Facts On Vets for Freedom Smear Ad

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The Vets for Freedom has status as a non-profit but I have pointed out earlier today that its status is at least questionable. It is mainly involved in a partisan effort to crush Barack Obama. Here is the campaign’s response to the Vets for Freedom onslought.

Fact Check on Vets for Freedom Ad

May 28, 2008


Top McCain Officials Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman Were on the Board of Vets For Freedom, In Violation of McCain Campaign Policy. “Two of Sen. John McCain’s top campaign chairmen were until recently serving on the board of an independent organization that is behind a new attack ad against Sen. Barack Obama, an apparent violation of the Arizona Republican’s new conflict of interest policy.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham both hold chairs for the McCain camp as well as positions on the board of advisers of Vets for Freedom, an advocacy group that supports the Iraq war. A week ago these titles may not have been a political issue. But under McCain’s newly-implemented ethics policy, Lieberman and Graham’s role with Vets for Freedom is now proving problematic. According to the policy: ‘No person with a McCain Campaign title or position may participate in a 527 or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate.'” [Huffington Post, 5/23/08]

McCain Advisors Also Linked to Vets For Freedom. McCain’s foreign policy adviser Max Boot also sits on the group’s board. Captain Wade Zirkle, who is a member of McCain’s Virginia Leadership Team, is listed on McCain’s website as both a member of the leadership team and Founder of Vets for Freedom. [Huffington Post, 5/23/08; http://www.exploremccain.com/Informing/News/PressReleases/4b329cfe-d02d-4ed1-91d6-9a0315c0dbbf.htm]

SCRIPT: “The last time Barack Obama visited Iraq was in January 2006. Since then, much has changed. Attacks throughout Iraq are down 70 percent.”

REALITY: Violence In Iraq Is Still At Unacceptably High Levels

2007 Was The Deadliest Yet For American Troops In Iraq. 901 Americans were killed in Iraq in 2007, the most of any year of the war. [Iraq Coalition Casualty Count]

National Intelligence Estimate: “The Level Of Overall Violence, Including Attacks On And Casualties Among Civilians, Remains High.” “The level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.” [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

While Violence Has Dropped From Its Peak, The 2008 Level Is Still Unacceptable And Because Of Intra-Shi’a Violence Has Risen To Its Highest Level Since August 2007.

According to the Department of Defense, attacks have risen over the past few months, returning to mid-2005 levels of roughly 500 attacks per week. Meanwhile, according to Iraq’s interior, defense and health ministries, 923 civilians were killed in March 2008, making it the most violent month since August 2007. [(PDF)DOD, 3/7/08; Reuters, 4/1/08]

Civilian Casualties Appear To Be Well Over 200,000 – Roughly One Percent Of Iraq’s Population.

The World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that 150,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between April 2003 and the summer of 2006. Trend lines from other data suggest that today’s casualty figure is well over 200,000 people and more than one percent of Iraq’s total pre-war population. [New England Journal of Medicine, 1/31/08; Financial Times, 1/10/08; (PDF)Brookings Institution, 4/21/08]

SCRIPT: “The civil war in Iraq, over.”

REALITY: Civil War Is Not Over In Iraq

National Intelligence Estimate: Iraq Is Still Mired In Multiple Civil Wars.

“Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shi’a insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence.” [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

National Intelligence Estimate: The Shi’a Are Fighting Amongst Each Other In The South.

“Intra-Shi’a conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the drawdown of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.” [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

SCRIPT: “The Iraqi government has come together to make political progress.”

REALITY: There Has Been Little Political Progress In Iraq

CAP: There Has Been Little Substantive Political Progress in Iraq.

“Iraq’s political transition remains stuck where it was in 2005, with no real advances on constitutional reform and worrisome unanswered questions on the implementation of three recently passed laws. The laws cited by supporters of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely as remarkable legislative achievements—de-Baathification reform, a provincial powers law, and an amnesty law for detainees—do not by themselves represent a major step forward. As we know from the experience of our own country, the passage of legislation does not guarantee implementation.” [Center for American Progress, 4/08]

Provincial Elections Remain Mired in “Squabbling” In The Iraqi Parliament, Which Keeps Power From Being Shared More Equally.

“Iraqi politicians squabbled Monday over a provincial elections law and warned that differences over the bill are likely to delay for at least a month the crucial vote planned for this fall that could rearrange Iraq’s political map. The elections, which choose councils for Iraq’s 18 provinces, are seen as a key step in repairing the country’s sectarian rifts, particularly by opening the door for greater Sunni Arab political representation…The vote, which is supposed to be held by Oct. 1, could also shift the balance of power among Shiite factions. Followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are hoping to make large gains in southern provinces, where many of the councils are dominated by rival Shiite parties in the ruling government coalition. A delay in passing the law would mark a setback for U.S. efforts to get Iraqi politicians to overcome differences and hold the election… Iraq’s Independent Election Commission has said the law must be passed by June 1 for it to have time to organize the vote before the Oct. 1 deadline. A delay will mean parliament will have to pass a separate law pushing back the election to November or December. ‘We were promised that the law would finish on April 15, and that didn’t happen, then promised May 15, and that didn’t happen. Now we’re promised June 1. This is an embarrassing delay, and we hope it will be passed this week,’ said Qassim al-Aboudi, the commission’s executive director.” [AP, 5/27/08]

Baghdad Is Getting Only 9.7 Hours Of Electricity Per Day – A Fraction Of What It Was Getting Before The War.

Without a steady supply of power businesses have suffered. The original goal was to increase nationwide electrical output to 6,000 megawatts per day by mid-2004. Instead electricity is currently at 4,100. “Last July and August, massive blackouts stretched across parts of Baghdad. This summer could be worse because drought has cut in half power generated by hydroelectric plants. Add war, attacks on transmission lines, antiquated equipment, overdue maintenance and local corruption or bureaucracy and reliable electricity remains out of reach for most Iraqis.” [Brookings Institution, 4/21/08; USA Today, 4/27/08]

Iraq Is Experiencing A Windfall In Oil Revenue, But Iraq’s Leaders Fail To Spend On Reconstruction.

Special Inspector General for Iraq Stuart Bowen estimated that Iraqi oil revenues for 2007 would likely rise to about $60 billion, yet the Iraqi government has failed to draw on these soaring revenues for reconstruction. Meanwhile, the United States spent $8.6 billion on Iraq’s reconstruction in 2007. [AP, 3/11/08; NY Times, 1/16/08; (PDF)Congressional Research Service, 11/07/07]

NIE: The Iraqi Government Is Going In The Wrong Direction, But There Is No Viable Alternative To Prime Minister Maliki.

The IC assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shi’a coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shi’a factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki. The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decision-making, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions. We judge that Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shi’a leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government. [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

NIE: The Current Course Is Unlikely To Lead To Major Changes In Either The Political Or Security Situation.

“Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.” [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

NIE: Sunnis Are Incapable Of Delivering On National Reconciliation.

The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements. [(PDF)National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07]

Kurdish Actions May Make Agreement On An Oil Law Impossible, And The Administration Cannot Agree On Its Response.

The Kurdish Regional Government has signed a flurry of oil contracts without consulting Baghdad, and Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani has responded by stating that, “[A]ny company that has signed contracts without the approval of the federal authority of Iraq will not have any chance of working with the government of Iraq.” The Kurdish Oil Minister retorted, “We don’t need his approval… Every time we hear the word ‘illegal,’ we sign two more contracts.” But among those signing oil contracts in Kurdistan, against the expressed wishes of the State Department, were Bush advisor Ray L. Hunt. [AFP, 11/15/07; Washington Post, 11/28/07]

The Constitutional Review Has Been Delayed For The Fourth Time And Is Now Running A Year Behind Schedule.

“Another major issue, the rewriting of Iraq’s constitution, is also unlikely to be completed by a Dec. 31 deadline. The head of the parliament’s constitutional review committee said yesterday he would request a three-month delay – the fourth time the target date for revision of the document, approved in a referendum in 2005, has been deferred as lawmakers haggle over such issues as provincial powers and religious and cultural freedoms. The constitutional revision delay could hinder progress on other issues the United States has cited as keys to Iraqi national reconciliation. Those include legislation to manage Iraq’s oil industry and scheduling of provincial elections to ensure better distribution of power among Shia Muslims and Sunnis. Both these are tied to constitutional revisions that would spell out the powers of regional governments and establish power of provinces to manage their own affairs.” [LA Times, 12/27/07]

SCRIPT: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated. And the Iraqi army is taking on rogue militias throughout the country.”

REALITY: Al Qaeda In Iraq Is Still A Tremendous Threat To American Forces

Annual Threat Assessment: Al Qaeda In Iraq “Probably Will Continue To Devote Some Effort Towards Honoring Bin Ladin’s Request In 2005 That AQI Attempt To Strike The United States.”

“Although the ongoing conflict in Iraq will likely absorb most of AQI’s resources over the next year, AQI has leveraged its broad external networks—including some reaching into Europe—in support of external operations. It probably will continue to devote some effort towards honoring Bin Ladin’s request in 2005 that AQI attempt to strike the United States, affirmed publicly by current AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri in a November 2006 threat against the White House.” [Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Armed Services Committee,(PDF) 2/27/08]

Annual Threat Assessment: Al Qaeda In Iraq Capable of “Spectacular Attacks,” Remains “The Most Active And Capable Of The Sunni Extremist Groups Fighting Coalition And Iraqi Government Forces In Iraq.”

“AQI remains capable of conducting destabilizing operations and spectacular attacks despite disruptions of its networks. AQI remains a potent force and the most active and capable of the Sunni extremist groups fighting Coalition and Iraqi Government forces in Iraq.” [Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Armed Services Committee,(PDF) 2/27/08]

SCRIPT: “The surge worked. But Barack Obama wouldn’t know that. Because he hasn’t been there in over two years. Senator Obama, when will you go back to Iraq to see the progress firsthand.”

REALITY: Obama Has Said That While The Surge Could Help To Reduce Violence In Iraq, But Did Not Change The Political Dynamic In Iraq

Obama: Since the Surge “The Level Of Violence In Iraq Has Been Reduced…[Yet] The Iraqis Are Not Achieving The Political Progress Needed To End Their Civil War.”

Obama said in a speech, “In the year since President Bush announced the surge – the bloodiest year of the war for America – the level of violence in Iraq has been reduced. Our troops – including so many from Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base – have done a brilliant job under difficult circumstances. Yet while we have a General who has used improved tactics to reduce violence, we still have the wrong strategy. As General Petraeus has himself acknowledged, the Iraqis are not achieving the political progress needed to end their civil war. Beyond Iraq, our military is badly overstretched, and we have neither the strategy nor resources to deal with nearly every other national security challenge we face.” [Obama Speech, 3/19/08]

Obama: “The Stated Purpose Of The Surge Was To Enable Iraq’s Leaders To Reconcile…Violence Is Contained In Some Parts Of Baghdad. That’s No Surprise. Our Troops Have Cleared These Neighborhoods At Great Costs.”

Obama said in a speech, “The stated purpose of the surge was to enable Iraq’s leaders to reconcile. But as the recent report from the Government Accountability Office confirms, the Iraqis are not reconciling. Our troops fight and die in the 120 degree heat to give Iraq’s leaders space to agree, but they aren’t filling it. They are not moving beyond their centuries-old sectarian conflicts, they are falling further back into them. We hear a lot about how violence is down in parts of Anbar province. But this has little to do with the surge – it’s because Sunni tribal leaders made a political decision to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq. This only underscores the point – the solution in Iraq is political, it is not military. Violence is contained in some parts of Baghdad. That’s no surprise. Our troops have cleared these neighborhoods at great costs. But our troops cannot police Baghdad indefinitely – only Iraqis can. Rather than use our presence to make progress, the Iraqi government has put off taking responsibility – that’s the finding of a Commission headed by General Jim Jones. And our troop presence cannot be sustained without crippling our military’s ability to respond to other contingencies.” [Obama Speech, 9/12/07]

Obama Said That The Surge Was A “Tactical Victory Imposed Upon A Huge Strategic Blunder,” Said It Was a “Credit to Our Brave Men and Women in Uniform.”

Campbell Brown asked, “Senator Obama, in the same vein, you were also opposed to the surge from the beginning. Were you wrong?” Obama said, “Well, I think it is indisputable that we’ve seen violence reduced in Iraq. And that’s a credit to our brave men and women in uniform. In fact, you know, the 1st Cavalry, out of Fort Hood, played an enormous role in pushing back Al Qaida out of Baghdad. And, you know, we honor their service. But this is a tactical victory imposed upon a huge strategic blunder. And I think that, when we’re having a debate with John McCain, it is going to be much easier for the candidate who was opposed to the concept of invading Iraq in the first place to have a debate about the wisdom of that decision than having to argue about the tactics subsequent to the decision. [Debate, 2/21/08]

SCRIPT: “And when will you finally decide to meet one on one, unconditionally, with General Petraeus. This Iraqi veteran, along with thousands of others, would like to know. I am specialist Kate Norley and I served 16 months in Iraq as a combat medic.”

REALITY: Obama Has Questioned Petraeus On Iraq, Praised Petraeus

Obama Has Questioned Petraeus Twice; Obama Praised Petraeus For “Playing A Bad Hand As Well As He Can.”

Obama questioned Petraeus in September of 2007 and April of 2008 on Iraq. Obama said, “I probably, if they had asked me, would have suggested we focus attention on George Bush the commander-in-chief. My assessment is General Petraeus is playing a bad hand, as well as he can. The General came out with a reasonable plan given the constraints. I would give him a different mission, which is let’s begin getting our troops out of Iraq.” [Hearing, 9/11/07; Hearing, 4/8/08; NBC Nightly News, 9/18/07]

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