We spent eight years, close to a trillion dollars, and the lives of 4000 US servicemen to change Iraq from a national security threat into a weakly functioning democracy in the Arab Middle East. At least 100,000 Iraqi citizens lost their lives in that transition. We had the opportunity to establish an toehold in a strategically crucial part of the world from whence we cannot rationally disengage, for all its toxins and no matter our own desires.
The final withdrawal of US forces from that blasted land will come in accordance with a timeline finalized between President Obama’s predecessor and the legally established government of Iraq. Altering that agreement in a way that more closely suited both our own security needs and those of the fledgling Iraqi republic would have required political courage on all parts, and inspired leadership here at home.
Alas, there was none:
Throughout the summer and autumn, as talks on a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq foundered, President Barack Obama and his point man on Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden, remained largely aloof from the process, logs released by the U.S. Embassy here suggest.
The omission would be an unusual one, given the high priority U.S. officials had given to achieving an agreement for some sort of residual U.S. presence in Iraq after the Dec. 31 pullout deadline, and the White House labeled the suggestion inaccurate. A spokesman said the logs released by the embassy were incomplete.
The listing provided by the embassy _ drawn, the embassy said, from the White House website _ indicates that Obama had no direct contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki between Feb. 13, when he telephoned the prime minister, until Friday, when he called Maliki to tell him U.S. troops would be withdrawn by Dec. 31.
The embassy listing showed that Biden telephoned Maliki on Dec. 21, the day Maliki formed a new government, and visited here Jan. 18, but had no direct contact after that date, according to the official listing.
The White House dismisses the embassy logs, and disputes the legacy of disengagement they reveal. But the result is perfectly in alignment with what we can deduce were the White House’s over-arching policy objectives: 1) Get US forces out of Iraq before the 2012 election cycle no matter what the cost, and 2) Don’t let any of what happens afterward stick to Obama himself.
SecDef Leon Panetta can bark all he wants at Iran, but come 2011 – or perhaps sooner – the mullahs will know that he has no bite.