The blame game is hip deep in our country over the tragedy unfolding in Iraq. Frontline, the TV news magazine of PBS, aired an episode July 29 titled "Losing Iraq."
Former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton has claimed that the failure of the president to heed her advice from the first term of arming "moderate" rebels in Syria has directly led to the formation of the Islamic State that has erased the border between Iraq and Syria.
The White House pushed back on this theory as not being realistic.
In a pre-vacation press conference, President Barack H. Obama was asked whether he regretted the decision not to leave some level of American military forces in Iraq as a stabilizing force at the end of 2011. Obama responded that the decision not to leave our troops in Iraq was not his.
The Frontline report noted that one month into office in 2009 the president traveled to Camp Lejeune North Carolina to address an audience of Marines. He announced his intention to withdraw all U. S. Forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Frontline shared an interview with former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who briefed Obama together with commanding General David Petraeus. Crocker and Patraeus in their briefing prior to Obama's Camp Lejeune speech encouraged the president to not think in terms of definite timelines which would telegraph to an enemy how long he must wait before no longer facing U.S. arms.
The same broadcast featured Douglas Ollivant, the Iraq director of the National Security Council from 2008-2009, who related that Obama wanted to normalize Iraq even though that country wasn't normal. Ollivant noted that the president "wanted to put Iraq behind us."
According to Frontline, the Pentagon leadership approached Obama in early 2011 with a plan to maintain a residual force of around 20,000 troops after the expiration of the then existing status of forces agreement. The White House resisted this plan and told the Pentagon to re-work its numbers, the PBS show reported.
Frontline reported that military leaders next suggested a plan of about 10,000 level forces. Again the same report revealed that the president was agreeable to a stabilizing force of no more than 5,000 in number.
Frontline goes on to report that in negotiations with the Iraqi prime minister the president insisted that a new status of forces agreement be ratified by the Iraqi parliament rather than simply approved by the prime minister. The Iraqi leader told Obama that there was no way such ratification could be obtained by the fractious parliament, according to the report.
As if the situation in Iraq weren't bad enough, Washington Post reporter Greg Miller posted a story on Aug. 9 of American intelligence agencies observing groups of fighters from al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Africa abandoning those rival Islamist organizations to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Miller reported that our agencies view the Islamic State as desiring direct conflict with our country. The report goes on to note that some of these fighters may have European and even American passports, allowing free travel to our country.
Republicans in Congress haven't been shy about getting in on the blame game. One example would be Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who commented on NewsmaxTV recently that Obama's "bugging out of Iraq, not leaving a stabilizing force behind was incredibly stupid and a historic blunder." Johnson expressed the view that the president's "strategy has always been hope and wishful thinking, but we all know that hope is not a strategy and wishful thinking is not good military tactics."
Given persecution and murder of religious minorities in Iraq, we may be seeing graphic evidence that leading from behind can come with very serious costs.
Michael Zimmer writes from Eldersburg. His column appears Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.