Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

  Amir Taheri and McCain's poor judgment

John McCain appears to have believed every bit of nonsense that Iraqi exiles in Washington circulated during their campaign to involve the US in an invasion of Iraq. One of the chief people involved in selling those deceptions in DC was Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy adviser. Yesterday both of them were involved in promoting another deception, this time fabricated by an Iranian exile – showing once again that McCain never outgrows his poor judgment, any more than he wises up and casts off the discredited advisers he relies upon.

The background is this: Yesterday a Republican propaganda outlet, the New York Post, published a column by Amir Taheri that accused Barack Obama of secretly trying to delay the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Various right-wing nuts were all a-twitter about the allegation – despite two very compelling reasons to disbelieve it.

(1) Amir Taheri is a notorious fraudster. He was once powerful under the Shah's regime but now is an Iranian exile and neocon shill. Taheri has been exposed repeatedly for simply making things up to fit his political agenda. For example, in May 2006 he published a report in the National Post (Canada) falsely stating that a new Iranian law required Jews to wear special clothing and yellow patches to identify themselves in public. The paper had to retract the story, blaming Taheri, and apologize for it. Taheri's reputation, already extremely low in 2006, has been in the dirt ever since.

(2) Taheri's column in the New York Post refutes his own claim that "OBAMA TRIED TO STALL GIS' IRAQ WITHDRAWAL". Taheri gives the game away at the very beginning of his column.

While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

In other words, by Taheri's own account Obama did NOT "delay an agreement on a draw-down" of US troops from Iraq. Instead, Obama told the Iraqis he thought that the US Congress needed to sign off on any Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) – a position Obama has held publicly since Bush announced in 2007 that he was seeking a long-term SOFA treaty. SOFA regulates what US troops may do in Iraq and how they shall coordinate with the Iraqi government. It has nothing necessarily to do with any timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq; if the US government decides to withdraw troops, it doesn't need an OK from the Iraqi government.

So Taheri was doing what he does best, spread misinformation.

Predictably, it was just a matter of hours before the McCain campaign would rush to embrace Taheri's baseless smear of Obama. Here is a statement released by his top adviser, Randy Scheunemann, of PNAC infamy:

At this point, it is not yet clear what official American negotiations Senator Obama tried to undermine with Iraqi leaders, but the possibility of such actions is unprecedented. It should be concerning to all that he reportedly urged that the democratically-elected Iraqi government listen to him rather than the US administration in power. If news reports are accurate, this is an egregious act of political interference by a presidential candidate seeking political advantage overseas. Senator Obama needs to reveal what he said to Iraq's Foreign Minister during their closed door meeting.

The charge that he sought to delay the withdrawal of Americans from Iraq raises serious questions about Senator Obama's judgment and it demands an explanation.

Actually, as I remarked, the episode reflects badly not on Obama's but on McCain's judgment. Heck, Scheunemann even admits that "it is not yet clear" what negotiations Taheri was claiming Obama had interfered with. In other words, the McCain camp recognizes that Taheri's allegations are incoherent. But they still chose to go ahead and tie themselves to Taheri's nonsense just because there's a "possibility" that something or other is amiss.

It sure sounds like McCain and his band of neocons have taken to heart Cheney's "One Percent Doctrine" (by which, if there's as much as a 1% chance that something nefarious is afoot, then one should act as if the possibility is a proven fact).

For what it's worth, today Obama responded by setting the record straight about Taheri's wild allegation.

Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial."

In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

In the face of resistance from Bush, the Democrat has long said that any such agreement must be reviewed by the US Congress as it would tie a future administration's hands on Iraq.

"Barack Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations, nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades," Morigi said.

In this instance, McCain's poor judgment in embracing Taheri's claim clearly goes well beyond the point of 'recklessness'. It's less clear to me what the right term is to describe his management style, however. Perhaps no term can adequately convey how foolishly McCain is behaving.

crossposted at

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  • Who are you anyway? Why don't you tell your readers (both of them) something about your own background and motives, you twat?

    By Anonymous Mehran, at 5:03 PM  

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