Monday, 28 July 2008

Obama’s Iraq Problem 3

or Redecorating the Rose Garden


The first post of this mini series concerned a George Packer opinion piece in The New Yorker. My comments drew on a speech Senator Obama made back in September 2007 about Iraq, as well as the plan he published at the time.

That speech is still on his website here, and the PDF of the plan is still here, but a visitor to the site might have difficulty finding them as the main page on Iraq no longer links to them. The speech can still be found deep in the press archive. If there’s still a link anywhere on the site to the PDF, I can’t find it. Just in case they vanish completely I’ve placed a copy of the speech here, and of the PDF here.

The Obama website now gives a heavily edited version of the plan at the foot of the Iraq page. Gone for example is any reference to a UN Constitutional Convention. From the original:
A United Nations-Led Constitutional Convention: Iraq’s constitution, approved in an October 2005 referendum, is the product of a Kurdish–Shiite deal. Iraq’s government was supposed to immediately revise the constitution to be more inclusive of Sunnis and to develop a more sustainable balance between Baghdad’s centralized authority and provincial governments. They never did. Barack Obama would have the United Nations convene a constitutional convention in Iraq that would include representatives from all levels of Iraqi society. The convention would not adjourn until national reconciliation is reached and contentious questions such as federalism, oil revenue sharing, and de-Ba’athification are resolved.
In other words Obama wanted to strong-arm the sovereign government of Iraq into changing the democratically approved constitution. His speech went further in detailing what he expected of them:
Now the Iraqis may come out of this process choosing some kind of soft partition into three regions - one Sunni, one Shia, one Kurd. But it must be their choice. America should not impose the division of Iraq.
So the original plan was, to paraphrase, ‘nobody leaves the conference until the constitution is re-written, and you might want to re-write it something like this, not that I’m telling anyone what to do of course’.

Another aspect of the plan is still there, but in soft focus:
He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find sanctuary.
Here’s the original:
Obama would supply armed escorts to civilians who voluntarily choose to move from religiously heterogeneous areas to communities where they feel they will be more secure.
As I pointed out earlier, his former adviser Samantha Power was even clearer on this, saying on BBC Radio 4 that the plan involved “moving potentially people from mixed neighborhoods to homogenous neighborhoods, tragic that it's the equivalent of facilitating ethnic cleansing, which is terrible but if that is the choice of people there...”

A perverse use of the word ‘choice’ which I still find incredible to behold.
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There have been other changes to Obama’s Iraq page. Gateway Pundit has details, via the LA Times Top of the Ticket blog, via Terry Ann Online, who says she used to lean towards supporting Obama, but changed her mind when she got a close look, and she now seems near to tearing her hair out.
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Related: Obama’s Iraq Problem post one and two, and Let’s Squeeze Them post one and two.

Illustration: painting the roses, one of John Tenniel’s drawings for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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