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BLANKLEY: Killing Iraq softly with her song

Hillary Clinton’s smooth words can’t turn withdrawal into commitment

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No one should miscalculate America's resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy.

- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (Oct. 23, 2011)

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

- George Orwell (May 1945)

[W]e are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue ... the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

- George Orwell (March 22, 1946).

I offer up George Orwell's second quote in possibly partial defense of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's assertion on "Meet the Press" Sunday that as the United States government orders the final, complete retreat from Iraq, the U.S. government remains resolved to support Iraqi democracy.

Are Mrs. Clinton's words designed to make lies sound truthful, or does she actually believe things she knows to be untrue?

Her statement is undeniably untrue. Our government has quite specifically given up its "resolve and commitment" to Iraqi democracy and to our own national security interests in the region. We have given up our armed force to resist the emerging armed forces of Iran and Turkey, and of Iraq's Kurds, Shia and Sunni militias. The Turks already have sent 10,000 troops into Iraq's Kurdish region to attack Kurdish terrorists.

As a prescient Washington Post editorial pointed out in April, if all U.S. troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011 as agreed, "next year Iraq will lack critical defense capacities: It will be unable to defend its airspace or borders, protect oil shipments or platforms in the Persian Gulf, or partner with U.S. special forces in raids against al Qaeda. Perhaps most seriously, American soldiers who have been serving as de facto peacekeepers in the city of Kirkuk and along the sensitive border zone between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of the country will disappear. Many experts believe that in their absence, violence could erupt between Kurds and Arabs."

In the place of U.S. armed forces as a material expression of our "resolve and commitment," Mrs. Clinton offers as a substitute a "support and training mission similar to what we have in countries from Jordan to Colombia. ... We will also have a very robust diplomatic presence." This isn't "resolve and commitment." This is the withdrawal of our resolve and commitment. It is, in fact, the grave-digging of Iraqi democracy.

But the question Orwell's quotes raise - Are Mrs. Clinton's words designed to make lies sound truthful, or does she actually believe things she knows to be untrue? - goes to an even more important matter than the Obama administration's heartbreaking decision to just throw up its hands and give up, reversing its own decision of only last month to keep 3,000 troops in Iraq past the end of the year.

It goes to whether the administration - and many senior GOP politicians as well - are merely capable of deceiving the public or they have succeeded in deceiving themselves about the dire circumstance in which our nation finds itself: Our debt and deficit crisis, our position vis-a-vis China, and our deepening national security vulnerabilities around the globe.

As Gore Vidal wrote of a presidential candidate in his play "The Best Man": "Y'know, it's not that I object to your being a bastard, don't get me wrong there. It's your being such a stupid bastard that I object to."

My fear is that Washington politicians (and commentators as well) have been denying Washington's utter failure to confront and resolve the dire threats to our national existence for so long that we have deceived ourselves into believing the dangers do not exist - or are only on the distant horizon.

For example, whatever happened to the U.S. deficit and sovereign debt crisis? Just in July (a whole three months ago) we had a blazing - and necessary - fight about our deficit and the raising of the debt ceiling. Then we passed a phony bill that will not remotely avoid the upcoming crisis, and both parties promptly went back to sleep.

Even as the kindling flames lick up under Europe's potentially apocalyptic debt and banking crisis, Washington does not stir itself. Even as total U.S. public and private debt - about $50 trillion, according to Federal Reserve statistics - rises to more than 300 percent of gross domestic product - Washington mentally slumbers.

Worse than a straight-out lie about our dangers, I suspect that Washington is succumbing to a gluttonous taste for self-delusion and denial. Thus, perhaps Mrs. Clinton actually believes we have maintained our "commitment and resolve" in Iraq - even as we slither away.

George Orwell once warned, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." In that struggle, too, Washington has lost its commitment and resolve.

Tony Blankley is the author of "American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century" (Regnery, 2009) and vice president of the Edelman public relations firm in Washington.

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