Sunday, July 20, 2008

"We were not misquoted"

It started with CENTCOM -- the US Central Command which overseas operations in the Middle East (except Israel), Northeast Africa and much of South Asia -- sending the White House that article I mentioned yesterday from Der Spiegel. The White House then wrote up an internal statement about it but accidentally forwarded the e-mail to its media mass list rather than as an internal e-mail; but it was too late, by suppertime on the East Coast yesterday most of the world knew that Nouri al-Maliki wants US troops out of Iraq and he thinks Obama's 16 month plan is just fine by him.

A "spokesperson" for Maliki tried to backtrack saying there was something lost in translation but the damage was done. For its part, the magazine today said it stand by its story and that they understood exactly what Maliki meant..

A few points. First, yesterday, I gave Spiegel less credit than it deserves -- I was somehow thinking of Stern, which became infamous for the phony "Hitler Diaries" and took years to rebuild its reputation. Der Spiegel is actually seen by some in the same class as Time or Newsweek, although like any news organization it has made some classic gaffes.

Obviously, I regret this error on my part.

Second, it puts the US in a very difficult position, not just the McCain campaign. During the last Gulf War, the Americans insisted they were seeking no permanent bases in Saudi Arabia or its neighbours and they would leave when requested by the host governments. They're still there, of course -- which proved useful for the present war as the launching pads already existed.

But now, in a war designed deliberately to depose a legitimate government (no matter how despicable) and create one more "favourable" to Western oil interests, a government that is now to Americans' dismay also cozying up with Iran in part to jack up oil prices (precisely what many warned), the US has a choice. If it acquiesces to a formal request by a supposedly sovereign government, the Pentagon will be accused of appeasement and "cutting and running" by neo-cons. If it refuses, then it will confirm what many of us have believed all along, that the Iraqi government as created by the US-UK cabal is a puppet regime answerable only to the executives in Washington DC and London, not the citizens of Iraq.

If Dubya is planning a sudden mass withdrawal as an "October Surprise," he's doing a very good job denying it. It just won't happen. As for McCain, he hasn't answered the simple question -- if Iraq asks the US to leave, will it? All indications point to his saying "no," that the Iraqi government is controlled by extremists so any general previous promise to withdraw upon request doesn't apply. Does that mean that McCain thinks the US should reserve the right to intervene in Iraq's internal government, shape its foreign policy, determine who can get oil leases, and even change its leader if and when it sees fit? Two words: Platt Amendment.

Third, and most obvious, Maliki doesn't know how or when to keep his mouth shut. America had problems with Iyad Allawi but he wasn't exactly beloved by his fellow Iraqis either -- not just for corruption but also for extra-judicial executions he himself performed and the fact he is a dual citizen of the UK (which led to further suspicions he was nothing but an adjutant of 10 Downing Street).

But Maliki seems to have forgotten the general rule of non-interference with other countries' affairs, at least openly. One can obviously have concerns about how another country or region is run but these are usually done by back-channel communications. One can appreciate Maliki's frustration at the quagmire his country has become, but to endorse Obama in everything but name is almost unprecedented for a Middle East leader, or any leader, in my recollection.

(Yes, I am aware of the time Queen Elizabeth got punked by a Montréal radio station back during the 1995 referendum, but she honestly thought she was talking to Chrétien, not some jokers.)

All in all, the article in question only adds more spice to an already intriguing campaign. All I can say is that it's refreshing to hear a world leader actually speak the truth for a change; even if protocol suggests he really shouldn't have, yet.

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Anonymous said...

My only question is how long will it take to pump the Iraqi oil fields dry?

BlastFurnace said...

Even presuming North America and Europe can get off the oil habit -- Asia can't and probably won't. So I'd give it, twenty years tops.