What I would have asked the president
Just back from the White House press conference with Nouri Al-Maliki and I'm struck by a couple of things: It was the Iraqi prime minister's first ever visit to the White House and yet the White House allowed just two questions from the American and Iraqi press. So many issues remained unaddressed. It would seem to me that the president would want a fuller airing of his views on a subject severely undermining his political status at home and U.S. policy abroad.
Here's what I would have asked: "Mr. President, you argued before the war that invading Iraq would bring stability to a vital region of the world and would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. Yet today, sectarian violence in Iraq is killing 100 civilians a day in Baghdad; Democratic reform has produced Hamas and Hezbollah; U.S. policy has also created a defiant, resurgent Iran. Do you acknowledge fundamental misjudgments about the war and what do you do about them now?"
I sure would like to know the answer to that question.
The second thing I noticed was how subdued the president was. He did some cheerleading for Maliki and again promised U.S. support. But in tone, body language and actual language he made clear things are going poorly. He said that the U.S. must be nimble enough to respond to changes on the ground. What came through to me was frustration.
And how about Maliki's ability to dodge questions? He was asked his position on Hezbollah and flatly ignored it. He condemned Israel's bombardment of Lebanon, but never questioned Hezbollah. I wanted to ask him whether he thinks Israel has a right to exist.
Too bad they didn't think it was worth taking more questions.
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