Yesterday we looked at two opposing predictions. Fred Kaplan predicted that in today’s speech President Bush would at least move in the direction of a withdrawal timetable for Iraq, if not announce a timetable. And that was a smart prediction, for myriad reasons that Kaplan presented. It’s the smart move to make politically, and in the long run would prove to be the smart move to make strategically.
But Kaplan was wrong about Bush. The one who called it right was Seymour Hersh, who said on Hardball last night (transcript not yet available) that Bush believes God told him to invade Iraq, and he’s not going to leave until he has something that looks like a victory. He is still unclear about what that something will be, although he did acknowledge that it won’t look like the end of World War II, with a surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.
Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible. And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. In World War II, victory came when the Empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri. In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.
Bush made statements in the speech today that seem to rule out significant withdrawal of U.S. troops while there is still violence in Iraq, no matter how capable the Iraqi defense force might be. Example: “To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.”
It is true that most of today’s speech was given over to Bush’s assessment that the Iraqi security forces are much better than they were last year, and he says U.S. troops will be withdrawn as the Iraqis become better able to fight on their own.
As we make progress toward victory, Iraqis will take more responsibility for their security, and fewer U.S. forces will be needed to complete the mission. America will not abandon Iraq. We will not turn that country over to the terrorists and put the American people at risk. Iraq will be a free nation and a strong ally in the Middle East — and this will add to the security of the American people.
There needed to be a “but” or “however” or something after “complete the mission,” but let’s go on … he is giving himself some wiggle room for a partial withdrawal, but he’s not leaving himself any room to make substantial reductions in troop strength as long as there is an active al Qaeda (or similar) presence in Iraq.
And he’s still claiming that, somehow, the war in Iraq is going to prevent another September 11.
The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.
This is an enemy without conscience — and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
To keep terrorists from our shores it would have been cheaper and easier, and about as effective, to just hand out lots of rabbits’ feet. See Peter Daou for the antidote to “we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here” and “cutting and runnng sends the wrong message,” two points Bush made, once again, today.
In this speech there was no acknowledgment of the strain Iraq is putting on our military resources. As Kaplan wrote yesterday, “Top U.S. military officers have been privately warning for some time that current troop levels in Iraq cannot be sustained for another year or two without straining the Army to the breaking point.” I expect to hear more about this later today when John Murtha appears on Hardball.
Bush also did not acknowledge that the Iraqis themselves want us to go away. Seems to me that if the Iraqi government passes a resolution giving us, say, six months to get our butts out of their country, we have to comply. It’s their country. Bush doesn’t seem to have considered that possibility. I guess he figures God won’t let that happen.
Bottom line, Bush really isn’t listening to anybody except the voices in his head he thinks are Jesus, and he sees “staying the course” as something noble and heroic. So no graceful or dignified exit for us. Instead, we can look forward to continued waste of lives and resources until it finally winds down to some messy, inconclusive end.
HOO-yah, and amen.