Remember the unhinged frequency with which liberals denounced George W. Bush for prematurely declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq? Curiously enough, less than three years after Barack Obama succeeded Bush, liberals were trumpeting their own version of the slogan. And now one of the left's most influential figures is trying to hide her role in the cheerleading.
On her MSNBC show last night, Rachel Maddow reported on Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announcing that 560 more troops will be sent to Iraq, bringing the total for American military personnel there to more than 5,000. Which is odd considering that Maddow insisted back in 2011 that Obama "ended the war" in Iraq, a claim she made with Manchurian-candidate repetition.
First, here's what Maddow said last night about the latest Obama troop deployment to Iraq --
MADDOW: December 2011, right before Christmas, the last US convoy of troops left Iraq. After nine years of grueling war, after more than 4,000 American soldiers were killed in that war, President Obama kept his campaign promise and withdrew US troops from Iraq right at the end of 2011. And then, less than three years later, June 2014, he redeployed US troops back to Iraq, this time to fight ISIS. Since that summer day 2014 when President Obama announced he would send up to 300 US soldiers back into Iraq as military advisers, he has slowly been adding more and more and more, another 200 soldiers here, another 130 there, 350 more, another 475. Over the past two years it has been a slow escalation, a steady if basically undeclared expansion of the war that the US military is now fighting in Iraq, again, this time against ISIS.
And because Obama is a Democrat, he can wage "undeclared" war in Iraq without getting labeled a war criminal and without being grilled over whether he's invested heavily in Halliburton, thus explaining his rationale for deploying troops to the Mideast --
Well, today we got the most recent and one of the largest expansions yet. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter took a surprise trip to Iraq and he announced there that another 560 American troops will be deployed into Iraq, this time specifically to help retake the large Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS control. This latest addition means that we are now back up officially to about 4,600 American troops in Iraq. Unofficially the number is larger than that. Unofficially the number has already cleared 5,000 Americans back in Iraq. And that number is rising, and rising, and rising.
Quite the contrast from the celebratory take offered by Maddow in 2011. For example, here's Maddow interviewing Vice President Biden on Dec. 13, 2011 (link to video; remarks below heard in first 1:33 of clip) --
MADDOW: The Iraq war, the end of the Iraq war in particular, has really been your brief as vice president. The administration has, has been open about the fact that the president really tasked this to you ...
MADDOW: ... in terms of winding this down. Your son served there. You've been involved as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being vice president. You were involved intimately in all these decisions. Do you, do you feel, do you feel emotional about the end of the war?
BIDEN: I tell you, I feel like, I feel like I did something, or participated in something being done that I can be proud of for the rest of my life. Had I stayed as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, no matter how engaged I was, I don't think I would have been in a position to be able to affect events on a day to day basis to bring us to this point, I'm not saying, our troops brought us to this point, our diplomats brought us to this point. But to be able to -- I'll be blunt with you -- after I made that speech in the (Al-Faw) Palace with Maliki and Talabani (Iraqi prime minister and president), to Iraqi and American assembled troops, I left, got on the phone and called Bar-, the president and said thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do something that meant a great deal to me personally and to the country, to end this war in Iraq.
More champagne flowed the following night when Maddow interviewed Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell who shared his old boss's finger-to-the-wind politics. Here's what Maddow said by way of introducing Wilkerson (video link and transcript) --
It is just flatly remarkable that the consuming moral and political crisis of the Iraq war, this huge, long, catastrophic war, the national convulsion we had over why we were fighting it and when we could come home, after all that it is a little surreal that it is ending so quietly. ...
There's been a great split in the experience of our country, a great split in experience between the military bearing this huge burden for a solid decade and civilians at home, you know, getting tax cuts, put the whole war on the deficit, put both wars on the deficit. We are seeing that divide perpetuated even at the end of the Iraq war now, as the military marks this occasion with ceremonies and with big homecomings across the country. ...
But in civilian life, the end of the Iraq war so far, sort of goes down as just one world news story among many. At the end of other long wars in American history, the country threw ticker-tape parades to welcome home our soldiers rejoining civilian life. But the military has had such a different experience for the past 10 years than the rest of America that, at this point, if there are going to be parades, we have to expect the military to hold them for themselves. ...
But the final and frankly much more pedestrian level in which the ending of the war is playing out in a sort of strange way right now is in the politics of how the Iraq war is ending. George W. Bush essentially hasn't been seen or heard from, save for a book tour and recent charity trip to Africa, for the past three years. The George W. Bush era in the Republican Party, everybody agrees, is over, at least for now. ... There are no inheritors of the George W. Bush era in Republican politics ... They're all saying they're Reagan Republicans or Teddy Roosevelt Republicans ... Calvin Coolidge Republicans or Herbert Hoover Republicans. ... They'll be anything but none of these guys call themselves George W. Bush Republicans.
And that's why it is so remarkable that the Republican politics of ending the war now are that the Iraq war ought not to end, that the real problem is that the troops are coming home in time for Christmas.
Republicans, people running for president, elected officials, all the leading conservative voices on issues like this, they are all against the war ending.
Maddow then played clips of leading Republicans criticizing Obama's decision to leave Iraq --
Sen. John McCain -- "It is clear that this decision of a complete pullout of the United States troops from Iraq was dictated by politics and not our national security interests."
Sen. Lindsey Graham -- "At a time when we need troops in Iraq to secure the place against intervention by Iran and the bad actors in the region, we're going into 2012 with none."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney -- "We're now in a situation where we're pulling all of our troops out of Iraq, period, no stay-behind force. I think that's a mistake."
Mitt Romney -- "Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, communicated that we were going to have a presence in Iraq going forward. That was part of our objective and this president has failed to deliver. They were unable to negotiate a status agreement to allow 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 troops to remain which I think is failure on the part of the administration."
But to Maddow, all these objections can be boiled down to her churlish claim that Republicans simply didn't want our soldiers returning home in time for the holidays. On the plus side, you do have a liberal implying here that Christmas is somehow special.
To his credit, Wilkerson refrained from Maddow's sing-song repetition of Obama "ending the war," even while he could not resist attributing GOP criticism of Obama to irrational (psst, racist) hatred --
They want to defeat this man. They want to bring this man out of the White House. They want to embarrass this man. They want to put this man through every kind of turmoil they can possibly put him through. ... That is political opportunism and political blindness of the first order. And it may cause me to leave this party eventually, I must say that.
Yes, that was Wilkerson, not Joe Lieberman a decade ago lamenting what became of Democrats.
There were no "George W. Bush Republicans" on the eve of the 2012 campaign, Maddow declared, as Obama abandoned Iraq to the inevitable rise of jihadists. But Obama belatedy realized his mistake and has sent several thousand American soldiers back into the fray. From Maddow's perspective, this must make him a George W. Bush Democrat.