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Oh, But He Did.

Friday, July 25, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

So, Krauthammer agrees with me. Frankly, given Mr. Krauthammer's record, I find that disturbing. It makes me wonder if I haven't got things wrongs here, somehow.

Talk to us, Hammer-man:

In a stunning upset, Barack Obama this week won the Iraq primary. When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not once but several times expressed support for a U.S. troop withdrawal on a timetable that accorded roughly with Obama's 16-month proposal, he did more than legitimize the plan. He relieved Obama of a major political liability by blunting the charge that, in order to appease the MoveOn left, Obama was willing to jeopardize the astonishing success of the surge and risk losing a war that is finally being won.

Maliki's endorsement left the McCain campaign and the Bush administration deeply discomfited. They underestimated Maliki's sophistication and cunning.

(My bold.)

Well, that's a bit like what I suggested was coming down the pike back on the 14th under the title Maliki For Obama?

Think maybe it's just possible that the Maliki government does not believe Mr. Bush is its best defender? That they may not be terribly happy about the prospect of Mr. McCain carrying on Mr. Bush's policies?

Think maybe Maliki isn't too worried about Mr. Obama or his policies?

In other words, you think maybe the conservative commentariat's entire line of attack on Obama's Iraq policy just collapsed?

And an awful lot like what I wrote on the 19th under the title Game Over? And even more like what I wrote on the 21st under the title Yes, Maliki Backed Obama:

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

Oh, and look, it seems Krauthammer even agrees with this little snippet I wrote in some comments on another blog:

No, "devastating" would be Nouri Al Maliki explicitly endorsing Obama's withdrawal plan. I can't wait to see how Republicans try to tap dance their way out of this.

Just a little more of Krauthammer to wash it all down with:

Which is why Maliki gave Obama that royal reception, complete with the embrace of his heretofore problematic withdrawal timetable.

Obama was likely to be president anyway. He is likelier now still. Moreover, he not only agrees with Maliki on minimizing the U.S. role in postwar Iraq. He now owes him. That's why Maliki voted for Obama, casting the earliest and most ostentatious absentee ballot of this presidential election.
I've said from the time his story broke, that watching Republicans try to spin their way out of this is like watching Democrats try to deny the effectiveness of the surge or to pretend that the Maliki-Sadr showdown was a Sadr victory.

When the facts conflict with the partisan narrative it usually takes a while for facts to conquer bullshit. I mark Krauthammer's column today as the official surrender of the "No, he didn't!" denialists.

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Yes, Maliki Backed Obama

Monday, July 21, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

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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