Wednesday, June 29

The Iraq Speech

With a speach dominated by references to 9/11, last night the President attempted valiantly to generate a rebound in his horribly flagging approval ratings (43% Approve, 53% Disapprove) , and at best achieved a mixed bag of results. He showed his resolve and commitment to continue the battle with the "terrorists" in Iraq. He was determined, but did he give the American people what they truly needed to hear?

Full Text of Speach
: The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror.

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To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

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The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.

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We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We're fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.

After September the 11th, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult -- and we are prevailing. Our enemies are brutal, but they are no match for the United States of America, and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military.
It's clear that his plummeting polls were the match that lit the fuse on this new public relations campaign by the President, while I'm sure he fervertly hope his most recent campaigns on Social Security aren't an indication of his eventual success.

Salon.com was quite skeptical on this point.

Bush needs those supporters back. Without them, his poll numbers make him look like some sort of disgraced lame duck, and Republicans like John McCain and Chuck Hagel and Lindsey Graham and Walter Jones feel not only free but maybe compelled to put some distance between themselves and the president. Bush doesn't need to get his approval ratings back to the stratospheric levels he enjoyed just after 9/11, but he's got to get them back to the 50-50 range that got him re-elected. The Bush team knows how to maneuver there: Claim a mandate, ram whatever you need through Congress, and marginalize anyone who dares to disagree. With a 53 percent disapproval rating, that dog won't hunt, at least not without a lot of gnats nipping at its knees
It appears though that the press responses to the speach were less than overjoyed - as ABCNews displayed.

President Bush was more frank about the problems we face in Iraq than he has been in the past.

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Key parts of his speech, however, were driven by spin, rather than a frank effort to warn the American people of the sacrifices necessary to win and the risks involved. The end result was to mislead in ways that could come back to haunt the administration and reduce longer-term public support.

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In short, this was not the honest speech that Americans needed to hear; it was dominated by efforts at spin control. It did not explain the sacrifices needed, or the risks to be faced. It provided a partial and largely misleading explanation for the U.S. role in Iraq, without mention of our moral and ethical obligation to the Iraqi people and the vital strategic interests involved. Instead of "blood, sweat, and tears," we got spin, risk avoidance, and promises without cost. Normal perhaps by today's political standards, but scarcely the kind of realism and leadership that will inspire the continuing American support that U.S. forces, Iraq, and our allies will need during the difficult and uncertain years to come.

For the most part, I agree that retreating from Iraq would be a disaster both for the future standing of America on international affairs, as well as a tragedy for the Iraqi people. They have indeed shown great courage and faith, and do deserve our support and protection until they can stand on their own. Success in Iraq would be an incredible blow to the jihadist cause, but accomplishing that goal will in all likelyhood take what some have said would be a "generational commitment" of a dozen years or more.

As I expected, President Bush once again repeated his stealth strategy - at least it was a stealth strategy when we began the war - that our goal is to turn Iraq into a deliberate "front line" of the war on terror. Terrorists have not yet attacked the U.S. mainland, they instead target our efforts and soldiers elsewhere. This essentially means that we are using our armed forces and the Iraqi people - as bait. Luring international jihadist into a giant mouse trap made of sand, powered by oil, sweat, muslcle and blood. I have agreed ever since I first noticed the President putting forth this view during the debates that there is at least some merit to this plan, however it's effectiveness has to be balanced against the fact that American began this war under false pretenses. False claims and a failure of integrity which is directly, in my view and echoed by others such as Michael Scheurer former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Desk, that have given the jihadist near inexhaustable recruitment fuel. Will we manage to kill or capture all of this key portions of the perpetual jihad engine that Iraq has become before we exhaust our treasury and destroy our economy? I often wonder.

At the same time the President claims that we are attempting to create a new Iraqi democracy, which will be a beacon of hope to the region. Freedom will spread like a wave from nation to nation. That would indeed be a glorious thing, but is it possible to accomplish this while simultaneously using the exact same nation as a jihad magnet? I think not. I think that peace and stability are not enhanced by endless chaotic guerilla warfare. It might be possible to accomplish one goal: crush the terrorists - or - bring peace and stabiilty to Iraq, but not both at the same time. Such a premise is simply not supported by a healthy review of the reality on the ground.

The true question which should have been asked and answered is: Can this American Administration - noting the repeated string of mistakes and blunders they have made so far, from mis-assessing Iraq's WMD (perhaps deliberately), to misjudging the intensity of the insurgency, failing to maintain basic services of electricity and water in the region, failing to properly plan for the occupancy and eventual withdrawal, mistreating Iraqi prisoners, and causing the unneccesary deaths of an inordinate amount of Iraqi civilians and international reporters - can President Bush effectively clean up the mess that he himself created?

Since the first step in fixing a mistake is recognizing that you've made a mistake, and facing up to the truth of that mistake, the answer to that question seems quite doubtful.

Vyan

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