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Obama in Iraq: Support Our Civilians, Too « The Washington Independent

Here’s a just-released statement from President Obama after meeting in Iraq with Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces there. First he says he’s there to thank the troops. Then:

I’ll have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Maliki and President Talabani while I’m here. Obviously we’ve spent a lot of time trying to get Afghanistan right. But I think it’s important for us to remember that there’s still a lot of work to be done here. And in addition to thanking our troops, I also want to send a strong message to our diplomatic corps and our civilians that they’re going to be critical to our success here.

We’ve made significant political progress. You’ve seen a greater willingness on the part of all the factions in Iraq to resolve their issues politically and through non-violent means. But with the national elections coming up, many of the unresolved issues may be brought to a head. And it’s very important for us to use all of our influence to encourage parties to resolve these issues in ways that are equitable and fair. And I think that my presence here can help do that.

What could probably do more than that is for Chris Hill, Obama’s nominee to become ambassador to Iraq, to get an up-or-down vote in the Senate when it returns from recess after next week.

Sen. Sam Brownback is holding up the nomination owing to a dispute over North Korea, and even neoconservatives in good standing like Max Boot consider the objections a bit trivial compared to the magnitude of the ambassadorial task in Iraq. Here’s Boot quoting an anonymous Bush administration official:

I agree with your post this morning on Chris. I had the same differences with him over 6 PT [six party talks with North Korea] as Brownback and he wouldn’t have been my choice for Baghdad, but 1) absent some gross dereliction or other disqualifying factor the President deserves to have the diplomatic team of his choice, 2) Dave [Petraeus] and Ray O[dierno] really are anxious to have their civilian partner in place to take advantage of the progress we have made. I think Brownback should let Chris have an up or down vote ASAP. That is a different question than whether or not Brownback/Kyl or others want to vote against him to make a point.

Still, it’s conspicuous that Obama didn’t call for an up or down vote on Hill from Baghdad.

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