"The difference between Bush's mistakes and his disappointments may just be that he hasn't yet taken ownership of the latter," Massimo Calabresi wrote in Time as he covered President George W. Bush's final press conference in January of 2009. Four years earlier, left-wing journalist John Dickerson had begun a trend among the Bush White House press corps, demanding from the president a recognition of his mistakes.
Dickerson, now like George Stephanopoulos, plays an objective Sunday news program questioner, and he, along with the circle of jerks who pose as objective reporters of the Obama administration, would rather blame Bush for ISIS, and not Barack Obama. But objectively, in 2009, as Bush left the White House, the surge had worked, Iraq was stabilizing, Iran was on the sidelines, and ISIS did not exist.
When Obama entered the White House, he had made a campaign promise to get out of Iraq. On July 14, 2008, then candidate Obama wrote in The New York Times, "We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began." PolitiFact, which once attacked those who said Obama was lying with his claim that you could keep your doctor only to later declare that claim a lie, has never wavered from declaring that Obama has stuck to his Iraq withdrawal plan.
In fact, the Obama administration was so intent on withdrawal that it is now both documented and accepted as fact that the administration ran from negotiating an agreement to keep American troops in Iraq. Dexter Filkins, writing in The New Yorker's April 28, 2014, issue, documented our disastrous withdrawal.
"The leaders of all the major Iraqi parties had privately told American commanders that they wanted several thousand military personnel to remain, to train Iraqi forces and to help track down insurgents. The commanders told me that (Iraqi Prime Minister) Maliki, too, said that he wanted to keep troops in Iraq. ... At one meeting, Maliki said that he was willing to sign an executive agreement granting the soldiers permission to stay, if he didn't have to persuade the parliament to accept immunity. The Obama administration quickly rejected the idea."
The Obama administration demanded a public vote of Iraq's parliament, which it knew was increasingly nervous about taking a public vote on the matter. Maliki had offered to keep our troops in Iraq by an executive order, just as he had already done for Bush. But Obama refused this status quo, knowing it gave him a great way to get out of Iraq.
Even now the Obama administration publicly claims Iraq did not want our troops to stay, citing the parliament's refusal to vote. This ignores that, as The New Yorker reported, "the leaders of all the major Iraqi parties had privately told American commanders that they wanted several thousand military personnel to remain," but feared what could happen with a public vote.
The American press has never challenged Obama publicly on this mistake. The Islamic State ("ISIS") did not exist before the president decided to retreat from the field in Iraq, leaving a power vacuum that the president rapidly expanded by making kissy face with Iran.
In the past few weeks, the very press corps that demanded of Bush an accounting for his mistakes and refuses to pin down Obama on his own began a less than clever campaign to ask Republican presidential candidates whether, knowing what we know now, they would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, the Republican candidates have mostly answered the question wrong.
Instead of their yes's or their no's, they should have thrown Hillary Clinton's statement back to the press. "What difference, at this point, does it make?" ISIS is now a threat. Obama destabilized Libya, letting ISIS gain a foothold there. He armed Syrian rebels, who in turn further armed ISIS in Syria.
Something wicked this way comes, and that wicked something did not exist until Obama retreated from Iraq.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.