A new consensus on Iraq

Eric Ruder looks at the factors driving the seeming convergence of Barack Obama, the Bush administration and other players when it comes to Iraq–and what policy they are actually converging around.

Socialist Worker, July 25, 2008

IS THE end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq within sight?

In late July, newspaper headlines announced that the Bush administration and Iraqi officials had agreed on a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The fuzzy phraseology allows the Bush administration to deny that it had agreed to a “timetable” for withdrawal–something it has repeatedly denounced as “irresponsible” when advocated by Democrats.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who has promised to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by late 2010 if he becomes president, captured the world’s attention with a whirlwind tour that took him to Baghdad for meetings with Iraqi politicians and U.S. military leaders.

Shortly before he arrived, an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Germany’s Der Spiegel made headlines because Maliki basically endorsed Obama’s 2010 timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops–and made the pointed remark that “he who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

The sudden convergence of Obama, Maliki and the Bush administration on Iraq left Republican presidential candidate John McCain out in the cold. For months, he has attacked Obama for failing to understand what’s at stake in Iraq with his 16-month withdrawal proposal. But suddenly, McCain looks like the one who’s out of step–with the heads of state in both the U.S. and Iraq.

As news of Maliki’s praise of Obama sunk in, McCain stuck to his script. “The fact is, if we had done what Senator Obama wanted to do, we would have lost,” McCain said. “And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region. And Iran would have increased their influence.”

That perfectly describes the situation that already exists–as a direct product of the U.S. war on Iraq.

At the same time, McCain might be trying to change direction. “If there is any fixed position in John McCain’s policy agenda, it’s that we must never, ever, set a timetable for leaving Iraq,” observed the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman. “So it was a surprise to hear him say Monday [July 21], when asked if our troops might depart in the next two years, ‘Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I’ve said.'”

Continued . . .

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