The crucial facts in this case—absent two years
ago—and which have been emphasized repeatedly in recent months by
bibles of the left, from the New York Times to the Washington Post,
is that the reconstruction effort in Iraq has improved tremendously
under General Petraeus, to the point where we are not only winning in
Iraq but, some say, we may have already won. Obama’s speech is a
troubling example of ignoring everything that has happened for the
better over the last 18 months, suggestive instead of a defeated nation
that needs to immediately hop on the last helicopter out of Saigon.
Obama probably thinks this speech will win him
points among the angry extremists that fortify his base (which it
will), but it will hurt him among responsible, fair-minded liberals and
especially among the moderates that will decide this election. It is a
giant softball for John McCain and for the GOP to turn into ad spots.
It plays right into John McCain’s chief strength and against Obama’s
chief liability: their divergent experience in foreign and security
policy. It was a bad political move for a candidate who is ahead in the
There was so much in this speech that merits a
response, but I would like to draw attention to its most fatal flaw,
which apparently stills persists among the far left, which is actually
where Barack Obama—ranked the most liberal member of the Senate by the
non-partisan National Journal—sits on the ideological spectrum.
In this speech, Obama argued that the true battle against terror has
always been, and remains, in Afghanistan, not Iraq. He framed the Iraq
intervention as a total distraction from the real War on Terror, which resides in Afghanistan.
Yet again, this positively maddening assertion
is being made by a leader of the American left. It is absolutely,
unequivocally, a post-Iraq War invention. I plead with my liberal
friends: If you don’t believe me, then remember what the Clinton
administration stated repeatedly:
Throughout the latter 1990s, President
Clinton’s State Department, headed by Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, listed Iraq among the leading sponsors of terrorism. It did
so officially in its Patterns of Global Terrorism
report, which is the formal, annual assessment on global terrorism
mandated by Congress beginning in 1979 with the passing of the Export
Administration Act. The final such report by the Clinton
administration, in 2000, highlighted the seven leading terrorist
governments: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan.
Afghanistan was not even on the list. These were the same seven nations
identified in previous years, with Iraq and Iran singled out as the
worst offenders (1999 index, 1999 overview). In fact, the 2000 report devoted more words (and terrorist crimes) to Iraq than any other nation.
From providing safe-haven to Abu Nidal to
attacking U.N. personnel, I will not review the details of the 2000
report here. Anyone interested can click the links. But I warn
liberals: you will not like what you see, because it will force you to
reevaluate some sacred cows produced for convenience in the era of
hating George W. Bush, including those that reared their heads in
Obama’s speech on Tuesday.
The fact is that the fight against global Islamic terror is exactly that—global.
It must occur on many fronts. To judge that the fight was never in Iraq
but always in Afghanistan is amazingly simplistic and obviously
inaccurate, and would never be made by supposedly sophisticated people
if not for their seething hatred of George W. Bush. That hatred forces
them into back-flips and contradictions in the ugly, purely emotional
process of opposing everything he does. Bush’s identification of Iraq
as a prime terror threat—pursued only after the removal of the Taliban
in Afghanistan—is 100 percent consistent with what the Clinton
administration stated throughout its eight years.
Surely, liberals know this. If they do not—and
if Barack Obama, their standard-bearer, does not—then this speaks very
poorly, and quite frighteningly, of their ability to run American
foreign policy over the next four years. The explanation for their
thinking is either ignorance or a blinding hatred of George W. Bush
that obliterates their ability to assess reality and the world.
Whatever the answer, Obama’s speech on Tuesday
was not a good moment for anyone who hopes this man can lead America in
this historic battle facing the world.