As the midnight oil-burning Curtis Houck at NewsBusters noted last night, John McCain ripped into Jay Carney's attempts to rewrite history Wednesday evening on CNN. Among other things, he reminded the former White House Press Secretary that "We had it (the Iraq War) won, thanks to the surge." In other words, our military and Iraqi government had achieved victory. Barack Obama and his administration, perhaps until last night, has seemed indifferent at best and dismissive at worst at what has happened in Iraq since then.
After McCain got in his rips, it was Newt Gingrich's turn. The former House Speaker, whose assertion, as will be seen later, is supported by contemporaneous reporting by Tim Arango at the New York Times, took apart Carney's hypocrisy in whining about how a status of forces agreement with Iraq with the number of American troops our generals believed would be necessary to maintain the peace would have meant our presence there "in perpetuity":
Transcript (starting at 0:13; bolds are mine throughout this post):
ANDERSON COOPER: You're saying point-blank Obama wanted to keep a residual force there.
JAY CARNEY: Yes, well I spoke about it from the podium. And he was absolutely open to that, and that was our policy, but it required the appropriate status of forces agreement to allow for the protection of our troops that we have to have. Otherwise, it would have been the height of irresponsibility to maintain troops in that situation. Look, Maliki at the time wanted American troops gone, notwithstanding what Senator McCain said, and a lot of Iraq politicians (also) did. I think that's also —
NEWT GINGRICH: Jay, let me break in and say two things. First just as a logical point, you just now said the president by your own terms, apparently really wanted to have American troops there (in Iraq) in perpetuity, although a few minutes ago you pointed out we didn't want troops there in perpetuity. You can't have it both ways.
Second, this speech, really struck me as we are sitting here talking. You know, reality is a harsh teacher. This speech is closer to a George W. Bush speech than it is to anything Barack Obama would have said between 2007 and this week. I mean, go through the speech, tell me what do you think Dick Cheney would not be willing to say that is in the speech.
It is a remarkable moment of a president who didn't want to be doing this, being trapped in a world -- I like the speech, I think it is a very powerful speech, but it sure is not the Obama policy prior to tonight.
Carney's contention that "Maliki at the time wanted American troops gone" is nonsense, as Arango reported on July 14, 2011:
The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is privately telling American officials that it wants their Army to stay here after this year.
The Americans are privately telling their Iraqi counterparts that they want to stay.
... Assuming that the two uneasy partners can find a way to reach their mutually agreed goal of keeping an American military presence beyond the end of this year, the question is how to make it work more like South Korea and less like Somalia.
Korea? That "presence" is at 60 years. The "in perpetuity" Carney openly mocked McCain for advocating (words McCain himself of course never used, but which apparently do well in focus groups) is what the Arango reported the Obama administration was pursuing — or claiming to pursue. More on that shortly.
Continuing with Arango:
... Under the security agreement, American troops can act, but only in self-defense — usually, firing back when fired upon — and are barred from operations against militant networks based on intelligence.
... All things being equal, the Iraqis would prefer an agreement between the two governments for a continued troop presence without the political complications that would come from submitting it to Parliament. The Americans have insisted that any deal must be ratified by Parliament because their lawyers have decided it is the only way to secure legal immunities for soldiers who stay.
Now let's get back to something John McCain said last night as he was dismantling Carney's contentions brick by brick:
JOHN MCCAIN: Carney neglects the fact that, thanks to David Petraeus, and to Ryan Crocker who, by the way, are very strong on this issue, we won the conflict, and then by pulling the rug out and setting a date for withdrawal and bragging about it –
CARNEY: Excuse me, sir, but I think you have forgotten that –
MCCAIN: – this whole thing has resulted the way that it has.
CARNEY: – the date for withdrawal. [HANGS HEAD]
MCCAIN: No, the date for withdrawal – they’ve always contemplated an additional date behind it (for status of forces presence -- Ed.) and you can ask Condoleeza Rice or George W. Bush, so that’s –
CARNEY: Absolutely and so we – [HANGS HEAD]
MCCAIN: – that’s absolutely false too and we didn’t need to go through the Iraqi parliament. All you had to do was have an agreement.
COOPER: Senator McCain --
MCCAIN: because we were there on the ground.
Is McCain right? Well, oddly enough, recent events confirm his assessment, because the U.S. and Iraq entered into a status of forces agreement in June, 2-1/2 months ago — and it's considered operative even without parliamentary approval.
From the Army Times on June 23:
U.S. and Iraq agree on immunity for American troops
The U.S. and Iraqi government have hammered out a controversial deal granting U.S. troops some immunity from prosecution in the fledgling Iraqi court system, clearing the way for up to 300 special operators to begin deploying to Iraq, a defense official said Monday.
... those deployment plans stalled temporarily amid negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over who gets legal jurisdiction in the event of alleged misconduct by a U.S. service member, a defense official said.
The U.S. troops deploying to Iraq will be armed and authorized to use lethal force in self-defense. U.S. officials want to ensure that any alleged misconduct by American service members would be handled under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Iraq has provided acceptable assurances on the issue of protections for these personnel via the exchange of diplomatic note,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday in a statement.
... In 2011, U.S. military officials said Iraq’s refusal to approve a proper status of forces agreement that included legal protections for service members was the primary reason for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. At the time, the U.S. insisted that legal protections under a status of forces agreement should be approved by the Iraq parliament.
If they can do it now, why couldn't they do it then, especially if, as Arango reported, Maliki wanted troops to stay? That answer, as McCain asserted, is that they could have, and didn't.
It was U.S. insistence on a parliamentary approval that scuttled the status of forces discussions in 2011 and led to a complete troop withdrawal. Why did the U.S. insist on such an unnecessary condition? The likely answer is that they used it as a pretext for justifying total withdrawal, intensely desired because the political importance of Barack Obama showing the American people in time for the 2012 presidential election that he had ended "Bush's war" — consequences be damned — was apparently the paramount consideration.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.