Hillary Clinton has told some whoppers. But Wednesday night on “PBS NewsHour,” she outdid herself with a preposterous and brand-new excuse for failing to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA).
Let’s recall that the Obama-Clinton team first insisted they tried, but the Iraqis would not agree to grant troops immunity. That failed on several grounds. First, the hang-up came when the Obama administration insisted that immunity be confirmed (unnecessarily) by parliament — where it was highly controversial. Now, when Iraq is coming undone at the seams, the president has reversed himself and claimed that verbal assurances on immunity for U.S. troops are good enough for now. If good enough now, it should have been good enough in 2011. Second, the White House had whittled down the military’s troop request to a mere 3,000, which the Iraqis understood was worthless. Liz Cheney, who served in the State Department under President George W. Bush and is now heading a pro-defense group, Alliance for a Strong America, with her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, told me: “She has apparently forgotten that the military commanders requested nearly 20,000 stay behind forces. President Obama said no. The military then asked for 10,000. President Obama said no. President Obama said he would leave no more than 3500 troops in Iraq, an amount everyone involved knew was insufficient, and was not surprisingly rejected by [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki].” It is bizarre to claim that the troops “had” to be out when Clinton was trying – unsuccessfully — to retain a stay-behind force. Clinton’s failure to impress upon the president the importance of a significant force and to negotiate a deal with Iraq under whatever circumstances existed represents a key failure – one that has directly contributed to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the collapse of the Iraqi military.
So for “PBS NewsHour” Clinton tried out a new tale: “Certainly when President Obama had to make the decision about what to do, he was deciding based on what the Bush administration had already determined, because they were the ones who said troops have to be out by the end of 2011.”
This is patently untrue. The Bush team had always intended that there be a follow-up to the SOFA that was in place while it remained in office. Multiple senior officials from the Bush team have confirmed this over the years. Clinton’s own actions in attempting to negotiate a follow-on deal were the direct result of that understanding.