Friday, April 24, 2015

How Republicans should talk about the Iraq issue

PREFACE: Early in 2015, it became alarmingly evident that the Republican candidates for President, including and especially Jeb Bush, had a fatally flawed, harmful approach to the Iraq issue. Below is an example of the corrective advice I've tried to give the GOP and Republicans.

From: Eric
to: [et al.]
date: Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 10:32 AM [etc.]
subject: How to talk about Operation Iraqi Freedom

GOP[ and Republicans],

In a recent interview [with Hugh Hewitt], a Republican candidate for President [John Kasich] was asked, "Did President Bush make a mistake in invading Iraq?" He responded, "I don’t want to go back and redo that. I mean, it was there, and I don’t want to disparage anybody who served our country. I’m just going to reserve my comment on that." In February, another Republican candidate for President [Jeb Bush] mentioned "mistaken intelligence" when asked a similar question and expressed his wish not to "re-litigate" the Iraq issue.

With few exceptions, prominent Republicans have adopted the tack of demurring to 're-litigate' the Iraq issue. This is a mistake. Their reticence is interpreted as implicit acknowledgement that the decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was wrong, thus invalidating the grounds for the Iraq intervention and dismissing its hard-won successes (such as the Counterinsurgency "Surge"), mitigating or altogether absolving President Obama of his missteps, and validating the guilty characterization of President Bush and the Republican Party with the blame for current events.

Moreover, the view that OIF was wrong is the basic justification for President Obama's policy choices with Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and others.

I can recommend a more constructive strategy for Republicans than the counter-productive demurral to 're-litigate' the Iraq issue: re-litigate it from the ground up to set the record straight.

Do not concede the opposition's misrepresentation of the reasons for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Conceding it sets you up for failure from the word go by boxing you into the frame of a strategically false narrative.

Break that box, instead. Constructive talk about the Iraq intervention requires a reset of the frame with wholesale correction of the popular misconceptions about the grounds - the 'why' - of the mission.

Use this explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom:

The main theme is the law and policy plainly show the casus belli was Iraq's evident[ial] noncompliance across the board with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, i.e., material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire - not pre-war statements based on the intelligence estimates. The explanation is drawn from primary sources such as the Gulf War ceasefire UN Security Council resolutions that set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), the US law and policy that enforced the UNSCRs, the conditions and precedents that set the stage for OIF, and the determinative fact findings that triggered the decision for OIF.

Once you have corrected the popular misconceptions about OIF, then - and only then - will you be able to talk about the Iraq issue in a constructive way that realigns the leadership course of our nation and properly honors our men and women and our partners who have served selflessly in Iraq for the right reasons.

At the same time, setting the record straight in the zeitgeist and resetting the frame of the national discussion on the Iraq intervention can focus an inquisitorial spotlight on those parties that have corrupted American leadership by misrepresenting the Iraq intervention. They have caused the harmful consequences of American leadership failure and dishonored our Iraq veterans by denigrating their mission with a false narrative.

In short, stop weakly shying away from the controversy. Vigorously re-litigate the Iraq issue with the basic truth of the matter. Flip the Iraq issue in the zeitgeist. Let the American people know that at the decision point in March 2003, President Bush made the right - the harder right - leadership decision and the Iraq intervention was an honorable, justified mission that was succeeding when President Bush left office in January 2009.

Related: Recommendation to Hillary Clinton on how to talk about her Iraq vote, Comments critical of presidential candidates Trump, Clinton, and McMullin's positions on OIF, Regarding Secretary of State Powell's speech at the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, and Decision Points suggests President Bush has not read key fact findings on Iraq carefully.




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