by Eric Martin
Amir Taheri is getting some attention today with a remarkable piece in the New York Post alleging that Barack Obama "tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence. According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July." Ordinarily I'd ignore such silliness, but with the McCain campaign recklessly jumping all over it, and the usual suspects hopping on board, it's worth pointing out that how shoddy a piece of work it really is.
How shoddy you ask? Well, it was based on one source, the source's statements do not actually corroborate the charges leveled against Obama by Taheri, the chronology and geography that Taheri associates with Obama's alleged statements defy the space-time continuum and, oh yeah, members from both parties that were in attendance at the meeting in question, as well as the Bush administration, back Obama and contradict Taheri:
Attendees of the meeting back Obama's account, including not just Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, but Hagel, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers from both parties. Officials of the Bush administration who were briefed on the meeting by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also support Obama's account and dispute the Post story and McCain attack. The Post story is "absolutely not true," Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry told ABC News.
That's pretty bad.
But it actually gets worse (you knew that was coming): Not only did Obama not ask to delay the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and not only did the McCain campaign flog a dubious article appearing in a partisan venue from a notoriously truth-challenged columnist claiming that Obama did, but Prime Minister Maliki asserts that Bush actually requested just such a delay in order to help the political fortunes of none other than...John McCain! Matt Duss, recounting a September 17 interview of Maliki:
MALIKI: Actually, the final date was really the end of 2010 and the period between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they [the Bush administration] asked for a change [in date] due to political circumstances related to the domestic situation [in the US] so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date. Agreement has been reached on this issue. They are willing to respond positively because they, too, are facing a critical situation.
So much for letting military commanders on the ground dictate withdrawal policy. Duss asks a couple of questions that deserve answers:
Two questions: What did McCain know about this, and when did he know it?
But since neither McCain nor Palin has submitted to a press conference since she was selected (that's 24 days and counting), I wouldn't advise holding your breath waiting for an answer.