Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has charged President Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq gave rise to the Islamic State, or ISIS. It is a blatant example of his and other candidates’ willingness to so distort the truth as to be guilty of knowingly misleading the American people.
In a speech on Aug. 14, 2015, Mr. Bush stated, “That premature withdrawal (of U. S. troops) was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill — and that Iran has exploited to the full as well.” People hearing or reading that statement would be entitled to assume the withdrawal was a unilateral decision, freely made, by Mr. Obama — unless they knew the facts.
The truth is the withdrawal was required by what was known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated by the George W. Bush administration with Iraq. It was signed by the United States and Iraq on Nov. 17, 2008, 13 days after Mr. Obama was elected president and two months before his inauguration.
SOFA provides that U. S. combat forces be withdrawn from “Iraqi cities, villages, and localities… no later than June 30, 2009,” and requires all U. S. forces to be withdrawn from Iraq by December 31, 2011. The last American troops left Iraq on Dec. 8, 2011.
Mr. Bush didn’t mention SOFA in his speech. He now tries to justify his irresponsible charge against Mr. Obama by saying “it was intended” SOFA be changed and Mr. Obama “didn’t do enough” to get it amended. That’s disingenuous, at best. Mr. Obama did attempt to provide for a 10,000-troop residual force, but Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to grant U. S. forces immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. According to Mr. Obama, that was a deal breaker.
Other than the Sunni leadership of ISIS, it’s Bush 43 and the highly partisan Shiite leader, al-Maliki, who are responsible for the Islamic State, not Mr. Obama.
In the same speech, Mr. Bush pronounced we should “pursue the clear and unequivocal objective of throwing back the barbarians of ISIS,” but he left that sound bite hanging empty, offering no details. He briefly noted “five broad actions” we should take in Iran: 1) support Iraqi forces, which have the “will to win, but not the means;” that ignores the trillion dollars we spent to train and arm Iraqi troops who show little will to fight; 2) provide American air power to support those forces, dismissing the more than 6,000 air strikes that have been flown and continue on a daily basis; 3) give the U. S. troops in Iraq a “greater range of action,” but commit no combat forces; 4) arm the Kurds, although such action would significantly disturb internal Iraqi power relationships; and 5) restart serious diplomatic efforts to move Iraq in the right direction, whatever that means. In effect, Mr. Bush offered nothing new, further diminishing his credibility on the subject.
There is no premium on truth in American politics today. And when politicians are not bound by the truth, they freely mislead the citizenry and expect to do so with impunity. That is disdainful of the American people and contemptuous of the political process.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aid and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.