Saturday, July 19, 2008

Election 08 trivia bites – The Middle East

I guess we’ll be looking at two sides of this issue, the before and after of Obama’s grand tour. Just Iraq and Iran here and the comments devoid of context. This is the before part of the unfolding drama, the sound bites tossed casually like a handful of sand.

Previous: Coulter and Huffington
The candidates, presumably
The Patriot Game

The United States and Iraq have agreed to set a “general time horizon” for the “further reduction of U.S. combat forces in Iraq” following the improvement in security conditions in the country, the White House said… NYT

“We have one president at a time, so I’m not going to be traveling to negotiate anything or make promises” Obama

“And if we still adopt Sen. Obama's proposal for a set date for withdrawal, this very fragile success that we have achieved will be jeopardized”
"We are winning" McCain

“John McCain has been in Congress 25 years — no doubt about that — if this is a longevity measure, then John McCain wins”
“On the other hand, before we went into Iraq, I knew the difference between Shia and Sunni.” Obama

"Senator Obama was wrong when he said it wouldn't succeed, he was wrong when he said we've lost the war and he is wrong today when he says that Iraq is not the central battleground" McCain


Obama is proposing that the United States deploy about 10,000 more troops to battle resurgent forces in Afghanistan

  • “As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan
  • “We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.”
  • Obama, who is among those who maintain that Afghanistan has been neglected because of the administration’s Iraq policy, has not previously offered such a specific plan for how to strengthen troop levels in Afghanistan.
  • “It’s very hard for us to bolster our forces in Afghanistan when we have such a heavy presence in Iraq.”
  • “I continue to believe that we’re under-resourced in Afghanistan,”
  • “That is the real center for terrorist activity that we have to deal with and deal with aggressively.”


  • Obama "will never change course on Iraq, no matter the facts on the ground"
  • "I know how to win wars. I know how to win wars"
  • McCain, a Vietnam War hero, has attacked Obama as too inexperienced to serve as U.S. commander in chief.
  • And if we still adopt Sen. Obama's proposal for a set date for withdrawal, this very fragile success that we have achieved will be jeopardized”
  • “That's what Gen. Petraeus says, and that's what Osama bin Laden says"
  • "Senator Obama was wrong when he said it wouldn't succeed, he was wrong when he said we've lost the war and he is wrong today when he says that Iraq is not the central battleground"
  • “If Barack Obama believes that visiting Iraq and meeting with commanders will not give him any new perspective, then we can only assume he’s going just to smile for the cameras” Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for McCain.
  • "But the major point here is that Senator Obama refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong"
  • "If he has no intention of listening to what American commanders in Iraq have to say, or incorporating that information into his policy, why is he even going?"
  • "If I'm elected President, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory, I know how to do that"
  • "He will land in a very different Baghdad than the one he would have landed in ... if we had done what he wanted to do"

McCain Ad

  • "Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan"
  • "He hasn't been to Iraq in years”
  • “He voted against funding our troops. Positions that helped him win his nomination”
  • “Now Obama is changing to help himself become president"

"The American forces will not withdraw whether Obama wins or not. If they withdraw, that would create a big vacuum and Iran would be the first to fill it." _ Ahmed Samih, Sunni official in Ministry of Higher Education in Baghdad.

Foreign Media

  • Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain, has not matched Obama's seriousness on Iraq. He is still largely adopting Bush's blind defense of an unending conflict.
  • Obama has a better grasp of the big picture, despite McCain's claim to more foreign policy experience.
  • Obama said he would withdraw combat forces from Iraq by 2010, shift at least 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan that could be leveraged to persuade NATO allies to also increase their numbers, send more nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan and build a stronger
  • After arguing that no additional forces were needed, McCain reversed course on Tuesday and endorsed sending 15,000 more troops to Afghanistan

International Herald Tribune (France)

Obama's foreign tour stands in marked contrast to John McCain's three recent foreign trips, where he was chased by just a handful of reporters

McCain responded to the news by drawing on Obama's paucity of foreign travel, suggesting that his rival should wait until after his visit to Afghanistan and Iraq before pronouncing on his war policies Telegraph (Britain)

  • It was Obama, not Bush or McCain, who wanted a timetable for troop withdrawal, a notion also recently backed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
  • The "time horizon" agreement is less firm, but certainly more like the Obama/al-Maliki position than the GOP had previously taken. In that regard, the agreement has strong elements of a win for Obama
  • al-Maliki never, to my knowledge, mentioned the surge's success as a reason he wanted a timetable
  • press accounts show him mentioning a desire for full Iraqi sovereignty and resistance to administration demands on a status of force agreement Deutsche-Welle

Talks have sputtered over Baghdad's demands for a timetable for US troops to withdraw as well as Washington's demands that its soldiers and other staff be immune from Iraqi prosecution.

The US Air Force has sought millions of dollars in "war on terror" funds for "comfort capsules" so that the military brass can fly first class to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan

The capsules, which are loaded into the bay of a military transport plane, come with a sofa, work space, two leather seats, a flat-screen TV, ports for a satellite phone and a separate module with two bunk beds and closets Gulf Daily (Bahrain)

Republican presidential candidate John McCain commented on Friday on the unannounced timing of a high-security trip by Barack Obama to Iraq, saying he believed his Democratic rival was going this weekend.
But McCain's spokesman said the Arizona senator knew nothing about Obama's schedule. EcoDiario (Spain)

They just keep coming:

McCain predicted a surge of militant attacks in Iraq around the time of the US election in November.
"I predict that they will make an attempt as we get in to the election season to make more of these spectacular kinds of attacks which they're still capable of doing”

"The Muslims have said either we kneel or they're going to kill us,"
"I don't intend to kneel and I don't advocate to anybody that we kneel, and John doesn't advocate to anybody that we kneel," former Vietnam prisoner of war Bud Day to Republican Party of Florida

"Mr Day's distorted view dismisses the vast majority of Muslims who stand with our nation to fight extremists and anti-American forces,"
"Senator McCain needs to make it clear that he does not support such a divisive position and that his campaign respects all Americans." Council on American-Islamic Relations

Iraq PM backs Obama troop exit plan” White House clipping service

"Iraq will be in hell, and we will find ourselves at the gates of civil war" Maied Rashed al-Nuaemi, a provincial council member in Mosul

The U.S. presence in Iraq is useful now, but if the security situation gets better, I think it's not necessary to keep all these big numbers of soldiers here" Mosul's deputy governor Khasru Koraan


D.K. Raed said...

I don't see how anyone can listen to McCain vs Obama on Iraq. But as McCain's people have hinted, if we get another terrorist attack in Oct-Nov, it's McCain by a nosehair. I guess it's just assumed that the voters are all just waiting to see who the terrorists want to be our president!

I don't even know how to interpret The Surge, much less a terriorist attack. The McC argument for the surge seems to be if it's NOT working, we need to keep it up; if it IS working, we need to keep it up. I'm thinking the same thing applies to an election terrorist attack: if we get one, gotta vote McC cuz he's a warrior; if we don't get one, gotta vote McC cuz his party is responsible for us NOT getting hit again. Circular logic!

Cart said...

I'm not really picking up the on-the-ground feeling there, but I can follow your argument. The disconnect is almost compelling.
Overall I'm really striving to be even handed with this series - let both sides speak for themselves at least.
It seems, maybe because of my own leanings, to be anti McCain. But then I think, perhaps his side actually support the stuff I'm finding about that side of the argument.
I guess that's the fun of not being there, imagining what people might be thinking. But the rest of the world will be totally pissed off if Obama doesn't win.

D.K. Raed said...

Yes, sad but true, the stuff you think would be arguments against McC, are the very things that his supporters like. The close poll numbers show us, at least as of now, the 50/50 party-line division we have here is still intact. We can thank Reagan for starting this whole 50/50 thing. Bastard that he was, he got so many crossover votes that the big-tent party became a party of many small tents, each one looking at only a piece or two of the puzzle. So whereas YOU might look at the whole picture & think it should be in the bag for Obama, it most definitely is not.

As far as "the rest of the world will be totally pissed off it Obama doesn't win" ... well add about 50% of americans to the pissed-off list ... and besides, you're already pissed off at us anyway. (sigh), I don't get it, either. I don't think Obama has "changed", but that's the way it's being perceived here.

Cart said...

It is hard being even handed when you don’t know what the other side really thinks, thank you for granting that much.
As for not liking you already, I think it is more a case of not understanding. Certainly many of us detest the current administration, but that isn’t even a left/right divide, more that it has been so blatantly self serving.
France and Germany are currently properly rightish, but it is ideologically driven. That stuff is far easier to understand than bully supported greed from the leadership.
We can lean one way or the other and at least follow the argument. I’m not sure that is the case in the US. The French believe the US is immature. I’m not enamoured of the French, but I can understand that argument.
For all that America is still looked on by many as potentially providing a strong leadership into the future. The dream is worth dreaming, it just needs more substance. I guess we look at Obama being able to bring these things together.