Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama's Change on Iraq

President Obama spoke about the Iraq War recently. There were a few things that caught my eye because of their contrasts to the rhetoric used by the president and the president's party since 2003.
"To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process"
First, this sounds like something President Bush would have said - and been ridiculed for. In fact, it sounds quite similar to what General Petraeus told Congress about the surge two years ago. Statements which of course got him summarily dismissed and ridiculed.

It also stands out in stark contrast to what Candidate Obama said in February 2007,
"We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."
Another point from the president's speech that stands in contrast to the last 8 years is when President Obama called General Petraeus one of "our finest Generals" - forgetting, obviously, Petraeus's real name - "General Betray Us"

Throwing a bone to all the "we want a timetable" screechers of the last eight years, the president said he came "to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end." Which was apparently another example of his forgetfulness - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told us "This War is Lost" two years ago.

President Obama also had many nice things to say about the military in his speech,
"And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
Which must be news to these guys; I doubt they think our soldiers achieved much in Iraq. But who can blame them, since neither did our president during his run for the White House?

The truth is, President Obama is simply following the trajectory set up and made possible by President Bush's last two years in office. There is nothing new or revelatory in this speech or in Obama's policy. The only thing strikingly new and different about it is the change in tone and tenor in the way the president - and by extension, the president's party - talks about Iraq.

After years of doom and gloom, we suddenly see the bright side.

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