The new memoir titled “Worthy Fights” by former Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta is causing a stir. In the book, Panetta firmly lays the responsibility for the current mess in Iraq at Obama’s doorstep:
“My fear, as I voiced to the President and others,” Panetta writes, “was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S.” He adds that his stance “reflected not just my views but also those of the military commanders in the region and the Joint Chiefs.”
Then, particularly damaging as the nation struggles with the Islamic State and a destabilized region, Panetta suggests Obama’s team put political promises before good foreign policy.
“But the President’s team at the White House pushed back, ” he recalls, “and the differences occasionally became heated. [Undersecretary of Defense Michele] Flournoy argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.”
The White House, Panetta writes, “coordinated the negotiations but never led them. . . but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away.”
While it is always nice to see a come-to-Jesus moment, no matter how late it occurs, there is little in the memoir that hasn’t been documented. Panetta’s main contribution is affixing his name to the bill of indictment. Last month, I detailed the chronology of how we allowed ISIS to develop in Obama blames others for abandoning Iraq:
Obama wanted out of Iraq from the time he entered the US Senate. He authored a bill that required a US withdrawal, ran on a US withdrawal, and when McCain accused him of going wobbly on that commitment he pushed back.
When the replacement for the Bush-negotiated SOFA took place, Obama could not decide on what level of troop presence he wanted. This placed Iraqi politicians in the position of having to sell the idea without know what they were selling.
Obama insisted upon a parliamentary vote of immunity for US troops. This placed members of parliament in the uncomfortable position of having to support two politically charged issues: US troop presence and immunity of US troops from Iraqi courts. Maliki, in …read more