Here are a couple of articles that ought to be read together … one is today’s Dan Froomkin, who gives us an exit strategy roundup.
President Bush does have a plan for withdrawing troops in Iraq — and pretty much everyone agrees with it, the White House insisted yesterday.
It’s just that they won’t say exactly what that plan is.
The White House’s latest positioning on this issue came in response to an op-ed in The Washington Post on Saturday by Sen. Joseph R. Biden , the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, headlined “Time for An Iraq Timetable.” …
Biden still blows, btw.
The White House’s new rapid-response team quickly fired out a press release in which Scott McClellan asserted that “There is a strong consensus building in Washington in favor of President Bush’s strategy for victory in Iraq.”
In fact, McClellan insisted that Biden had just “described a plan remarkably similar to the Administration’s plan to fight and win the war on terror.”
But the White House press release neglected to even address Biden’s central point about timetables and provided no new details, not to mention a blueprint. Up until now, the president hasn’t done much more than repeat: ” As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down .”
Froomkin describes exit-plan noises coming from the State Department and the Pentagon, all of which amount to turning domestic security over to Iraqis, one way or another, in order to reduce troop levels to under 100,000 in time for the November 2006 mid-term elections. One plan involves switching to an air war, for example.
At the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh also discusses the air war plan. But this is the part I found most riveting (see especially the last paragraph):
Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.
Bushâ€™s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bushâ€™s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the Presidentâ€™s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that â€œGod put me hereâ€ to deal with the war on terror. The Presidentâ€™s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that â€œheâ€™s the man,â€ the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reÃ«lection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.
The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: â€œI said to the President, â€˜Weâ€™re not winning the war.â€™ And he asked, â€˜Are we losing?â€™ I said, â€˜Not yet.â€™ â€ The President, he said, â€œappeared displeasedâ€ with that answer.
â€œI tried to tell him,â€ the former senior official said. â€œAnd he couldnâ€™t hear it.â€ …
… Speaking at the Osan Air Force base, in South Korea, two days after Murthaâ€™s speech, Bush said, â€œThe terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. . . . If theyâ€™re not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. Iâ€™m going to make you this commitment: this is not going to happen on my watch.â€
â€œThe President is more determined than ever to stay the course,â€ the former defense official said. â€œHe doesnâ€™t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage â€˜People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.â€™ â€ He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. â€œThey keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,â€ the former defense official said. Bushâ€™s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. â€œJohnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,â€ the former official said, â€œbut Bush has no idea.â€
Cheney and Bush both are living in their own fantasy lands. No good will come from this. I trimmed a lot of really juicy stuff from the Hersh article, btw, so be sure to read the whole thing.
This Wednesday Bush is scheduled to give the first of a series of speeches on Iraq in an attempt to re-market the war to the public. I’m curious if he will be able to change his language and offer something tangible, as opposed to the empty rhetoric of “victory” and “resolve.” If Bush can’t adjust his act now, he never will.