As Times Change, So Do Iraq War Statements
By Michael D. Shear
President Obama's announcement of a deadline for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq recalled one of the most hotly-debated issues of the presidential campaign: whether a date-certain for withdrawal was tantamount to giving up.
It also provided some interesting flip-flops.
Take, for example, the statement today by House Minority Leader John Boehner, who praised Obama's new policy.
"The plan put forward by President Obama continues our strategy of bringing troops home from Iraq as they succeed in stabilizing the country," he said in a statement. "I believe he has outlined a responsible approach that retains maximum flexibility to reconsider troop levels and to respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant."
But that's very different from what Boehner said in 2007, when the Iraq war was going badly and Democratic lawmakers were pushing for a resolution that would call for an end date to the war.
On March 16, 2007, Boehner said on the floor of the House: "Setting timelines is no different than handing the enemy our war plan itself. It serves as a road map for the terrorists to plot maneuvers against American men and women in uniform. Micromanaging the war from [the] Capitol is, by any standard or definition, a recipe for disaster."
Boehner spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier disputes that Boehner's statements represent a flip flop. She said the improved security situation in Iraq justifies the change. And she noted that the GOP opposition to a timeline in 2007 was rooted in their belief that politicians were dictating to the military commanders on the ground.
"Two years ago, those decisions were being pushed by politicians in Washington and not by the generals on the ground," she said. "Now, we're in a situation where the president has been listening to our generals who have said this draw down of troops is realistic and that that our military will have the flexibility it needs if the security situation deteriorates."
She continued: "Iraq today is so much different than it was two years ago; there have been successful elections, violence is dramatically down, and the country is starting to function. And that happened because of a successful surge strategy that many of these very same
Congressional Democrats opposed from the outset."
The president is not immune to a bit of flip-flopping himself.
In 2007, Obama said of then-President Bush's new surge policy in Iraq: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."
He softened that late in the campaign, saying it had, in fact, succeeded beyond what anyone could have predicted. In today's speech at Camp Lejeune, he said that "Thanks in great measure to your service and sacrifice and your family's sacrifices, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007."
Posted at 5:50 PM ET on Feb 27, 2009
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