Top Republican officials are charging President Obama with giving a revisionist account of his actions regarding the Iraq war “surge” in the hours before the president is scheduled to give a major address on the subject.
The GOP’s attacks focus on what Obama’s position was on a significant increase in troop levels in Iraq in 2007, which Republicans say decreased violence in Iraq such that Obama has been able to draw down troop levels there.
Obama is expected to announce the end to combat operations in Iraq in his speech tonight. There are still approximately 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, a significant drawdown from when Obama assumed office.
The debate Tuesday focused on whether the “surge” was responsible for the relative success in Iraq and Obama’s opposition to the troop increase at the time.
In 2007, then-Sen. Obama opposed the surge, saying, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”
This morning, Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly claimed Obama had “always believed” the surge would improve security in Iraq.
“I think the President has always stated and always believed that … adding 30,000 troops into Iraq would improve the security. But obviously the leaders in Iraq had to make some political accommodation to move that country forward,” Gibbs said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I don’t think there’s any doubt, as candidate Obama said, that adding 20,000 men and women into Iraq would improve the security situation,” Gibbs said on Fox News.
“Excuse me, back in 2007 he said he was against the surge,” said host Gretchen Carlson.
“No, he said he was against the surge. He said there was no doubt that adding 20,000 men and women would improve the security situation, but as we know, our efforts in Iraq weren’t going to be done simply militarily. There had to be a political accommodation,” said Gibbs.
Republicans blasted the apparent contradiction, with a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader John Boehner calling it “re-writing history.”
Separately, Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked Obama in speeches they delivered in Wisconsin and Kentucky, respectively.
One of the “biggest critics” of the surge “was the current President,” McConnell said, according to his prepared remarks. “One of his colleagues said the war was already a lost cause, implying, of course, that any further efforts on the part of our troops would be in vain.”
Boehner, in his speech, highlighted several instances of Democratic and liberal opposition to the surge, including Obama’s remark that it would likely increase sectarian violence and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s claim that “the war is lost.”
“These are sad facts,” Boehner said. “Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results.”