Politico reports today, “President Barack Obama takes the first steps of a U.S. victory lap on the war in Iraq Monday. . . . In his speech the president … stress[ed] that the end of U.S. combat missions in Iraq on August 31 will mark a key ‘transition’ in the seven-year conflict, the onset of a phase dubbed Operation New Dawn.”
In his speech, Obama said, “As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing—as promised, on schedule.”
But this is disingenuous. As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out on Fox News Sunday, “I have to commend the President for basically, once the election was over, ignoring my counterpart Senator Reid — who said the war was lost in 2007 — and basically ignoring his own campaign rhetoric in 2008 and adopting the program of the Bush administration to wind down the war.”
Praising veterans who served in Iraq, Obama said, “While our country has sometimes been divided, they have fought together as one. While other individuals and institutions have shirked responsibility, they have welcomed it.” But who might the President be referring to when he talks of people who “have shirked responsibility”? Might that include the Democrats in Congress who opposed the surge in early 2007, and voted repeatedly to cut off funds to the troops? What about Reid declaring “This war is lost,” and bragging, “We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war… Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.”
And what about Democrats who accused General David Petraeus, who was in charge of turning Iraq around and implementing the surge strategy, of “cooking the books” and “manipulating the statistics”? In March 2007, then-Sen. Joe Biden said on the Senate floor, “This is ridiculous. There is no plan. I ask the President and everyone else who comes forward with a plan, whether it is capping or surging or whatever they have: Will it answer the two-word test: Then what? … What happens after we surge these women and men? And by the way, he said General Petraeus is one who believes. He may be the only one who believes this is a good idea. Virtually no one else thinks it is a good idea.” Asked about Gen. Petraeus reporting progress in Iraq, Reid said in April 2007, “No, I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening.” In a speech, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) accused Gen. Petreaus of “carefully manipulating the statistics” about the surge. And Biden said, “There is some accuracy to’ so-called ‘cooking-the-books’ charges being leveled against Petraeus.”
For President Obama and his administration to now be claiming credit for the successful results of the surge that he and Vice President Biden voted against, and for him to complain of people who “shirked responsibility” when Senate Democrats voted to cut off funding, declared the war lost, and bragged about the political benefits of the war is particularly audacious. President Obama’s continuing of President Bush’s strategy of winding down combat operations deserves praise, but claiming the strategy as his own and ignoring how his party behaved during the surge clearly does not.