Monday, March 02, 2009

Barack and his cabinet of tax cheats

Friday Barack Obama spoke at Camp Lejeune.  The spin was his decision to go from a 16-month 'withdrawal' to a 19 one was no surprise and he had always, always, always said he would listen to commanders on the ground.  No.  That's a lie. Sunday, Ava and my "TV: Felons, Frauds and Fluff," covered the exchange between ABC's Charlie Gibson and Barack Obama during the April 16, 2008 debate. But anyone who followed the Democratic Party's campaign for the presidential nomination knows the way it worked: Hillary gave an answer and then Barack tried to make it his own.  So today we'll start by noting Hillary's answer.  And you should notice that when Charlie Gibson moves over to Barack, he is clearing asking Barack if he is giving "the same rock-hard plegde" that Hillary just gave.  From the transcript:
GIBSON: Let me just add a little bit to that question, because your communications director of your campaign, Howard Wolfson, on a conference call recently was asked, is Senator Clinton going to stick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out of Iraq every month, whatever the realities on the ground?   And Wolfson said, I'm giving you a one-word answer so we can be clear about it. The answer is, yes. So, if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one, and said, this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going to order those troops to come home?
CLINTON: Yes, I am, Charlie. And here's why. Thankfully, we have a system in our country, of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice. And then they execute the policies of the president. I have watched this president, as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goal posts when it comes to Iraq. And I am convinced that it is in America's best interests, it is in the best interests of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interests of Iraq that upon taking office I will ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days.  I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner because, obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment, is dangerous. I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer have a blank check from the president of the United States.  Because I believe that it will be only through our commitment to withdrawal that the Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all of these years. I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within the region and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries to understand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future of Iraq.  But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days. And we've had other instances in our history where some military commanders have been very publicly opposed to what a president was proposing to do. But I think it's important that this decision be made. And I intend to make it.
GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified. Saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying: I know better than the military commanders here?
CLINTON: No, what I'm saying, Charlie, is that no one can predict what will happen. There are many different scenarios.  But one thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing to lose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqi casualties that we are seeing, as well, is there -- is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world.  It's not only about Iraq. It is about ending the war in Iraq so that we can begin paying attention to all of the other problems we have.  There isn't any doubt that Afghanistan has been neglected. It has not gotten the resources that it needs. We hear that from our military commanders responsible for that region of the world.  And there are other problems that we have failed to address.  So the bottom line for me is: We don't know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq.  The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its own future. Our military will continue to be stretched thin. And our soldiers will be on their second, third, even their fourth deployment. And we will not be able to re-assert our leadership and our moral authority in the world.  And I think those are the kind of broad issues that a president has to take into account. 
GIBSON: And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, "When he is" -- this is talking about you -- "When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that."  So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?
OBAMA: Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, "Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus."  Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And, unfortunately, we have had a bad mission set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.  Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics, once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there.  Once I have provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But, ultimately, the buck stops with me as the commander-in-chief.
The buck does stop with Barack Obama who is now the president of the United States and he told the American people in the debate last April that he would stick to a 16-month withdrawal and that was the "mission."  He would listen to the military commanders about how to implement the "mission," but the civilian command was the one responsible for setting the mission.  He mocked Bully Boy Bush for falling back on "I'm just taking cues from General Peteraeus."  And yet, Friday, when Barack sold his broken promise, he pushed the blame for it off on the military commanders.  The buck stops with Barack Obama.  He told the American people one thing in April and did another thing Friday.  That's called "lying."
A lot of people believe that his announcement of a draw down means that the approximately 144,000 (or 142,000) troops in Iraq will begin leaving Iraq at a steady pace.  That is not the case.  For this year, the expectation is that it will drop 10,000 -- to either 134,000 or 132,000 -- and no more.  January 2010, a 'draw down' is expected to begin.  If nothing changes, of course, and something always changes.  ABC News' Martha Raddatz explained this on Friday's Washington Week:
Gwen Ifill: And then, Martha, we get to today, in which he goes to Camp Leujune and he says 'we are -- I'm going to keep another campaign promise. I said we were going to be out of Iraq in sixteen months, well, maybe eighteen months, and then he says --
Martha Raddatz: Or nineteen.

Gwen Ifill: Or nineteen. 50,000 troops are going to stay behind. But they'll be gone by 2011. Is any of this possilbe.
Martha Raddatz: I, well, I think first of all you've got to look at his language. Certainly, they're going to start the draw down. And what I've been told is in the next six months, they'll only have eight to ten thousand soldiers and Marines leaving Iraq. The bulk of the draw down that he promised will start in probably January and February and then you'll have 80,000 troops pulling out of Iraq from January to August. That would leave 50,000 trooops. The thing I would quibble with is they will no longer have combat missions. Look at what the mission will be. And General Ray Odierno sent a letter out to the troops today saying essentially their goals would be training Iraqi secruity forces, conducting coordinated counterterrorism mission and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. I don't really know how you do that without combat troops and frankly all of the US forces are trained combat troops.
Note that as this is dicated,  Washington Week has streaming video up of Friday's show but has not yet posted the transcript.  Thomas E. Ricks (author of the new book The Gamble) evaluates Barack's speech today and offers, "The more I consider it, the more I think President Obama's Camp Lejeune speech last Friday was about how to stay in Iraq for a while, not about how to get out. . . . What's more, the planned troop reductions won't really happen in a big way until sometime in 2010, so Iraq can get through its national elections. (And a memo to everyone who is counting on the SOFA to bail us out of Iraq: Guys, that was about getting Iraq through 2009, not about what happens in 2011.)" He could have been directing the parenthetical to Phyllis Bennis (but he wasn't) who showed up last week so uninformed that The Third Estate Sunday Review awarded her a Katrina.  (Ava and I were working on our TV pieces, we didn't help write the Katrina article.)  Phyllis repeats the lie Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn's been pimping that the White House was forced to sign that treaty. (If link to Phyllis article doesn't work, it's because you have to be a ZNet sustainer to see it.)  The Third gang takes Phyllis to school, "Reality, Phyll, the White House pushed that treaty masquerading as a SOFA through. They did so over Democratic Congressional opposition -- that was Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, Susan Davis and pretty much everyone including, yes, Barack. The White House ignored the objections, just as they ignored the Constitution. . . .   Lying to yourself that the treaty the White House wrote and pushed through was forced on the White House may help you cum, Phyllis, but it's not reality."  Phyllis also foolishly appears to have no idea on when (some) US troops might start leaving.  When she grasps that only 10,000 tops will leave in the ten months left in this year -- and maybe grasps that will put the number at around the same number before Bully Boy Bush's 2007 'surge' -- she may feel that "three months" or one day more matters.  Right now, she's worthless.  Sorry, Phyllis, that's the reality.  Chris Hedges (World Can't Wait) never saw himself as Barack's handmaiden which is why he can speak the truth so many others silence:
Barack Obama has shown that he is as capable of doublespeak as any other politician when he announced an end to the war in Iraq. Combat troops are to be pulled out of Iraq by August 2010, he said, but some 50,000 occupation troops will remain behind. Someone should let the Iraqis know the distinction. I doubt any soldier or Marine in Iraq will notice much difference in 19 months.
Many combat units will simply be relabeled as noncombat units. And what about our small army of well-paid contractors and mercenaries? Will Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe), all of whom have made fortunes off the war, pack up and go home? What about the three large super-bases, dozens of smaller military outposts and our imperial city, the Green Zone? Will American corporations give up their lucrative control of Iraqi oil?
The occupation of Iraq will not be disrupted. Lies and deception, which launched the war in the first place, are being employed by Democrats to maintain it. This is not a withdrawal. It is occupation lite. And as long as American troops are on Iraqi soil the war will grind on, the death toll on each side will continue to mount and we will remain a lightning rod for hatred and rage in the Middle East. Add to this Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and even his most purblind supporters will have to admit the new president is as intent on maintaining American empire as the old.

Despite Obama's certitude, the best answer is: maybe. Yes, the war is winding down, and Iraq is far calmer than it was two years ago. But the situation remains fluid, and Obama's commitment to get out is part goal, part guessing game.
The president's bid to fulfill the promise he made on the campaign trail -- to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office -- always came with a big asterisk. He would leave 35,000 to 50,000 "non-combat" troops in Iraq well beyond that promised drawdown period, now extended from 16 to 19 months. That's about a third of the 142,000 troops there now. What's more, the drawdown will be back-loaded, with troops leaving only slowly until after national elections this December.   
And when would those "non-combat" troops come home? Under a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, by the end of 2011. Even that isn't set in concrete, however. "If we're there beyond that, it'll be because of a new agreement ... negotiated with President Obama and based on what he thinks is in the best interests of our country," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday on Meet the Press.
At the New York Times, Emily S. Rubb covers the same Meet the Press apperance USA Today only mentions but somehow Rubb forgets to include the pertinent section.  Intent on offering a feel-good experience, Rubb ignores that Gates repeated what he'd emphasized on Friday: "I think what he was referring to was that under the terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement, which is what we are operating under now, all US forces must be out by the end of 2011.  It will require a new agreement -- or it would require a new agreement, a new negotiation -- almost certainly an Iraqi initiative -- to provide for some presence beyond the end of 2011.  So in the absence of that agreement, in the absence of any negotiation for such an agreement, it is in keeping with the SOFA that, to say definitively, that we will be out at the end of 2011."  And could the US remain in Iraq after 2011, Secretary Gates?   "Well, I think we'll have to wait and see.  I mean, it's a hypothetical.  The Iraqis have not said anything about that at this point.  So it remains to be seen whether they will take an initiative.  I think what we should be -- my own view would be that we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with their new equipment and providing, perhaps, intelligence support and so on beyond that.  But again, it's hypothetical, because such a -- no such request has been made, and no indication that it will be at this point."  Back to Sunday's Meet the Press (transcript to Gates' segment here) where Gates admitted that, yes, troops could be sent back in.  (The Times wasn't interested in that despite the fact that their own Michael Gordon pressed Barack on that point in November of 2007 and Barack admitted that was the case.)  At the Washington Post's Post Global Rami G. Khouri offers this opinion on troops going back in after some being leaving, "Absolutely not. American troops should leave Iraq and stay out. If ethnic strife flares up again in Iraq beyond its current levels, it will probably be due to three possible causes: lingering resentments and active revenge for the abuses of the Baathist regime; destructive forces unleashed by the American-led invasion that removed the entire state structure; or, meddling by external forces from neighboring countries. A return of American forces would not resolve any of those issues or lower their intensity, but would only exacerbate them."  Meanwhile, link provided for laughter, Tom Hayden pretends he's of some use to the world and wants to insist that Thomas E. Ricks is wrong, wrong, wrong and Barack's announcment proves it and . . . Wipe the drool from your mouth, Tom-Tom, or use it to soak Barack's balls.  But don't pretend you've offered anything resembling critical thought or even a summary.  Ricks remains an analyst, you remain the ex-husband who pulled a Brinks truck up to your divorce settlement.  Not content to spew at Thomas E. Ricks (who's actually been to Iraq, Tom, what's your excuse?), Tom-Tom goes after Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader supporters, Cynthia McKinney supporters and any lefty who refused to support the Christ-child at the ballot box, "When there was a choice between supporting Barack Obama and attending rallies organized by various Maoists, Trotskyists and neo-anarchists opposed to Obama and electoral politics, the grassroots peace movement headed for the precincts by the thousands."  You just have to laugh, you just have to laugh. 
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  • 1 comment:

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