This e-mail just arrived from Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan, chronicling Obama's earlier statements on Iraq troop withdrawals. Clearly, the Obama campaign sees a need to counter an emerging and unwelcome media frame, not necessarily visible on this blog, on his Iraq policy.
OBAMA HAS CONSISTENTLY SAID HE WILL LISTEN TO COMMANDERS ON THE GROUND IN IMPLEMENTING HIS POLICY
June 2008: Obama: I’ve Consistently Said That I Will Consult With Military Commanders On The Ground And Be Open To The Possibility Of Tactical Adjustments. Obama said, “I've also consistently said that I will consult with military commanders on the ground and that we will always be open to the possibility of tactical adjustments. The important thing is to send a clear signal to the Iraqi people and most importantly to the Iraqi leadership that the U.S. occupation in Iraq is finite, it is gonna be coming to a foreseeable end.” [MSNBC, 6/16/08]
March 2008: Obama Said He Would Give Senior Military Leaders Opinions Great Weight In Implementing His Iraq Plan But As Commander In Chief Would Make His Own Assessment Of The Situation. Obama was asked “what weight will you give to the counsel of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] commander, the combatant commander on the ground in Iraq and current intelligence chiefs on the ground in Iraq regarding an immediate phased withdrawal?” Obama said, “I will give their counsel great weight. But, as commander in chief, it is my responsibility to make my own assessment of the situation. We must send a clear signal to the Iraqi political leadership that we are leaving Iraq on a timeline. Doing so will put pressure on those leaders to begin to resolve the political impasse at the heart of this civil war. But I also want to be clear about another thing. I am worried our Army is overstretched and that we have asked an awful lot from our military families. Many in our senior military leadership are worried about a plan that will keep 130,000 troops on the ground in Iraq for the foreseeable future. So, as commander in chief, I will also have to take into consideration the counsel of other senior military leaders who may be concerned that Iraq is undercutting our ability to confront other security challenges.” [Washington Post, 3/2/08]
March 2008: Obama Said The Size Of The Residual Force Will Depend On Consultation With Military Commanders And “Will Depend On The Circumstances On The Ground.” Obama said, “The precise size of the residual force will depend on consultations with our military commanders and will depend on the circumstances on the ground, including the willingness of the Iraqi government to move toward political accommodation. But let me be clear on one thing: I will end this war, and there will be far fewer Americans in Iraq conducting a much more limited set of missions that include counterterrorism and protection of our embassy and U.S. civilians.” [Washington Post, 3/2/08]
November 2007: Obama Said He Would Leave Residual Troops In Iraq Based On The Levels Of Violence, “It’s Not My Job To Specify Troop Levels.” Obama said, “If we see a serious effort by the Iraqi leadership to arrive at an agreement and an accommodation and you've seen continued reductions of violence, then you need one level of troop protection for the embassy…If things have gone to hell in a hand basket then you need another ... It's not my job to specify troop levels. My job is to tell our commanders on the ground, ‘Here's your mission. Protect our embassy, protect our diplomats and our humanitarian workers in the area and make sure al Qaeda in Iraq, or other terrorist organizations inside of Iraq are not re-establishing bases there.” [Fosters, 11/28/07]
November 2007: Obama Said U.S. Has To Make Sure “We Are Not Just Willy-Nilly Removing Troops” And That It May “Take A Little Bit Longer” In Some Areas Where There Is Less Stability. “According to all the reports, we should have been well along our way in getting the Iraqi security forces to be more functional. We then have another 16 months after that to adjust the withdrawal and make sure that we are withdrawing from those areas, based on advice from the military officers in the field, those places where we are secured, made progress and we’re not just willy-nilly removing troops, but we’re making a determination – in this region we see some stability. We’ve had cooperation from local tribal leaders and local officials, so we can afford to remove troops here. Here, we’ve still got problems, it’s going to take a little bit longer. Maybe those are the last areas to pull out.” [New York Times, 11/1/07]
November 2007: Obama: “If The Commanders Tell Me They Need X, Y And Z, In Order To Accomplish The Very Narrow Mission That I’ve Laid Out, Than I Will Take That Into Consideration.” “You raise a series of legitimate questions. As commander in chief, I’m not going to leave trainers unprotected. In our counterterrorism efforts, I’m not going to have a situation where our efforts can’t be successful. We will structure those forces so they can be successful. We would still have human intelligence capabilities on the ground. Some of them would be civilian, as opposed to military, some would be operating out of our bases as well as our signal intelligence…But listen, I am not going to set up our troops for failure and I’m going to do something half-baked. If the commanders tell me that they need X, Y and Z, in order to accomplish the very narrow mission that I’ve laid out, than I will take that into consideration.” [New York Times, 11/1/07]
Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.