Jennifer Rubin points out that Obama/Clinton narrative that Iraq refused to permit American troops to stay in Iraq has been debunked by former Obama administration officials:
Following the reported excerpts from former CIA chief and defense secretary Leon Panetta’s book unmasking the president and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s lack of candor (to put it mildly) over the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011, comes an interview with Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq. It includes this exchange:As a former ambassador to Iraq (2007-09), do you think it was a mistake not to push hard for the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq before the U.S. pullout?I do. We could have gotten that agreement if we had been a little more persistent, flexible, and creative. But what really cost us was the political withdrawal. We cut off high-level political engagement with Iraq when we withdrew our troops.There were no senior visits, very few phone calls. Secretary of State John Kerry made one visit prior to this current crisis, mainly to lecture the Iraqis on how bad they were being for facilitating Iranian weapon shipments to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And we left them to their own devices, knowing that left to their own devices, it would not work out well.Crocker is simultaneously supporting Republican critics’ version of events and also indicting the administration for its refusal to use “soft power,” which the Obama team claimed had been neglected in the Bush administration. They bragged about their expert “smart diplomacy,” but they were clueless about what was going on.These two former officials cannot be credibly attacked as partisans or out to get either Obama or Clinton. That is what makes their remarks so devastating. For Obama this is simply another piece in the puzzle of utter incompetence and then cover-up — lying, some would call it — when things went predictably wrong. But for Clinton, it poses a number of more acute problems for her presidential run.These ex-officials have made clear the most credible people in the administration are not going to keep mum about the administration’s mistakes. (I wonder what Panetta’s book will say about Libya, Israel and more.) If Clinton continues to practice revisionist history, she will be snared — as she is now.Second, Clinton has never claimed, as she has for Syria, that she warned against an Iraq pullout. Maybe she did, but Panetta cited his undersecretary’s role in making the case for a stay-behind force, not Clinton’s. Is she now going to “remember” to have joined Panetta, the raft of military advisers, conservative critics and lawmakers who warned Obama to leave a force in place? She should stick close to the truth, for it seems many of her former colleagues have good memories and/or reliable notes. Unless she has an alibi for this one, too, she is going to stand accused of making the same fatal error Obama did — both here and in Libya, by the way — which is ignoring the rising jihadist threat in furtherance of an ideological vision.Panetta and Crocker provide another reminder that in the new Congress, the investigation into the relatively discrete issue of Benghazi should be folded into a larger select committee on the entire Middle East collapse. Let Panetta, Crocker and Clinton all come and testify. They can help voters decide who was on which side of the debates and what errors were made. (This was what was done after 9/11, you will remember.) This is the meat of the issue with Clinton, not Benghazi. If the voters are to hire her as commander in chief, they have every reason to demand a full accounting of whether the massive national security debacles were foreseeable, preventable and attributable to her.Aside from these issues we know now why Michele Flournoy was not selected as defense secretary rather than the president’s pliable crony Chuck Hagel. Not only had she stood up to the president and his political hacks, but in a confirmation hearing and elsewhere she could have laid out the entire story as to how we got from a stable, functioning Iraq to the current chaos. How inconvenient that would have been.