<DOC id="LTW_ENG_20081201.0001" type="story" >
Road Map in Iraq: When Mr. Obama Takes Office, a Sovereign Iraqi Government and a U.S. Withdrawal Timetable Will Be in Place
The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
Barack Obama recently reiterated his campaign promise to order up a
plan for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. But the Iraqi parliament
has beaten him to it. Its ratification Thursday of a new bilateral military
agreement with the United States not only establishes a timetable for the
redeployment of American troops but delimits the missions they can undertake
between now and the end of 2011. Mr. Obama has always said that his strategy
was aimed at forcing Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for their country
and its security. In adopting and ratifying the accord, the government and
parliament have taken a major step toward that goal.
By now Mr. Obama and most other opponents of the military surge launched
by President Bush nearly two years ago have acknowledged its success in
greatly reducing violence around Iraq. The completion of the Status of
Forces Agreement and the accompanying strategic partnership accord with the
United States shows how far the political system also has come. Two years
ago, Mr. Bush's national security adviser wrote a memo questioning whether
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was able or even willing to assert his
authority. But Mr. Maliki has been both skillful and forceful in extracting
concessions from the Bush administration -- such as the 2011 withdrawal date
-- and winning agreement from Sunni as well as Shiite and Kurdish
That those politicians were willing to publicly support three more years
of American troops in Iraq just weeks before a hotly contested provincial
election was another sign that the new democratic system is gaining its
footing. Legislators gave themselves an out by requiring a national
referendum next year that could allow Iraqi voters to advance the American
withdrawal date by a year. But that flinch is less significant than the
willingness of the government and parliament to stand up to pressure from
Iran, which lobbied heavily against the Iraqi-U.S. accord, as well as to the
domestic opposition of the Sadr movement.
The Bush administration worked patiently and tirelessly to negotiate the
new agreement, which will have the effect of removing Iraq from United
Nations supervision on Jan. 1. Having all but destroyed his presidency
through mismanagement of the war, Mr. Bush can now fairly argue as he leaves
office that his successor will inherit an Iraqi mission that has been
stabilized both militarily and politically. That's not the same thing as the
"victory" Mr. Bush has often spoken of; Iraq could still unravel if its
leaders or the Obama administration act unwisely. There is now, however, a
workable road map for winding down the U.S. troop presence in the country
and for consolidating the new political system. Mr. Obama will receive this
framework from the president and the Iraqi government he has spent the last
two years campaigning against. Though we don't expect him to say so, Mr.
Obama is fortunate that he was wrong, both about the surge and about the
capacity of Iraq's leaders.
<DOC id="LTW_ENG_20081201.0002" type="story" >
Preemptive Pardons: Mr. Bush Should Resist Any Temptation to Clear Officials Who Devised His Anti-Terrorism Strategy
The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
Some lawmakers and liberal interest groups have begun calling for
criminal investigations of Bush administration personnel who crafted or
implemented controversial anti-terrorism policies. As a result, President
Bush may be contemplating preemptive pardons, including those involving CIA
agents and others who carried out "extraordinary renditions" or "enhanced
interrogations." There are compelling reasons for the president not to go
down that road.
The Bush administration distorted statutes and case law to legally
justify interrogation techniques that had long been considered torture under
domestic and international law. It relied on sloppy or aggressive legal
analysis as a basis for evading judicial review of a warrantless wiretapping
program. It has at every turn chosen the most expansive interpretation of
the law to rationalize indefinite detentions and deny federal court review
to those in custody. It has, in short, determined its preferred course of
action first and then stitched together absurd readings of the law to defend
those choices.
The proper response to this will be for the next administration and
Congress to determine, and it won't be an easy call. We're mindful of the
dangers of excessive investigation. These decisions were made by an
administration on a war footing, in an effort to protect the country against
an unconventional enemy. In many cases Congress gave its active or tacit
consent. It could set a harmful precedent and possibly chill advice to
future presidents if people are subjected to criminal prosecution for
offering unwise counsel.
At the same time, no country should be in the business of concealing its
history. Shameful acts took place, and far from everything is known about
them. To this day, the trail of decision-making from top Pentagon officials
to Abu Ghraib perpetrators remains obscured. A bipartisan committee, modeled
after the Sept. 11 commission, might obtain definitive answers on how and
why anti-terrorism decisions were made and executed and by whom. Such an
inquiry could answer critical questions about the past, identify anyone who
should be held accountable and help future administrations find a better
The one sure thing is that a blanket pardon from Mr. Bush, even if he
has the legal right to issue one, would be wrong. It could make legitimate
inquiries more difficult, while inflaming partisan outrage and suspicion.
President-elect Barack Obama soon will inherit the power of the pardon. If
there are line officers who deserve such protection down the road, Mr. Obama
will have time enough to make a fair and just decision.