Echoing media theme, Wash. Times' Lambro offers falsehood to support claim that Obama is making Dem "antiwar base very unhappy"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Claiming that President-elect Barack Obama's "wiggle-room talk is making his party's hard-line, antiwar base very unhappy and there is growing anger in the leftist blogosphere," The Washington Times' Donald Lambro falsely suggested that Obama has only recently proposed a "residual force" of U.S. troops in Iraq, claiming that Obama "now says the U.S. will have 'to maintain a residual force to provide potential training for the Iraqi military, logistical support to protect our civilians in Iraq' " [emphasis added]. In fact, Obama talked throughout the presidential campaign about the likely need for such a force to remain in Iraq.

Amid considerable media discussion of President-elect Barack Obama's plans for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq -- The New York Times, for example, published an article on December 4 with the headline "Campaign Promises on Ending the War in Iraq Now Muted by Reality" -- Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro falsely suggested that Obama has reversed himself on the need for residual forces in Iraq. In his December 4 column, Lambro wrote that Obama's "wiggle-room talk is making his party's hard-line, antiwar base very unhappy and there is growing anger in the leftist blogosphere." As evidence to support his characterization of "wiggle-room talk," Lambro wrote that Obama "now says the U.S. will have 'to maintain a residual force to provide potential training for the Iraqi military, logistical support to protect our civilians in Iraq' " [emphasis added]. In fact, contrary to Lambro's suggestion that Obama only "now" supports a residual force, Obama talked throughout the presidential campaign about the likely need for such a force to remain in Iraq.

In a September 12, 2007, campaign speech in Clinton, Iowa, Obama said that after a withdrawal from Iraq, the United States "will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region. We'll continue to strike at al Qaeda in Iraq. We'll protect our forces as they leave, and we will continue to protect U.S. diplomats and facilities. If -- but only if -- Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we should continue to train and equip those forces." Additionally, Obama's campaign website states: "Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel." According to the Internet Archive, a similar statement was on Obama's website in October 2007. Also, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, in January 2007, Obama introduced legislation that provided for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq after combat troop withdrawal was completed "[t]o protect United States personnel and facilities in Iraq" and "[t]o provide training for Iraqi security forces."

From Lambro's December 4 Washington Times column:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to remain in his job presented different challenges. He had been the chief proponent of President Bush's surge that rescued the Iraq war from certain defeat and gave the Iraqis time to train their military. He opposed Mr. Obama's troop withdrawal timetable and said so publicly and still believes the Iraqis need more time before they can go it alone.

Mr. Obama gave him assurances that as the lone Republican on the team he would be in on all national security decision-making and the future of the Iraq war. At the same time, Mr. Obama assured Mr. Gates that his own 16-month pullout timeline was not set in concrete, that the United States would not leave the Iraqis high and dry and that he was willing to seek a compromise on any future withdrawal.

He acknowledged Monday that the policy terrain regarding the length of time that combat troops would remain in Iraq had already changed as a result of the Bush administration's security agreement with Iraq that called for U.S. troop withdrawal in three years.

There is a lot of room for compromise between 36 months and 16 months, and Mr. Obama was sending signals this week that he was prepared to leave U.S. troops in Iraq longer than he envisions if his military commanders say they need more time to secure the country.

Thus, the man who made pulling out of the Iraq war his No. 1 foreign policy campaign issue now says the U.S. will have "to maintain a residual force to provide potential training for the Iraqi military, logistical support to protect our civilians in Iraq." That was the behind-the-scenes advice his Iraq war advisers gave him early this year and apparently he is taking it.

Notably, Mr. Obama now says his "No. 1 priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase and that the Iraqi people are well- served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security."

"I will listen to the recommendation of my commanders," he reaffirmed Monday.

Not surprisingly, all of his wiggle-room talk is making his party's hard-line, antiwar base very unhappy and there is growing anger in the leftist blogosphere. It is suddenly dawning on them that we are going to be in Iraq a little longer than they had been led to believe.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
Person
Donald Lambro
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