The PJ Tatler

State Department's Harf: The Iraqis Need to 'Pull Themselves Together'

Another classic from the “promise of hashtag” crowd.

During today’s State Department press briefing, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf addressed the unfolding crisis in Iraq.

That crisis has many sources, but its chief source is ISIL. ISIL has taken hold of a large swath of northern Iraq and is killing anyone and everyone who gets in their way, or who refuses to bow to their take on Islam. Currently ISIL has about 40,000 men, women and children holed up on top of a mountain, starving them to death.

A reporter asked if there is a “confrontation to stop” ISIL’s spread.

Harf: “It’s not just a humanitarian crisis. I mean, that’s certainly a key piece of particularly what we’ve seen over the last 48 hours, certainly. But there’s a huge security challenge – if you talk about the Mosul dam, if you talk about other places. ISIL is a threat not just because they kill innocent civilians because of their religion, but because they’re a huge security threat to the stability of certain parts of Iraq. And that’s why throughout this conflict you have seen us continue to ramp up our support and continue to look very urgently at other things we could do to help fight this threat, because at the end of the day we can help the Iraqis, but the Iraqis also have to stand up, they have to pull themselves together, with our help, because this is a threat that certainly they but no one else in the region wants to see grow any more.”

Pull themselves together…

Like a lovable rogue who drinks himself to sleep on your couch every once in a while. “Pull yourself together, dude, I have to get to work and I’m not leaving with you here to eat up all of my food.”

At the moment, there’s barely anything for Iraq to pull together. That country has sectarian differences that go back more than 1,000 years. The army that we trained, and left on its own prematurely because Obama put his political priorities ahead of geopolitical realities, melts away in the face of ISIL attacks.

Should the Iraqis ISIL has blown up and beheaded pull themselves together too?

We’re looking at genocide.

Pull yourselves together.

From there, the briefing descended into a debate on reality and whether Harf is or is not a capable spokesperson.

The reporter, unidentified in the transcript, asks. “I’m trying to understand – okay, I understand that you are understanding the threat. But the reality is changing. I mean, this is the thing that all reports are saying that borders are changing, people are displaced, churches are burned, whatever, houses are occupied. All these things are real or not real?”

Harf responds: “No, they’re real. But look, that’s not the reality we want to see. So where there are people displaced, we want to help the Iraqis so they can do things, so people can return to their homes. Now, this is a really tough fight. This is an incredibly tough challenge, in part because of the sheer brutality of ISIL that we’ve seen over the past several months. So we don’t want this to be the reality. That’s why we’re so engaged here and why we’re looking to do more.”

The obvious follow-up question: How much more? The reporter asks: “Are military escorts being considered?”

Harf: “Again, I’m not going to put any option on the table or take any off.”

To most people, that answer to that question means that military escorts are being considered. Harf didn’t take them off the table.

That’s what the reporter thinks, initiating this exchange.

Reporter: “So that means they are, then, and perhaps —

Harf: “That’s not at all what I said. You can misread my words” — there’s that legendary Obama administration snark — “but what I said is I’m not going to put any options on the table or take any off in any way, shape, or form. Again, we’re looking at a range of options, and if and when we make decisions I’m sure we’ll talk more about them.”

Reporter: ” If everything’s being included, that would include that –”

Harf: “I didn’t say everything’s being included. I said I am not publicly going to put any on the table or take any off. There’s a difference.”

As I was writing this, news broke that the Obama administration has started dropping humanitarian supplies, and it is also considering using airstrikes against ISIL. Reality has forced Obama to act, for once, or at least act like he is thinking about acting. His habit of denying reality and substituting his own has failed to get those stranded people off of that mountain.

So the military option that Harf didn’t want to talk about and huffily suggested was not on the table at all, surely was on the table. She just didn’t want anyone to see it.

So there you have it, or don’t. The State Department needs to pull its message together.