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Yes, Maliki Backed Obama

Many conservatives are desperately clinging to Nouri al Maliki's supposed correction of his interview with Der Spiegel. It won't fly.

The NYT reports that the translator in the room was Maliki's man, not Spiegel's. The NYT has obtained the voice recording and had it retranslated: the results back Der Spiegel.

This is exactly like watching liberals spinning and snarling and gesticulating wildly during Maliki's successful move against Muqtada al Sadr. Reality was in direct conflict with their partisan narrative and they could not quite bring themselves to accept reality.

Below are the relevant portions of the Spiegel interview. As you read it, bear this in mind: the McCain campaign narrative is that Barack Obama represents a direct threat to the existence of the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people.

Remember that this dire possibility is not some abstraction to Mr. Maliki. Deposed Iraqi leaders don't go off and build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

So as you read, ask yourself whether any portion of this shows a Maliki who prefers McCain to Obama. Or shows a Maliki who is frightened -- as Mr. McCain would have us be -- of a President Obama.

(Note: it's a long interview, and more about German-specific issues, as one might expect. This is the portion that dealt with the Iraqi/US relationship. All the bolds are mine.)

SPIEGEL: Germany, after World War II, was also liberated from a tyrant by a US-led coalition. That was 63 years ago, and today there are still American military bases and soldiers in Germany. How do you feel about this model?

Maliki: Iraq can learn from Germany's experiences, but the situation is not truly comparable. Back then Germany waged a war that changed the world. Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops -- and it should be short. At the same time, we would like to see the establishment of a long-term strategic treaty with the United States, which would govern the basic aspects of our economic and cultural relations. However, I wish to re-emphasize that our security agreement should remain in effect in the short term.

SPIEGEL: How short-term? Are you hoping for a new agreement before the end of the Bush administration?

Maliki: So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn't the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias. The American lead negotiators realize this now, and that's why I expect to see an agreement taking shape even before the end of President Bush's term in office. With these negotiations, we will start the whole thing over again, on a clearer, better basis, because the first proposals were unacceptable to us.

SPIEGEL: Immunity for the US troops is apparently the central issue.

Maliki: It is a fundamental problem for us that it should not be possible, in my country, to prosecute offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population. But other issues are no less important: How much longer will these soldiers remain in our country? How much authority do they have? Who controls how many, soldiers enter and leave the country and where they do so?

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?

Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.

Spiegel offers Maliki a direct choice between Obama and "war hero John McCain." Maliki's response? To endorse the shorter time line pushed by Obama. To talk about the importance of avoiding "prolonging the tenure" of our troops. To deny that this constitutes an endorsement, after all, he says, that's up to the American people. Then to add a big "But."

All Maliki had to say was, "We don't want to rush to a premature withdrawal, and we think those who wish to do so are unrealistic. Such a plan would be risky."

That would have been a slam on Obama and an endorsement of McCain. The right would have called it that, and it would have been. Just as this is, in fact, an endorsement of Obama.

Face facts: Maliki just came out for Obama. And John McCain just lost his core campaign issue.

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“Yes, Maliki Backed Obama”

  1. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    Facing, as we do, an increasingly objective and increasingly nuclear adversary in Iran, we cannot afford to vacate Iraq completely, and everyone involved in the equation knows that. My read on it is that Maliki doesn't mind the idea of a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq to prop the country up against its aggressive neighbor, but it needs to be invisible so that he can be the guy who got Iraq to stand up on its own two feet, the guy who got Iraq its independence back. And yes, doing so favors Obama and negates a substantial strength in John McCain's campaign message; I for one have no illusions or wishful thinking about that.

  2. Blogger Randy Says:

    You may be right, but I thought your guy was running for President of the United States not Secretary-General of the United Nations. After reading his speech in Berlin today, I'm beginning to wonder.

  3. Blogger Randy Says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.