Among the reasons to re-elect President Obama repeated by speakers at the first night of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte was that Obama “ended the war in Iraq.” Some speakers tacked “ending the war in Afghanistan” onto that as well, though that claim wasn’t made as universally.
President Obama, of course, is not ending the war in Afghanistan. One of his first decisions about Afghanistan was to authorize a troop surge. Additional U.S. troops helped secure portions of the country, but there was no parallel political process to take advantage of the troop surge and U.S. troops are scheduled to remain in Afghanistan through at least 2024.
But what about the Iraq war? Does Barack Obama deserve the credit for ending a war he opposed from the outset, when he was a state senator?
The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011, while Barack Obama was president, but the “status of forces agreement” that governed the departure of U.S. troops was actually negotiated between Iraqi and U.S. officials in late 2008, under the auspices of President George W. Bush. In fact, none other than the Huffington Post actually pointed out that as president, Obama was actually interested in keeping troops in Iraq past the agreed-upon 2011 deadline, explaining that “the president ultimately had no choice but to stick to candidate Obama's plan -- thanks, of all things, to an agreement signed by George W. Bush.” Just six months before the Bush deadline, Obama tried to foist 10,000 U.S. troops on the Iraqis past 2011.
Warmongering Republicans, of course, blast the president for ending the war in Iraq and ignore that it was a departure set in motion by the Bush Administration—during the Republican presidential primaries only Ron Paul and Gary Johnson declined to pillory the president’s announcement of a withdrawal. In that way, by divorcing the withdrawal from the Republican president who negotiated it, Republicans help Obama reinforce the myth that he actually ended the war in Iraq and get to call themselves more pro-war than the president, a win for both sides if not for the truth itself.