Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Iraqis Call for U.S. Troop Withdrawal, Mimicking Language Bush Used in January

Paging the spin team! Paging the Iraq War spin team!

On Monday, Iraqi political leaders called on the U.S. to set a timetable for withdrawal from the country.

What a quandary. When the Democrats ask for a timetable, conservatives know what to say: offer the empty spin that no one supports a "cut and run" policy. It doesn't really matter if the Democrat is Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), asking for a quick withdrawal now, or John Kerry (D-MA) who last year called for a gradual withdrawal -- predicated on increased international responsibility and increased training of Iraqi security. The Bush Administration and their conservative friends know to call it "cut and run," as if spin will somehow help the troops, end the insurgency, or bring Iraqi self-sufficiency.

But the Iraqis are not the Democrats. So what should the Bush Administration or its conservative friends do after Iraqi leaders -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis -- called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country, mimicking language used by President Bush in an interview earlier this year with the New York Times.

That's a lot harder to spin.

***

In January, Bush told the Times that if asked by the new Iraqi leadership, U.S. forces would leave the country. To be fair, Bush told the correspondents -- including Bush partisan Elisabeth Bumiller -- that he expected Iraq's first democratically elected leaders would want the troops to remain.

"(I)t seems like most of the leadership there understands that there will be a need for coalition troops at least until Iraqis are able to fight," he said.

Now, the Iraqi leaders, including interim Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, are calling for a withdrawal timetable, predicated on a trained Iraqi security force able to defend the country's borders and end terror attacks. Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr suggested U.S.-led forces should be able to leave Iraq by the end of next year.

When the Democrats called for withdrawal, predicated on Iraqi self-sufficiency, conservatives labeled it "cut and run." Now the Iraqis are making the same suggestion.

What will the spinmeisters do?

So far, it's hard to find anyone in the Bush Administration commenting on the Iraqi statement. But one friend of the administration was quick to comment. Ahmed Chalabi, Iraq's deputy prime minister and key source of flawed pre-war "intelligence," said the Iraqi withdrawal request "does not reflect the wishes of the Iraqi people."

Of course, the same has been said of Chalabi.

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