The Dubious Shock Over Samantha Power’s Comments on Iraq


In one of the many classic scenes from Casablanca, Captain Renault said, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” I recalled that line, and the questionable shock, when seeing all the uproar over Samantha Power’s comments on Iraq during a BBC interview (video above, transcript follows):

STEPHEN SACKUR: Let me stop you just for a moment. You said that he’ll revisit it when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months isn’t a commitment, isn’t it?

POWER: You can’t make a commitment in whatever month we’re in now, in March of 2008, about what circumstances are gonna be like in Jan. 2009. We can’t even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troop pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan, an operational plan that he pulls together, in consultation with people who are on the ground, to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.

So to think, I mean it would be the height of ideology, you know, to sort of say, “Well I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality entreats me” —

SACKUR: OK, so the 16 months is negotiable?

POWER: It’s a best case scenario.

SACKUR: It’s a best case scenario.

POWER: It is, on the basis —

SACKUR: And of course in Iraq we’ve never seen best cases come off —

POWER: We have never seen best cases.

SACKUR: So we needn’t necessarily take it seriously at all.

POWER: What we can take seriously is that he will try to get U.S. forces out as quickly and as responsibly as possible, and that that’s the best case estimate of what it would take.

Politically this was a mistake, but in reality nobody should have been shocked. Anyone who believes that the statements by any candidate with regards to exactly what they will do in Iraq can be taken as a firm prediction or guarantee are fooling themselves. Until someone is in office, sees the conditions on the ground, and sees the response to their negotiations, it is impossible to give an exact time table.

This is true of Obama, and it is true of Hillary Clinton. Recently General Jack Keane, who has advised Clinton, made a very similar statement:

“Senator Clinton is very knowledgeable about national security and is probably going to be strong on defense,” he said. “I have no doubts whatsoever that if she were president in January ’09 she would not act irresponsibly and issue orders to conduct an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, regardless of the consequences, and squander the gains that have been made.” Mr. Keane added that he could not imagine any president in the White House making that kind of decision.

The Obama campaign acted shocked and criticized Clinton for this comment, just as Clinton supporters are now acting shocked over the more recent comment by Samantha Power. While we cannot expect statements during a presidential race to be exact predictions of what will occur once a candidate is in office, we can safely predict that either campaign will jump on the opportunity to attack the other in situations such as this.

With regards to Iraq, my decision as to who to support is based upon their underlying foreign policy views and view of the Iraq war, not the specifics of their plans to leave. It is important that the candidate understand that our very presence causes problems, as compared to John McCain who sees no problem with an American presence for another one hundred years. Similarly it is important to have a president who is less likely to make the same mistake, such as by having understood from the start that the war was a mistake. Comparing Obama’s initial opposition to the war to Clinton’s support, as well as her citing the 9/11 attack as a justification for attacking Iraq, is far more important than how many months each candidate says it will take to leave Iraq.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. 1
    Wayne says:

    As an example of a candidate promising one thing, then delivering another, Hillary has to look no further than her own “extensive experience.” In 1992, Bill made “middle class income tax cut” the centerpiece of his economic policy, then followed through with some of the largest tax increases in history.

  2. 2
    USpace says:

    Firing Powers was a mistake, Obama has shown himself to be subservient to the PIAPS.
    Great post. Obama’s aide was right. Hillary is a monster. Of course not the same kind of monster as Hitler, Mao or Stalin, but a monster nonetheless.
    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    don’t call monsters monsters

    never expose their evil
    never upset a monster

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    claim to care for people

    call yourself progressive
    your policies hurt poor folk

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    elect women presidents

    who cover for their husbands
    who rape other women

    if you’re MAD
    punish your country
    VOTE for Hillary


    Go here and watch ‘The Hillary Show’ with Howard Dean. It’s Hillarious!


  3. 3
    Mike Butcher says:

    I for one am certainly not shocked that both Clinton and Obama are disingenuous when they say they will be withdrawing troops from Iraq. Both know there is no way we can leave. When Obama has been asked during interviews whether he plans to withdraw troops he always qualifies it with the something about reserving the right to change his mind once he is Commander in Chief. I haven’t personally heard Clinton say the same thing but have little doubt she hedges in a similar manner.

    That we shouldn’t have gone in the first place, I am willing to give you. The problem is now what should we do? McCain is the only one honest enough to say we aren’t leaving anytime soon. It is of paramount importance to have control over the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. This isn’t true just for the US, but for the entire world. If we were to lose access to the oil that comes from that area the cost of oil would be at least $180/barrel. Like it or not our culture and economy is currently dependent on oil. Any reasonable alternative is at least decades away from being realized on a large scale commercial basis.

    The Dems have been quick to call for us to leave, but Obama says he would have to go back in if the situation deteriorated into chaos and Clinton, courageous as she is at 3 am, wouldn’t even offer an answer due to too many hypotheticals when asked in the debate about it. What do you think is going to happen when we leave? You think the Sunni’s, Shia’s , and Kurds are going to have a love in? I am willing to admit that going there has unnecessarily destablized the area, but the problem is it is now unstable. Just as it was necessary for us to remain in Germany and Japan after WWII, and Korea after the Korean War, it will be necessary for us to have a presence in the Persian Gulf for the foreseeable future. Why do you think we are building a $600 million embassy there. We aren’t leaving and everybody knows it.

1 Trackbacks

Leave a comment