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June 23, 2005
Iraqi PM: No Timetables

With Democrats renewing their calls for an exit timetable for American troops in Iraq, the head of the Iraqi government traveled to the United States to confirm what the Bush administration and the Pentagon have said all along -- that so-called "exit strategies" amount to little more than retreat plans in the face of terrorists:

The U.S.-led multinational force must stay in Iraq until Iraqi forces are fully prepared to defend the country by themselves, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Thursday.

Setting of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces would be a sign of weakness, he said. "The country would be open to increased terrorist activity," he said at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ahead of his White House meeting Friday with President Bush, al-Jaafari said Iraq's insurgency consisted of a "very, very limited minority" of people.

The Iraqi sees this issue for what it is. Dictating a deadline only tells the world that we have no patience for the hard work that this war requires. Osama bin Laden has often bragged that he can outwait the United States because we have no stomach for the kind of existential warfare that al-Qaeda wages, a lesson he learned through several American administrations of both parties. We abandoned our embassy staff without any fight at all in 1979; we bailed out of Beirut in 1983 after a single attack killed 243 Marines; and we hightailed out of Somalia in 1993 after winning a battle that resulted in a dead American being dragged down a street for the benefit of TV audience nationwide. Even after attacking a Navy ship in 2000, America refused to fight back, pursuing terrorists with indictments and handcuffs instead of bombers and ground troops.

Iraq also knows this history, and one can't blame al-Jaafari for getting nervous seeing it come around again. We walked away and left Saddam in place in 1991 instead of finishing the job, leaving the native populations to get slaughtered without us lifting a finger to stop him. Why? Because we worried that the world might not approve of the US using its power without UN permission, an attitude that applies to both the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations. And absent 9/11, as Jack Straw reportedly observed in the overblown Downing Street memos, the US probably would still be watching as Saddam emerged triumphant from the sanctions that were collapsing as the towers fell.

No one could be in a better position to tell Americans that our help is needed and appreciated. He represents the voters in Iraq, elected by popular vote to the National Assembly and then to the head of state by his fellow parliamentarians. Jaafari represents those Iraqis who braved the terrorists, their purple-stained fingers branding them with their courage and their defiance, to create the hope of a stable, secure, and free society. They trusted us to help them see that mission all the way through to success.

Who wants to get up and tell Jaafari that he and his people simply aren't worth the effort, and that we'd rather retreat and leave the Iraqis a second time to the tender mercies of the terrorists?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 23, 2005 9:34 PM

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