A 2007 video of George W. Bush has been making the rounds that purports to make the former president seem prophetic about the outcome of the War in Iraq.
In the video, Bush clearly states the following about Iraq’s future.
“To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready… would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.
“It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Yet the speech by George W. Bush being referenced has nothing at all to do with an argument for a prolonged U.S. military presence in Iraq. Instead, this was the speech Bush gave in defense of the so-called Iraqi surge. It was a dramatic shift in the current policy that resulted in an additional 30,000 troops being deployed to Iraq.
Regardless of whether it was Bush’s decision to deploy an additional 30,000 troops, or that the mass deployment happened to coincide with the Sunni faction’s decision to work with the Americans rather than against them, violence in Iraq did begin to decline. The “surge” that Bush called for in that 2007 video has mainly been viewed as a success.
Which is why, in 2008, Bush then called for the Status of Forces Agreement, also known as SOFA. The agreement took nearly a year to negotiate between Iraq and the Bush administration. It placed restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq, as well as requiring an American military pullback. SOFA clearly states that “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011” and set a second deadline, as well, by stating that “all United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.”
President Obama followed the timeline set into place by former President George W. Bush. Even amid growing concerns, Iraq refused to renegotiate in regards to the timeline Bush put forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.
Time reported the following back in 2011.
“Ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it. While he was inclined to see a small number of American soldiers stay behind to continue mentoring Iraqi forces, the likes of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support Maliki’s ruling coalition depends, were having none of it. Even the Obama Administration’s plan to keep some 3,000 trainers behind failed because the Iraqis were unwilling to grant them the legal immunity from local prosecution that is common to SOFA agreements in most countries where U.S. forces are based.”
And The Associated Press issued the following report back in 2011.
“Talks ran aground over Iraqi opposition to giving American troops legal immunity that would shield them from Iraqi prosecution. Legal protection for U.S. troops has always angered everyday Iraqis who saw it as simply a way for the Americans to run roughshod over the country. Many Iraqi lawmakers were hesitant to grant immunity for fear of a backlash from constituents.”
So was George Bush actually “prophetic” about what would happen if troops were withdrawn from Iraq prematurely? Maybe. Certainly the area has seen nothing but unrest and violence. Yet George W. Bush’s prophecy loses some of its steam and power when placed into context of the 2007 surge in Iraq and then paired with the fact that it was Bush himself that negotiated the timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
What do you think? Does the context of Bush’s speech and his signing of SOFA change what the speech means?