President Barack Obama laid out the end game for the US in Iraq in this address to the Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
** QUICK HITS. After criticism yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, is praising President Barack Obama’s plan to disentangle America from Iraq. I’m so shocked. … Good times for California. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is again more than 60% shy of normal. I didn’t get much more than that, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a state of emergency because of California’s drought conditions. I called in to the conference call with state water officials and hung up after four minutes on hold. Apparently a slow news day for California-based press. But not in the bigger scheme of things, with Obama announcing the new Iraq policy … Many are now mourning the late California legislator Nell Soto, a kindly pioneer of Latina politics and environmental champion who died yesterday in office at the age of 82. She served repeated terms in both the state Senate and Assembly, but missed most of her most recent term due to illness. … San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is trying to run for the Democratic nomination for governor of California, is on comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show. I doubt Maher will support him. …
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … YES, IT’S YET ANOTHER CALIFORNIA ELECTION.
** HAS TWITTER JUMPED THE SHARK? ALREADY? Mark MacKinnon thinks so.
I’ve been planning a column on “The Trouble With Twitter.”
Inundation. Fragmentation. ADD.
But I’m too busy dealing with all the other modes of communication …
** 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL: PALIN OUT FRONT. CNN has a brand new poll on the 2012 Republican presidential sweepstakes, and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has a narrow edge.
Here are the numbers: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin 29%, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee 26%, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 21%, and Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal 9%.
I think Team Obama is liking this.
** CALIFORNIA UNEMPLOYMENT HIGHEST IN A QUARTER CENTURY. California’s unemployment rate has hit 10.1%, the highest in a quarter century. The downturn which began with the housing sector has, with the globalization of first the financial crisis and now the economic crisis, now hit all aspects of the economy. It would be much higher if the state’s compromise budget deal had not been adopted, with more than 100,000 jobs lost almost immediately.
** OBAMA’S IRAQ SPEECH. I believe this is President Obama’s most important speech this week, more important than the State of the Union. Here are key excerpts.
Good morning Marines. Good morning Camp Lejeune. Good morning Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.
I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief. …
Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation. You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.
Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.
To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.
But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. …
We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.
Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.
This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.
What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars. America’s men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it.
The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq. As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.
Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end. …
After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.
Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.
As we responsibly remove our combat brigades, we will pursue the second part of our strategy: sustained diplomacy on behalf of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.
The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility….
Going forward, we can make a difference on several fronts. We will work with the United Nations to support national elections, while helping Iraqis improve local government. We can serve as an honest broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements on issues that have divided Iraq’s leaders. And just as we will support Iraq’s Security Forces, we will help Iraqi institutions strengthen their capacity to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services.
Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis….
Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq. You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.
Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.
There are those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope.
So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.
That leads me to the third part of our strategy –comprehensive American engagement across the region. The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s. It is time for Iraq to be a full partner in a regional dialogue, and for Iraq’s neighbors to establish productive and normalized relations with Iraq. And going forward, the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria.
This reflects a fundamental truth: we can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation – we need a smarter, more sustainable and comprehensive approach. That is why we are renewing our diplomacy, while relieving the burden on our military. That is why we are refocusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. And that is why we have named three of America’s most accomplished diplomats – George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke – to support Secretary Clinton and me as we carry forward this agenda.
Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.
Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq.
You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite – you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden. And for you and for your families, the war does not end when you come home. It lives on in memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you at night, or the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.
You and your families have done your duty – now a grateful nation must do ours. That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving. And that is why I have committed to expanding our system of veterans health care to serve more patients, and to provide better care in more places. We will continue building new wounded warrior facilities across America, and invest in new ways of identifying and treating the signature wounds of this war: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as other combat injuries.
We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams.
As a nation, we have had our share of debates about the war in Iraq. It has, at times, divided us as a people. To this very day, there are some Americans who want to stay in Iraq longer, and some who want to leave faster. But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.
And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.
There are many lessons to be learned from what we’ve experienced. We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I’ve ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan. We have learned that we must always weigh the costs of action, and communicate those costs candidly to the American people, which is why I’ve put Iraq and Afghanistan into my budget. We have learned that in the 21st century, we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives, which is why I am committed to building our civilian national security capacity so that the burden is not continually pushed on to our military. We have learned that our political leaders must pursue the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon, which is why I will consult with Congress and in carrying out my plans. And we have learned the importance of working closely with friends and allies, which is why we are launching a new era of engagement in the world. …
You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them. “Semper Fidelis” – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. …
America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served. …
There will be more danger in the months ahead. We will face new tests and unforeseen trials. But thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending this war.
Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.
** WHITMAN’S SAMPLER: THE EX-EBAY CEO’S MOVES MIRROR THE REPUBLICAN CRISIS. Like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s moves at this past weekend’s California Republican Party convention point up the crisis afflicting the Republican Party. …
President Barack Obama is set to announce the new policy on Iraq. Defense Secretary Bob Gates previews the big draw-down.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is having another busy day today. He’s on his way this morning to another red state he took away in November, North Carolina, to announce the new US policy on Iraq.
Obama will deliver remarks at 8:45 AM Pacific at Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast. (Obama bonded with Marines during his Christmas vacation in Hawaii, where he worked out every day at the Marine base, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones commanded the entire Marine Corps.) There he will announce that he is withdrawing some 100,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of August 2010. Which neatly concides with the campaign in earnest for the 2010 mid-term elections.
As many as 50,000 US troops will remain, most, though not all, in support rather than combat functions.
Obama essentially picked the middle course of three scenarios developed for Iraq withdrawal: The 16-month option (which he campaigned on), the 19-month option, and the 23-month option favored by General David Petraeus.
Petraeus is on board with Obama’s plans now. As is John McCain, who famously said last year that troops might have to be in Iraq indefinitely.
It will be interesting to see how Obama’s plan is received by his base. This is not getting out as fast as many would like, and it is leaving more troops behind than many would like.
Obama will discuss the new Iraq policy tonight on PBS’s News Hour and on the Armed Forces Network.
Al Jazeera reports that secret talks are underway between the Afghan government and elements of the Taliban, including one of the most vehement anti-US figures.
In other geopolitical news, Al Jazeera is reporting exclusively that the Afghan government, with British involvement, is negotiating with elements of the Taliban leadership, including one of its most vehement figures. I’ll have more on this.
Obama has just issues a presidential directive reforming the National Security Council. In keeping with his more expansive definition of national security, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice are all now members of the NSC, along with the traditional choices. As I wrote would happen a couple of months ago, Obama’s directive strengthens the role of National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant. Jones runs the NSC and Cabinet members, while they have access to Obama, will work directly with him on implementing presidential decisions.
Meanwhile, reeling Citigroup is about to undergo partial nationalization. In exchange for another big infusion of cash, the government will own about 40% of the financial giant and many new members of the board of directors will be coming on board.
Oh, and the economy was even worse than previously reported in the last quarter of the Bush/Cheney administration. It contracted by a revised 6.2% in Q4 of 2008.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger travels to Fresno today to appear with Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines and former Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill to discuss why they supported the state budget compromise.
On Sunday, Schwarzenegger travels to Germany, where next week he will deliver the opening ceremony address at CeBIT, the world’s biggest technology trade fair. California is an official partner of CeBIT, the only state partner. CeBIT drew a half-million attendees from nearly 100 companies in 2008.
Yesterday, the former action superstar kicked off the campaign for five initiatives tied to the state budget compromise on the May 19th California special election ballot with a press conference in Sacramento. The event will be at a child development center that would probably have closed had the budget deal not finally been reached.
Schwarzenegger was joined at the event by other members of his newly formed California Budget Reform Now group, including Senate President Prom Tem Darrell Steinberg, former Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill, California Alliance for Jobs Executive Director Jim Earp, Placer County Sheriff and California State Sheriffs’ Association President Ed Bonner, Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, Carpenters Union chief Danny Curtin, and California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg.
The shape of the opposition is still unclear.
** FAR RIGHT FURY OVER CALIFORNIA TAX HIKES AND OPEN PRIMARY. … From my Saturday column.
** CALIFORNIA: THE FAR RIGHT’S RITUAL DANCE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF. … From my February 18th column.
** AFGHANISTAN: RUSSIA TO THE RESCUE. … From my February 13th column.
** “POST-PARTISANSHIP”: HOW IT WORKS, HOW IT DOESN’T. … From my February 12th column.
** OH, ABOUT THAT “END” OF THE OBAMA HONEYMOON … From my February 9th column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading in the $45 per barrel range.
The oil rally of about $10 per barrel over the last week coincides with the enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, which traders think will stimulate more economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.