Fox News Uses Vice Interview To Revive Iraq War Falsehoods And Blame Obama For ISIS

Fox News figures criticized President Obama for telling Vice News that the terror group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) grew out of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and falsely suggested that Obama was responsible for withdrawing troops from the region prematurely. President George W. Bush signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraq government in 2008 to withdraw troops from Iraq, and the Iraqi government refused to sign a new agreement.

Fox Rewrites History With False Claim That Obama Opened The Door For ISIS By Withdrawing Troops From Iraq Too Early

Obama To Vice News: Islamic State Is “Direct Outgrowth” Of Iraq Invasion. In an interview with Vice News, Obama asserted that “ISIL is direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion which is an example of unintended consequences which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” [RealClearPolitics, 3/16/15]

Fox's Hemmer: Obama's Troop Withdrawal Created “Power Vacuum” for ISIS. On the March 17 edition of America's Newsroom, the show ran a clip of a July 2007 press conference in which President Bush warned that troop withdrawal “would mean we allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.” Host Bill Hemmer used the comments to claim that the former president “warned what would happen if the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq before the country was ready to defend itself.” Hemmer added that “many argue today and debate” that Obama's 2011 completion of the troop withdrawal “allowed for a power vacuum in the region and led to the creation and rise of ISIS.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/17/15]

Fox's Doocy: Bush Knew Iraq And The Region Would Fall Into Chaos If U.S. Troops Left. On the March 17 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said, “If you listen to George Bush back in 2007, he warned that if we pulled out too fast this was going to happen.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/17/15]

Fox's Hasselbeck Claims Bush Foreshadowed The Rise Of ISIS. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also claimed that Bush was “really foreshadowing what was to come if we got out of there [Iraq] before we needed to, before we should have” when the former president said withdrawing forces from Iraq would “allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/17/15]

But Bush Himself Signed A Status Of Forces Agreement In 2008 Calling For Troop Withdrawal

Time: “Iraq's Government, Not Obama, Called Time On U.S. Troop Presence.” An October 2011 Time article explained that U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was “an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending” the existing Status of Forces Agreement:

But ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it. While he was inclined to see a small number of American soldiers stay behind to continue mentoring Iraqi forces, the likes of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support Maliki's ruling coalition depends, were having none of it. Even the Obama Administration's plan to keep some 3,000 trainers behind failed because the Iraqis were unwilling to grant them the legal immunity from local prosecution that is common to SOF agreements in most countries where U.S. forces are based. [Time, 10/21/11]

ABC News: Obama Followed Bush's SOFA Agreement In Withdrawing Troops From Iraq. ABC News reported in October 2011 that the Obama administration was following Bush's agreement and that the US would still have a large presence in the country:

“This deal was cut by the Bush administration, the agreement was always that at end of the year we would leave, but the Iraqis wanted additional troops to stay,” an administration official said. “We said here are the conditions, including immunities. But the Iraqis because of a variety of reasons wanted the troops and didn't want to give immunity.”

Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters that the U.S. assessment determined that Iraqis were ready and they proved they could fully take over their security. The U.S. will have a robust diplomatic presence and continue to train Iraqi forces, he said, but it will be similar to what it has in other countries. [ABC News, 10/21/11]

Iraq War Likely Created Environment That Allowed ISIS To Grow

New York Times: “Political Changes After The American Invasion” Of Iraq “Accelerated” Rise Of Groups Like Islamic State. The New York Times outlined how the initial invasion of Iraq created conditions that allowed the Islamic State to grow. The terror group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, met many of his top deputies while in U.S. custody and built the group's leadership from former military officials who served under Saddam Hussein. The military experience of the Islamic State's leadership also helps explain the group's gains in Iraq:

At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein's long-disbanded army.

They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group's military council.

The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.


Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it was no surprise that so many officers from Mr. Hussein's era had joined ISIS. Discontent in the military was widespread near the end of his rule, and underground Islamist movements were gaining strength, even inside the military, he said.

Political changes after the American invasion accelerated their rise. Members of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party were barred from government positions, and the political dominance of Iraq's Shiite majority made many Sunnis feel disenfranchised.

“After 2003, what did these guys have to do but get more radical?” Mr. Knights said.

For those who had served in Mr. Hussein's staunchly secular army, that transformation was complete by the time they joined ISIS. “There is no one in Baghdadi's state who is not a believer,” Mr. Alhashimi said. [The New York Times, 8/27/14]