That’s pretty much all that President Obama is left with when it comes to Iraq:
President Obama declared Friday that the United States has now “begun the work of ending this war” in Iraq as he announced the withdrawal of most American forces by the summer of next year while leaving behind as many as 50,000 troops for more limited missions.
Nearly six years after American troops crossed the border into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, Mr. Obama said “renewed cause for hope” produced by improved security would allow Americans to begin disentangling militarily and turn the country over to the Iraqis themselves.
“Let me say this as plainly as I can,” the president told thousands of Marines stationed here. “By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.”
Sound a bit like “major combat operations have ended?”. Of course it does. He’s imposing a semantic marker here in an effort to declare he is fulfilling his campaign promise.
Of course, he’s not. In fact, it’s not even close.
Very carefully he’s declared “combat operations” to be complete by that date. In fact they’ve been complete for a while. But he’s not declaring our presence in Iraq is over, which was the crux of his campaign promise.
His word salad hasn’t fooled Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, who complained Thursday that a 50,000-member residual force was too big, put out a more tempered statement Friday, calling Mr. Obama’s plan “sound and measured,” while adding that he still wants to keep “only those forces necessary for the security of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people.”
A person briefed on the closed-door White House briefing for Congressional leaders said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, was particularly upset about the residual force. She kicked off the public criticism on Wednesday by saying she did not understand “the justification” for 50,000 troops staying.
The justification, of course, is “reality”, a concept the “reality based community” has difficulty with at times. As with many of the decisions Obama has made, it was an attempt to please everyone all while spinning it as something it isn’t . In this case I’m fine with that.
But let’s call it what it is.
In fact, with the residual force in Iraq through 2011, Mr. Obama has agreed to Mr. Bush’s withdrawal plan while pretending he hasn’t.
Barack Obama is about to submit his first budget to Congress.
Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. - President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress, Feb 24, 2009
That’s the promise. The reality, as the Washington Post observes, isn’t quite in keeping with the promise:
President Obama’s spending plan is built on the assumption that lawmakers can resolve some hugely contentious issues — and it relies on a few well-worn budget tricks.
The tricks? The usual stuff – calling something what it isn’t and inflating future spending numbers to make the future real numbers appear to be “savings”. For instance:
And though Obama told Congress on Tuesday that his budget team has “already identified $2 trillion in savings” to help tame record budget deficits, about half of those “savings” are actually tax increases, administration officials said. A big chunk of the rest of the savings comes from measuring Obama’s plans against an unrealistic scenario in which the Iraq war continues to suck up $170 billion a year forever.
The tax increases, of course, include an increase in taxes on the top 2%. And further savings are based on pretending that the Bush administration planned on spending $170 billion (seems like a small number when compared to the numbers being thrown around these days, doesn’t it?) beyond 2011 when it planned on pulling the bulk of the troops out of the country.
“It’s a hollow number,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, who recently withdrew as Obama’s nominee to head the Commerce Department. “You’re not getting savings if you’re assuming spending that isn’t actually going to occur.”
What accounts for the other major source of income?
But to pay for it, the president counts on a big infusion of cash from a politically controversial cap-and-trade system, which would force companies to buy allowances to exceed pollution limits.
The promise that energy costs are going to skyrocket seems one promise he’s bent on keeping. That of course will require more spending to offset the consequences (but don’t figure on being in on the subsidy, you probably won’t qualify). And then there’s the redistributionist “spread the wealth” bonus to be realized from cap-and-trade:
Obama also wants to use the money to cover the cost of extending his signature Making Work Pay tax credit, worth up to $800 a year for working families. That credit, which will cost $66 billion next year, was enacted in the stimulus package, but is set to expire at the end of 2010.
Cover the cost is a way of saying, making the program permanent.
Then there’s the deficit promise. Obama has set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term. As observers say, there’s absolutely nothing difficult about reaching that goal:
This year’s budget deficit is bloated by spending on the stimulus package and various financial-sector bailouts, expenses unlikely to be repeated in future years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently predicted that the deficit could be halved by 2013 merely by winding down the war in Iraq and allowing some of the tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration to expire in 2011, as Obama has proposed. That alone would cut the deficit to $715 billion, according to the CBO.
Notice that final number, folks. That’s “half” of the deficit. In other words he’s going to be running a deficit north of $700 billion dollars and trying to convince you how well he’s done. In fact, all he’ll have done is add several trillions to the debt with several trillions more to come if reelected.
The era of big deficit financed government isn’t just back, it’s back on steroids sitting in a rocket sled pointed at economic hell.
I‘m a big booster of the military (yeah, yeah, I know, big surprise) but when it or members of the military do dumb, stupid or illegal things, I call them out. This is one of those times:
A U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq has called President Obama an “impostor” in a statement in which he affirmed plans to join as plaintiff in a challenge to Obama’s eligibility to be commander in chief.
The statement was publicized by California attorney Orly Taitz who, along with her DefendOurFreedom.us Foundation, is working on a series of legal cases seeking to uncover Obama’s birth records and other documents that would reveal whether he meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.
“As an active-duty officer in the United States Army, I have grave concerns about the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to hold the office of president of the United States,” wrote Scott Easterling in a “to-whom-it-may-concern” letter.
As Neptunus Lex says, “this is a guy way out of his swim lane”. Lex mirrors my reaction exactly:
I’m no particular fan of the president’s agenda, but this smells too like the actions of those refuseniks who insisted that the 2000 presidential election was invalid because the result failed to conform to their preferences. Only this is worse, because the individual in question is an active duty officer serving in a combat zone. It’s going to create a huge headache for both his soldiers and their chain of command, all of whom have much better things to do with their lives – like preserve them – than to coddle the whimsies of a rogue 2LT.
He swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. This is mere vanity.
And it is utter stupidity. I don’t support this LT any more than I supported the LT who refused to deploy because he had decided that the Iraq war was “illegal”. They need to get this guy out of Iraq where his divided attention might end up getting someone killed. Then they should help him quickly learn to reassimilate into civilian life again (where he will surely become the darling of a few far-right fringe groups).
Apparently not to the usual suspects.
Bill Ayers was interviewed:
Ayers had this to say about President Barack Obama committing an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan: “It’s a mistake. It’s a colossal mistake. And, you know, we’ve seen this happen before, Alan. We’ve seen a hopeful presidency, Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, burn up in the furnace of war.”
Ayers thereby joins the rest of the moonbat contingent:
“I’m very upset; he promised change, and this is not change. It’s just going to create more deaths on both sides and create more terrorists,” said Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink. The group, known for protests and targeting Bush administration officials, posted a statement Thursday condemning Mr. Obama’s decision and urging him to replace the combat troops with “humanitarian troops.”
“Afghanistan needs troops of doctors, farmers, teachers, not more troops,” the statement says.
It is apparently beyond Ms. Evan’s abilities to wonder how those “troops” of doctors, farmers and teachers are supposed to do their thing when, in the absence of our troops, the countryside is controlled by the Taliban. I assume she isn’t aware of the fact that the Taiban has a tendency to behead many of those she’d commit to A’stan.
Interesting though, isn’t it? Now we’re beginning to see that many of the supposedly “anti-Iraq” crowd, were just the usual anti-war bunch.
Osame bin Laden takes a verbal shellacking from one of the founders of al Qaeda who is none to pleased with bin Laden, Iraq and 9/11:
Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, who goes by the nom de guerre Dr Fadl, helped bin Laden create al-Qaeda and then led an Islamist insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s.
But in a book written from inside an Egyptian prison, he has launched a frontal attack on al-Qaeda’s ideology and the personal failings of bin Laden and particularly his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Twenty years ago, Dr Fadl became al-Qaeda’s intellectual figurehead with a crucial book setting out the rationale for global jihad against the West.
Today, however, he believes the murder of innocent people is both contrary to Islam and a strategic error. “Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers,” writes Dr Fadl.
The terrorist attacks on September 11 were both immoral and counterproductive, he writes. “Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours?” asks Dr Fadl. “That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”
Heh … welcome to reality Dr Fadl.
Oh, and an excellent if obvious evaluation.
This circus needs a couple of more clowns:
When retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni told the Washington Times that he was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq before being passed over in favor of diplomat Christopher Hill, he did not say that one of the outrages of the experience was that his friend of 30 years, fellow former Marine Corps commandant and now national security advisor James L. Jones, had offered him the job, and then failed to tell him when the decision was changed.
“Jones had called me before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as ambassador to Iraq or in one of the envoy jobs, on the Middle East peace process,” Zinni told Foreign Policy. “I said yes.”
“Then two weeks ago, Jones called,” Zinni continued, “and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes.
“The president called and congratulated me,” Zinni said.
Sounds like a done deal, doesn’t it? And Zinni, who was a staunch Obama supporter and harsh critic of the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war thought it was too. In fact, he even met with Hillary Clinton, and again, everything seemed on track.
Then he didn’t hear from anyone for a week. He finally reached Jones one night and Jones told him, ‘We decided on Chris Hill.’”
Needless to say, Zinni was less than pleased and, when offered the ambasadorship to Saudi Arabia, told Jones to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.
So trying to figure out who the “we” is in “we decided on Chris Hill” I happened to read a piece by Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard.
I just had a conversation with one Republican who speculated that Richard Holbrooke may have been at the center of the current mess over who will serve as U.S. ambassador in Iraq. According to the scenario he laid out, despite Jones having offered the job to Zinni — an offer from one retired four-star to another — and Clinton having confirmed the offer, Holbrooke interceded on behalf of his protege, Chris Hill, urging Clinton to reserve the Iraq post for someone who had spent a career in the foreign service.
You just knew Clinton was at the bottom of this somewhere. And no surprise that Holbrooke is in the middle of it too. Nice. Essentially tell a guy he has the job and then avoid him for a week. Real class.
If you’re wondering what the excuse is going to be when they’re finally asked to explain it, well, here it is:
[T]he former senior official said, it might also have been problematic that until the end of 2008, Zinni had been executive vice president of defense contractor Dyncorp, which has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in Iraq. “If I was a responsible senator, I would scream about having the number two Dyncorp official” as ambassador to the country where it’s making so much money, the former official said.
How could a ‘responsible Senator’ scream about anything after putting a tax cheat in the Treasury post? They were also on the verge of puttin one into HHS had he not withdrawn.
Another embarrassment for the Obama administration (created by Hillary Clinton – and mark my word, this won’t be the last), which is becoming quite adept lately at creating them.
Hope and change.
It sure has been getting low-key coverage in the MSM, but it appears the election in Iraq went off very well and is producing some surprising and, frankly, good results.
14,400 candidates stood for office. Unlike 2005, when 200 candidates were killed prior to the election, this time 8 were lost. 14 of the 18 provinces were included (Kurdistan’s provinces are having separate elections) and while turnout was considered to be low (51%), Sunnis participated en mass for the first time. William Shawcross describes the results:
All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called “Shia firebrand”, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out.
The only Islamic party to gain ground was the Dawa party of the Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki – and even that party dropped the word Islamic from its name. The power of Maliki, who has emerged a stronger leader than expected, is further enhanced by these elections. Now no Islamic parties will be able to control any provinces on their own. The election is thus a big defeat for Iran which had hoped that Shia religious parties would control the south and enable Iran to turn them into a mini Shia republic.
I know this has some of you gasping for breath out there. We were assured by none other than the great Juan Cole and his fellow travelers that Iran was in total control of the Iraqi governmental apparatus and would quickly turn into what Shawcross characterizes as a “mini-Shia republic”.
Yet it appears that the Iraqi public are rejecting the concept of a theocracy in favor of a more secular government. And that, of course is a de facto rejection of Iran.
Obviously Iraq still has a long way to go, but it is hard to deny the amount of progress that has been made. Except for the dead-enders who’ve vested so much into this being the “worst foreign policy disaster in US history”, it is looking pretty darn good in Iraq.
USMC Maj Gen John F. Kelly gives you an indication of the level of change that has taken place in previously violent Anbar province:
Something didn’t happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.
What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives.
One of the things I’ve always said was that we came here to “give” them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.
Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province. Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.
There will be further setbacks. But who knows, Iraq may yet even become a model for democratic change in other Arab countries. If so, who deserves some credit? The much maligned President Bush. And Tony Blair.
Now that’s real hope and change.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has hailed a largely peaceful vote for new provincial councils across the country as a victory for all Iraqis.
Voting was extended by one hour due to a strong turnout, including among Sunni Muslims who boycotted the last polls.
The first nationwide vote in four years is being seen as a test of Iraq’s stability ahead of a general election due later this year.
Security, while tight, seems to have been effective:
Despite warnings from Iraqi and US military commanders that al-Qaeda posed a threat to the elections, there were relatively few incidents reported.
And the Sunni’s decided to participate this time:
The turnout was reported to be brisk even in Sunni areas.
The head of the Iraqi electoral commission in Anbar province – a centre of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation – said he was expecting a 60% turnout.
Their participation will, of course, change the representation in government, but it looks like the Sunni’s have decided that becoming a part of the solution is a much better strategy than being a part off the problem.
Real hope and change.