- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama was granted an opportunity to give a victory speech about Iraq on Tuesday, courtesy of George W. Bush. He mentioned President Bush in passing, essentially damning him with faint praise. If Mr. Bush had followed Mr. Obama’s strategic recommendations in 2007, the war in Iraq would have been lost years ago.

In January 2007, at the advent of the surge strategy that ultimately pacified Iraq, then-Sen. Barack Obama remained a hard-core skeptic. He contended that deploying an additional 20,000 troops would actually worsen sectarian violence. Later, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he said, “We can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”

In September 2007, when the surge strategy was beginning to show positive effects, Mr. Obama was unimpressed. “The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now,” he declared, “not six months from now. [I] can only support a policy that begins an immediate removal of our troops from Iraq’s civil war and initiates a sustained drawdown of our military presence.” In November 2007, after U.S. casualties in Iraq had declined 70 percent in six months, Mr. Obama’s blinders were still firmly in place. He said on “Meet the Press” that “not only have we not seen improvements, but we’re actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.”

A year after saying the introduction of more troops would have no impact, Mr. Obama suddenly was a believer and dishonestly claimed he always had been. “Now, I had no doubt,” he said during a Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in New Hampshire, “and I said at the time when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama also claimed credit for keeping his election-year pledge to withdraw American combat troops from Iraq. He failed to mention the withdrawal timetable Mr. Bush established by the Status of Forces Agreement, signed between the United States and Iraq on Nov. 16, 2008. The agreement specified that all U.S. forces would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, and this remains the Obama administration’s working timeline for withdrawing the 50,000 American troops still in-country. The Status of Forces Agreement was a hard-won diplomatic success that took years to achieve, but Mr. Obama had nothing to do with it.

The president could not pass up an opportunity to try to shift blame for America’s current economic woes and ruinous government debt onto the Iraq war. “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war,” he declared, “often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has shortchanged investments in our own people and contributed to record deficits.”

The numbers don’t add up. The war cost $1 trillion over seven years, and the annual government budget deficit was reduced by more than half from the start of the war in 2003 through 2007. By comparison, Mr. Obama’s policies have run up $2.1 trillion in new debt in the 18 months between January 2009 and June 2010. Foreign holdings of U.S. debt increased on average $26 billion per month from the start of the war in Iraq to the end of the Bush presidency but have been averaging $56 billion per month on Mr. Obama’s watch. At the beginning of the current administration, foreign governments held $3 trillion in U.S. debt, and by June 2010, this figure had risen to $4 trillion. If excessive spending and borrowing from abroad “has shortchanged investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits,” Mr. Obama’s impact thus far has been equal to two Iraq wars fought fives times faster, all on borrowed money, half of which came from foreigners.

Mr. Bush won the war in Iraq, a victory Mr. Obama thought could never happen. Had the O Force been in charge earlier, it wouldn’t have been won.

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