Bush Pulls Out of Iraq


Troops still there.

George W. Bush’s unannounced, but not surprising, visit to Iraq on Labor Day was the kiss of death to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

If you’re Maliki, it’s one thing for Philip Zelikow to work behind the scenes to oust you; it’s another thing altogether to have the word get out that Bush took you aside and told you, “You’re my friend.”

That little tale with which Bush regaled the press corps afterwards should make Maliki even more popular with his countrymen.

As Beirut’s Daily Star opines this morning:

Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday, but neither he nor visitors from any other foreign capital can make up for weak leadership in Baghdad. Washington has expected too much of its Iraqi partners in many respects, but it has also tied their hands on many issues over which they should have been turned loose. Maliki needs more of this brand of American “support” like he needs a proverbial hole in the head.

The only way Maliki can survive is if he’s seen as strong, independent, decisive. A visit from Bush is not what he needs. U.S. papers fell right in line by treating this trip seriously. But as the Star notes:

[Maliki] can only improve his authority and legitimacy if his actions are manifestly aimed at dealing with realities on the ground in Iraq and the wider Middle East, not the ebbs and flows of America’s electoral comedies or the shortsighted tribalism that inspires some of his allies and their sponsors.

By the way, you see that Bush landed in Anbar province, not in Baghdad. Those days of of surprise visits to Baghdad are over. Too dangerous.

But meeting officials and troops 100 miles of Baghdad works just as well. Newspaper headlines are blaring, “Bush Hails Anbar Gains.”