October 25, 2011 5:27 pm ET
Retired General Jack Keane certainly has an odd understanding of what constitutes "a normal allied relationship" between two countries. Appearing on Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier last night, Keane, an architect of the Bush administration's surge, attacked the White House for announcing that U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq at year's end. Keane claimed that Iraqis wanted U.S. troops to stay but had been alienated by the Obama administration.
KEANE: The Bush administration in 2009 turned over to the Obama administration a relatively stable and secure Iraq. Violence was down 90 percent. And what the Iraqis wanted more than anything to go forward is a strategic partnership with the United States, a normal allied relationship with us. We started a pushback on that through our ambassador, Christopher Hill, in 2010. And the Iraqis got shaky as result of it and started to put in play hedging strategies and of course that welcomed in the Iranians. And here we sit in 2010, having always known that we would renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement which involved the withdrawal of our forces at the end of 2011. Everyone in Iraq knew — national leaders, Iraqis, military leaders, and national leaders in the United States — that that would be renegotiated. And now we're walking away. And the reason why this is so tragic, it's not just about security. Our military forces stay to maintain influence, influence in preserving a democracy and the gains the Iraqis made, influence in continuing the growth and development of the Iraqi security forces, and influence to curb the intervention that the Iranians are involved in.
Keane almost certainly knows the situation better than he lets on during appearances on Fox, where he dabbles in revisionism in order to attack the administration. The original agreement to take U.S. troops out of Iraq was the result of an agreement between the Bush administration and the Iraqis. But now the Iraqis have chosen to have the Americans leave and to establish national security without us.
Neither Iraqi politicians nor ordinary Iraqi citizens support the continued U.S. presence there and ultimately negotiations collapsed over the issue of immunity. In other words, the failure to reach a deal on a new Status of Forces Agreement is a result of the very Iraqi democracy that we supposedly invaded the country to establish (and implemented the surge to protect and strengthen).
As Ambassador Christopher Hill explained over the weekend, "The reason was very simple: even Iraqis who benefitted enormously from the security provided by our troops, and for whom the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the happiest moment of their lives, could not, in the end, support a continuation of foreign troops in their country. Call it visceral. Call it cultural. The fact is, no one likes to be invaded and occupied, and for eight years, told what to do and how to behave. To extend the stay of even just a few U.S. troops was to extend what many Iraqis, mindful of their country's history, considered another occupation."
There has never been the sort of "normal allied relationship" between Iraq and the United States that Keane thinks the Iraqi people yearn for, but which was apparently undermined by the Obama administration. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, and though most Iraqis certainly prefer their new government to that of Saddam's, it doesn't change the fact that the U.S. is still seen by many as an invading force. There is nothing normal about that.
Keane, like many Republicans who have come out as indignant opponents of withdrawal, don't seem to care what the Iraqis themselves want in the case. Sure, he supports their democracy and all (he actually wants to preserve and protect it, especially from Iranian meddling) but only if that democracy implements policies he prefers. As Michael Cohen sums it up, "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."
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