I Hate It Here, Get Me Out Of Here

After years of telling the country that setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq would lead to total disaster — "I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitment," said George W. Bush on May 1, 2007 — an out-of-options Bush may be about to capitulate to a 2011 withdrawal of combat troops, according to the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators reached agreement on a security deal that calls for American military forces to leave Iraq’s cities by next summer as a prelude to a full withdrawal of combat troops from the country, according to senior American officials.

The draft agreement sets 2011 as the goal date by which U.S. combat troops will leave Iraq, according to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Humood and other people familiar with the matter. In the meantime, American troops will be leaving cities, towns and other population centers by the summer of 2009, living in bases outside of those areas, according to the draft.

It’s possible that this report is wrong: the New York Times is reporting Humood said the deal doesn’t have timetables in it, which is confusing to say the least. But if the Journal is right, so much for "demoraliz[ing]" the Iraqi people. That plan is right out of the Center for American Progress’ "Strategic Redeployment" paper of 2005 — get out of the cities, get less visible, move from a combat mission to a training mission, and then go. The left won the Iraq debate. Period.

The question, if the Journal is right, becomes whether John McCain remains the outlier from a consensus on withdrawal. His position is untenable: either he sticks with what he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars earlier this week — "The great difference — the great difference [with Obama] — is that I intend to win" in Iraq — and rejects the negotiated timeline; or, like Bush, he suddenly embraces what he’s always said would be a disaster, thereby conceding that Obama was right all along.

There’s a third possibility, of course. Bush could attempt to claim credit for ending the war ahead of the GOP convention — the night McCain speaks is themed "peace" — but Bush has already gone so far as recently as two months ago to reject even the concept of timelines, even as he’s capitulating to them, as to make this a blatant absurdity. McCain would be laughed at if he tried to split that hair as well.

But we’ll see what emerges from Iraq. Condoleezza Rice is in Baghdad this morning, and she’s "dismiss[ing]… reports" that the deal is about to be done: "If I were you, I would disregard reports and rumors, anonymous statements about where this is." And true enough: the Times reports that Rice doesn’t expect a final deal to emerge while she’s in Iraq. Surely the Bush and McCain political staffs are figuring out what language is both consistent with their years of pronouncements on Iraq and saleable to the American public before announcing a deal.

Crossposted to The Streak.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman