Today’s Iraq Announcement: Pulling Out or Getting Kicked Out?October 21, 2011
NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, and retired Army Colonel and Jack Jacobs discuss President Obama’s announcement that all U.S. troops in Iraq will be home by the end of 2011.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT FROM MSNBC.COM:
>>> well, the big story today, pulling out or getting kicked out. good afternoon to you, i am dylan ratigan. nice to see you. happy friday. after nearly nine years of our lives, $712 billion of our dollars, and 4,400 dead american troops, today president obama announced the end of the iraq war.
>> after nearly nine years, america's war in iraq will be over. over the next two months, our troops in iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. today i can say that our troops in iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.
>> but we're not leaving because the pentagon strategically decided it was time to get out. iraq is effectively kicking us out by virtue of their refusal to authorize u.s. troops' immunity in their country beyond the end of the year. beyond that point, iraq refused, and so, hey, it sounds like the war is over. president obama says the u.s. is moving forward in a position of strength, but come january 1st, literally, when it comes to iraq and particularly iran's ambitions to project its power into the vacuum left by the loss of saddam hussein, the training wheels will be off. we start with nbc news foreign correspondent, ayman mohyeldin, and retired army colonel, medal of honor recipient, jack jacobs. it's an honor to see both of you. your gut reaction on the news, jack?
>> sooner rather than later. save money, save lives. we were coming home in any case, and the president looks quite presidential by saying, we're not putting up with this stuff, we're leaving.
>> and your two cents when you look at the dynamic?
>> i think it's part of the changing landscape in the middle east, a very historic opportunity. as you mentioned, this is not necessarily an agreement about withdrawal. it was more of a failure an agreement and that's why we have come to this dead end road.
>> what does it say, jack, about the way that america is allocating the lives and military resources of our nation, globally, that the decision to extend or not extend those resources is not based on strategic imperatives set at centcom or the pentagon about what our mission is, but is set based on whether we can cut an extension immunity deal with another government.
>> well, it shows we don't plan very well, does it? otherwise, we would haven't gone to iraq in the first place. quite frankly, had we paid attention to strategic imperatives when we went into afghanistan, we would have reinforced success and stayed there, and then general mcchrystal would have been right. yeah, it takes about a decade to square these guys away. by thousand, we would be coming home. instead, we got diverted to iraq, lost lots and lots of lives and treasure in the ensuing years.
>> if you were to look at the withdrawal, which we're now learning what a withdrawal looks like, it's october 21st, 2011. we just got the headline that we're going to withdraw, and the answer is, oh, well, you're going to have everybody out by christmas. pretty impressive. at the same time, ayman, we're being told that afghanistan is -- we're withdrawing from afghanistan. i remember doing a show, running the press conference, with the president, can you believe we're coming out of afghanistan? high five, top of the paper. how could we be withdrawing -- this is to both of you, but how could we be withdrawing from iraq in two months and why are we withdrawing from afghanistan over two years?
>> well, you know, the bottom line is iraq is in a much better position than afghanistan. iraq does have a lot more at stak stake, there's no doubt, because of the internal composition. but iraq has a security force that is somewhat operable. not necessarily like afghanistan, but somewhat operable. they don't have the same kind of external threats, which is what's kind of dissecting afghanistan apart. it makes it a little bit easier for the u.s. to pull out.
>> in that case, are we lying to the american people when we claim to be withdrawing from afghanistan when we're obviously not withdrawing from afghanistan?
>> well, we'll eventually withdraw from afghanistan. there are two things here. the first is, we've got a lot more people in afghanistan than we do in iraq, and they're combat troops. there are a large number of combat troops in afghanistan. theoretical theoretically, none in iraq. but if the president really wanted to leave afghanistan, as quickly as possible --
>> the same way he must leave iraq.
>> we're getting out anyway, but by the way, once we leave afghanistan, i don't think necessarily, we will have empowered the local leaders significantly more than they're currently empowered, because i really do believe in an unconventional war, it takes a long time to do and we'll be there a long time. the president really wanted to get out of afghanistan as quickly as possible, in an orderly fashion, we could probably do it in six months.
>> one of the issues that's really interesting in all of this is can the united states, after withdrawing from iraq, deal with iraq as a sovereign partner and not want to impose on it a solution? this issue of immunity is very sensitive. there's no doubt about it. it's going to rub americans the wrong way. we were there, we sacrificed our lives, why are you not giving us immunity? but this is the test to president obama is saying. what other country would allow foreign forces to exist on its soil with immunity? the reason why i say that, there have been some notorious incidents of american involvement in iraq, none of which the american government could do anything about. this is an american military action. now the question is, can the united states and iraq deal on these sensitive issues as co-partners.
>> particularly as iran continues most likely to exert influence in iraq.
>> i think the answer is, we can't, because there isn't a single unity that's called iraq now in any case. if anything, this demonstrates the strength of muqtada al sadr, the strength of iran, and i think the possibility that there might be another civil war, quite frankly. it demonstrates, if nothing else, that the president of iraq is not necessarily in control of his own country.
>> and when you talk again, whether it's to the stratfor people and people like yourself that look at iraq, it is clear that the northwest corner of iraq is largely a kurdish population that on and off has danced around the idea of saying, why are we iraq when we might as well be southeast turkey. and there's a mountain range behind us anyway. i'm not even iraq-- i'm the turkish, i don't think i'm iraqi today. and then the sunni/shia issue. does anybody on our side of the fence at the pentagon or elsewhere even know what the stability of those relationships?
>> the selling point for the united states to iraqis is, you mentioned, they have to realize, their interests are better together than apart. the shias get pulled out of iraq and start aligning themselves with iran, they'll be isolated and start losing a lot. the kurds try to establish a separate state, they're landlocked.
>> what happens to southeast turkey?
>> the problem here --
>> you don't have to indulge that.
>> you know who the odd man out is here? the sunnis, of course.
>> keep in mind, the kurds are sunnis. they're not arabs, they're sunnis. more importantly, saudi arabia, jordan, syria, all of these countries that are sunnis have a vested interest. it's not to necessarily say that iraqis are going to immediately as the u.s. pulls out dis disintegrate into civil war, because they recognize if iraq disintegrates into civil war, they all lose.
>> educate me, educate everybody at home, for the typical iraqi resident, forget all the politics. if i live in iraq, what is the average availability of clean, running water, reliable power and electricity, reliable medical care, reliable food, groceries. reliable education? in other words, what is the basically civil society in that country and do we know that?
>> well, i haven't been there in a couple of years, and it wasn't improving, and had improved a great deal. it depends on where you're talking about it and what service you're discussing. schools, yes. electricity less frequently in some places, electricity is on half the time.
>> a lot of places are rural areas and never had running water. and won't anytime soon. things that are a lot better now than when we first went in there. whether or not they're going to improve dramatically is hwholly a function of whether or not the government can hold together. and i think you made a good point, a logical person in iraq would say, hey, we either hang together or hang separately, but they've hanged separately in the past, i'm afraid.
>> listen, i completely agree with you. all the socioeconomic indicators are getting better for iraqis. it's not yet good.
>> the trend is improving, not deteriorating.
>> absolutely. and a lot of that has to do not necessarily with military involvement, but it has to do with the fact that iraq has become a little bit more of an open society. investors are going in.
>> not only that, but it seems like a lot of the middle class in iraq seem like they left for cairo when the war happened. and then when cairo went inside out, you watch a lot of that sort of doctor, lawyer, business professional from iraqi leaving cairo and actually going back to iraq, which was an interesting tell on life in egypt. anyway, look forward to talking to you guys. more in the future. it is a pleasure. again, i'm going to enjoy having you on the desk here.
>> but if we spend too much time together, i get worried, and i see you out there, he shouldn't be in the middle of that thing. get him out of there. but anyways, it's a pleasure.
>>> coming up here on "the d.r. show," the politics of the pullout. the megapanel weighs in. and the other story out of the white house you likely did not hear about today. president obama signing