It’s amazing that a paper with such a great Iraq bureau as the Washington Post could have such a misguided editorial board. Today it publishes an editorial on Maliki’s call for a 2010 withdrawal that’s either totally ignorant or an outright lie, all in the service of punishing Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki for forging a U.S.-Iraq consensus on extrication. Much as with the McCain campaign, in order for the Post’s editorial to get off the ground, it needs to pretend that Maliki doesn’t actually believe a withdrawal is necessary. Here’s the relevant paragraph:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki’s timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama’s. More significant, it would be “a timetable which Iraqis set” — not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki “wants some flexibility in terms of how that’s carried out.”
No. The statement made by the Iraqi government was released by U.S. Central Command at the behest of the White House in order to spin away Maliki’s Der Spiegel interview. Then Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesman for the Iraqi government, clarified on his own that the Iraqis want the U.S. out in 2010:
Dabbagh made the statement after Obama’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has faced pressure from the White House in recent days to clarify published comments that he supported Obama’s 16-month plan.
Dabbagh said that his government is working “on a real timetable which Iraqis set” and that the 2010 deadline is “an Iraqi vision.”
“We can’t give any schedules or dates, but the Iraqi government sees the suitable date for withdrawal of the U.S. forces is by the end of 2010,” he told reporters.
That, of course, comes from the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post. If Fred Hiatt and his band of merry men wish to argue for an indefinite occupation of Iraq in defiance of the expressed wishes of the Iraqi government, it should have the courage of its convictions to do so openly and without euphemism. To its credit, though, it is at least open about saying that losing in Afghanistan — once and, bin Laden hopes, future home to al-Qaeda — is less important than losing in Iraq because there’s no oil in Afghanistan:
While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country’s strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world’s largest oil reserves.
Never let these people tell you that they know the first thing about national security.
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