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Mattis Scorches Biden

Joe Biden Iraq
No one should ever mistake General and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis for a movement conservative. General Mattis was and is a member of the military establishment and rose to four-star rank during the Obama era, and the doughty old warrior’s reputation for truth-telling and integrity were probably why he was unceremoniously fired by Obama.

In an NPR interview pitching his new book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, Mattis appeared to take direct aim at the mentality displayed by Biden in Iraq: "You may want a war over. You may declare it over. You may even try to walk away from it. But the bottom line is the enemy gets a vote, as we say in the military."

As vice president, Biden was tasked by President Barack Obama with overseeing Iraq policy. In his new book, Mattis argues that Biden was "indifferent" to the consequences of complete withdrawal - consequences that included "tens of thousands of casualties, plus untold misery for millions of innocents," as well as the kidnapping and beheading of westerners, and horrific terrorist attacks across the world.

"He wanted our forces out of Iraq," Mattis wrote. “Whatever path led there fastest, he favored. He exuded the confidence of a man whose mind was made up, perhaps even indifferent to considering the consequences were he judging the situation incorrectly."

Mattis all but accuses Biden, the 2020 Democratic front-runner, of fueling the rise of ISIS by insisting on the total withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The U.S. pulled out its forces from Iraq in 2011, despite warnings from Mattis that this would be folly. At the time, Mattis was head of Central Command, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama sent forces back to Iraq in 2014 after the Islamic State seized parts of the country.

"All this was predicted — and preventable," Mattis writes in his book, which went on sale yesterday.

According to transcripts reported by Caitlin Yilek of the Washington Examiner, Mattis writes extensively in his new book about Biden's role in creating the conditions for the rise of ISIS.

In a chapter entitled "Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory," Mattis explains about how he wanted the U.S. to keep at least a small force in Iraq rather than pull out completely but "beginning with President Bush and continuing through the Obama administration, the White House was set on a total troop withdrawal, for political reasons. I argued strongly that any vacuum left in our wake would be filled by Sunni terrorists and Iran."

By 2010 the U.S.-led coalition had “at last succeeded in establishing a fragile stability” in Iraq, largely as a result of former President George W. Bush's troop surge of 2007. The Obama administration was dealing with Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who had built close ties with Iran during his years opposing Saddam Hussein, who presided over a Sunni-dominated Iraq.

During a Biden visit to Iraq in August 2010, when he formally ended the U.S. combat mission in the country, General Mattis claims he strenuously disagreed with the Obama administration's assessment of Maliki, telling Biden: "Prime Minister Maliki is highly untrustworthy, Mr. Vice President. He’s devious when he talks to us.”

Mattis continued: “He looks at our ambassadors and military advisers as impediments to his anti-Sunni agenda. He wants to purge or marginalize Sunnis and Kurds from the government.” Mattis said Sunni leaders across the region had warned against continued U.S. backing of Maliki.

By his account, Mattis told Biden that withdrawing U.S. troops prematurely would be akin to suddenly pulling the training wheels off a bicycle. “We should slowly inch the wheels up, allowing the Iraqis to wobble but not crash as they slowly pedaled down the path to self-sufficiency,” he said. “If we pulled out too early, I noted, we would have to bring our troops back in.”

The general’s assessment was ignored by Biden. The vice president, Mattis argues, was not listening to the counsel of a 40-year Marine who had long experience of war, terrorism, and insurgencies, and knew the cost of politics taking precedence over strategic thinking.

“Vice President Biden and his assistants listened politely," he writes. "But as we spoke, I sensed I was making no headway in convincing the administration officials not to support Maliki. It was like talking to people who lived in wooden houses but saw no need for a fire department."

What Mattis warned of largely came to pass. Maliki, no longer constrained by the U.S., pushed a sectarian Shiite agenda and cracked down brutally on Sunnis, who made up 15-20% of the country and were often among the most educated and skilled. “Iraq slipped back into escalating violence. It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion,” Mattis wrote according to Ms. Yilek.

A Sunni revolt against the Maliki government and an ineffective Iraqi Army created a vacuum that allowed Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had largely been defeated, to reconstitute in 2014, morphing into Islamic State, or ISIS.

“It would take many years and tens of thousands of casualties, plus untold misery for millions of innocents, to break ISIS’s geographic hold,” Mattis wrote. “All of this was predicted — and preventable.”

On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden has been highlighting his role in Iraq, while neglecting to mention the rise of ISIS which, by the account of Mattis, was a direct result of his mishandling of how to deal with Maliki. “I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq — my son was one of them,” he said on the Democratic debate stage in June, conveniently leaving out what happened next.

General Mattis’s criticism of Joe Biden is particularly interesting when contrasted to the criticism of Biden by his opponents in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. Almost all of them have criticized Biden for voting in favor of the Iraq War, but none of them have criticized him for his role in its disastrous aftermath, suggesting that they, like Biden, are indifferent to the consequences of the decisions he and Obama made.

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