Thursday, February 26, 2009

The non-withdrawal 'withdrawal'

President Obama's planned Iraq troop drawdown would leave the bulk of American forces in place until early next year while some combat units would remain in place in new roles even beyond a declared August 2010 target for withdrawal, administration officials said Wednesday.

That's the opening to Peter Baker and Thom Shanker's "Obama's Iraq Plan Has December Elections as Turning Point for Pullout" in this morning's New York Times. The reporters quote various administration sources on what's expected to be announced Friday. EXPECTED. In caps because a friend in the administration says (paraphrase), "You know we do trial balloons." Yeah, whatever. But it could shift in some ways between now and Friday when the announcement is expected to be noted.

The two reporters note sources who tell them that August 2010 will pass and "as many as 50,000" US troops will remain in Iraq. Repeating, three friends in the administration give the number as 60,000. E-mails came in asking about that and why I say it's 70,000 then? If they're admitting to me 60,000, it's more than 60,000. Or they think it's more.

The reporters insist Barack was very clear about all of this during the campaign (primary and general). No, he was not. And we'll go to what Thomas E. Ricks (author of The Gamble) said on CBS' Washington Unplugged (click here for just the Ricks' segment) two Fridays ago about how Barack's pretty words translated to Americans:

Thomas E. Ricks: I think there well indeed might be a clash by the end of the year. Obama's campaign promise to get American troops out of Iraq in sixteen months was a fatuous promise. When Americans heard it, what they heard was 'I will have no American troops dying in 16 months.' But it was a false phraseology: "combat troops." Well, newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops. There's no pacifistic branch of the US Army. Anytime you have American troops out there, there are going to be some of them fighting and dying -- in counter-terror missions against al Qaeda, if you have American advisers with Iraqi troops, they're going to be getting into fights, some Americans will be dying. So I think we're there for a long time and as long as we're there -- unlike, say, the occupations of Korea, Japan and Germany, American troops will be engaged in combat. General Odierno says in the book he'd like to see 35,000 troops there as late as 2015. Well into . . . it will be Obama's second term. So I think that at the end of this year, you're going to see a conflict. Obama's going to want to see troop numbers coming down. Odierno, the other big O, as they call him in Iraq, is going to say, "Wait a minute, you're holding general elections here in December, in Iraq. That's exactly the wrong time to take troops out."

Thomas Ricks, of course, is the one who has consistently raised the point about elections in December. That point appears in the Times' article as well. In a brief, but must-read post, Ricks noted last night: "Watch this phrase: 'Residual force.' I think it will be President Obama's term for what he hopes to have in Iraq by the end of next year." There's more to the post, including historical perspective.

A little perspective would have helped the New York Times, especially in this section:

Word of Mr. Obama's impending decision generated little of the anger that has flavored the Iraq debate for years. Justin Ruben, executive director of, a group that has strongly opposed the war, said activists were willing to give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt.
"People have confidence that the president is committed to ending the war," Mr. Ruben said. "This is basically what he promised in the election." has no real members. Their "millions" are less than 125,000. They are the only organization that gets away with calling people "members" that they haven't heard from since 2004. (And most of their "members" are members two or three times over -- or more -- since they join with multiple e-mail accounts.) They are not the voice of the peace movement or the anti-war movement. They never have been, they never will be.

John Stauber and many others could make that very clear. At a time when Danny Schechter was interested in covering the Iraq War (no, he's not interested now -- that's not stating anything that's not been obvious for some time), Schechter could have explained that as well. blew off his documentary on Iraq. They were never interested in Iraq. Their goal is to elect Democrats -- and, apparently, then become apologists for those that they elected.

They dropped Iraq after the 2004 elections -- earning the Walk On, moniker. They did the same after the 2006 elections -- when Congress, turned over to Democrats so that they would end the illegal war, failed to honor the mandate. They are not a group of activsts and they never have been. "Move on" comes from their origins. They are appeasers. They started during the attacks on Bill Clinton and didn't argue for Democrats to fight back, they argued for Democrats to "move on" -- hence the name. They have nothing to do with Iraq other than using it to fund raise and scare up votes.

Baker and Shanker note that -- unlike Barbara Lee (see next entry) -- Nancy Pelosi, Speaker fo the House, isn't apparently going to skip happily along with something just because Barack wants it. The reporters quote her stating, "I don't know what the justification is for 50,000. I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000."

By refusing to end the illegal war immediately, Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason (Reuters) report Barack plans to spend $140 billion this year alone on continuing the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Billie wants "UPDATE: DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ" from the Dallas Morning News noted. It's a compilation of wire reports. As long as she or another community member e-mails it (and I see it), we'll note it. At a time when Iraq gets less and less coverage, we will make an attempt to note anyone who makes an honest effort. But I'm tossing this on DFW community members (or members who check the Dallas Morning News website from where ever). You have to e-mail it. I'm not going to remember to hunt it down.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes:

The seventh round of the trade and cooperation agreement between Iraq and the European Union concluded on the Thursday, 26/2/2009 chaired by the Foreign Ministry and attended by representatives of other ministries.

During the discussion the terms of the agreement which included the topics of migration and trade, culture and archeology, tourism, finance, investment, energy, development and planning, industry, agriculture and justice.

The parties agreed that the final form of the agreement would be prepared and submitted to the executive and legislative authorities before signing it this year by Iraq and the European Union.

Last night, the following community sites updated:

The e-mail address for this site is

cbs news
washington unplugged
thomas e. ricks

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends