When President Obama announced last week that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq would end as scheduled on Dec. 31 — after nearly nine years, thousands of U.S. troops casualties, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent — right-wing criticisms started pouring in. A neoconservative architect of the Iraq war twisted his benchmarks (yet again) to call Obama’s scheduled withdrawal a “retreat.” And GOP presidential candidates came out in opposition to the withdrawal, ignoring altogether any Iraqi say in the matter and Americans’ opposition to the war.
But now, underscoring fractures in the Republican Party on foreign policy, a right-wing member of Congress is voicing consternation with his party about opposition to the pullout. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tweeted on Sunday that he didn’t understand the position from his party and its presidential candidates:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry both blasted Obama last week for the withdrawal announcement, and other candidates followed suit until the entire field found itself in universal opposition to the drawdown.
The critiques from the GOP field have ignored two key points in the withdrawal. The first is that the agreement that is ushering out U.S. troops was signed in 2008 by the Bush administration (PDF), amid concerns that the pact would tie the next president’s hands.
The second is Iraqi agency in the pullout. Iraqis were eager to see U.S. troops leave. Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill wrote this weekend that “Prime Minister Maliki got very little support from any other Iraqi political [bloc].” The government also opposed immunity from Iraqi law for remaining U.S. troops. Al-Maliki said this weekend that it was “impossible to grant immunity to a single American soldier.” The Pentagon had insisted on such immunity for troops to remain, and the U.S. policy changed as a result of Iraq’s decision.
Over at Democracy Arsenal, Michael Cohen takes down the Republican attacks on Obama’s Iraq decision:
What is perhaps so maddening about this entire line of argument from the GOP that Obama has “failed” in Iraq is that it was Republicans…who were the loudest advocates of the 2007 surge on the grounds that escalation would help a sovereign, democratic government (as well as political reconciliation) take root in Iraq. [...] Republicans can’t have this both ways: they can’t on the one hand extol the virtues of democracy in Iraq and then get indignant when that country’s democratically-elected government tells the United States they need to leave.
“If there was ever any question that the GOP’s fundamental critique of President Obama’s foreign policy is basically ‘whatever he does we will argue the opposite,’” Cohen adds, “this past week should erase any doubts.”