Live blog of this morning’s speech at the Naval Academy — (note — quotes may not be accurate; check against transcripts)
[Update: Executive summary — “stay the course.” See major points on White House web site.]
Wow — he worked 9/11 into the intro. All of the students joined the academy after 9/11, he says.
He’s going through the thank yous — sounds like an Academy Award speech.
What does it say about the president of the United States that he won’t go anywhere near ordinary citizens any more? And that he’ll only speak to captive audiences?
President Bush’s safety zone these days doesn’t appear to extend very far beyond military bases, other federal installations and Republican fundraisers.
Iraq is the central front on the war on terror. We must understand the enemy we face. The largest group of “terrorists” are rejectionists who are former Baathists. Many Sunnies rejecgted the democratic elections, but now those who advocate violence are being isolated by Sunnies. We believe that over time most rejectionists will support a democratic Iraq.
The second group are former Baathists.
The third group is the smallest and most lethal. These are foreigners and al Qaeda members. Our commanders believe they are responsible for most of the suicide bombings and beheadings. They are led by Zarqawi.
The third group is trying to establish an Islamic empire. They have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they do is kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will. They will fail. America’s will is strong.
Those terrorists share the same ideology as the 9/11 bombers, the Madrid and London bombers. This is an enemy without conscience and they will not be appeased. If we weren’t fighting them in Iraq they would be killing Americans and others.
We will not accept anything less than complete victory.
We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq.
Free societies are peaceful societies, so we are working with Iraqis to build a free society.
Security forces are on the offensive against the enemy.
Iraqi forces are being trained.
We’re repairing infrastructure.
We’ve included UN, coalition partners, other people.
Today I want to speak in depth about one aspect, the training of Iraqi security forces. Our goal is to train Iraqi security forces so that they can continue the fight.
When we defeat “terrorists” in Iraq, we’ll be safer at home.
In the past year, Iraqi forces have made real progress. Now over 120 combat and police batalions are prepared.
Now he’s arguing that Iraqi battalions are conducting operations on their own and are not just supporting U.S. troops.
He’s quoting an Iraqi soldiers who said that all he wants to do is kill terrorists.
He’s describing the territory under the control of Iraqi security forces. Lots of numbers that will be fact checked, I assume.
As Iraqi forces take control of their own territory, coalition forces can concentrate on training and going after high-value targets.
Descriptions of the training follow.
Hersh wins, looks like.
Some critics dismiss this progress, and point to the fact that only one battalion has achieved complete independence from coalition supervision. But that doesn’t mean more battalions are not ready to take the fight against the enemy. The facts are that Iraqi units are becoming more independent and capable. They will be in the fight for freedom today and tomorrow.
Lordy, he said we’ve turned a corner. He said that.
So basically he’s arguing that the Iraqi security forces are way improved and are going to be able to take on more and tougher missions, etc. He’s working up to saying “as they stand up, coalition forces can stand down.”
Bush said, “When our mission of defeating the terrorists is complete, our troops will come home to a proud nation.” Yep, Hersh called it. It’s “stay the course.”
Bush said: “We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission.” Says he’s willing to send more U.S. troops, if the commanders ask for them.
No artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington, he says.
He’s not leaving himself any wiggle room. He wants victory. He’s quoting Joe Lieberman. We need to do something about Lieberman. He says that withdrawal will send a message that America is weak.
Bush said, “America will not run from car bombers or assassins as long as I am your commander in chief.” Big applause line.
Some critics say I have no plan except to “stay the course,” he says. Yep, that’s it.
I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq, and when terrorists cannot plot nasty plots.
He’s preaching the Neocon gospel. Our own security is best preserved by spreading democracy. Germany and Japan are democracies now. Freedom defeated the ideology of communism and freed eastern Europe and all.
I’m telling you, Hersh nailed him.
Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government created our nation. We will meet the challenge of our time and answer histories call. Freedom is the destiny of every man, woman, and child on this earth.
He thinks he is Democracy Jesus, in other words.
There’s only one way to honor the lives lost, which is to complete the mission.
He’s done. They’re playing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Bottom line, he may have established some markers to enable some drawdown of troops, on the basis of improved Iraqi security forces, but he’s clearly planning on staying until the “terrorists” are defeated and Iraq is an established and stable democracy. He’s trying to remarket the war as it is without actually changing policy.
David Gregory on MSNBC is saying the document released this morning contains nothing of substance that’s new; it’s just a sales job. The one new thing is calling the Sunni die-hards “rejectionists.”
Once we’ve got a transcript we can fact-check the specific claims he made about the security forces.
Hardball note: Jack Murtha will be on Hardball tonight. Could be interesting.
Dana Priest of the Washington Post on MSNBC is saying that there was nothing new militarily in the speech.
Will this and future speeches have any impact on public opinion? Some of the major polling organizations will probably manage to find a bit of a bump, but I can’t see how this speech will make a big difference.