A Farewell to Iraq

Marines President Obama's policy speech at Camp Lejeune today

It was a bravura performance.

It would be strange if I had not liked this speech.  The policies involved are ones that I have advocated for years.

In straightforward, statesmanlike, dare I say soldierly, fashion, he laid it all out:

– Major combat forces out of Iraq in 2010.

– ALL forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 (no bases)

– A regional approach to serious diplomacy

– Outreach to Iran and Syria

– A reasoned study of what the US should do about Afghanistan and Pakistan. (not completed yet)

– Congratulation to the armed forces for duty faithfully and successfully performed.

His words could not have been clearer, and the 2011 date was completely unequivocal.  After that date it is up to the Iraqis.

No sooner had President Obama stopped speaking than the geeks and freaks assembled by MSNBC began to tell us that the plain sense of his words did not mean anything at all.

Before the president spoke, the same crew claimed that "the generals" would insist on a renegotiation (repudiation) of the recent US/Iraqi agreement on withdrawal.  This was and is patent nonsense.  The Iraqis played hardball with the United States last year over this agreement and got pretty much all they wanted.  What possible reason could they have now for agreeing to "renegotiate" anything with us?  They understandably want us out of THEIR country.  There are still many here who can not believe that we have not acquired Iraq as a neocolonial possession, a "jewel in the crown of empire."  Many of the media people are either challenged with regard to "the vision thing" or unable to deal with the idea of a selfless effort.  Perhaps they should have made careers in finance.

The marines understood Obama.  They did not applaud when he entered the room.  They stood, of course, but they did not applaud.  By the time he was finished they were with him 100%.  Barry McCaffery (the sane man among the G&F crowd) said that Obama had spoken perfectly to a military audience, especially to combat people.  I understand that.  For such as they, things do "go bump in the night."  McCaffery also said that his eyes filled with tears at several points.  McCaffery is a hard man.

Mine too, general, mine too.  pl

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33 Responses to A Farewell to Iraq

  1. par4 says:

    Not careers in finance!!!11!! Cleaning restrooms in airports after extensive training.All joking aside I’m pretty satisfied with the President.Quite a healthy transformation in the direction of the country.Now it’s time for Congress and DoJ to start cleaning up the crimes of the last regime.

  2. Arun says:

    Since I have only a citizen’s opinion on these matters, and no military experience, I’m very reassured that Col. Lang approves of this.

  3. feocito says:

    – ALL forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 (no bases)
    You go on to say that this is unequivocal.
    I take that to mean that there will be no military outside the traditional embassy presence (DATT/SDO/SAO) by the end of 2011. I have my doubts.
    In politics, NOTHING is unequivocal.

  4. zanzibar says:

    Kudos to President Obama!
    Closing the Iraq chapter after 6 years of division and sacrifice will hopefully turn the page to a better and more sensible foreign policy that focuses on US national interests.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    This was not political. It was the CinC making an announcement to the troops.
    IMO it would take something like a siege of our embassy by insurgents to delay the 2011 date. pl

  6. Of course we will still have the biggest and baddest EMBASSY ever built in the world by the US. How is STATE doing by the way getting volunteers to go to Iraq?

  7. Nancy K says:

    Col Lang, why are the news sources stating that President Obama was met with stony silence by the Marines and they did not support him.
    I read his speech and I saw nothing in it they should object to and he seemed to be very supportive of and thankful towards them.
    You write that the speech was a bravuara performance, why the descripancy?
    Is it just a matter of typically the military prefers Republicans, because supposedly this same camp applauded enthusiastcally for Bush, and I cannot imagine his speech was all that spectacular.

  8. Cujo359 says:

    Before the president spoke, the same crew claimed that “the generals” would insist on a renegotiation (repudiation) of the recent US/Iraqi agreement on withdrawal.
    I’m continually astonished at the cluelessness of the people who appear on these shows. When Barry McCaffrey is the sane one in the crowd, you know that insanity is endemic there.
    Reading things like this make me glad I’m not wasting my money on cable.
    feocito – While things can always change, I think you can take Obama at his word on this. There is every reason to do as he says is going to do now. It’s also a principle he’s been very consistent on since he started his Presidential run. I say this as someone who takes his Obama with a giant lick of salt. I’d be shocked if we’re not so far out of Iraq by 2012 that Iraqis will start to forget what we looked like.

  9. doug says:

    I am more impressed with Obama by the day. He is both a thinker and communicator while being remarkably open to assimilating new information. These are now especially critical.

  10. Patrick Lang says:


  11. Patrick Lang says:

    nancy K
    The “news sources” are troublemaking fools. As I said in my post, they did not applaud him when he appeared, but they were with him once they heard what he had to say. pl

  12. The beaver says:

    – ALL forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 (no bases)
    Is it because of Israel that non-combat forces are staying till 2011? Since Iraq does not presently have an air force, will the US protect its air space against the Israeli air force on their way towards Iran in the mean time – by this I mean if Bibi and his right-wing partners decide to “obliterate” Iran nuclear sites.

  13. Cloned Poster says:

    and on to afghanistan

  14. wildethyme says:

    I thought the speech was outstanding. I am very puzzled that I have heard no particular commendation for the several minutes the president devoted specifically to addressing the people of the world. Surely a master stroke.

  15. Fred says:

    This was refreshing:
    “…as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable.”
    Glad to see the military will get a pay raise, I can’t imagine strating or raising a family on an E6 salary today; though I’m sure our $5,000 an hour reporters will raise a stink.

  16. Muzaffar says:

    Dear Col
    I wonder if President Obama is bring his tropps from Iraq or is he preparing himself for another adventure. We just don’t know.
    After all America is over stretched and if it is planning to do “something” in Iran or even Pakistan, it needs some extra hands.
    Too early to tell but let’s pray for wisdom to prevail.

  17. barrisj says:

    This perhaps “caveat” from SecDef Gates:
    Hours before the president met with congressional leaders, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also defended the plan, saying that the residual forces would have a targeted mission and that “the thinking all along had been that any force left after we stopped combat operations would be focused on the counterterrorism mission, on training, advising, assistance.”
    “So it’s a very different mission than we have now,” Gates said. Referring to the existing status-of-forces agreement, Gates added: “Whatever number the president approves as of the date he approves is a way station, because if there is no new agreement, under the SOFA, that number has to be zero at the end of 2011.”.
    As noted previously, there is a lot of elasticity in the SOFA, including the right of either party to alter the terms of withdrawal (Art. 24):
    The United States admits to the sovereign right of the Iraqi government to demand the departure of the U.S. forces from Iraq at anytime. The Iraqi government admits to the sovereign right of the United States to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq at anytime.
    And Art. 30 allows revising terms of the Agreement… “by formal written approval of both parties and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in both countries. “.
    Both parties are at the mercy of events, which – in a highly fluid and changing political milieu such as we have in Iraq – there are more “unknown unknowns” that “known unknowns”, as Rumsfeld would have it. And what Obama avers on 27Feb, 2009, based on the current state of affairs within Iraq, may – of course – not obtain a year or two out.
    Unless, bien sur, he’s made up his mind that it’s all over, whatever the “conditions on the ground” are at each milestone date.

  18. parvati_roma says:

    I was impressed by Obama’s speech and reassured by his determination to honour the SOFA previously reached with the Iraqi government: sounds like America’s new leader is a sensible, reasonable and honourable man.

  19. batondor says:

    Thank you for the pointer to the speech which I read and then watched online late this afternoon. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment though I still have concerns about the roughness of the road between now and August 2010 and then on to January 1, 2012…
    … but my reservations were tempered even more by the incisive interview that just occurred on PBS between the President and Jim Lehrer (to the degree that Lehrer seemed to run out of things to ask…). The contrast with the past eight years is obvious, but I would suggest that President Obama is demonstrating such reflective confidence and intelligence when “up close and personal” that it’s a bit daunting.
    I don’t want to exaggerate in saying this and the truth of this statement will not be known for a long time…
    … but we don’t know how lucky we are.

  20. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    You’re right on in your comment to Nancy when she notes the “discrepancy” between the reporting and the event.
    This kind of discrepancy is not casual but driven by stereotyped points of view that continue, mostly for political reasons, to insist – even when, like today, they are patently wrong – that Obama and the military do not get along.
    I think McCaffery used the term ‘beautiful’ to describe Obama’s tribute to the military’s service in Iraq and elsewhere. ‘Beautiful’ is just the beginning of a string of adjectives I would have used.
    One can attribute these kinds of errors by the press to malevolence, stupidity, sloppiness, or laziness but it doesn’t really matter. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. And, if you’re paid or told to have a point of view then that’s what you see. Thank God for C-Span where you get the whole thing unfiltered warts and all.
    Today I watched the MSNBC feed on TPM that started about five minutes before Obama’s speech and ended five minutes or so after he finished.
    The Marines may have started out cool but at the end President Obama had a hard time getting out of there.

  21. R Whitman says:

    I watched the Obama interview with Jim Lehrer this evening. I was impressed by his realistic thinking on Afganistan. Its almost as if he has been reading William Pfaff’s blogs on the subject. He set a minimum goal of “not allowing any attacks launched on the US or NATO from there”. No messianic mention of democracy, nation building and all that other political crap.
    On Iraq and the US military. I felt he was speaking to the enlisted personnel and not the higher ranking officers. Did anyone else get that impression?

  22. doug says:

    “No.” ?
    I wasn’t asking a question. Where is my comment in error? I value your opinion.

  23. optimax says:

    I was not all that impressed with Obama’s speech before Congress the other day. It seemed he tried to be all things to all people. Especially dissappointed is that he is going to keep feeding the feral bankers who got us into this meltdown.
    But his Camp Lejeune speech is magnifco, just what America and Iraq need. He’s right that the military has done the jobs they were asked to do and it’s time, in a timely manner, to give Iraqui’s back their sovereignty.
    I wonder if this will influence Iran’s coming elections?

  24. Patrick Lang says:

    Ever read “A Canticle for Leibowitz?” We’ll talk then. pl

  25. anna missed says:

    Let the short time calender commence.

  26. pbrownlee says:

    Good to see grownups back in charge — and the Augean Stables need quite a scrubbing.
    Now who will defenestrate the fools, flacks and fantasists of the mainstream media?

  27. Homer says:

    PL: There are still many here who can not believe that we have not acquired Iraq as a neocolonial possession, a “jewel in the crown of empire.”
    Mind boggling!!!
    Thanks to efforts of many of those disbelievers, Iraq is largely now a burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic republic which has long and intimate ties to extremists in Iran.
    It is sickening and saddening that the Iraq we now see is the inadvertent but direct result of Bush’s response to the horrific attacks of 9/11.
    Strange, is it not, how towers of the WTC went down in flames and the pillars of Islamic extremism arose in Iraq and throughout the ME.
    You did a heckuva job Bushies!!!

  28. Jon T. says:

    Was there recently a Congressional committee hearing or some discovery somewhere that former and even present Military Officer Corps members were brought to the Cheney/Rove training center, as it were, to be given a perspective to present in their work for major TV news efforts?
    I have not read “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. The Wikipedia entry surely is inviting and challenging though.
    I did read the President’s Camp Lejeune speech. I cried. I feel that happened because Mr. Obama gets it: about the families, the children, the dreams in the night, the wounds that won’t heal, the buddies that either are gone or aren’t right. His talk was not patronizing, it was not a schemed photo op. It was sitting at the kitchen table saying thank you, we have hard work remaining, I know you and we can get it done and we are behind you, totally. Anyone who did not hear that, imo, was not listening.

  29. Green Zone Cafe says:

    IMO it would take something like a siege of our embassy by insurgents to delay the 2011 date. pl
    I loved the speech too, especially Obama’s direct words to the Iraq people. I hope the Arabic translation of those words is widely distributed in Iraq.
    I was also a bit shocked by the 2011 date and the lack of wiggle room left in the phrase “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.”
    First, does this mean that the 2011 date could change based on a change in the SOFA?
    Second, the NEC (New Embassy Compound, as it is called) is about a kilometer long as you drive down Al Kindi street. Lots of buildings with hardening and rocket screens including a PX, gym, warehouses and housing. It’s like a college campus in Tucson or a minimum security prison. There are two FOBs in the vicinity of the NEC – which is why there will be no siege, at least until the troops leave. Isn’t that the dilemma? And if we have FOBs near the embassy to protect it (perhaps a USMC brigade as the largest Marine Security Guard detachment in the world?), won’t we need at least another to secure the airhead at Baghdad Airport? And then maybe a base for close air support?
    “All US troops?”

  30. Andy says:

    Green Zone Cafe,
    The SOFA is quite clear – it’s all US troops. However, as Sec. Gates said this morning on meet the press, any change to that would come in the form of a new agreement, one initiated by the Iraqi government.
    Personally, I believe that such an agreement is likely to provide for a small number of trainers, continued air support while until Iraq’s Air Force becomes self-sufficient, and probably intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance. Much of that (securing Iraqi airspace, providing air support) could be done from airfields in Kuwait and elsewhere. Again though, as it stands now, that is something the government of Iraq will have to ask for under terms that would be negotiated in the future.

  31. Let the short time calender commence.
    A bit early for the short-timer calendar…no such thing as a triple digit midget! If my memory serves me right, 90 days out is the official start.
    Of course, AF “peeps” tend to go FIGMO as soon as we can get away with it.

  32. Patrick Lang says:

    I screwed up. I thought I was responding to Ed’s question about Huntington’s monastery. sorry. pl

  33. Linda says:

    Even though Iraq is given back their sovereignty there are security companies such as SIC Iraq that may continue to stay there. I wrote an article about SIC and the man behind the scenes.

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