serves to his day as dividing lines, bt lines with no obvious physical boundaries. A national peace has never existed. Our troops for all of their efforts, experienced not even the tenuous peace achieved in Vietnam. While that peace served as a cause to withdraw, there is ample evidence that our presence would have maintained the same.

Vietam fell apart after the US departed. Iraq was falling apart while the US troops were present, even in spite of the surge, because those parts of the country that had no surge — were left to their own devices.

Further, the total ownership by the South Vietnamese can be seen in the numbers of lost lives and Vietnamese units that fought.

In Iraq, the forces were loosely fitted groups of soldiers and militia. And the enemy internally was and remains the most experienced, in my view. And given that one faction is at threat from the majority, it would be hard to consider them the enemy as opposed to a fight to survive.

It’s hard to grasp what the goals of te invasion were aside from removing Pres Hussein, a mistake and ensuring no weapons of mass destruction were in play. I think it is clear ow that the invasion for either purpose was a mistake. Having dismantled the government/miitary we attempted to construct what it has taken the US 240 years to construct. And to do so on the fly.

In Vietnam, the French had at least introduced some mechanisms of democracy and power structures that the S. Vietamese adopted on their own accord.

We didn’t lose Vietnam.

I generally believe that we lost Iraq gradually day by day in our presence. Did the withdrawal of US ground troops make matters worse — absolutely. But unless we intended to ensure order throughout the entire country — whether we were there for six months of 100, calling the invasion a success is a very tough slog.

In Vietnam the Nort Vietnamese could be contained. In Iraq, whoever was fighting was never contained, the areas of conflict just shifted, in response to te surge.

There is one comparison that makes sense — the use of propganda to sway US opinion.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 30, 2015 @ 5:24 am

“Obama may have been a reluctant warrior but he wanted to retain some presence in Iraq, an option that al-Maliki rejected.”

I am of the view that it did not matter what A Maliki wanted. We invaded, we placed him power, and we could made it clear, that unless we had met our objectives, regardless of any agreements predicated on those achievements — and US departure is off the table.

Our invasion and our actions subsequent to the same made us the owners. Until we decide otherwise.

#12 Comment By muggles On May 30, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

Excellent article!
What stands out is how this drama is purely the drama of Empire. Much as the Romans used to worry about their surrogate rulers in various Roman controlled “countries.” If the local rulers got restive, time to bring in the Legions.
McCain (who is likely insane), Graham and Gen. Petraeus (Betrayus)snort and yammer about “our” problem of running Iraq the way the War Dept would like it. Their solution is very imperial Roman. Send in the Legions (or better yet, never have them leave.)
These nasty imperialists believe that somehow the US Constitution and UN Charter authorizes the US Senate and Executive to run every nation on Earth according to their wishes. Why bother with local puppet regimes at all? They only serve to complicate the difficult business of running the world in all its dark corners.
The Caesars faced this problem. As have various dictatorships and emperors. It is the albatross hanging from all imperial necks.
Why this is supposed to be an American problem is never justified. Like Roman, the mad Senators and imperators seem to rule the day.

#13 Comment By rosemerry On May 30, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

A great article, Kelley. The idea of the three stooges in the photo is that the USA can go anywhere, stay forever and be top dogs.

“The reality was that Iraq was not going to allow us to stay. There was very little opportunity to let us stay in Iraq.” LOL

What does the opinion of the country we have illegally invade and occupied matter??
What does the will of the US population matter, either?
McCain and Graham are somehow elected endlessly, but their weird ideas are not representative of normal humans.

#14 Comment By Bob White On May 31, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

I think it is the pacifists who are revising history. Iraq was fairly peaceful when Obama took office and remained so while US forces were there up through the end of 2011. Chaos has come since the US left.

One can argue whether the Iraq war was justified or whether it was too costly. But it is a distortion of history to say that it was not successful. It removed a tyrant and established a democratic government under a new constitution. These gains were hard-won and to denigrate them is to insult those who did the fighting.

It is easy to sit back and snipe, but such sniping is what brought about the collapse of support for a free Iraq and the subsequent rise of the demonic ISIS. Thanks, folks. Keep up the good work. The blood is on your hands.

#15 Comment By Stan On June 1, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

From NYTimes, OCT. 21, 2011, “At the end of the Bush administration, when the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, was negotiated, setting 2011 as the end of the United States’ military role, officials had said the deadline was set for political reasons, to put a symbolic end to the occupation and establish Iraq’s sovereignty. But there was an understanding, a senior official here said, that a sizable American force would stay in Iraq beyond that date.”

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 1, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

“Iraq was fairly peaceful when Obama took office and remained so while US forces were there up through the end of 2011. Chaos has come since the US left.”

The “green zone” is not reflective of the entirety of Iraq. It does not even represent a 1/4 of te country. While areas in and around Baghdad had relative caalm, peace is suggests something that has not reslly existed in Oraq since Pres. Hussein was in power.

Even with the surge we did not have enough troops to actually occupy Iraq as one thinks of occupation after WWII. The press was no more inclined to move outside of the protection of US forces then as they would be today, when they essentially don’t exist. So we the reporting is centralized around those regions.

But the blood letting went on and continues to this day. The reprisals, and positioning for power continues. Unlike most, I think there is plenty of evidence that the surge was effective, even it brought on/accompanied unrelated factors that helped reduce the violence. But it a mistake to make a claim of a general peace.

In fact, the Shia, from Iraq, Iran continued to purge the country of undisirebles sunnis, jews, christians, etc. I think anyone who stood in the way of the Islamic revolution. By installing a Shia government we essentially advanced the revolution by legitimizing its players and the “revolutionary arm” meas business.

#17 Comment By NorEastern On June 1, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

No SOFA, no troops. That is the reality Bush and Obama faced. Maliki could not provide one and Obama did the only sane thing a US President could do, remove the troops. That Bush previously failed to obtain a SOFA shows that Obama’s failure to obtain one indicates an issue in Iraq’s government, not a failure on Obama’s part.

Why are SOFA’s so important to the foreign troops government? The diplomatic firestorm raised if Iraq’s government were ever to imprison US military personnel and charge them with significant crimes would be intolerable. That is what SOFA’s protect against. Bush could not negotiate a ne SOFA. Why blame Obama for a like failure?

#18 Comment By philadlephialawyer On June 1, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

Stan:

“officials had said…a senior official…said…”

In other words, some hawk, who chose to remain anonymous, claimed that there was an unwritten “understanding” directly contrary to the explicit terms of the written SOF Agreement, which was that the US would completely withdraw all troops by 31December2011. Perhaps that hawk was unhappy about the withdrawal date, and unhappy that a new deal had not been worked out?

One wonders too who the “understanding” was with. The Iraqi Parliament was not crazy about ratifying the SOFA even in 2008, and would only agree to it BECAUSE it had a clear, ironclad withdrawal date. Perhaps Maliki “understood” differently, but he could not speak for the parliament. And what a US official dismisses as “political” and “symbolic” had a very real and substantive meaning to the average Iraqi, and to the Iraqi MPs.

Bob White:

“Iraq was fairly peaceful when Obama took office and remained so while US forces were there up through the end of 2011. Chaos has come since the US left.”

Iraq was peaceful because the Sunnis had been bribed to stand down, the Sh’ite government backed off trying to enforce its writ in the Sunni (and Kurdish) areas, and because the ethnic cleansing had run its course.

“One can argue whether the Iraq war was justified or whether it was too costly. But it is a distortion of history to say that it was not successful. It removed a tyrant and established a democratic government under a new constitution. These gains were hard-won and to denigrate them is to insult those who did the fighting.”

LOL! A tyrant was indeed removed, but in his place, not a democratic government, but a sectarian regime, under an imposed constitution, has taken his place. That tyrant actually held the country together with a minimum of bloodshed, and there was little sectarian violence under his rule. The sectarian regime currently in office has no legitimacy outside of Sh’ite areas, and is roundly ignored in Sunni and Kurdish areas. What has happened is that the country, after enduring a decade or more of crippling, US-insisted upon sanctions, has been invaded, its infrastructure, physical and political, destroyed, been reduced to anarchy, civil war, guerilla war and terrorism, and is now splitting apart at the seems. Mission Accomplished!

“It is easy to sit back and snipe, but such sniping is what brought about the collapse of support for a free Iraq and the subsequent rise of the demonic ISIS. Thanks, folks. Keep up the good work. The blood is on your hands.”

The blood, and the rise of ISIS, is a direct result of the choice to bring down the Saddam regime, and also the failure to have any real idea as to what to put in his place. Remember Chalabi? Remember the Iraqi “liberals?” Who had no backing whatsoever from the Iraqi public.

We created a vacuum, and then had to acquiesce to a Sh’ite dominated regime because there was no other choice. That regime has no support in roughly two thirds of the country. Moreover, the USA, and its Iraqi “allies,” eliminated any secular, Ba’athist Sunni alternatives, and so ISIS is the natural, and last, choice of the Sunnis.

Rosemary:

“’The reality was that Iraq was not going to allow us to stay. There was very little opportunity to let us stay in Iraq.’” LOL

“What does the opinion of the country we have illegally invade and occupied matter??”

It actually matters quite a bit, in the long run. The US could not just occupy Iraq indefinitely. At some point, some sort of Iraqi government had to be installed. And, again, the best the US could get was a Sh’ite dominated regime. And such a regime was not going to agree to endless US troop presence, with full immunity. (As an aside, US troop immunity was a major selling point of the Sh’ite clerics in the 1979 Iranian Revolution against the Shah.)

Sure, I suppose, the US could have simply sent the Iraqi Parliament home, and started all over again, building up yet another fake regime. But that would have meant even more years of guerilla war and terrorism, IEDs and explosives, with the US now longer enjoying support from either the Sh’ites or the Sunnis.

EC Inc:

“I am of the view that it did not matter what A Maliki wanted. We invaded, we placed him power, and we could made it clear, that unless we had met our objectives, regardless of any agreements predicated on those achievements — and US departure is off the table. Our invasion and our actions subsequent to the same made us the owners. Until we decide otherwise.”

And how would that work, exactly? As I said, the UN Mandate was ending in 2008. Without Maliki asking for its extension, and without a SOFA, the US troops would go back to being simply an occupying force, without even the fig leaf of a legal justification for their presence. The US would have been in the position of occupying a country against the wishes not only of its people (who, agreed, perhaps don’t count for much in these equations, at least in the short run), but also against the will of the regime that it, the USA, had itself installed, and was otherwise trying to cloak with legitimacy.

You can’t simultaneously “own” something and purport to be liberators who created, as “Stan” puts it, a “democratic government” under a “new constitution.” You invaded, you owned it then, OK. But once you create a new regime, and claim that it is the real government of the place, unless you are willing to be absolutely inconsistent, and spit in the face of Arab, Muslim and world opinion, you can’t just insist that an aspect of its basic sovereignty (like approving the presence of foreign troops) is simply “off the table” because you say so.

#19 Comment By Philip Giraldi On June 1, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

Anonymous – Here is the evidence relating to McCain’s behavior as a prisoner of war. Please go to the links and make your own judgment.

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#20 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 1, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

“Why blame Obama for a like failure?”

Because given the level of sustained violence it was clear that leaving Iraq would result in more. It was unwise.

I did not think attacking Iraq was wise. But calling those of us who opposed it some manner of pacifists is incorrect, if our opposition was based on a case that Pres. Hussein was not a threat (with or w/o WMD) or linked to 9/11.

Once we invaded, that status of the country based on our mission, became our responsibility. The current exec. may not have liked it, but it was his to address. Based on what was happening, in which the government we installed was culpable in the mayhem, the executive should gave ignored any agreement based most likely on some form of stability. Since it was clear that our mission was not in in process, we should have remained. What, I am going to permit the defeated to dictate terms? Of course not.

Further indictment of the entire admin. and democratic party, and that includes Sec. Clinton is they engaged in unraveling the peace in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and their support of Ukrainian violence, wholly undermines any suggestion that the matter was out of their hands.

In my view Iraq goes in the loss column.

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 2, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

“Our invasion and our actions subsequent to the same made us the owners. Until we decide otherwise.”

Only insofar as it is sustainable to own other human beings.

“But there was an understanding, a senior official here said, that a sizable American force would stay in Iraq beyond that date.”

Kind of like that misunderstanding between the Gorbachev and Bush I regimes that NATO would never expand to the Russian border?

#22 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 2, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

EC Inc:

“Once we invaded, that status of the country based on our mission, became our responsibility. The current exec. may not have liked it, but it was his to address. Based on what was happening, in which the government we installed was culpable in the mayhem, the executive should gave ignored any agreement based most likely on some form of stability.”

“Most likely” indeed! I defy you to point to language in the SOFA agreed to by Bush that gave the USA the unilateral right to abrogate the agreement in the event of “instability.”

It actually said just the opposite…

Article 27 provided that, in the event of various forms of “instability,” the US and Iraq would, “UPON REQUEST BY THE GOVERNMENT OF IRAQ [emphasis added],” begin talks on the subject. And it goes on to say that “mutual agreement” would be required for the US to take “appropriate measures” to combat that instability.

Section 1 of Article 24, governing the withdrawal of US troops, is ironclad, and makes no mention of any exception because of “instability,” whether the Iraqi regime was “culpable” in it or not, or any other exception.

“All the United States forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”

EC Inc:

“Since it was clear that our mission was not in in process, we should have remained. What, I am going to permit the defeated to dictate terms? Of course not.”

The “defeated” was the Saddam regime. It did not “dictate terms” in 2008 or 2011 because it no longer existed. The US, again, created the Maliki regime, and wanted it taken seriously, as the real government of Iraq, by other countries, the UN and the whole world. Moreover, to repeat, without a SOFA, the status of the US troops in Iraq would have been that of an uninvited occupier as of 1January2009. There would have been no provision for their immunity from Iraqi courts, and, their very presence could be seen as a violation of international law, as well as backhanded bitch slap of the very regime that the US had set up and declared, with all pomp and ceremony at the handover ceremonies, was now the real, sovereign, legitimate government of Iraq.

Of course, Maliki was in no position to “dictate terms” either. In 2008, he had to balance what he felt was the continuing need for US troops with parliamentary reluctance to allow them to remain. And so, he split the difference, allowing their temporary presence, but with a clear, no grey area, no exceptions, withdrawal date.

The agreement itself was called:

“Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq,”

as if to emphasize the withdrawal, and to make clear that the continuing presence of US troops was merely temporary.

And, as I explained above, Obama had even less leverage in 2011 than Bush had in 2008. Iraq seemed more secure. Maliki was not desperate for a deal. Parliament did not want an extension. And the Iraqi regime had been in place for three additional years.

It is all very well for you to pontificate that, if you were Bush or Obama, you would have done this or that, and would not have allowed the other, but unless you address these facts, both those in place in late 2008 and those in place in late 2011, you are just making noise.

ECInc:

“Further indictment of the entire admin. and democratic party, and that includes Sec. Clinton is they engaged in unraveling the peace in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and their support of Ukrainian violence, wholly undermines any suggestion that the matter was out of their hands.”

Apples and oranges, much?

In Egypt, a popular uprising took place that the US did NOT in fact support at the outset. Only when it became clear that the military was not going to crack down and save Mubarak’s hide did the US, which, as per Hillary, had previously called Mubarak “a friend,” and (preposterously, I might add), “NOT a dictator,” acquiesce to the inevitable. And I’m not sure what other course the US actually could have taken.

Libya, Syria and Ukraine were ruled by regimes that, rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my view), and like Saddam’s (also wrongly in my view), the US wanted to overthrow. So, of course, the US had no qualms about undermining them. The Iraqi regime, by way of contrast, is the “baby” of the US. The US dictated the process by which it came to power, and handed off sovereignty to it.

And so the one set of circumstances says very little about the other. It is not that “the matter” was wholly “out of the hands” of the US in 2011, but rather that it had to deal with Iraq in a way that at least did not completely undermine its regime.

EC Inc:

“In my view Iraq goes in the loss column.”

No argument there!

#23 Comment By bacon On June 2, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

A note to all the dead enders who say we didn’t lose in Viet Nam. A simple rule for winning or losing a war is did one get the desired result? Our stated goal when we took over from the French in Viet Nam was to prevent the communist takeover of South Viet Nam. They took over as we fled from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon. Perhaps if we had stayed, maybe if we had bombed the north harder, or invaded North Viet Nam, or any of the other scenarios put forward by those who say we won or were at least on the verge of winning, the outcome would have been different, but none of those things happened. We went there and fought, we said, to prevent a communist takeover and after years of battle, 58,000+ US deaths and many times that of Vietnamese deaths, the communists took over. Explain to me how that isn’t a loss.

#24 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 2, 2015 @ 7:10 pm

““Most likely” indeed! I defy you to point to language in the SOFA agreed to by Bush that gave the USA the unilateral right to abrogate the agreement in the event of “instability.”

I have one response that i think addresses most of your respnses, excuse the late reply.

I would have scrapped the agreement, if the conditions required for my departure were as unstable those before we departed. I 8nderstand that my position sets me up as imperialist war mongering elitist colonialist pig. So be it.

If I invaded your country whatever agreement I made based on what I wanted — woud be subject to the same. I care if it it was SOFA or the ten commandments.

As you know, I opposed this ME mess. But one of my backhanded arguments is that our invasion was wholly ill supported by men, material, force and presence.

To be clear, temporary as per my expectations, not theirs, otherwise the invading was but for not. To be clear, an agreement that yielded anything minus our satisfaction — makes SOFA a mere paper hanging flyer, to be taken up again at some later date.

I think that is the point, “subject to approval of Iraq” Not at all subject to the approval of me the invader. Conditions on the ground against our intended purpose come first. Period. And just to be clear, period.

Period. SOFA would be set on the sofa for reading between imperial rule. Uh, just to be clear — “No peace, not leava da place.”

I love both apples and oranges.

I think you are resting on several assumptions. I think our inavsions of Iraq unwise. Bu, if if your going to invade, then you had better invade. After 9/11, i contended that Pres, hussein, would have made a better ally. We should have sought his help in getting bin Laden and upon the positve results, pushed to life the embargo — immediately.

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 2, 2015 @ 7:10 pm

I have a session, so I will finish this when i get back.

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 3, 2015 @ 1:40 am

” And I’m not sure what other course the US actually could have taken.

Libya, Syria and Ukraine were ruled by regimes that, rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my view), and like Saddam’s (also wrongly in my view), the US wanted to overthrow. So, of course, the US had no qualms about undermining them. The Iraqi regime, by way of contrast, is the “baby” of the US. The US dictated the process by which it came to power, and handed off sovereignty to it.”

In Egypt, leave well enough alone. We did press, for Hosni mubarak’s removal, a la, the demcratic administration — they did support the “Arab Spring” as if the violence that accompanied it resembled anything akin to spring. We could made a point not to support violent uprisings, given the conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, not a bad choice. but no, despite all te campaign rhetoric, democrats were all to happy to join in on the party of mayhem and crelessness.

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How about not supporting unneccessary violent uprisings.

Iraq was clearly no one’s baby anymore than the Pres. of South Vietnam was a US puppet. But our military invasions in those countries has been unproductive. Oh wait a minute. Sec Clinton supported all of them. Imagine that democrats touting the executive leadership of Sec. Clinton, while at the same time whining about our foreign policy.

Wanton hypocrisy knows no limits with democrats on this matter. But what should one expect froma party that thinks those who choose homosexual expression is the same as heterosexual expression and that a marriage in either context, is the same.

As has been my position from the start, I opposed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, for reasons stated numerous times. But if force is to be used, I think, it’s application has been poory applied , even by the likes of Sec clinton, who in a telling leadership moment, blamed her choices on Pres. Bush.

as noted in my rushed comments earlier.

#27 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 4, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

EC Inc:

Re Iraq, in short, you are just going to rant and rave, and not deal with the facts, as I expected.

“I understand that my position sets me up as imperialist war mongering elitist colonialist pig. So be it.”

Yes, so be it. But perhaps even you recognize that what, you, personally, don’t mind being is something that the USA has a strong interest in NOT being, or even being seen as. Or, perhaps, you don’t. Either way, I think the distinction is clear to anyone else reading this.

On Egypt, none of your links show that HRC, or Obama, actually promoted the uprising there. And the record shows that the Obama Administration was quite slow to react to the rebellion, and only got on board when it was clear that the military would not crush it. Just as I said. I am not going to bother to provide links, because they are readily available with elementary googling, and becuae you will just ignore them anyway, as you ignore the facts about Iraq. The only part I got wrong was that it was Biden who said Mubarak was “not a dictator,” not HRC, but she did call Mubarak “a friend.”

“How about not supporting unneccessary violent uprisings.”

I agree. That it should be the policy, and that HRC and the Obama Administration in general have not followed that policy. But that doesn’t apply to Egypt, because she and it did not support the rebellion. And, notice, that neither she nor it have opposed the restoration of dictatorship, now by the military.

“Iraq was clearly no one’s baby anymore than the Pres. of South Vietnam was a US puppet.”

LOL! Indeed!

Seriously, though, Iraq was even more so, as RVN replaced French, colonial rule, and thus was not tied as explicitly to the USA. In addition, the work of the CIA in creating the RVN regime was covert and behind the scenes. Whereas, the current Iraqi regime replaced a genuine, national regime, and the work of the USA is toppling the old regime and installing the new one was about as explicit and overt as it could be. The Iraqi regime is most definitely “the baby” of the USA.

“…our military invasions in those countries has been unproductive.”

Again, I agree.

“Oh wait a minute. Sec Clinton supported all of them. Imagine that democrats touting the executive leadership of Sec. Clinton, while at the same time whining about our foreign policy.”

Actually, quite a few Democrats, including myself, oppose her nomination precisely because of her belligerent FP.

“Wanton hypocrisy knows no limits with democrats on this matter. But what should one expect from a party that thinks those who choose homosexual expression is the same as heterosexual expression and that a marriage in either context, is the same.”

That is too stupid a non sequitur to even merit a response.

#28 Comment By cityeyes On June 4, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

Will a sensible and non war-hawk come forward and run for president. And get rid of the Fed.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 7, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

philadelphialawyer,

I do have a response here that hasn’t shown up. I will see if I can dig up and repost it.

#30 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 8, 2015 @ 7:38 pm

I am laughing. excuse the late response here. Hmmmm, not raving. I am saying what I have said previously. The issue of SOFA become moot, if conditions on the ground, as per SOFA:

“SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) Authorization.–The President is authorized to use the Armed
Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and
appropriate in order to–
(1) defend the national security of the United States
against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions regarding Iraq.

(b) Presidential Determination.–In connection with the exercise of
the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President
shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible,
but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make
available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the
President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that–
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or
other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately
protect the national security of the United States against the
continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to
enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent
with the United States and other countries continuing to take
the necessary actions against international terrorist and
terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations,
or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the
terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

In short a brief read demonstrates that what matters are the conditions on the ground and upon observing that the Iraq admin. was engaging in behaviors tht countered the goals of invasion in the first place —

wholly justify my position in every way.

It is not that I have no respect for the rule of law or that we should not abide by our agreements. It’s that the otherside has the same responsibility and as they were failing to do so,

SOFA was a moot subject, given the circumstances on the ground.

“That’s a fact Jack.”
_______________________

My point as to Secretary Clinton was to support why she is as culpable as anyone else, yet she remains popular among democrats. That given the facts and the complaint by democrats, it’s seems a rather shameful practice to criticize others for holding the similar positions. And in my view worse, because in the latter they are at least being consistent. Hence the hypocrisy contention. Hardly a nonsequitor as the hypocrisy turns on the question. Dmocrats complaint about conservatives and their lean on the use of force and yet they are prepared to consider for nomination a candidate who supported the same. What follows — is called hypocrisy.
As for the links, I think we disagree. And i have read them. It is pretty clear in my mind that she and others regardless of how slow actually believed that they were on the right side of history.
You quite a few do not the party make. But I certainly applaud the integrity. Aside from attempting to defend the admin., including the Sec. Office from critique for supporting “Arab Spring”. Should I reference the Ukraine you will no doubt make claim that they supported the violent coupe tepidly and that Sec. Cinton’s bid to send arms and heavy weapoms was prudent.
________________________
Finally this, because it apparently makes some beside themselves with all manner of psychological disturbance. It is quite popular to mouth the mantra,
“Vietnam was apuppet of . . . . , Vietnam was a puppet, Vietnam was . . .”
But a good look at the history makes it clear that neither Pres. of vietnam was a puppet of the US. Which why, Pres Kennedy, authorized support for the assassination of one and had to arm twist the other.
Completely and totally different than what transpired in relation to Iraq. Where the leadership was that band of Iraqis (the Iraqi Congress) who had not been in Iraq for twenty years. And wile attempting make the comparison leaves no small amount to be applicable, I am not sure whether it was the Iraqi government or the US who was the puppet.

#31 Comment By philadelphialawyer On June 9, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

Re Iraq, US law cannot override a SOFA. And you have yet to show how, given the factual circumstances, Bush or Obama could have done any differently than they did do, either in signing the SOFA in 2008 or in following it in 2011. Quoting the AUMF is completely off topic, and meaningless, and non responsive to the point of ridiculousness.

“In short a brief read demonstrates that what matters are the conditions on the ground and upon observing that the Iraq admin. was engaging in behaviors that countered the goals of invasion in the first place…”

Even if true, irrelevant. “What matters” to the AUMF, and what the “goals” of the invasion were, have no bearing on the SOFA.

“It is not that I have no respect for the rule of law or that we should not abide by our agreements.”

Yes, it is, actually.

“It’s that the otherside has the same responsibility and as they were failing to do so…”

You know, sometimes it is hard to know how to respond to you. I don’t actually believe that you are so dense as to not know that the above is BS. And yet you post it anyway.

Iraq’s “responsibilities” were spelled out in the SOFA, not in US law. Duh. And nowhere in the SOFA is there an “out” based on instability in Iraq or any failure on the part of the Iraqi government.

“SOFA was a moot subject, given the circumstances on the ground.”

No. The SOFA was the controlling international agreement, not “moot” at all, and the circumstances on the ground had nothing to do with it.

“That’s a fact Jack.”

Idiocy.

Re the Democrats, they are not automatically “hypocrites” merely because they disagree with you about gay marriage. That makes no sense whatsoever. And has nothing to do with FP in any event. Hence your statement is a non sequitur, both in that you have not shown any “hypocrisy,” and that, even if you had, there is no connection to FP.

Re HRC, your links do not show that she or the Administration supported the Egyptian uprising until after it was a foregone conclusion. Your “reading” of the links is simply wrong as a matter of fact, not opinion. And there are any number of contemporaneous news stories that demonstrate the above. Sorry, but you don’t get to you have your own facts merely because you say so, Jack.

And, I might add, if you had any grasp of the nuances, you would know that HRC was actually more supportive of her “friend” Mubarak, and continued to support him longer, than Obama wanted.

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And I fail to see what other course of action the US could have taken, other than the one it did, once the uprising began. Again, it at first supported Mubarak, but when the military, which is the ultimate power, refused to break up the protests, the game was up. At that point, the Administration changed its tune, stressed US/Egyptian military, person-to-person ties, and tried to smooth the inevitable transition. The Egyptian revolution, far from being fomented by the Administration, actually took it by surprise, and it was not at all prepared to respond to it. The blather about being on “the right side of history” was an after the fact attempt to play catch up.

On Ukraine, you get no argument from me.

On Vietnam I simply refuse to engage with you, as you have completely lost touch with reality on this topic.