Top Army General Ray Odierno: Jeb Bush Is Wrong About Iraq War

“I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration."

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said on Wednesday that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was wrong to blame the Obama administration for the current instability in Iraq.

Ahead of his official retirement on Friday, Odierno, the former highest-ranking officer in Iraq and one of the architects of the 2007 troop surge there, sought to set the record straight.

“I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration. That was always the plan, we had promised them that we would respect their sovereignty,” Odierno said during his final press conference at the Pentagon.

In a speech on Tuesday at the Reagan Library in California, Bush criticized President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he characterized as a premature decision to bring 90,000 troops home.

“So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?" Bush asked. "And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away."

Bush has been quick to blame the current situation in Iraq on the Obama administration as a way to deflect questions about the foreign policy record of his brother, former President George W. Bush. But according to both Odierno and a recent McClatchy article, the withdrawal timetable was in fact set long before Obama took office. In November 2008, both the U.S. and Iraq agreed that “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”

In his speech on Tuesday, Bush also faulted Obama for not pressing the Iraqi government hard enough to extend the presence of U.S. troops in the country. But as McClatchy noted, “the Obama administration was forced to fulfill the departure timetable when the Iraqi government refused to exempt American troops from Iraqi law.”

At a campaign event in Iowa on Thursday, Bush defended himself, accusing the Obama administration of attempting to rewrite history.
"Well look, this is the, this aggressive effort to rewrite history," Bush said. "It was clear on both sides in 2008, at the end of my brother’s term, that there was a need to renegotiate this agreement in 2011. I mean, to rewrite history now, I just think is completely improper, and it didn’t happen, and it could’ve happened for sure, it could’ve happened."
"I reject this out of hand, this whole idea that somehow after the surge, that they’re just doing it because the agreement required them to do it," he continued. "I mean, leadership requires you to create a strategy and then act on it. The United States of America can negotiate an agreement of this kind with Iraq. This is ridiculous to suggest it was too difficult to do."

This story has been updated to include Bush's comments on Thursday.

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