"The fact that the mainstream media is silent about this, while mud is thrown instead at Taheri, indicates once again the frightening hold gained by the quasi-religious cult of Obamania over our public discourse"
Dirty politics from Camp Obama
Thursday, 25th September 2008
Earlier this week, I wrote about the dirty tricks campaign against journalist Amir Taheri following his revelation that, in a private meeting in Iraq last July with Iraqi leaders, Barack Obama tried to persuade them to delay the agreement being hammered out with the US government on a draw-down of the American military presence. According to this account, which quoted Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshya Zebari (pictured), Obama had thus privately sought to undermine an American government foreign policy initiative – an explosive revelation. Taheri subsequently dismissed as tendentious Camp Obama’s response which he said deliberately confused two separate agreements under discussion; and he also revealed that, following publication of his story in the New York Post, he had been subjected to death threats, menacing calls about his tax status and passport, and a cyber-attack which disabled two of his email accounts.
Then Camp Obama tried another tactic. It told Jake Tapper of ABC News that Obama’s July meeting in Iraq
was also attended by Bush administration officials, such as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the Baghdad embassy’s legislative affairs advisor Rich Haughton, as well as a Republican senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Those who attended this meeting said Taheri’s story was
Obama stressed to al Maliki that he would not interfere with President Bush's negotiations concerning the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and that he supports the Bush administration's position on the need to negotiate, as soon as possible, the Status of Forces Agreement, which deals with, among other matters, U.S. troops having immunity from local prosecution.
And so, Tapper thundered:
What actually demands an explanation is why the McCain campaign was so willing to give credence to such a questionable story with such tremendous international implications without first talking to Republicans present at Obama’s meeting with al-Maliki, who back Obama’s version of the meeting and completely dismiss the Post column as untrue.
Actually, it is Tapper and Camp Obama from whom explanation should be demanded. Sharp-eyed readers will already have spotted the flaw in their response. Taheri’s story referred to a ‘private’ meeting. Tapper’s story – and Camp Obama’s response quoting all those people who were reportedly also present – refers to an entirely different meeting.
Taheri wrote his report having spoken to a number of people in Iraq following Obama’s July visit. He has told me that Obama made these comments at a meeting in Baghdad with Foreign Minister Zebari before the meeting with al Maliki and the cast of thousands referred to in Tapper’s article. Dismayed by what he knew Obama had said to Zebari, Maliki actually tried to pre-empt Obama from saying the same thing to him – which would have put him in a difficult position by undermining his negotiations with the US government -- by getting his press spokesman to describe the forthcoming meeting with the US senators, in which Obama was pointedly not singled out, as a courtesy call where no substantive political matters would be discussed. In other words, alert to the political damage Obama might do to the negotiations with the US, Maliki tried to shut him up.
What is really extraordinary about this whole affair is that, in any event, Obama had said the same thing to Zebari the previous month on the Foreign Minister’s trip to the US. This had even been reported in the US media. On 16 June, the New York Times reported, after Obama’s conversation with Zebari in the US:
While the Bush administration would like to see an agreement reached before the summer political conventions, Mr. Obama said today he opposed such a timetable. ‘My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some way might be binding on the next administration, whether it's my administration or Senator McCain's administration,’ Mr. Obama said.
On July 3, the New York Times reported these remarks by Zebari at a press conference in Baghdad:
Mr. Zebari said that on his recent trip to the United States, in addition to President Bush, he met with the presumptive presidential nominees, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, and Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat. He said that Mr. Obama asked him: ‘Why is the Iraqi government in a rush, in a hurry? This administration has only a few months in office.’ Mr. Zebari said he told Obama that even a Democratic administration would be better off having something concrete in front of them to take a hard look at.
Yet even while it was reporting what Obama had said, the US media had not seen fit to question the fact that Obama was trying to undermine US negotiations with Iraq. The implications went totally unremarked – until Taheri, who was previously unaware of these NYT reports, obtained his scoop from Baghdad.
In his latest put-down (not yet published) of the mounting attacks on the integrity of his reporting, Taheri sums up the nub of this whole affair:
1. The Bush administration is negotiating an ensemble of agreements regarding the status of US troops, the timetable for their withdrawal, and the future strategic cooperation between the two nations.
2. Senator Obama opposes these negotiations and urges an alternative set of talks in which the Congress is involved. (That would be a novel way of doing business in a system based on separation of powers.) He then tells the Iraqi Foreign Minister in private that his government had better postpone the agreements until there is a new administration in Washington.
3. The Iraqis are bewildered. They wonder whether there are two governments in the US at the same time. They also wonder what is the use of reaching an agreement that the next man in the White House could scrap in a few months' time. The negotiating process is slowed down and the prospect of an agreement, and thus a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, postponed for at least another year.
4. Although we are all fond of television-style courtroom dramas, the issue here is not who said what to whom and where and when. The issue is that Obama intervened in a process of negotiations between his government and a foreign power. He admits it himself as do all media accounts of the episode, although Senator Hagel, more royalist that the king, does not. My article was not a news story. It was an op-ed. The opinion I wanted to express was simple: no one would trust the United States if the leader of its opposition rejected agreements negotiated by its government in advance and without knowing what they looked like. The issue is that Obama has done, and admits that he has done, something that he should not have done: trying to second-guess an incumbent president.
The fact that the mainstream media is silent about this, while mud is thrown instead at Taheri, indicates once again the frightening hold gained by the quasi-religious cult of Obamania over our public discourse.