10.24.11

Obama's War Crime

The president is falsely taking credit for finally bringing Iraq to a close—a war actually ended by the Bush administration back in 2008. The U.S. troops who fought and died in that war, the Iraqis who perished, and the American people deserve far better.

A war crime is being committed against the American people. And it’s happening right now, here on US soil.

It stems from Iraq, and the war most people wish would just go away, and President Obama is foremost among the perpetrators.

J’accuse the commander in chief and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for their grotesque distortions of the narrative of the war.

It was one thing for the President to promise the impossible on the campaign trail—to terminate a war whose end had, even then, been already agreed and determined—but it’s another thing entirely to continue doing so now. One may just as well claim authorship of the Treaty of Versailles.

For let us be clear about one thing: it’s simply not true for Obama to say he’s wrought an end to the war, be it honorably or not, for he has done no such thing. The war in Iraq was ended by those who commissioned it – the members of the Bush Administration.

All but absent in the chattering I’ve heard in these days past is that instrument which, for all intents and purposes, is the architecture of the “peace”: America’s Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq.

A SOFA is an accord America strikes with the dozens of nations in which it has military forces or seeks to grant them access. They lay out the ground rules for the numbers of troops, the presence of bases, the troops’ legal exposure and the nature of their mission. Washington’s compact with Baghdad was torturously negotiated way back in 2008. I know because I was there, assiduously following its machinations in minute detail; running back and forth from one Iraqi government negotiator or faction to another, from general to general, from embassy to embassy. And it was signed, in the dying months of its tenure, by the Administration of President George W. Bush.

At the time I labeled it the “surrender document” for, in essence, it affirmed in Iraq the influence and power of that war’s one, great victor—Iran. It was in so many regards a capitulation to the realities of the region and the conduct of the conflict. In hindsight the term “surrender” may seem harsh (or perhaps not), but the conclusion that the agreement long ago dictated the end of American combat operations, the US military’s retreat into its pre-approved bases, its withdrawal of boots on the ground, and this New Year’s Eve final departure of combat troops is not.

And for those in this current Administration who may point to the recent failure of discussions that aimed to maintain a mere smattering of American forces in Iraq as the final act in finishing the war, it can only be said that to suggest this would be a further untruth, and one derived from a fallacy.

The mere notion that these talks for a token ongoing presence ever had a chance of succeeding is too much of a stretch. Sources in Baghdad say it was, as one might have anticipated, never the Government of Iraq that was entertaining the idea in the first place. It was only one man, or those in his office, who kept the false hope alive. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains the one Iraqi political leader who cannot boast he is backed by a militia. This in a country where political currency is valued by the number of men you have under arms. It has always been an American dream that his “militia”, so to speak, would in time be the legitimate security forces themselves, whether the army or the police. However, these men are drawn from local militias with local loyalties.  And so, Iraq still has far to travel until it can be confidently said its forces’ first loyalty is to the nation, and its leader.

And, to be honest, it cannot be said it’s only the Obama Administration that risks fudging the narrative of Iraq. This crime is being committed on the right as much as it is on the left.

In this I look to Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, among others, whom I see on my television deriding the President for his failure to “close” this deal for ongoing troops. A hollow charge given the deal was never really there to be closed. I suspect the American people have long foregone hopes of candor from their leaders when it comes to Iraq. But it nonetheless seems a bit much for the likes of Graham to attack the President for fumbling “the ball inside the ten” when, in truth, he fumbled his own credibility on Iraq years ago in his own end zone. In April 2007 as a Visiting Congressional Delegate he was among those strolling through Baghdad’s blood-soaked Shorja market, accompanied by 100 combat troops and circling helicopter gunships, as a mark of the mission’s then-newfound success in the Neverland that was the Bush Administration’s Iraq.

For now at least, it is only Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s voice that rises above the din. On CNN she acknowledged the timeline put in place by the Bush Administration, remarking it is up to us to decide now whether we choose to look forward or back—as she said, “we are where we are.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains the one Iraqi political leader who cannot boast he is backed by a militia. This in a country where political currency is valued by the number of men you have under arms.

It is voices such as this that can correct the dreadful disservice currently being done to the million Americans who served in Iraq and the more than four thousand who died there or the thousands more wounded. Or to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who perished.

Still paying the price for my seven years in that war, I’d like to think all of us deserve better. This narrative is ours. And no one has the right to distort it. Not even the President.