Monday, February 04, 2019

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 4, 2019.  Was Margaret Brennan even awake during her interview with Donald Trump?

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump appeared on CBS' FACE THE NATION.  Iraq was briefly a topic.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not telegraphing anything.  No, no, no. There's a difference. When President Obama pulled out of Iraq in theory we had Iraq. In other words, we had Iraq. We never had Syria because President Obama never wanted to violate the red line in the sand. So we never had Syria. I was the one that actually violated the red line when I hit Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles, if you remember. But President Obama chose not to do that. When he chose not to do that, he showed tremendous weakness. But we didn't have Syria whereas we had Iraq. So when he did what he did in Iraq, which was a mistake. Being in Iraq was a mistake. Okay. Being in Iraq- it was a big mistake to go- one of the greatest mistakes going into the Middle East that our country has ever made. One of the greatest mistakes that we've ever made--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you want to keep troops there now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but when it was chosen-- well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Whoa, that's news. You're keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're going to trust the intelligence that you receive?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am going to trust the intelligence that I'm putting there, but I will say this: my intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent. It is a vicious country that kills many people. When you talk about torture and so many other things. And- maybe they'll come back. The country is getting absolutely- when I ended the horrible Iran nuclear deal- it was a horrible deal done by President Obama and John Kerry that didn't know what the hell he was doing. When I ended that deal, Margaret, all of a sudden Iran became a different country. They became- very rapidly- right now they're a country that's in big financial trouble. Let's see what happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to move on here but I should say your intel chiefs do say Iran's abiding by that nuclear deal. I know you think it's a bad deal, but--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I disagree with them. I'm- I'm- by the way--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You disagree with that assessment?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --I have intel people, but that doesn't mean I have to agree. President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein--


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --in Iraq had nuclear weapons- had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn't know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in. And we've spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we have lost lives--

Margaret Brennan isn't very smart.  That was obvious when she rushed to pout about a possible withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, whether we should have been there in the first place, that's first question. Second question--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's where 9/11 was launched from.

"That's where 9/11 was launched from," insists Margaret.  Huh?  The planes that crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon took off from Afghanistan?  That's the literal meaning of her stupid sentence. 

The second meaning -- where we have to provide details -- would be that Osama bin Laden (considered the mastermind behind 9/11) met with his key player in Afghanistan.  I believe the key player in the official narrative is.  Supposedly, coordination took place out of Hamburg, Germany.  A meeting between Mohamed and Atta Ramzi bin al Shibh in July 2001 is considered key.  And that meeting took place in Afghanistan?  No.  It took place in Spain.

The Taliban controlled Afghanistan.  The Taliban was an awful group (probably still is) but it was not responsible for 9/11.  It comes into play because Osama bin Laden was there at some point.  Then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated Osama was responsible for 9/11 and that the Taliban should hand him over.  They responded: Show us your evidence and we will.  Colin replied back: Hand him over and then we'll show you.

On such bickering -- in the official narrative -- the Afghanistan War was started.  (The late Gore Vidal repeatedly noted that there were other issues at play including a desired oil pipeline.)

That is a very brief and tiny overview.  But Margaret Brennan's nonsense fails to even demonstrate awareness of those basic facts.

Her stupidity just shines through.  And that includes on Iraq.  This is a serious topic -- the ongoing Iraq War which is now one month away from the 16 year mark.  And his comments were rather important in many ways.

First of all?  She should have asked what the Iraqi government says about this plan.  But she didn't.

Michael Burke (THE HILL) reports:

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Monday said that President Trump didn't ask permission to leave U.S. troops in Iraq to monitor Iran.
Salih said U.S. troops are in the country with the mission to combat terrorism and told the U.S. not to "pursue your own policy priorities" in the country, according to Reuters.
“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” Salih added. “The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here.”

Now the media loves to call Donald a liar -- sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly.  Margaret had the perfect opportunity to test that out by asking what the Iraqi government says about his plan.  But she couldn't be bothered.  She had a list of issues she wanted to tick off.  She didn't actually want to conduct an interview.

What she did, repeatedly, was embarrassing. 

She didn't confront him with the reality that his plan for Iraq is in direct opposition to what he's announced for Syria and Afghanistan.  She didn't ask him if this was supposed to be similar to when US troops remained (for year and are still there) in South Korea. She didn't ask what he needed from the government of Iran to pull US troops from Iraq.  She asked a question and then, mistaking her role as moderator of a public affairs program for conducting The Proust Questionnaire for VANITY FAIR.

Barbara Walters -- even at her worst (Colin Powell's blot) -- could and did listen during an interview and could deliver follow ups.  Margaret isn't much of a journalist and must tick off from a script.

What Margaret found so uninteresting, what she rushed through, is actually the only topic of real news from her interview.  And what she couldn't grasp, the rest of the media did.

ALJAZEERA opens with, "US forces must remain in Iraq so the United States can keep a close eye on neighbouring Iran, according to President Donald Trump."    Mark Moore (NEW YORK POST) adds, "Despite calling the decision to go to war in Iraq 'one of the greatest mistakes' the country has ever made, he said the US should take advantage of its strong military presence in Iraq."  Edward Helmore (THE GUARDIAN) offers, "Donald Trump wants to keep US troops in Iraq, in order to 'watch' Iran."  Jennifer Epstein, Mark Niquette and Nour Al Ali (BLOOMBERG NEWS) note, "President Donald Trump stood by his plans to reduce the U.S. footprint in the Middle East but said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he intends to maintain a presence in Iraq, in part to keep tabs on Iran."  CNN's Samantha Vinograd insists that  US troops do not have any authority to fight Iran from Iraq.  Asawin Suebsaeng (DAILY BEAST) ponders the opposing positions Donald's presenting and notes that foreign affairs are expected to play a big part in the upcoming State Of The Union address.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran, because Iran is a problem.” –President Trump on wanting to keep US troops in Iraq

Again, this was the key part of the exchange and Margaret had no follow up of note.  It was as though she wasn't even present for her own interview.

Eric Schmitt and Alissa J. Rubin (NEW YORK TIMES) report:

Mr. Trump’s comments come as the United States has quietly been negotiating with Iraq for weeks to allow perhaps hundreds of American commandos and support troops now operating in Syria to shift to bases in Iraq and strike the Islamic State from there. Military leaders are seeking to maintain pressure on the militant group as the president fundamentally reorders policy toward Syria and toward Afghanistan, where peace talks with the Taliban are underway.
But senior American officers and diplomats said Mr. Trump’s comments could undercut the delicate negotiations in Iraq by inflaming fears among the Iraqis that the moves would be a guise to check Iran, potentially straining ties with Baghdad and weakening the ability of the United States to respond to Islamic State remnants in Syria.

The remarks he made are similar to what he said back in December.

This is a part of President ’s speech in Al Asad Air base, 26th Dec 2018 where he says he will keep US troops in not only for preventing IS insurgency but also to watch

This is what FACE THE NATION thought their big Iraq moment in the interview was:

. says “we’ll come back if we have to” when asks about a potential resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, “We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly.”
0:19 / 1:28

Here's the transcript to that section of the interview:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, everything's harder. But, you know you pay a big price for troops on the ground. We're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military. We're the policemen of the world and we don't--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the concern in here by your intelligence chiefs, though, is that you could in that vacuum see a resurgence of ISIS.
MARGARET BRENNAN: See a resurgence of terror groups like Al-Qaeda--
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you know what we'll do? We'll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean I was there recently, and I couldn't believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And these- I've rarely seen anything like it. And it's there. And we'll be there. And frankly, we're hitting the caliphate from Iraq and as we slowly withdraw from Syria. Now the other thing--
MARGARET BRENNAN: How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?
MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they'll be going to our base in Iraq, and ultimately some will be coming home. But we're going to be there and we're going to be staying--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that's a matter of months?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we're- yeah, they'll be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we're protecting the world. We're spending more money than anybody's ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to 50 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That's more than most countries spend for everything including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries.

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