Before heading off to Operation Martha’s Vineyard, this morning, the president held a brief press conference on the White House lawn to discuss his decision to use air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.
Asked if he was having second thoughts about the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, and if that gives him pause since the U.S. is doing the same thing in Afghanistan, Obama launched into his trademark doublespeak:
“What I think is interesting is how often this keeps coming up as if it was my decision,” Obama answered. “Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.”
He expressed his frustration with those who have the temerity to suggest that his actions had anything to do with the current parade of horrors in Iraq.
“That entire analysis is bogus, and it’s wrong,” Obama insisted. “It often gets peddled around here by people who are often trying to defend policies that they themselves made.”
According to this new version of history, Obama always wanted to leave troops behind, but because the Iraqi people wanted us out of there, he had no choice but to grudgingly, reluctantly, regretfully bring all the boys home and triumphantly declare over and over and over again that he *ended the war in Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end — for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world. After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011. As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities. Last year, I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq. And to date, we’ve removed more than 100,000 troops. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward.
So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.
In 2011 that was music to a **war weary America’s ears. But now as ISIS rampages through the country, creating a genocidal terror state – it sounds like clanging cymbals.
Obama said “it’s interesting how this keeps coming up” because it indeed did come up, in June when he announced the that he was sending 300 military advisers to Iraq to aid “Iraqi security forces.”
Scott Wilson of the Washington Post noted that the president had “surprised a few people” when he claimed during that news conference that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq was made entirely by the Iraqi government.
A reporter asked Obama, “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?”
“Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama answered. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”
Even a reporter at the Washington Post found this to be a bit much.
Wilson writes, “the implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.”
For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”
Wilson helpfully pointed to a contentious exchange Obama had with Romney at the last presidential debate of the 2012 campaign season.
“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.
Two years later, it’s grimly amusing to hear this strong “Foreign Policy President” lecture Romney about not being clear enough for the voters.
“Here’s one thing … I’ve learned as commander in chief,” Obama said. “You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean.”
*You don’t “end wars.” You win them or you lose them.
**I was never “war weary” myself. I tend to think the responsible thing to do after a hard fought victory, is keep troops in a place as long as they’re needed to to keep the peace.