Iraq is No Longer Bush’s Legacy; It’s Obama’s

isisVice President Joe Biden said in 2010 interview that he was “very optimistic about Iraq” and that he believed it was “gonna be one of the great achievements of this administration.” The statement ignited some controversy at the time, but not because anyone doubted the stability of Iraq. What many people took exception to was Biden attributing the long, hard-fought successes achieved in that country to the wrong administration.

After all, for as much as President Obama and his mouthpieces have often complained about the challenges they “inherited” from the Bush administration, a chaotic Iraq was not one of the them. The Surge strategy ordered by George W. Bush, led by people like General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and carried out by our brave American troops, achieved a relatively stable Iraq before President Obama ever took office.

What Obama was handed wasn’t the wildfire of insurgent violence that he and his Democratic cohorts reaped great political benefits from. What he was handed were some warm embers.

One would have thought that such conditions would have been good for Obama’s presidential legacy, despite him having little (if nothing) to do with achieving them. A stable Iraq throughout his presidency could have led to many great and promising things in that part of the Middle East, and those things would have gone down in the history books as having happened under Obama’s watch.

The president, however, wasn’t interested in leaving behind a peaceful Iraq. He wasn’t interested in Iraq at all. All he wanted to do was fulfill a campaign promise (one of the very few he’s actually held true to) by getting United States forces out of Iraq completely. He wanted to be recognized in the history books as the man who ended the Iraq War. Ending it the right way just wasn’t a consideration.

Obama ignored the warnings of his military advisers who told him that it was direly important to leave behind a residual force of American troops to demonstrate our country’s commitment to a sustained peace, and support the progress that had been made. He ignored the warnings that without a U.S. presence in Iraq serving as a check on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, dumb mistakes in domestic governance were more likely to be made. He also ignored the ample history of how lasting peace is maintained at the end of brutal conflicts.

President Obama just didn’t care. His naive, philosophic approach to foreign policy and his hard-left instincts wouldn’t allow him to view our troops as peacekeepers. He believed that America in Iraq was the problem – not part of a solution, despite how profoundly the landscape of the country had changed since he first contemplated running for office.

Obama seemed to believe that by magically waving a wand and making the United States disappear from Iraq, all would be good. And without Iraq to manage, he’d have one less distraction standing in the way of him pursuing his domestic, social-justice agenda here in our country.

Today, we turn on the news and we find the horrific images of mass murder, violence, and all of our military and diplomatic gains quickly vanishing before our eyes in Iraq. What we’re witnessing is shocking, but it’s certainly no surprise. These were the inevitable results of perhaps the most predictable U.S. foreign policy blunder in my lifetime.

While even some liberal news outlets are conceding that the ISIS’s march through Iraq wouldn’t have happened if Obama had left U.S. troops behind, there are many pundits and politicians who actually have the gall to blame George W. Bush for what is happening.

It’s nothing short of pathetic.

Presidents come into office taking on the world as they find it – not as they wish it would be. President Bush didn’t want to have to deal with a strong, extensive Al Qaeda network, led by Osama bin Laden, that was already planning the 9/11 attacks. President Obama didn’t want to deal with Iraq. They had decisions to make, and its those types of decisions that define presidents’ legacies.

The years-old question of whether or not we ever should have invaded Iraq will always be asked, of course, but with everything that’s going on in that country right now, a more pertinent question has emerged.

That question was recently asked by Iraq War veteran and amputee J.R. Salzman, who posted it on Twitter along with an old picture of himself standing next to President Obama. The picture was taken at theFrom a Dead Sleep by John A. Daly Walter Reed Medical Center.

“Remember when we met in 2007, Barack Obama?” Salzman asked. “You said you were proud of our sacrifices. So why did you throw them away?”

George W. Bush will forever be recognized as the man responsible for the Iraq War, but the fate of Iraq can no longer be part of his legacy.  It’s now Obama’s legacy, and Salzman’s question spells out exactly why.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • Ron F

    John, in a 2012 comment, which you linked to above, you said “W. was the one who negotiated the departure details from Iraq. Obama merely adhered to it and took credit for it.” If Obama merely adhered to President Bush’s departure details, isn’t it both of their legacies. And didn’t Iraq refuse to extend the legal immunity for our soldiers which was one of the reasons why we did not leave a reserve force. I am not a fan of President Obama but I am not sure what he should have done differently with respect to the withdrawal of our forces from Iraq. How long should we have left them there?

    • John Daly

      Bush negotiated the departure details knowing that he would no longer be in office once that date rolled around. A date was only announced due to political pressure from the Iraqi government to appease the factions who were anxious for the Unites States to leave at the time.

      It would be left up to Bush’s predecessor to then assess the situation at that time. Obama could have renegotiated, but chose not to because of the reasons I stated in my column. It was a huge mistake – one that his military advisers warned him emphatically about at the time. Obama then indeed took credit for a departure plan he had no hand in formulating, but was foolish enough to put into action without any attention payed whatsoever to the situation on the ground.

      For many years, the universal narrative on Iraq was that the country’s fate would be Bush’s legacy. That was fair. Despite large Democratic support, it was Bush who waged that war. But by the time Bush had left office, Iraq had been won. He handed President Obama a victory – one that would have easily been preserved with a residual force left behind, just like we did after World War 2, and after the Korean War.

      But Obama’s ideology let him just cleanse his hands of it all. He made the painfully stupid decision to move ALL of our military out, just to make the point that he wasn’t Bush. He threw the victory away because he didn’t care, and he knew what we’re seeing now was the likely outcome of that decision – because that’s what his advisers were telling him. I don’t see how it’s fair to attribute the results of those careless actions to anyone other than Obama.

      As I said in my column, Bush will forever be the man responsible for the Iraq War, and I’m fine with that. However, what has become of Iraq was not the legacy that Bush left for the country. He left a stable Iraq – one that Obama derailed with his purely political decision to throw away all that had been achieved there.

      >>I am not sure what he should have done differently with respect to the withdrawal of our forces from Iraq.

      I linked to this column in my column, but you probably didn’t read it. It does a great job of spelling out the failures of the Obama administration during the process:

      >>How long should we have left them there?

      Until they were no longer needed. Until military advisers are no longer telling the president that pulling them out would be a huge mistake. It’s what we did in other countries after war. The soldiers we’ve put in places like South Korea, Japan, and Germany aren’t/weren’t there to fight. They were stationed there as a stabilizing presence to detour bad things from stirring up again.

      It would be one thing if the violence started back despite our forces being there. It’s something entirely different if violence started up BECAUSE we left.

      • Ron F

        I could be wrong but didn’t the Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush provide for complete withdrawal of American troops by December 31, 2011. I also thought that President Obama would not leave any reserve forces in Iraq unless Iraq agreed that our soldiers would not be subject to civil law, to which Iraq would not agree. If that is correct, I do not believe we should have left any reserve forces. We have now had forces in Korea for approximately 60 years after the end of the war. Is that how long we should keep troops in Iraq? Finally, I am not sure any of us know what negotiations took place regarding the reserve forces.

      • Ron F

        John, I did look at the linked column. I have read articles about how he Obama administration negotiated with the Iraq government for nearly a year about the residual force that would be left behind and that last stumbling block was civil jurisdiction. How much of a reserve force should have been left behind? I think the early negotiations were 20,000 and the ending negotiations were 3,000 – 5,000. I do not know if they would have stopped the current Sunni uprising. And what would be the costs? What level of casualties would be acceptable? I do not think that we could expect no casualties. And if we had won the war, had a stable government with an army that we had trained, why were we still required? The Iraqui army has far more soldiers than the insurgents. And haven’t the Sunnis and Shiites been fighting there forever?

  • Brian Fr Langley

    Now we hear the administration is going to fight ISIS with Iran? The foreign policy of this administration, reminds of a kid finding a bulldozer in an empty lot with the keys left in it, and decides to take it for a ride. For him it’s fun, but he leaves behind a wake of mayhem and destruction.

    • John Daly

      Is this like when the Democrats insisted that Obama “tricked” Putin into “helping” on on Syria? The perversity of our foreign policy these days is astounding.

      • Brian Fr Langley

        Perverse barely describes it. Most folks think the Obama administration has reversed the 10 previous years of foreign policy gains. The truth is it’s closer to a 100 years. The reality is, the maps and world order drawn after WW1, (cemented by WW2), is now rapidly disintegrating. The world is swiftly approaching times as significantly dangerous as they were just prior to the conflagrations of the 20th century. Approaching (and attacking) a foe with thick walls, high towers and impregnable gates, is a far more daunting task, than approaching one who looks like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. (which is liberal policy writ large)

  • gold7406

    It’s ironic, the divisiveness that exists in Iraq is carried out in the worst physical sense.
    The divisiveness here that exists here, is carried out in a nasty verbal context.
    Both created by a lack of vision and and the hallucinogenic fog of the demosphere.

  • cmacrider

    John: You said in part: “Presidents come into office taking on
    the world as they find it – not as they wish it would be.”

    Although that is true with every previous President , it unfortunately does not seem to be the case with Obama. Obama came into office under the belief that his perceptions of the world would be translated into the reality. Unfortunately the American people bought into the “perception is reality” mantra twice …. and the rest of the Western world now has to suffer the consequences.

    • John Daly

      Very true.

  • Benmaxcon

    I remember well how these same liberals swore to get us out of that hellhole Viet nam back in the early seventies. They got us out alright. To understand what happened after our complete abandonment of Indochina, watch “the Killing Fields.”
    Now they’re making a sequel. It’s called Iraq.

  • Tim Ned

    “Barack Obama will work with military commanders on the ground in Iraq and in consultation with the Iraqi government to end the ware safely and responsibly within 16 months.”

    Politicifact on August 20, 2010 rated Obama’s promise as one kept. The war was neither ended “safely” nor “responsibly”. Another campaign promise not met. I’m not counting on Politicifact to rewrite their ratings.

    • John Daly

      That’s a good point.

  • Kathie Ampela

    Cable news and internet bloggers didn’t exist in Harry Truman’s time, but it they did, you know they would have called Truman a war criminal. I put the mute button on when commentators have been blaming Bush for the latest developments in Iraq. It’s not worth wasting my time listening to it. They are offering a dissenting opinion which is what they are paid to do.

    Don’t blame Obama for the situation in Iraq, blame an instant gratification culture that accepts bumper sticker slogans at face value…it’s easy, lazy and cheap. They elected (and re-elected) Obama based on bumper sticker slogans rather than digging in and taking the long view. When they take their cars to the gas station this summer and gas prices are $5 they have no one but themselves to blame. ISIS now is the world’s richest terrorist organization thanks to the looting of the banks in Mosul. They have the motive, means and (with open borders) the opportunity to pull off the 9/11 sequel. We had containment and fragile victory in Iraq under Bush and now we have an Islamic calaphate under Obama. Gee, you can almost fit that on a bumper sticker!!

    • John Daly

      Your point about Truman is well-taken. Jon Stewart even once referred to Truman as a war criminal. Truman’s era, however, had a completely different mindset when it came to war, than the one we have now (as you pointed out). They understood how important it was to keep the peace afterward. It’s why the relations we have with Japan are as strong as they are today.

      I totally agree with you on the instant gratification culture. Obama has been as popular as he has, in part, because he has successfully tapped into that mindset. He understands the short attention spans and “me first” inclinations of a growing number of people in this country. Like you said, they’re suckers for bumper-sticker slogans without any meat behind them.

    • Mary123s

      Thank you for being part of the team… I feel as if I am the only one around here with this viewpoint

      • John Daly

        Nope. Not the only one. 😉

  • scott autry

    I think items like this are missing something: Is what is happening today not what Obama wanted?

    When your view is that American involvement in the world has been a net evil, then a hands-off, let happen what may approach IS a foreign policy.

    Bruce Cumings has made a career out of defending North Korea – the worst nation on Earth in the 2nd half of the 20th Century – simply because it is an example of Koreans managing Koreans.

    If Obama wants to remain true to the geopolitical view he and like minded Ivy League educated people had in the 70s and 80s, then, not caring what happens in Iraq is part of the plan.

    • Brian Fr Langley

      Yes not caring what happens in Iraq may well be part of “the plan”. But “the plan” is deeply flawed. Libertarians and liberals presume (wrongly) that America is only a target because of it’s (ham fisted) involvment in other nations business. This truly flies in the face of history. For millenia conquering others has been the rule not the exeption. The list of despoilers is vast. Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerarians, Chinese, Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, Ottomans, etc. etc. etc. Cities were built with high walls for a reason. In more recent times it’s been Germans, Austrians, Ottomans, Japanese, and Russians. Today two significant ideologies maintain a fervent belief in world domination (and they make no secret about it) Marxism and Islam. While maintaining geopolitical relations with nations adhering to these ideologies is relatively easy, there is a simple reason for this. POWER. Their ideology is neither blind nor stupid, and they take the long view of history. They believe eventually the west will fall to it’s own decadence, and they’ll sweep it up when their power fails. In the meantime they’ll chip away at the edges. As for “the plan” of like minded ivy leaguers, all they’re accomplishing is taking down the City walls and opening the City gates. On the bright side, Ghengis Khan let more Citizens live if they willingly opened the gates.

      • John Daly

        Well put. And I believe that you’re right, unfortunately.

      • scott autry

        I’ve spent the last two years in the Arabian peninsula. It has given me a different perspective.

        The connection between number of jihadists and the religion and what messages they hear in the region is clear. The general negative opinion of the US and West is also clear.

        But, it seems to me, people here are pretty local and regional in their thinking. I haven’t spent enough time talking to enough of the people to move this further than an educated guess, but it does seem to me they care more about Iran than seeing the US topple. They are more concerned with matters in Egypt and Syria than Iraq or Afghanistan.

        When it comes to the US, I’ve heard similar – pretty much memorized – general talk about how “the US has been involved in every war in modern history” – just like I heard all the time in South Korea. Then, in the same breathe, I’ll hear about wanting to study or work or travel in America. A type of love-hate that was very common in Korea.

        In terms of genuine anger I’ve found, it almost always stems from how they believe they are portrayed in American movies and on the news and so on. I think they have an exaggerated idea about how much Hollywood and pop culture “make Americans hate” them, but that is the primary area of major discontent I’ve heard from them.

        (Of course, just like in Korea, the fact they know I’m American will influence what they say somewhat.)

        Perhaps I can put this in a nutshell by saying: I’ve heard more about individuals dreaming of going to America than cursing it…

        And another good window, I think, is a note I caught two or three times from individuals here: A guy who did go over to America to study (in his early 20s) recently wrote online that some idiot was bothering him there. His exact words were, “I didn’t think they had stupid people here, but this guy…”

        Just like in Korea too, I’ve had people here ask me why I would ever leave such a rich, luxurious, land and society to come work here…

        I am not denying the anti-American/Western culture. It exists. It was in Korea too. I used to run a website dedicated to covering it, because I thought Americans needed to recognize how much our nation has at stake in Korea and how a large part of Korean nationalism is based on viewing us as little more than a colonizer.

        But, it is not wall-to-wall hate here.

        The two cultures are extremely different in many ways.

        And you can see how some might be convinced to join a holy war against the encroachment of Western society and values (and especially troops) into the region. But, again, the idea that the average person here is preoccupied day-to-day with wanting to see the West collapse does not match what I’ve seen in two countries over here….

        • Brian Fr Langley

          I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, because most folks still hold to that ancient Chinese proverb, “what care I who rules the land, if I am left in peace”. Islam though, means submission, and Muslim means submitted one, by definition the “faithful”, are ruled by a small cadre, of elite religious academics, (likewise by the way with Marxist’s). The history of Islam is crystal clear, conversion by conquest. The only difference between modern Islam, and days gone by, is their current lack of an Islamic Caliphate. (the allies deposed it following WW1). Even a light reading of the history of the last Caliphate (the Ottomans) clarifies Islamic ideological goals. While we often hear the term Jihadist, technically, only the true Caliph may declare Jihad, (in a war to conquer sense). Today Islam is striving mightily to re-enshrine a true Caliph, and true Caliphate. Happily they are split along sectarian and national lines. But a Caliphate (and Caliph) WILL inevitably emerge, and that gigantic clash of civilizations that rocked Europe for nearly a millenium, will resume, (I predict), with shocking ferocity.

          • scott autry

            Your position has some foundation, but we won’t see it in my life time if ever and I’m half-way through (judging by my grandparents).

            Much of what you wrote above could have – and has – been used in describing Christianity in the past. I’m re-reading the book Diplomacy, and we could say the same about Wilsonian idealism in promoting democracy and capitalism. Basically, every regional and global conflict has an ideological component.

            That doesn’t mean examining them is pointless, but perspective is important too.

            Including like you noted, capability – can those who want active conflict gain control of nations and then work together on a concerted effort against our interests?

            I don’t see it as likely any time soon.

            In those terms, I’m more worried about Pakistan than the most conservative Muslim nations (which I’ve been living in these past two years). I’m not as concerned about Iran as I am Pakistan due to the instability in Pakistan and its problems with India, but Iran with nukes worries more than the idea the people around here are going to band together and threaten the US.

            In terms of periodic individual terrorist attacks carried out by loose organizations operating in several countries and being fueled by ideology that views the West as an eternal enemy? Sure. That is something we have to worry about right now and put thought in how to defend against it…

            My educated guess is that – the late-60s and 1970s was a greater time for organized resistance to Western interests over here than right now or the foreseeable future. That was when many of these countries became nations, and they were willing to band together for military action against Israel and economic conflict with the oil embargoes…

            But now, they don’t have a Soviet Union as a potential ally to play against the West.

            In short, I don’t see the commitment or capability to fulfill the larger predictions of widespread conflict here. I could be proven wrong, but I’d bet against it.

            Regional conflict and periodic individual terrorist acts, sure. Broader conflict involving the bulk of the populations? No.

          • Brian Fr Langley

            I believe your missing a couple of very key points. 1st, on the religious aspect. While historical Christian conquest was every bit as barbaric as Islamic, there is a key diiference. Christian conquest was done in spite of, and in direct opposition to the teachings of their founder, (meaning they weren’t really Christians, despite their claims) while Islamic conquest is a direct result of the teachings of their founder. 2nd, on what you think is the current threat level of Islam to the west. While I agree conquest is not likely now, or even in the far future. What is likely, is significant and constant, (and devastating) large scale terror attacks on European and American soil. If for no other reason than to get the U.S. to drop support for Israel. Which they will attack, the second they feel they might be victorious. As for a Soviet ally? They still have Russia and China as sympathetic allies against western interests. They don’t need the Soviets. The point is, under the Bush doctrine, America was a much safer place, than it will be after the (coming) fallout from a left wing, loonie, doctrine based on a bumper sticker ideology like, “Bush lied, people died”. Had a decent residual force been left in Iraq, had an agreement been made with the Afghans for a decent residual force,(and no dates given for withdrawal) and had America supported whole heartedly the secular (and peaceful) American ally Egypt, today we might still have a stable (relatively speaking) middle east. In fact the Syrian conflict may not even have happened. As for Pakistan and India, I suspect that old policy of M.A. D. (mutally assured destruction) that worked for keeping the cold war cold, will work for them as well. (touch wood)

      • Guest

        I think that image linked above is another mitigating window into the culture here. The guys with the gungho to head over to Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria are fairly outside the norm —- where the norm is very much, “Yeah, well, but, see, I’ll get to that later, if God wills it…..and if I don’t or it doesn’t come about….well, that was exactly as it was supposed to be…..which is why I didn’t lift a finger…”

      • scott autry

        Another mitigating factor people won’t get unless they live here is the strong desire to drag feet, take it easy, and let come what may….That is by far the norm. Not a lot of activist energy compelling people to go abroad and do something major…

    • John Daly

      I certainly don’t thing the president wanted Iraq to fall back into the hands of extremists. I just don’t think he wanted to deal with it it any way. To him, Iraq was someone else’s problem – a distraction from the things he wanted to do while in office.

      • scott autry

        Not wanting to deal with it is part of his side’s geopolitical doctrine. That is what I don’t see people talking about (though I haven’t been paying close attention either).

        It isn’t about distractions. It is about believing that an America active in other countries is neo-colonialism and illegal and even evil. It doesn’t matter what happens in Iraq as long as it is Iraqis dealing with Iraqis or at minimum not involving US “interference”.

        Again, Obama came of age believing the US was every bit as much a colonial power as England (whose Churchhill bust he immediately returned) and France. Bush going into Iraq was a prime example to him. Getting us out was the moral thing to do, and whatever happened after, as long as the US remained aloof from it, is moral.

        That is the doctrine they accepted and the doctrine that has been preached in many halls of higher education – especially in the Ivy League…

        If we just keep chalking it up to ignorance or indifference, we fail to recognize the root cause and foundation for this mind-set, and that makes us weaker in communicating with the masses about their decisions.

  • Brian Fr Langley

    The magical thinking, or the incompetance and the hubris is beyond ridiculous. Even high school history students thought Iraq might devolve into civil war without a stabilizing force. Worse than the spectre of Saddam Hussain’s Iraq with WMD’s, is a hegemonous Shia Iran united with a Shia Iraq, who together are the worlds 4th (Iran) and 7th (Iraq) top oil producers. And an ISIS Sunni victory, would probably be even worse. What ever else one can say about the Bush legacy, he disarmed, disabled, and utterly trounced those militant Islamist’s who had the wherewithal to attack Americans on American soil. The Obama legacy is these same militants armed with piles of weapons, (taken from Libya and Syria) and piles of money, (taken from Libya, Syria and Iraq) and several nations providing willing (albeit the denials) sanctuary. Once upon a time, all Al-Quaida had was Afghanistan and Somalia. Now they have vast tracts of Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. They have motive, they have method, and now they have opportunity. The liklihood of terrorist attacks on American soil is no longer just a possibility, it’s almost certainly a probability, (and a high one at that). While most liberals will just shrug their shoulders and yawn, (the great “O” can’t be wrong) I have an even scarier scenario for them. Dear liberal type, driving your car is just about to get a LOT more expensive. Perhaps NOW, might be the time to lobby for that safe ethical oil from your neighbor to the north. (yes I mean approve keystone)

    • John Daly

      Unfortunately, liberals are far more likely to pay more for gas and just gripe about the high prices, rather than open to their eyes to why those prices are so high, and what it will take to fix that.