Now that Barack Obama’s position on Iraq — basically stick to the 16-month timetable — has been revealed to be at odds with the advice of U.S. commanders and other foreign leaders and his view of political non-progress is painfully at odds with the development of the Maliki government as a truly national, sovereign regime, the U.S. media is once again trying to ease Obama’s political quandry. So we have a spate of “Iraqis divided” stories which attempt to suggest that some Iraqis want the U.S. to stay, but some favor Obama’s approach. But, wait. The actual Iraqis interviewed for these stories never say they support a fixed timetable.
Take a look at the New York Times article on this topic. Lots of Iraqis oppose a precipitous withdrawal but despite the headline not a single one is quoted for the proposition that a fixed timetable is a good idea. (They do quote one poor women whose sister was killed who just wants Americans “to go to hell.”)
The Washington Post is even more blatant in trying to concoct an artificial balance between Iraqis who support the Obama approach and those who support McCain’s (that latter would be the “we’ll-stay-as-long-as it-takes-to-win” position.) Watch this sleight of hand:
As Sen. Barack Obama prepares for his second visit to Iraq, Iraqis are divided over his plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops in 16 months should he be elected president. “Iraq will be in hell, and we will find ourselves at the gates of civil war,” said Maied Rashed al-Nuaemi, a provincial council member in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq where Iraqi forces are battling the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. “The American presence in Iraq is the safety valve to keep this country quiet. If they withdraw, that will lead to calamity.” But Mosul’s deputy governor said he feels otherwise. “The U.S. presence in Iraq is useful now, but if the security situation gets better, I think it’s not necessary to keep all these big numbers of soldiers here,” Khasru Koraan said.
But wait the deputy governor doesn’t really “feel otherwise” — he is paraphrasing McCain’s position that only facts on the ground can dictate our withdrawal schedule. And even then he is saying only that “these big numbers” might not be needed. Then down a number of paragraphs into the piece you read:
While most Iraqis are against what they see as the continuing U.S. occupation, many also view the U.S. military as a bulwark against Shiite militias and Sunni extremists, as well as the growing regional influence of Iran. In polls, a majority of Iraqis say they want U.S. forces to leave, but only a minority say they want the forces to leave immediately. Some of the more than two dozen Iraqis interviewed for this article said Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is naive in wanting to withdraw U.S. combat troops by the summer of 2010. Others viewed his position as a political calculation to win votes from a populace tired of war.
So the real headlines for these pieces should have been “Try as we might, we couldn’t find a single Iraqi who supported Obama’s plan.” Yes, many Iraqis like him personally or think ” a black man in America might give him more empathy for others who feel oppressed by a powerful West. ” Even Gail Collins figured it out:
The Iraqis who talked to The Times were less enthusiastic about Obama’s position on — well, Iraq. Although most of the people interviewed wanted the Americans gone, they also wanted assurance they would still have the pathetic modicum of security and stability they have now. Which requires the American troops. That seems to put them closer to John McCain’s position. But they like Barack better.
So when it comes to Obama’s actual policy position, the Iraqis willing to be quoted think its hooey. This seems to be the representative feeling:
Mohammed Sulaiman, 56, a retired government employee in Baghdad, said: “The proposal of Obama to pull out the troops by summer 2010 is foolish. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, I think its credibility among the international countries would collapse.”
When the U.S. media hit the streets of Baghdad this week and maybe get a moment on the plane with Obama they might want to ask why Obama thinks that Mr. Sulaiman is wrong. And if they find some Iraqis who actually do believe a fixed timetable, announced in advance, is the way to go they should let us know. They haven’t found them yet.