“Only Iraqis”


Sometimes presidential jargon can become confusing and misleading. In fact, that is often precisely the administration’s goal: to say one thing while making it look like they’re saying another. For today’s post, I’ve taken snippet’s from the president’s speech and translated them into layman’s terms in an attempt to highlight some main themes that I think the president was trying to to illustrate.

  • “Because of our troops and civilians -and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people – Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.”

Translation: Take it, it’s yours. But don’t expect it all to be perfect.

  • “The Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

Translation: This is where we drop you off. We’ve given you a clean pallet. I (Obama) got people to finally leave your country– don’t screw it up.

  • “We have removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. We have closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.”

Translation: We have done everything in our power to make sure that you are set up for success. You can’t blame me for the beginning because I wasn’t around; that was Bush. You can just credit me with the end. You are now a sovereign, independent entity, and it’s your responsibility to move forward.

  • “This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout. A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election. I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people.”

Translation: To all my critics who claim that we’ve left Iraq too early and without providing them with sufficient help in the leadership-building process, you are wrong. I encouraged and monitored democratic elections in Iraq. Iraq’s people have elected a government and it is in place. The country is being run by elected insiders, which is a vast improvement from the previous arrangement– a country run by American outsiders.

Starting to sense a pattern? The President is saying over and over again: it’s in their hands now. Obama, of course, isn’t just dropping the Iraq issue off his agenda forever. During several parts of the speech, he spoke about out continued commitment to helping His goal is for Iraq rebuild and restart; but he’s trying to distance himself as much as possible from a war that (he will go on to clarify in no uncertain terms) he did not start.

The following, however, is what I would consider to be the most important part of the President’s speech.

  • “Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.”

Translation: Let’s use the transitive property to figure this one out. (If a=b and b=c, then a=c.) If Bush started the war and the war helped cause the recession, then Bush helped cause the recession. Let’s use it again. If the war helped cause the recession and Obama ended the war, then Obama is helping to end the recession. His writers must be pretty smart guys, huh?

During the segment about Afghanistan, Obama made another important point.

  • “As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. “

Translation: Keep in mind that he phrases this entire argument as a fight against Al Qaeda. Instead of making this another “War in Iraq”– aka a war in/with another country– he’s making it very specifically against a group of people– terrorists. Obama is waging a war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda that just so happens to be taking place in Afghanistan.

Hope this helped clear up a little bit of the murkiness of Obama’s speech.

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