Out of Iraq

By Al Giordano

Another day, another promise kept...

President Obama:

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end...

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

Some bloggers screamed for half of 2007 and most of 2008: What about "residual forces"? Aren't we going to be stuck with permanent military bases there for the next gazillion years? Why won't candidate Obama commit to no residual troops? Why won't all of you join us in "supporting" Bill Richardson instead?

Oh, wait...

Obama, today:

As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Candidate Obama - despite the now disproved claims of the aforementioned (and videotaped) bloggers - never said he would leave troops in Iraq indefinitely. (There's a big difference between poker and the kind of interest-group driven tiddlywinks that some bloggers seem to mistake for politics.) And his early opposition to the war before it started was a clear tip off to voters of common sense everywhere that this guy was different than the Johnny-come-lately politicians who later found religion on the very war that they had authorized.

Let's review what we were told during the campaign - in that video ad - from some corners of "teh blogz":

Matt Stoller (OpenLeft): "Obama... support(s) leaving thousands of thousands, even tens of thousands of troops behind."

Chris Bowers (OpenLeft): "Bill Richardson is the only major candidate who will bring every soldier home."

Christina Siun O'Connell (FireDogLake): "Bill Richardson is the only one who would actually end the war."

That effort could not, sincerely, have been about boosting Richardson's quixotic candidacy at the time (indeed, two of the three admitted openly that their appearance on that Richardson campaign video didn't constitute an endorsement of Richardson). It was, rather, a blatant and transparent (and failed) attempt to derail the only viable alternative to front-running Senator Clinton precisely at the hour - autumn 2007 - when Obama was emerging as the anti-war candidate. I found that ad fundamentally dishonest then and nothing has changed my view of it - or erased my elephantine memory of it - since.

One would hope that people would be embarrassed enough to learn from their own errors in judgment to shift their failed and illusory concepts of "blogger pressure politics" (which some can't seem to distinguish from "look-at-me-ism"). But unfortunately, making self adjustments based on one's own errors is a rare trait, as seldom an occurrence among blogger-activists as it is among commercial media reporters.

In the YouTube era, there is more accountability for bloggers and traditional media reporters alike. Hurrah!

And, more importantly, get used to saying this in the coming months: Welcome home troops!

Related Update: The text of a memorandum signed today by the President:


SUBJECT:  Transfer of Detainee to Control of the Attorney General

Based on the information available to me, including the memorandum from the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General dated February 26, 2009, and the joint recommendation contained therein, I hereby determine that it is in the interest of the United States that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri be released from detention by the Secretary of Defense and transferred to the control of the Attorney General for the purpose of criminal proceedings against him.

Accordingly, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby direct you to transfer Mr. al-Marri to the control of the Attorney General upon the Attorney General's request.  This memorandum supersedes the Presidential directive of June 23, 2003, to the Secretary of Defense, which ordered the detention of Mr. al-Marri as an enemy combatant.  Upon Mr. al-Marri's transfer to the control of the Attorney General, the authority to detain Mr. al-Marri provided to the Secretary of Defense in the June 23, 2003, order shall cease.


Due process. What a concept.

Update II: Out of fairness to Chris Bowers (who I personally like even when we disagree), he's doing a valiant job today trying to explain this big news to a couple of Eeyore's in his comments section, the usual suspects who seem to not want this to be true because it would prove their previous Chicken Little-ing to have been wrong. Clearly, Chris is head and shoulders above them and ahead of the curve on them.


Bloggers have no accountability

Consider the reaction to Obama's budget, which has almost universal acclaim from "the left" now.  According to OpenLeft, this means that Obama learned a lesson and has decided to abandon the post-partisan fetish.  Totally missed from the analysis is the possibility that this was Obama's plan all along, and that he is now better positioned to get through the big changes because the public overwhelmingly believes that he has tried to work with the GOP.

On this note, I must say that I'm disturbed that there seems to be some momentum behind the OpenLeft push to get David Sirota an MSNBC show.  Maybe this will go nowhere.  But it would sure be nice if we could get some more realistic and informed voices on tv, or at least the radio. (So, how is that radio effort going, Al?)

But, but, but...

oh dammit...you're correct.

That ad is unintentionally funny when the narrator says, "But DemocratIC activists speak out..." over a shot of a hipster coffee shop.  Then, everyone inside has their likely overpriced lattes displayed proudly.  Can they play into the stereotype anymore?  Just a simple change in backdrop would've helped at least. (Siun does great work though on many other fronts)

It's simply breathtaking what Obama is accomplishing in such a short period of time.  Heard a CNN radio cut-in this morning, and the drama they built into the reporting was about some Dems being pissed about the one year of 50,000 residual troops left, and how Repubs thought 50,000 was a good idea.  This blew me away because just two weeks ago the BigMedia framing would've been, "Will troop withdrawals  and Obama make us less safe," and now it's, "Are 50,000 too many."  Another massive shift is happening right before our eyes, just as it did during the campaign.

I still have some sympathy for the argument that pressure from "teh blogz" helps the pendulum swing back or pick up momentum, but after reading Al for a while now, and especially seeing the RESULTS of a more community organizing approach like Obama's, I do hope some of the most widely read blogs will reconsider their tactics.  A tremendous amount of energy and time is spent in some corners "holding their feet to the fire," which might have some effect from time to time.  But if more of that time was spent in perhaps even more effective endeavors, I think "holding feet to fires" would turn into "celebrating victories" much more often.


Jim - I don't know if you saw it (scroll down the blog entries if you didn't) but I asked folks to suspend that radio campaign because the entity it was aimed at ceased to exist in the very same day the effort had begun.

I don't worry myself about who gets or doesn't get a cable TV gig. Speech is much more limited on MSNBC than any of its talking heads could ever admit. Whoever gets that slot will end up being micro-managed and over-produced and will end up with a schtick determined by those above him or her. It's 90 percent show biz and marketing. MSNBC consciously sought to seek out the audience that Fox News excludes, and whose viability was established by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for two hours a day on Comedy Central. It was a business decision, and the new host there will be chosen based on business considerations more than anything else.

The influence of the blogs

Somehow it is funny how some activists think that their blogs pressured Obama into doing something, when it was all along clear that the mass media did not succeed into pressuring Obama into doing something - and it was not for lack of trying. It should be clear even to firedoglake and openleft that their blogs have less influence than fox news or msnbc. So if the mass media did not manage, how come some columns by Sirota and Hamsher did the job? And, as mentioned above, the pundits and blog-pundits usually do not take context into account. If Obama would have started out with the budget, without the preceding interactions, he might well have lost considerable political capital on that.


I'm glad to see Obama spell out an end date by which all troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, despite the resistance he faced from Petraeus and other military brass...

But what about Afghanistan?  Obama's making good on that other campaign promise - to send tens of thousands more troops into the country.  During the campaign he said the current strategy of "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians" doesn't work.  That's a remark you'd never hear from another mainstream politician, like mentioning "capitalism," so kudos.  But then he said this is in part why we need more troops on the ground in Afghanistan.  I've yet to see any independent expert analysis that a military "surge" in Afghanistan will work (to the contrary, they're saying it could make things worse).  The country has been notoriously resistant to foreign intervention for decades, the latest U.S. occupation being no exception...



Ansel - I'm taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Afghanistan. I noted during the campaign that candidate Obama talked always about sending "two brigades" there. Most non-military folks don't know what a brigade is:

In the United States Army, a brigade is smaller than a division and roughly equal to or a little larger than a regiment. Strength typically ranges from 1,500 to 4,000 personnel.

So, in other words, two brigades would be 3,000-8,000 troops. Then how do they get to the current number of 17,000 troops? The answer is that about half of them will not be combat troops but in training and other support roles. A brigade, thus, is about the size of the number of licensed taxis in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

Even if it's just as simple and Machiavellian as a move to give cover to the withdrawal of 140,000 troops from Iraq (and by the end of 2011 the full 180,000 or so), that's not a bad mathematical equation.

But of late I've gotten the idea that one of the ways the President hopes to make sure Iraq ends well is by whistling to Al Qaida and others that started in Iraq only after the US invasion (because what they want is direct combat with US troops) as a way of saying, "hey you, come over here and fight me," thus getting them out of Iraq and onto less populated and more rural terrain, where fewer civilians can be caught in the crossfire.

The simultaneous multi-pronged diplomatic offensive - special envoys to Afghanistan-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine and Iran - presents a kind of jigsaw puzzle to try and figure out what the plan really is. But two or three brigades, in any case, does not necessarily cause a lot of violence. I'm curious to see what it brings (and have the distinct feeling there is an actual plan to prevent it from becoming like previous Afghan occupation quagmires).


Hi Al, I was wondering if

Hi Al,

I was wondering if you know or knew Hilda Solis, and what possible plans for labor could be in the works. Obviously the president has an incredible amount going on right now, it boggles my mind to imagine the different topics he's working on, but supporting organized labor could be a very real step to getting the economy back on track.

I'm just so glad

to see this tragic war being ended. 

Horrors upon horrors if McCain 100 Years War had been elected. 

Obama has the courtesy before his speech to call George Bush the ExCon --- I mean Ex-President --to let him know his "4,200 Americans Killed and over 31,000 Wounded in Iraq Proving to His Daddy that He Can Be a War President Too Disaster" was being ended. 

I'm starting to think Obama is pretty much done with the list of things I was hoping he would initiate. 


Jeremy - I've never met Secretary Solis, but I'm an admirer. Her father and I have this in common: We both migrated across the US-Mexico border (albeit in different directions). She is widely recognized as smart as a whip and intensely committed to working men and women and the union movement (which is why the Republicans in the Senate delayed her confirmation for as long as they did, hoping against hope that something would come out that could derail the nomination).

I think she will move quickly on reversing a lot of the Bush Labor Department nonsense that sought to restrict union organizing and occupational safety and other issues. I think she will be instrumental in the passage of the Employee's Free Choice Act and will be the point person on separating the issues of Immigration Reform for the vast majority of manual laborer immigrants - clearing their path to citizenship - from the smaller question (involving less than 200,000 compared to 12 million people in the first category) of "temporary worker" visas for highly paid technical workers. In sum, I think big things are afoot with her.


Of course, what many of the bloggers failed to realize in this case is that permanent military bases in Iraq (like in the cases of Germany or Japan) would be nearly impossible under the current climate and with our resources. Soldiers and infantrymen know this. The Department of Defense is already consolidating most of its bases in the US at this point, an effort started under Rumsfeld. PCS orders continue to change, because bases are being shut down all around the country and squadrons are being moved. We just don't have the resources for it, especially not when the DOD is contracting out to security firms to control the base gates, a job the MPs used to do just a few years ago. Maybe they should have, you know, actually talked to some of the people in uniform before making that ad.

That said, how can this not be seen as a good thing? Those kids who proudly donned their ROTC uniforms in high school and eventually joined the services will be going home. And in the past eight years, I know for a fact a lot of those kids didn't come back, or even more horribly, they came back worse than dead. This is a good thing. And anybody who says otherwise hasn't been around to witness the agony of the families who are living the military way of life.

More good news, this time on the "Drug War"

The horrible money crunch is doing your work for you, Al:

Marijuana Legalization discourse officially goes Mainstream Hotlist

Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 03:18:32 AM PST

O the times, they are a changin'.

Andrew Cohen @ CBS News, a very major mainstream media outlet, writes about how the economy is causing states to think about shedding non-violent prisoners from the prion roles, as a cost-saving maneuver.

This lead, naturally, to the discussion of legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The "news" is that this discussion is on something like "CBS".

This trend toward releasing non-violent offenders naturally begs the question: what about legalizing marijuana possession and lowering the drinking age? A California lawmaker Monday introduced legislation that would legalize (and tax) pot there. In Colorado, as seen this past Sunday on 60 Minutes, the police chief in Boulder (which houses a raucous University of Colorado) made a compelling case for saving money by reducing the drinking age from 21. Better to have police officers tracking violent crime, the argument goes, than writing tickets for college kids who are going to drink no matter what.

These declarations, from the political and legal arena, are not just isolated voices shouting into the wilderness. Consider the late, great Milton Friedman, the Nobel Laureate, former Reagan advisor, and esteemed scholar associated with the very conservative Hoover Institution. He was among hundreds of important economists who argue that pot should be legalized and taxed - and that the income from such taxation could generate billions in new revenues and billions more in enforcement savings. If you live in California, what would you rather have? Pot smokers whose cases are tying up the legal system? Or better health care and roads thanks to a marijuana tax. I’m just asking the question-and others are too.


I was pleased with the tone Obama used talking directly to Iraq today, quoted on Ben Smith's blog.  I thought the tone of respect and recognition of Iraqi humanity and dignity was immensely refreshing and relieving.   Here's an excerpt:

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.


What about the US Embassy in Iraq?

You know, the one that is "bigger than Vatican City"?

I haven't heard much from Obama about it.  In an AP story today, at the end:

In Baghdad, an influential Shiite cleric said the plan does not go far enough and demanded the reduction of American Embassy staff as well.

During a sermon Friday, Sheik Saleh al-Haidari said there was no longer a need for such a large American diplomatic presence. The U.S. Embassy sits on a 104-acre site in the heavily fortified Green Zone. It has more than 1,000 employees.

"Liberal PAC Plans New Campaign Against Incumbent Dems"

Hey Al, what do you think of this?


Kos and Nate: Good. Jane: um, not so good. SEIU: not really sure anymore. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said "hell yeah," but now I'm much more skeptical about some of the players. I imagine you're probably going to say that it doesn't matter, but I'm still curious.

I enjoy it a little too much

I enjoy it a little too much when you take on the "progressive" gatekeepers! What a pack of phonies. 

Never saw that ad before. It was creepy - politically tone deaf (as progressives frequently are) and totally self-aggrandizing. Democratic activists, my ass. It looks like they were filmed on the set of "Friends," drinking venti soy lattes, with an extra shot of smug. 

I wonder if ego and political tone-deafness among "progressives" go hand in hand. If your focus is centrally about popularizing yourself, it's more challenging to keep your finger on the pulse of the body politic. But, hey, great lighting! 

Bring back liberal, liberals, and liberalism!


I remember so many inane threads at places like mydd and openleft where people went on and on about whether promises to "bring all troops home" included embassy guards.  And the numbers game about who promised the lower number of troups the quickest was an obviously faulty discussion.  I mean how many bloggers can see the future so well and be top experts in military logistics at the same time. What a weird contest that was.

I remember a particular ridulous thread on mydd by Stoller, but that data has long since been purged.  Do you suppose that the purge policy was to recover disk space and system capacity or do you suppose it was to protect certain individuals from future reference to many idiotic statements?

Hilda Solis

I hope that Solis will take a leading role in the Middle Class Taskforce because I believe it will be a great way to expand the reach of the DOL beyond narrow issues of union rights and workplace safety (as important as these are) and improving the standard of living for all workers.

Future of mercenaries (Xe is the new blackwater)

I have not read anything about Obamas plans in this area, but I would suspect that he will try to scale that back - both for cost reasons and because the US has political responsability but no military jurisdiction over them. Anybody read something about intentions or plans in that area?

Al, as usual, an excellent blog entry:-)

Interesting article re: that Santelli business


I think it's interesting to see what the right is trying to do here, but also notable that their attempt to reproduce authentic organizing fell so flat on its face with those nationwide Tea Parties, which were (unless I'm getting the wrong sense of their goals) a pretty miserable failure. Thought you'd be interested, Al, and that you might want to talk about it.

Badcrumble, Thanks for the

Badcrumble, Thanks for the link.  I don't think this was an attempt at Obama style "community organizing". The "Chicago Tea Party" analogy wasn't a play on the Obama house parties.  It's a right wing play on the "Boston Tea Party"  - The image is supposed to be of modern day "minute men" rising against Washington "socialism", to use the article's terms. The right wing has long ran fake populist pressure campaigns.  This campaign was a planned and orchstrated attempt funded by the ultra rich to try to head off Obama's economic & budget plans.

In my opinion this Exile article is a fine example of what Al calls "authentic journalism".  It does an excellent job of connecting the campaign to the super wealthy and unearthing the fact that the domain name "chicagoteaparty" was purchased by super rich right wing Koch family in August 2008 as a sleeper site to be called in as needed against Obama.  This was not a spontaneous uprising nor was it community organizing.  It was simply the right wing corporate PR machine orchestrated into action. The final paragraph sums it up:

**So today’s protests show that the corporate war is on, and this is how they’ll fight it: hiding behind “objective” journalists and “grassroots” new media movements. Because in these times, if you want to push for policies that help the super-wealthy, you better do everything you can to make it seem like it’s “the people” who are “spontaneously” fighting your fight.**

The moonbat left

Did anyone else think the concern trolling from the 'left' by Dems about residual troop numbers was a bit similar to the wingnut rights 'No on everything' platform? Just a bit of harmless pandering to the deep blue/red areas while Obama gets on with moving the center of the debate somewhere left of LBJ. Similar in effect, not intent.

Also, I suspect that even if McCain had won, Obama would have been able to influence the national debate with his independent organization and power base. Maybe we'll see a bit of that in 8 years...

Re: Afghanistan

The details about the new troops are here:

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, a unit of 8,000 marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will be deployed in the next few weeks, aiming to be in Afghanistan by late spring, administration officials said, while an Army brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash., composed of 4,000 soldiers, will be sent in the summer. An additional 5,000 Army support troops will also be deployed in the summer.

That's at least 12,000 combat troops.  The Army brigade is the Stryker unit from Fort Lewis in my home state. There are supposed to be more in the coming months.  

Given the videos posted at Narco News and elsewhere of US officials "training" the police in other countries, it's hard to imagine anything positive coming out of more military forces shipping over there, whatever their designated role. I've heard time and again from veterans, indeed just yesterday at local 'Winter Soldier' hearings, that "all troops are combat troops."  

Popular opposition to the war in Iraq bolstered Obama's position on withdrawal from that country.  I don't think "wait and see" is the right approach here.  I'd suggest being vocal in questioning military escalation and proposing non-militarized alternatives.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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