From Specialst Armer to Obama: Actions vs. Words

The WaPo today informs us that US troops are increasingly “uneasy” in Iraq. No mention is made of the carnage being inflicted on Gaza as a concern.
Instead, journo Ernesto Londoño informs us that the concern is over “the new security agreement that demands that American combat troops depend more heavily than ever on their often-bungling Iraqi counterparts.” That, we are told, has left some troops feeling “vulnerable.”
Londoño quotes a US Army Specialist Cory Aermer, age 23:

“We’ve got to walk on eggshells…. I understand you can’t go out and shoot everyone and play Rambo. But war is war. We shouldn’t be falling under the jurisdiction of a country we’re at war with.”

Excuse me? Assuming Londoño didn’t put words in his mouth, somebody should explain to Specialist Armer that the US Army is not at war with the country of Iraq, but with, “the bad guys.” The idea of course is to get the good people of Iraq to reject the “bad guys,” to help them stand independently for themselves.
When not taking condescending swipes at Iraqi soldiers, Londoño appears to be siding with complaints about US troops being “forced” to “comply with the new requirement that bars the U.S. government from holding suspected criminals who have not been charged by Iraqi authorities.” According to a US Captain Dominic Heil,

“We used to detain people for their intelligence value only…. We can’t do that anymore.”

One hopes the Captain comprehends that the policy shift is actually good for American interests. It’s far easier to convince Iraqis of the merits of things like the rule of law when the US practices what it preaches. National Security “Mom” has it right: “Actions speak louder than words.”
An all-too-sad excuse often made for US soldiers behaving badly in Iraq was their civilian leadership’s winking and nodding at human rights abuses. I still have hopes for the incoming administration, but Barrack Obama’s comments on Sunday explaining why he’s in no apparent rush to close the Guantanamo Bay are disconcerting:

It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true.

Obama apparently wants to create “a process” by which we can keep them and get around (e.g., “balance”) those pesky human rights concerns that the world finds so important. Glen Greenwald draws out the implications of Obama’s apparent stance here:

What he’s saying is quite clear. There are detainees who the U.S. may not be able to convict in a court of law. Why not? Because the evidence that we believe establishes their guilt was obtained by torture… But Obama wants to detain them anyway…. So before he can close Guantanamo, he wants a new, special court to be created…. where evidence obtained by torture… can be used to justify someone’s detention….. That’s what he means when he refers to “creating a process.”

Mr. President elect, say it isn’t so. Please stop even implying actions that will drown out our words. In your campaign, you eloquently said that, “we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.”
Just what message would a “process” that permits the use of evidence obtained through torture send?

43 thoughts on “From Specialst Armer to Obama: Actions vs. Words

  1. Don Bacon

    somebody should explain to Specialist Armer that the US Army is not at war with the country of Iraq, but with, “the bad guys.”
    The guys on the ground, and Specialist Cory Armer is obviously one, know the truth, and that is, as indicated by polls, that the majority of Iraqis favor attacks on US troops. Why? Because of the brutal occupation, including widespread violations of the Geneva Convention and the Laws of War such as the wanton imprisonment and torture of civilians and the destruction of buildings and people under US military occupation.
    In this sense most of the Iraqi population are “bad guys.”
    Obama might have — might have — good intentions but he cannot — cannot — change the US military culture, which goes far deeper than any Specialist. In fact, Obama is has retained the Pentagon chief and is surrounding himself with ex-military. Face it, the campaign “change” signs were just that, signs.

  2. Scott H

    Well, with much respect, I’m not so willing to just surrender here and “face it.”
    Even were it true that Iraqis favor attacking Americans, my focus still is that America isn’t, per se, making war on the country of Iraq. That attitude is, we surely can agree, what has aggravated suspicions of US intentions.
    I also don’t accept such a monolithic characterization of US military culture, even as I recognize the concerns you’ve raised in other posts. There are the Eisenhower and Pat Lang types therein, those who know it’s American values that are worth upholding and defending, even when the broader American media and Congressional “cultures” seem to have forgotten….
    There are battles ongoing within the military…. conclusion not fore-ordained.
    We’re just electronic scribblers to be sure, but I wouldn’t be expending my energies with this course I’m on, were I so fatalistic in assuming change was impossible.

  3. Don Bacon

    America isn’t, per se, making war on the country of Iraq.
    You’re technically correct, it isn’t war, it’s a brutal military occupation in violation of . . .(see above). Any rational person, when faced with routine and wanton death, rape, injury, torture, destruction and displacement is not going simply to forgive and and forget, are they.
    This is in a long US tradition of “American values.” Eisenhower? How about the carpet bombing of German cities? This tradition was particularly effective in Asia, particularly Japan and Korea, where most people lived in wooden structures. The first wave of US bombers dropped high explosive to blow everything apart, the second wave dropped incendiary to set everything afire and wave three was fragmentation to kill all the poor souls running around trying to put out the fires. That was before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 3 million killed in Vietnam, etc. The Iraqis have their Fallujah and Sadr City US atrocities. So don’t give me that “American values” stuff — it doesn’t wash.

  4. Shirin

    “We’ve got to walk on eggshells…. I understand you can’t go out and shoot everyone and play Rambo. But war is war. We shouldn’t be falling under the jurisdiction of a country we’re at war with.”
    Sickening. Just sickening.
    This is a perfect example of why the U.S. just needs to get out as soon as possible.

  5. seth edenbaum

    “But war is war. We shouldn’t be falling under the jurisdiction of a country we’re at war with.”
    That means he does not feel safe. Are you telling him to behave as if he is?
    Don’t let your awareness of the bigger issues cloud your awareness of one man’s worries about self-preservation.
    He’s just a soldier trying to do his job and he feels trapped between US Government propaganda and the facts on the ground. Obviously the political higher ups don’t care if he lives or dies. What else should he say? Or do you regularly chide people for not being saints?
    This is not a defense of the war. Obviously we are in a war with the Iraqi people and we should leave.

  6. Don Bacon

    re: eggshells
    Now, considering Iraq, we’re getting at the essence of the tragedy of Jay Garner’s (get in and get out) replacement with Jerry Bremer (stay).
    Combat troops in a hostile environment created by a brutal occupation, trained to shoot anything that moves in self-defense, are in effect recruiting the occupation resistance, and then the troops can’t be removed because of “conditions on the ground,” which is something Rumsfeld said for years and is now being repeated by Gates, Mullen & Co. It’s a self-fulfilling contract.
    Said another way, the idea that occupation combat troops are “peacekeepers” in a country where the US has a strategic interest is an non-operative concept. The Pentagon would have us believe that these guys are helping little old ladies cross the street and handing out candy to kiddies, but Specialist Armer knows what’s really going down. Listen to him, and then, as Shirin says, get out.
    Of course that won’t happen. Gates has already defied his President and verbally backed off the SOFA terms, and Obama has retained Gates while saying that he will listen to the generals.

  7. Alex

    Spc. Armer’s remark is simply illustrative of the gulf that exists between US popular military opinion – and indeed popular opinion in the US in short – and what was signed in November.
    There has been no follow-up from the US side, to explain what US policy is. No doubt it is because of embarrassment as what has been signed. It is difficult to say to the US public that the US has signed an agreement for withdrawal.
    In effect, this is a criticism of Obama, or perhaps of the US constitution, with its delayed transition of presidents. He hasn’t said whether he supports the agreement signed or not. It is all very nice hiding behind the rule of one president at a time, but the international situation is urgent. There are vacuums in US policy which need to be settled, in Iraq as in Gaza.
    I am sad for Obama that he is faced with difficult international problems on all fronts, at the moment of his entry into power. But we need an answer.
    Personally, as I’ve said before, I think that the US has no option but to accept the agreement. A new surge is impossible, and the Iraqis know it.
    At the moment, the US seems to be happy to pursue a contradictory policy, signing one thing with Iraq, and saying the opposite to US domestic market. Why not continue? For a year or two that will work. Of course, in 2012 a final withdrawal will have to take place, but that is far away.
    The problem lies with the soldiers; they need to be told what they are doing.

  8. John Francis Lee

    But war is war. We shouldn’t be falling under the jurisdiction of a country we’re at war with.
    Spc. Armer is telling it like it is. Ask any Iraqi, other than the compradors running the “Iraqi” government. The US is the invader and occupier of Iraq. The Oppressor. End the war now.

  9. Shirin

    I am sad for Obama that he is faced with difficult international problems on all fronts, at the moment of his entry into power.
    It’s not like he didn’t know going in. He walked through the door willingly with his eyes open. I don’t feel a bit sad for him.
    Alex, I love your optimism, really, and I always listen carefully to what you say, I really believe they signed that thing with absolutely no intention of sticking to it. I believe the three years was all about buying time to set up a situation more conducive to achieving their long-term goal of a permanent, controlling presence in Iraq. Whether they will succeed or not is up to the Iraqi people.

  10. Shirin

    OT, but…
    Hey, JFL, really appreciate your comments over at Juan Cole’s. We are in virtually perfect concert most of the time.

  11. Don Bacon

    Well said, Shirin. Obama did run, and get elected, on a promise to get the US out of Iraq, didn’t he. It’s not rocket science — the commander-in-chief says “leave,” and if any military officer fails to get with the program do a MacArthur on him. It seems that that (i.e. leaving Iraq) won’t happen. Keeping Gates is a major clue.
    The key for me is that the US Senate (unlike the House) completely avoided this treaty-like issue. The Obama/Biden (senators both) website stated that the SOFA ought to have congressional (the Constitution says Senate!) approval but there were never even any Senate hearings, due I believe, to Obama’s desire for future non-treaty wiggle-room. “Fellow citizens, it is my responsibility to secure the homeland and I have determined . . .blah, blah, blah.” I can hear it coming.

  12. Shirin

    Well, Don, to be fair, Obama did not promise to get the U.S. out of Iraq, he just made sure his sound bytes and the P.R. material on his campaign web site SEEMED to promise that. In fact, I never heard him say he was going to get the U.S. out of Iraq, or withdraw all troops or anything like that. He said things like “end this war”, and “remove all combat troops within 16 months”, but I don’t think he ever said he would “get the U.S. out of Iraq”.
    In other contexts he made it clear that his actual intention was to reconfigure and rebrand the occupation. He even listed specific “missions” that this reconfigured and rebranded occupation would be expected to carry out. And – surprise, surprise! – most of them involved some elements of combat.
    I did everything but stand on rooftops and shout this through a megaphone, and was generally either ignored or excoriated for it. It is becoming increasingly obvious that I was right.

  13. Don Bacon

    Shirin, you’re correct of course, and I stand corrected. I’ve been affected by Alex, I’m afraid. Now I’m sad for myself.
    But . . .Obama did indicate that all troops would be removed, with certain exceptions of course. And now even this certainly seems remote.
    Obama, March 19, 2008
    I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them [in] 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy.
    By the way, according to the latest Brookings report, total Iraqi security forces on duty now number 565,723. (p. 33 of current report)
    http://www.brookings.edu/saban/~/media/Files/Centers/Saban/Iraq%20Index/index.pdf
    So, let’s see, 150K plus 565K — 715,000 total! Now that’s impressive. Must be quite a security problem there in Babylonia. I wonder why? (not really)

  14. Shirin

    Obama did indicate that all troops would be removed, with certain exceptions of course.
    Not really. What you quoted is standard political candidates’ verbal sleight of hand, and he did not mention all of the “missions” he listed in other discussions of his plans.
    In fact, military experts estimated that the number of “residual troops” needed to fulfill the missions he listed would be 1/3-1/2 the number at the height of The Surge™. One of his own staff members said his “residual force” would be somewhere around 50-70,000. And the fact that he clearly always planned to keep intact and fully functional the Imperial Citadel in Baghdad, kind of says a lot too.
    As for the Iraqi forces, I think we are in agreement that if the U.S. were not there Iraq would have far fewer security problems, and therefore need far fewer security forces.

  15. Don Bacon

    Shirin, you’ve really got me back-pedalling now, making points I’ve probably made myself in the past. But it’s good to go over them again.
    It’s true that besides the combat troops necessary for Obama’s residual missions, plus the new missions he’ll dream up “based on the changed situation on the ground and in consultation with my generals”, there are many US military members in Iraq that are not troops in combat brigades. The New Iraqi Army lacks air, medical, logistics, etc., plus the huge US air bases and port facilities have to be kept functioning, plus security in the Persian Gulf, etc.
    I, like you, have no doubts about what Obama will do, I was merely suggesting (as you have done) that he has been duplicitous about it in order to get elected. Dumb war distracting from the good war in Afghanistan, and all that. (Of course he has voted for every war spending bill.)
    Casualties are way down, that’s one good thing. But every casualty is one too many, and for no good reason.

  16. Alex

    Hey, you guys, I am far from being an optimist, rather a realist. I shouldn’t have to repeat my position again, but the reason what I say sounds like optimism, is because I am highly sceptical of the US being able to carry out the various nefarious intentions attributed to Obama. Correctly attributed to Obama, Shirin, I should say. I entirely agree this is what Obama wants: a nice, peaceful Iraq, with policies coordinated with the US embassy, US bases, and a tranquil US garrison of 30,000.
    But, it is all hooey. Highly unrealistic. Reduce the garrison to 30,000, so that the rest can be sent off to Afghanistan, and you expose those remaining to constant attacks, bottled up in their bases. Iraqis haven’t forgotten the way they’ve been treated these last six years.
    The only way it could work, would be if Iraq has been reduced to such a state of exhaustion that they will agree to anything. Certainly Iraqis are not far from a state of complete exhaustion, after their sufferings of the last years. And certainly, to my mind, exhaustion was what put an end to the Sunni insurgency.
    Even if that were the case, recover a bit, and they’ll back at peppering the US bases.
    The US bases will also be an important focus of Iraqi nationalism. Nothing like alien bases for strengthening national identity.
    It did take quite a while to get rid of the British – 40 years. But then the British didn’t wreck Iraq from one end to the other.
    I don’t thing “divide and rule” is going to work either. It certainly did, in the past. Bombing the Samarra mosque in 2006 was a master-stroke of “Divide and rule”. But, you notice, the second time round, when they dropped the minarets in 2007, there was no effect. And now, new provocations have very little effect.
    It’s just very difficult to see how Obama’s plan could work. And with the other priorities….

  17. Don Bacon

    General David Petraeus has warned that the gains achieved in Iraq over the past year are “fragile” and “reversible.” The US must ensure that the troops that died in Iraq did not die in vain, and that means that you don’t cut and run when the gains are fragile and reversible, the thinking goes.
    Obama? Jan 11:
    STEPHANOPOULOS: But more broadly, will your policy in the Middle East, will it be building on the Bush policy or a clean break?
    OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach.
    Obama, December 7 2008 (Meet the Press)
    We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops–or our, our, our civilian personnel and our, our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region, in cooperation with the Iraqi government, that we are providing training and logistical support, maintaining the integrity of Iraq as necessary. And, you know, I–one of the things that I’ll be doing is evaluating what kind of number’s required to meet those very limited goals.///
    Sure, the Iraqis don’t want the US military there and that’s why the US military must stay, the thinking goes — to take care of “the bad guys” as Scott says. If they’re anti-US then they’re terrorists and insurgents. The fact that they are anti-US because the the US military is there is not well-known nor accepted because it is disconsonant with the ideas that America Is Good and that the US troops are peacekeepers.

  18. Salah

    America isn’t, per se, making war on the country of Iraq.
    Scott, let assume your view what you stated and you believing is right, can you answer us for these simple question:
    1- Shock and Awe what was designed for?
    2- The amount of weaponry (bombs, Missiles Air carpet bombing, DU metrical…etc) was it justified for a war on the country of Iraq? If not on the country then what was for then?
    3- the destructions for total infrastructures of state of Iraq, most public services from sewage stations and systems, to drinking water supplies and stations, power and electricity water dams, to Highways (motorways) and bridges ended with looting and burning all Iraqi minstrel building and national libraries, oil ministry building the only one was secured by Americans themselves, all of that the war not on the country of Iraq?
    Scott H we love to tell us. What this war in your view then. Are you a believer it’s for democracy and freedom of Iraq? if so asked your Son he might he instructed not to speak publically but you may get from him the truth from inside Iraq from mouth of citizen of state of Iraq he’ve “got to walk on eggshells”, he will tell what Iraqis having now from US “American values that are worth upholding” and defending the Freedom and democracy in Iraq!! A “Gated Communities “(Big Prisons) no wonder just like Gaza Scott.
    Btw, GAZA speaks loudly Scott, your country in full support for “The Only Democratic Regime in ME” this the real test for “American values that are worth upholding” you talking about with inhumes atrocities against One & Half millions under siege for more than a year?

  19. Salah

    The US bases will also be an important focus of Iraqi nationalism. Nothing like alien bases for strengthening national identity.
    I read some where the contract delivery for those bases in fact set for 2025!! So is that making sense with what importance of Iraqi nationalism which the core of this long lasting war in Iraq.
    Just reminder with Noah and his nation building project which set of sectarians divisions and abolishment of Iraqi nationalism.

  20. Shirin

    This morning I was able to listen to the opening minutes of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing, and heard two things that disturbed me.
    1. John Kerry in his opening statement referred to the Iraq so-called “status of forces agreement” as a “troop-reduction” plan. While the Iraqis call it a withdrawal plan, I have always understood it clearly as a plan to buy time for the United States to devise a way and create conditions that will allow them to permanently occupy Iraq. Now we are hearing language drift that to me signals the beginning of a gradual expectation management program intended to lead the American public like sheep to accept that “full withdrawal within three years” really means “reduction of forces leading to a permanent occupation”. Not surprising, but very distressing indeed.
    2. Hillary Clinton referred to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” as if it were a confirmed reality when in fact there is no evidence that Iran has such a program. Unlike Bush, Obama and Hillary Clinton are both very smart, knowledgeable people. Therefore I have no doubt they are aware that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, has ever had one, or plans to have one in the foreseeable future. They are also pragmatic people. The fact that they clearly want the American people to believe that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program is certainly cause for concern.
    She also referred more than once to the “Iran threat” despite the fact that Iran has not attacked or invaded another country for nearly 300 years, and shows no signs of any intention to do so. Iran does not pose any threat to world security, and does not have the capacity, or the will, to attack Israel or, for heaven’s sake, the United States.
    So, it appears that the Obama administration intends to sell Iran as the “threat to world peace” du jour, and they have no compunction about lying in order to do so.
    Business as usual.

  21. Don Bacon

    Hillary Clinton referred to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” as if it were a confirmed reality when in fact there is no evidence that Iran has such a program.
    President-elect Barack Obama in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Jan 11 2009:
    Obama: Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges and as I said during the campaign we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.
    The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran: We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.
    http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/Economy/story?id=6618199&page=1

  22. Don Bacon

    President-elect Barack Obama in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Jan 11 2009:
    Obama: Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges and as I said during the campaign we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.
    The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran: We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.

  23. menno hert

    Obama: “not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.
    So If Iran would develop a nuclear bomb, it “could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race”, according to Obama. If, on the other hand, Israel would develop nuclear bombs, it would be a completely different matter. For Israel of course can develop nuclear bombs without “potentially” triggering nuclear arms races, if we follow Obama’s logic. True, he didn’t say that explicitly, but it’s the implication of what he said. For Obama knows that Israel already has hundreds of nuclear bombs. And a nuclear arms race can only be “triggered” by the first state in a specific region that develops these weapons. Which means that Israel potentially triggered a nuclear arms race, since it was the first nuclear power in the region (while Iran can only follow Israel, if indeed it is trying to develop nuclear arms, which is by no means certain).
    But of course, whether Israel has nuclear bombs or not is of no importance at all (in American eyes). Israel just can’t trigger nuclear arms races, for the simple reason that the Americans have long ago decided that Israel is by definition blameless, whatever it does. In as far as there is a nuclear arms race (which there probably isn’t) the fact that Israel started it is immaterial; since Israel is fundamentally blameless, it must be the Iranians who are to blame.
    Impeccable logic, of course. Obama-logic (or, to be fair, American logic), I guess.

  24. Michael Murry

    As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-1972), I can understand the paranoid perspective of the single American soldier quoted above. Short of President Obama ordering him completely the hell out of Iraq, nothing will change his precarious circumstances nor his pugnacious, parochial point of view. “The terrible worm in its iron cocoon” (as the local Arabs called the armored Christian crusader knights eight hundred years ago) has little incentive to understand or empathize with the hostile environment its own belligerent presence has helped to create.
    Several years ago I wrote a poem about this homicidal-crusader syndrome called “Peace With Horror,” which I updated last year with several additional stanzas. I still think it about covers the relevant occupational situation — from the self-styled American “commander in chief” at the top of the military/corporate food chain through the General Motors Generals who can’t ever seem to actually finish anything to the ignorant and bigoted grunt on the ground.
    http://themisfortuneteller.blogspot.com/2008/03/peace-with-horror.html

  25. Salah

    we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah
    Looks the Markting skills for Obama did well inside US with his election and his audiones.
    But for the rest of the world spacailly in ME Obama NOT at all diffrent from other US peresedents who were all in full support of Israel.
    let not forgot Obama AIPAC Speech

    Most will travel to the holy sites: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the
    Rock or the Western Wall. They make a journey to be humbled before God. I too am blessed to have seen Israel this way, up close and on the ground.

    But I am also fortunate to have seen Israel from the air.

    On my journey that January day, I flew on an IDF helicopter to the border zone. The helicopter took us over the most troubled and dangerous areas and that narrow strip
    between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea. At that height, I could see the hills and the terrain that generations have walked across. I could truly see how close
    everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel.

    That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our
    strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That will always be my starting point. And when we see all of the growing threats in the region

    But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.

  26. Scott H

    Salah, you surely know you grotesquely distorted my views….
    The nasty reference to my son was also… borderline… and this time, I’ll handle it the same way the now senior senator from Virginia responded to a similar query (from the other direction) from President Bush — by ignoring it.
    To others who didn’t catch the irony in my original post, I surely was not defending the war…. an obvious straw man.
    I was simply pointing out, as most posters caught, that the young specialist quoted in the WaPo piece is anything but “enlightened” as to what the official rhetoric is for the “war effort.”
    That said, for those many millions of lives who have been severely harmed by this war, for many of them it understandably seemed like America was at war with the whole country…. regardless of what we (or their government) claim. Anybody who had read my posts over the past 3 years here (including the national security mom item) already knows that I do recognize that tragic outcome.

  27. Shirin

    we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah…
    As smart and knowledgeable as he is, perhaps Mr. Obama is not aware that neither Hamas nor Hezballah is an Iranian export, that both are home-grown organizations that existed for some time without Iran’s assistance, and that they would not disappear if whatever support they get from Iran were to end. And he also probably does not know that neither Hamas nor Hezballah is interested in expanding beyond their own national agenda of liberation and will never attack the United States.
    And of course he will never learn these things as long as he surrounds himself with the Clintons’ AIPAC boys such as Dennis Ross. And does anyone want to bet that Hillary won’t find a high level job in the State Department for Martin Indyk, her former Middle East adviser during her campaign? That guy lies with stunning aplomb – I heard him in a debate with Norman Finkelstein last week.
    …but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.
    Here there is no reasonable conclusion other than that he is lying. He has got to have seen the reports. It’s not just the NIE, there are plenty of reports from IAEA as to the lack of any evidence of a weapons program. Plus the Ayatullahs who run the country have repeatedly stated that nuclear weapons are antithetical to Islam. These are serious religious people, so one should take such a statement seriously, even if cautiously.
    As for the bit in the NIE about Iran halting its nuclear weapons program in 2003, there is no real evidence that they had a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. I was very happy to hear Scott Ritter point that out shortly after the NIE was published, and I made a point of telling him so.

  28. Alex

    As smart and knowledgeable as he is, perhaps Mr. Obama is not aware that neither Hamas nor Hezballah is an Iranian export,
    I am glad to see that you agree with my diagnosis that I’ve put up several times here, that Obama is not up to speed on Middle Eastern affairs. He’s got all the reports, all the estimates, and he still spouts stuff that doesn’t relate to the real situation.
    I think it is because he has spent his time on domestic politics, and never took a deep interest in international politics. The fact that he intervened, before inauguration, on the economic crisis, while saying, on the international front, that there is only one president at a time, points in that direction. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be unusual.

  29. Salah

    Salah, you surely know you grotesquely distorted my views….
    Firstly, English my second language so I don’t think I had the skills to distort your view “grotesquely”.
    This is just a kind to flee the discussion which obviously you don’t like to engage in or to answer the questions paused to you.
    Secondly what nasty things referring to your Son? Can you tell us instead compare your self to senator? You’re pride of him, Scott be honest and tell us what nasty by referring to your Son?
    Scott don’t put blames on others when comes to discuss your “grotesquely distorted views”, this is a discussion space what you expected.
    Hope you take a deep breath and answer the questions.
    Here I borrow words by Tom Fox Christian Peacemaker Teams may God bless him:
    The colonialist attitudes are harder to grasp. Is colonialism something unique to white, male Westerners? (And I include myself in this category.) Do we see Iraq the same way as Kipling saw India, that of being “the white man’s burden” to bring Western civilization to the uncivilized Arabs and Kurds?

  30. Salah

    regardless of what we (or their government) claim.
    This is not big deal to make of it,
    For 35 years Iraqis and Iraq as a country suffered from tyrant regime, what follow in 2003 not better than those 35 years in the past

  31. Salah

    Salah, you surely know you grotesquely distorted my views….
    Firstly, English my second language so I don’t think I had the skills to distort your view “grotesquely”.
    This is just a kind to flee the discussion which obviously you don’t like to engage in or to answer the questions paused to you.
    Secondly what nasty things referring to your Son? Can you tell us instead compare your self to senator? You’re pride of him, Scott be honest and tell us what nasty by referring to your Son?
    Scott don’t put blames on others when comes to discuss your “grotesquely distorted views”, this is a discussion space what you expected.
    Hope you take a deep breath and answer the questions.
    Here I borrow words by Tom Fox Christian Peacemaker Teams may God bless him:
    The colonialist attitudes are harder to grasp. Is colonialism something unique to white, male Westerners? (And I include myself in this category.) Do we see Iraq the same way as Kipling saw India, that of being “the white man’s burden” to bring Western civilization to the uncivilized Arabs and Kurds?

  32. Salah

    Salah, you surely know you grotesquely distorted my views….
    Firstly, English my second language so I don’t think I had the skills to distort your view “grotesquely”.
    This is just a kind to flee the discussion which obviously you don’t like to engage in or to answer the questions paused to you.
    Secondly what nasty things referring to your Son? Can you tell us instead compare your self to senator? You’re pride of him, Scott be honest and tell us what nasty by referring to your Son?
    Scott don’t put blames on others when comes to discuss your “grotesquely distorted views”, this is a discussion space what you expected.
    Hope you take a deep breath and answer the questions.
    Here I borrow words by Tom Fox Christian Peacemaker Teams may God bless him:
    The colonialist attitudes are harder to grasp. Is colonialism something unique to white, male Westerners? (And I include myself in this category.) Do we see Iraq the same way as Kipling saw India, that of being “the white man’s burden” to bring Western civilization to the uncivilized Arabs and Kurds?

  33. alex

    I argue that the argument … that implementing the SOFA/WA should be the highest priority, and that Obama should resist the forces of institutional inertia which will resist such withdrawal.
    Surprise, surprise, Marc Lynch thinks the “Withdrawal Agreement” should be kept to. He wasn’t that way before.
    Why Obama still needs to get out of Iraq

  34. Don Bacon

    Marc Lynch — who’s he?
    Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, December 18, 2008
    Q Could you describe for us the initial U.S. planning for Iraq troop withdrawals under the SOFA and who has been told of those plans so far?
    MR. MORRELL: I wouldn’t describe for you the planning, per se, but I would be happy to share with you the fact that when we were in Iraq on Saturday, the secretary met with Generals Odierno and Austin up in Balad. And they had a lengthy and very good conversation about the proposed way ahead in Iraq in the coming year, including projected force levels during the coming year. . . . But ultimately coming back to sort of the substance of your question, I think, the most important thing to know here is that while there are options being discussed, at this point, nothing decisional.
    Q Is it safe to presume then that the options, as you describe them, would take out — take up that whole three years laid out in the SOFA?
    MR. MORRELL: I don’t think it would be safe to assume anything other than the fact that according to our agreement with the Iraqis, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, barring a decision, a mutual decision by two sovereign government if, at some point, they should choose to tear up that agreement and negotiate a new one for a longer period of time. We’re not there yet, don’t see a need for it at this point yet. But that’s a possibility.
    Q The other thing is that Secretary Gates, on television — a television interview last night, said that he thinks that there will be a need for several tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011. Is that something that’s been — that he — that was raised in —
    MR. MORRELL: I think what he said was that the — the SOFA calls for us to be gone from Iraq at the end of 2011. If, however, by mutual agreement there — we were to agree that there were — was a need for American forces to stay on in a support/enabling capacity, he could see where a — you know, a force in the size of tens of thousands, as he said, would still be needed to help the Iraqi military continue to grow, continue in its — in its training, and also provide the kind of support that it cannot provide for itself at this point, whether it be through logistics or aviation or intelligence or other means.

  35. Shirin

    Well, exactly, Don! As I have pointed out numerous times, the only reason they need three years is to buy time. And the expectation management campaign is already underway, as demonstrated by John Kerry’s reference yesterday morning to the so-called SOFA as a “troop reduction plan”.
    And you’d better believe that Obama and Clinton are fully on board with it all.
    Not surprised, not disappointed (you can’t be when your expectations have been so low), but deeply, viscerally angry nevertheless.
    I am revisiting my idea of leaving the country for good. For some silly reason it seemed less urgent for awhile after the election, but after Congress overwhelmingly passed that abomination supporting Israel’s war crimes, and having my negative expectations about Iraq confirmed, I really don’t think I want to stay here anymore. Syria here I come!

  36. Don Bacon

    Jan 13, 2009 AP News
    Vice President-elect Joe Biden assured Iraq’s prime minister Tuesday that the incoming administration won’t withdraw U.S. troops in a way that threatens stability, an Iraqi spokesman said. “He said that Obama is committed to withdraw but he wants the withdrawal to be a responsible one. Obama does not want to waste the security gains that have been achieved,” al-Dabbagh said.
    Obama has pledged to consult with U.S. commanders and the Iraqi government before deciding on a withdrawal schedule. Although violence has declined sharply in Iraq, the U.S. military has warned that security gains are fragile and that extremists are likely to step up attacks ahead of this month’s provincial elections. U.S. commanders have cautioned against removing U.S. forces too quickly.
    Behind closed doors, Biden said the U.S. was spending billions of dollars — some of it in Kirkuk — which could be used to help solve the global financial meltdown, according to Ribwar Faiq Talabani, a local official who attended the session.
    COMMENT: We already knew about reneging on the SOFA, but how about that Joe Biden? He helped get the US into Iraq, later lied about what he’d done, was chief senate sponsor for a credit-card-friendly bankruptcy bill that screws average Americans, got picked by Mr Change as the new number two, and now — I’m serious — he’s bragging about spending billions in Iraq “to help solve the global financial meltdown!”
    Send in the clowns, I say:
    Don’t you love farce?
    My fault I fear.
    I thought that you’d want what I want.
    Sorry, my dear.
    But where are the clowns?
    Quick, send in the clowns.
    Don’t bother, they’re here.

  37. Shirin

    Obama should resist the forces of institutional inertia which will resist such withdrawal.
    Institutional inertia?! INSTITUTIONAL INERTIA?!!!!!!
    OK, I guess one should be grateful that Lynch has made a few steps toward the portal to the real world, but………………………INSTITUTIONAL INERTIA?!
    Of course, in the mean time, that piece of work Michael Totten was voted best Middle East or Africa blog, and Juan Cole was a distant second while most of the best Middle East blogs were not even on the radar.

  38. cory armer

    I am adding this comment because after reading them all of people talking down about a low soldier it shows by your words that not a single one of you have ever watched a friend die. None of you will ever grasp the fact that he is just a soldier and the only thing that matters to him and all other soldiers is the one next to him. He is also in Sadr City where he knows routinely that attacks on US troops are being hidden everyday to keep you pretty little world happy that everything is getting better, we are leaving and you can sleep at night.
    The other thing that your media driven blah blah blah inhumane this and that world doesn’t ever remember is that this PLACE IS NOT THE US. You are basing your opinions on the fact of your ideas that get to live in the states. You have never placed yourself in this environment. Further more its war and I remember something about how war is never humane, so don’t blame a soldier for doing his job in an ARMY. From my history lessons that is kind of what an army does. I see someone decided to actually take his opinion to carpet bombing of germany but forgot to thank the commander for letting him grow up as an american and not under Nazi control. If you wanted this to be humane then maybe in the beginning we shouldn’t have sent the army at all but the local police and some firemen. That way all you would have your happy pictures and feel good stories. But no one would read that all people want to hear is something bad and feed off of it.
    So now we have a soldier that cares for nothing but his brothers next to him and he is now having to live through scrutiny not just from your little blog at your cushioned seat that you fill at work. But from his command that was trying to put the spin on this place that it was happy. When all the while he was simply a soldier pulling guard that answered questions truthfully to his opinion. But apparently a soldier’s opinion just doesn’t count anymore.
    Simple lack of respect for a soldier and the environment he lives in. Don’t worry don’t throw him a parade ignore him because that is what he and the rest of us have become used to, but we will keep doing our job as we are told because we don’t have a choice and protect that right that you so willingly use to bash us in the press.
    Thank you so called americans

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