PanettaFormer Defense Secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta allowed Time magazine to print an excerpt from his new book, “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace,” and in it he offers a stinging rebuke of the Obama administration’s decision to let a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq slip through its fingers.

Mr. Panetta writes:

Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal.

We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. …

Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy … argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.

To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

In short, the guy who billed himself as the diplomat extraordinaire got everyone around the table and said, “How do you guys want to do this? Not sure? Okay. Well, see you later!

While the urge to accuse Mr. Panetta of trying to safeguard his reputation is strong, consider this: President Obama — who flippantly called Islamic State a “J.V. team” as they were gobbling up Iraq — is the type of guy who will go on “60 Minutes” and throw the entire intelligence community under the bus, despite incontrovertible evidence that the intelligence community was ringing the alarm bells in his face.

The Washington Post reported Sept. 30:

Reporters quickly noticed that there were warnings, aired publicly many months ago, about the capabilities and intentions of the Islamic State. Should it really have been a surprise?

The paper goes on to cite warnings from Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, from Nov. 14, 2013, Gen. Michael Flynn, U.S. Army director, Defense Intelligence Agency, on Feb. 11, 2014, and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Adm. Mike Rogers from Sept. 18, 2014. Then, in true Post fashion, it cannot bring itself to give Mr. Obama a “Pinocchio,” — it went with “Verdict Pending” — despite its own reporting that confirms he lied on national television.

Is the verdict still “pending” now that Mr. Obama’s hand-picked former CIA Director has publicly stated that the president chose to ignore the advice of a gigantic wall of agreement between the military and intelligence communities on Iraq and Syria? The Washington Post’s exercise in doublethink is astounding — it essentially says “This and this and this and this and this prove the president is lying — the president is not lying.”

If you were watching the “60 Minutes” interview and thought, “How does the president get away with this?” look no further than the type of news outlets that resort to some variation of “These are not the drones you are looking for” any time the president’s credibility is truly threatened.

Media that refuse to hold the president accountable are culpable for the consequences of their obfuscation. Every time they write the equivalent of “verdict pending” on the president when it is not, their credibility is corroded. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only victims. Without a free and honest press, the nation hollows itself out from within.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

23 comments

  1. focusing on SOFA completely ignores how IS came to be. the real criticism of the media is its perpetuating of the myth there are moderate Syrian rebels willing to fight IS.

    1. I can think of some Syrian Kurds who would disagree with you. Regardless, if there is no one in Syria who is a.) relatively sane, and b.) willing to fight Islamic State, what do you propose the U.S. do?

    2. coordinate with Assad and allow Iran to participate, if the goal is actually to address the Islamic State. but that’s not actually the goal—regime change in Syria is still the goal.

    3. You highlight quite nicely that the president got him in quite a predicament when he said that Assad had to “go” (or whatever the phrasing was).

      Just to be clear: If Lizard19 were president, his goal would be to target Islamic State by working with Assad and Iran? I don’t want to know what you would do if you were dutifully carrying out Mr. Obama’s bidding — I want to make sure we’re talking about what you would do if you were the guy with the nuclear codes.

    4. I’d be happy to answer that question. Just confirm for me first that your previous answer — that you would work with Assad and Iran to destroy Islamic State, and by extension keep Assad in power — was what you would do if you were the guy taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

  2. yes, if degrading the capacity of the Islamic State is the goal, Syria and Iran have more incentive than our buddies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who funded these jihadists.

    1. Sorry. I’m not going to answer your question until all your little wiggle words are stripped from your answer. Was that a “Yes” or “No” on my previous question?

      I’ll add it again just so we’re clear: “If you were president, would that in fact be your goal? Yes or no?”

      And:

      Just to be clear: If Lizard19 were president, his goal would be to target Islamic State by working with Assad and Iran? I don’t want to know what you would do if you were dutifully carrying out Mr. Obama’s bidding — I want to make sure we’re talking about what you would do if you were the guy with the nuclear codes.

    2. Let it be known that Lizard19 was given ample opportunity to provide an answer as to what he would do as president to deal with Iraq and Syria. He was incapable of doing so without including rhetorical escape hatches. Lizard19 is great at talking about life and death decisions when it’s done purely as an academic exercise, or to excoriate others for the choices they have made, but when asked how he would respond if he were the guy everyone looked to for leadership, he has nothing. Zero. Nada.

      But yet, he’s able to take “out of touch D.C. bloggers” (who don’t even live in D.C. or close to the Beltway) to task on his blog and then direct readers here. Classic!

      Here’s some of the text I received from a pingback in my wordpress statistics (Note: the only time I visit his blog is when he writes about me and I see an incoming link):

      Conservatives, like this out-of-touch DC blogger, have jumped on the Panetta bandwagon, framing the ISIS problem as a result of the Obama regime’s failure to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have kept boots on the ground in Iraq. It’s weird that people are so ideologically incapable of grasping how US foreign policy created the conditions for ISIS to thrive and how our “allies” directly support radical jihadists, even while they pay lip service to now fighting the Frankenstein they helped to create.

      Lizard19 had his chance to respond here, and he chose not to. Fine. But if someone wants to slither away any time they’re forced to give an answer that would require them to take a difficult moral stand, and then attack me from afar, then I will respond accordingly. Unless the next response by Lizard19 on this post is a simple “Yes” or “No” in response to my question – and nothing else – his comments in this thread will be deleted. (He is free to continue commenting on other posts.)

    3. If Lizard actually kept up with your blog, he’d know that’s been quite a few months since you moved away from DC!

    4. I like how I’m cast as some know-it-all D.C. type who is “out of touch” with the America (i.e., people who agree with Lizard, apparently), when the fact remains: I lamented the D.C. “we’re the masters of the universe” culture for years and found a way to move hundreds of miles away as soon as it was professionally possible. In fact, I’m writing this reply from Portland, Maine…where you can buy a personal joural with Chairman Mao on the cover in one of the local bookstores. Heh. On the inside there’s some random quote along the lines of “The revoluion is real,” that made me laugh.

      I know Lizard19 likes art, so since I’m a nice guy I’ll recommend the Portland Museum of Art. I checked out “The Berger Collection”: British Art 1400 – 2000 today, because that’s what “out of touch” D.C. types do. 😉

    5. It just amazes me how to Lizard, every ill in the world is somehow the United States’ fault. That mentality is actually quite common among today’s progressives. It’s extremely telling that even one of his fellow (liberal) Montana bloggers was disgusted at how he’d turned that blog into a forum for nutty conspiracy theories.

    6. Indeed, “out of touch with the American people” according to Lizard means “people who disagree with me. If he actually read what you’ve written rather than invent straw men, he’d know that you lamented the DC Culture and moved out of the Beltway as soon as you could.

      I’m not surprised that a bookstore in Portland, Maine would have a personal journal with Chairman Mao on it. I’m sure Stephen King (someone who actually is out of touch with the American people) has a copy above his writing desk.

    7. I was telling my wife that we should move next to Stephen King. We figured that he would probably hate my guts, but at least it would inspire him to write a good horror story about a liberal guy who wants to hurt his conservative neighbor. Heh.

    8. “I was telling my wife that we should move next to Stephen King. We figured that he would probably hate my guts, but at least it would inspire him to write a good horror story about a liberal guy who wants to hurt his conservative neighbor. Heh.”

      Ha! That would be funny! He really seems to hate conservatives and can’t seem to keep his politics in check. Many of his recent books have been uninteresting liberal author tracts. “Under the Dome” was an anti-Bush polemic. “11-22-63” featured plenty of shilling for Obama and the apocalypse caused by preventing Kennedy’s assassination was caused by Ronald Reagan. The villain of “mr. Mercedes” is a Tea Party conservative who hate Obama and King made him a racist. It was disgusting. I’m at the point where I probably won’t be buying any more of his new books.

      King used to be able to keep his politics in chec and tell good stories. Nowadays he’s just a cranky old hippie. The drug and alcohol abuse probably contributed to it. I always knew he was liberal (the periodic Nixon and Reagan bashing in his earlier books was annoy, but he really started to lose me when he implied that everyone in the Armed Forces was illiterate and he also had some pro-gun control rant published shortly after Sandy Hook.

    9. “I was telling my wife that we should move next to Stephen King. We figured that he would probably hate my guts, but at least it would inspire him to write a good horror story about a liberal guy who wants to hurt his conservative neighbor. Heh.”

      Ha! That would be funny! He really seems to hate conservatives and can’t seem to keep his politics in check. Many of his recent books have been uninteresting liberal author tracts. “Under the Dome” was an anti-Bush polemic. “11-22-63″ featured plenty of shilling for Obama and the apocalypse caused by preventing Kennedy’s assassination was caused by Ronald Reagan. The villain of “mr. Mercedes” is a Tea Party conservative who hates Obama and to add insult to injury, King made him a racist. It was disgusting. I’m at the point where I probably won’t be buying any more of his new books.

      King used to be able to keep his politics in check and tell good stories. Nowadays he’s just a cranky old hippie. The drug and alcohol abuse probably contributed to it. I always knew he was liberal (the periodic Nixon and Reagan bashing in his earlier books was annoying, but he really started to lose me when he implied that everyone in the Armed Forces was illiterate and he also had some pro-gun control rant published shortly after Sandy Hook.

  3. I think what Lizard is saying is that ISIS was born from an at least partial US creation in order to cause division in the area; therefore serving its purpose, hence the qualifiers to Doug’s question.

    This reminds me of when we were discussing the Gaza tunnels, no matter how they got there- in the here and now there is a threat to the region (Kurds, kidnapees, etc.). I hope the air strikes work, but I’m in agreement with Doug that the lack of a SOFA shouldn’t be dismissed. Division is easier to accomplish without the American presence.

    1. Thank you. Now that you’ve taken full ownship of your decision, we can move forward. As you know, President Lizard19’s decision comes with plenty of baggage, and tomorrow there will be countless bloggers (just like you) who will turn your well-intentioned plan into some sort of diabolical scheme to sow destruction and discord all over the world.

      Congratulations: you just won an Assad regime that will be determined to never again have to deal with such a threat to its existence, and Iranian Holocaust deniers who are dead-set on acquiring nuclear weapons. Have fun explaining that to your critics.

      In terms of what I would do in Iraq, that’s not much of a secret. Unless my most-trusted military commanders said otherwise, I’d look for a location that could be easily defended in Iraq and then go about setting up shop with as big of an American footprint as possible. The Kurds have been the sanest brokers in the region for some time now, so I’d probably look there first. Regardless, they’re getting all the weapons they need.

      In short, I’d find a way to establish leverage in the region and then telegraph to everyone around that the U.S. means business. I’d apply the lessons learned with the success of the Anbar Awakening.

      Here’s one way to look at it. When Vietnam’s Prime Minister was asked recently about the possibility of buying U.S. weapons, he said: “If we do not buy weapons from the United States, we [would] still buy from other countries.”

      In the absence of U.S. leadership, everyone with values anathema to ours continues to go about their business. Given that, I’d rather have a seat at the table than to sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. I’m sure I’d be accused of leading an “American Empire.” So be it. Any country that wants to a coaltion led by me as America’s commander in chief is welcome to join. If not, no problem. I have a very specific vision, and will go about making that a reality whether others (e.g., Russia) is with me or not.

  4. that’s what you would do in Iraq. what about Syria? you scoff at working with Assad to go after ISIS, but if degrading ISIS is the real goal (it’s not) then there isn’t much of a choice. unless you think the US should fight ISIS and also Assad at the same time. is that what you think Doug? do you think the US should invade and occupy Syria as well?

    and how would you explain to US troops that you want to put in harms way that our “allies” are the ones who have helped create ISIS.

    1. When did I scoff at working with Assad in Syria? I simply pointed out that guys just like you would spin President Lizard19’s plan to work with Assad into proof-positive that you’re a tool of the CIA.

      Also, I hate to inform you, but most U.S. soldiers know that the world is a messy place, and they know that some “allies” are less reliable than others, to put it nicely. The beauty of the all-voluteer force is that those who are not on board with U.S. foreign policy do not need to re-enlist…or to enlist in the first place.

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