As I listened to Bush’s speech today at the Council of Foreign Relations I was struck by all the things he didn’t say.
He started out by comparing Pearl Harbor with September 11. Both times we confronted new dangers with firm resolve and a will to fight without wavering, blah blah blah. He really wants to be Churchill.
He marched ahead to his standard theme: Terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front on its war against humanity. So we must recognize Iraq as the central front on the war on terror.
Notice he didn’t say that anything he did made Iraq the central front on the war on terror. It just happened.
Then he recapped last week’s speech regarding the three kinds of bad people in Iraq: Sunni rejectionists, Saddam loyalists, and terrorists. The terrorists are the smallest but most lethal group, he said, led by brutal terrorist Zarqawi who has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. They want use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America and establish Islamic totalitarianism from Spain to Indonesia. They have the same ideology as the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Can’t leave out 9/11. If we were not fighting them in Iraq they’d be plotting against Americans; because we’re keeping them too busy to plot, I suppose. The usual bullshit, in other words.
Bush said that our strategy has a political side, a security side, and an economic side. This speech was supposed to be about the economic side, but frankly I didn’t hear him give many specifics about economics. And I don’t believe he mentioned oil at all, but I might have missed it.
Bush said that “terrorists” keep retaking territory that had been liberated by coalition forces because there havn’t been enough Iraqi soldiers to hold the territory after it had been liberated. What he didn’t say was that maybe there weren’t enough coalition troops at hand to do the job they’d been directed to do.
Last year, he said, a violent militia took over Najaf, but coalition and Iraqi forces retook it and forced out the militia. What he didn’t say was that the militia was not made up of Sunni “rejectionists” or “Saddam supporters” or al Qaeda-like terrorists. It was Shi’ite cleric Abu Sadr’s Mehdi army militia.
He talked about all the infrastructure that had been devastated during Saddam’s reign. What he didn’t say was that his administration’s lack of planning and failure to send enough forces to provide security after the invasion resulted in a whole lot more devastation of infrastructure, and hospitals, and schools, and lots of other things. No, he just talked about all the damage Saddam was responsible for.
Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life is a better life, Bush said. But reconstruction is going more slowly than we’d like because of a lack of security. See previous paragraph.
He whined about the awful news media that doesn’t cover good news coming out of Iraq. What he didn’t say was that security in Iraq is so bad that many journalists are afraid to leave the Green Zone. Reporting is barely possible in Iraq.
He praised Joe Lieberman. Again. Lordy, we’ve got to do something about Lieberman. Mistakes have been made, Bush said (note the passive voice; he doesn’t say who made those mistakes) but good Joe Lieberman says that the biggest mistake would be to lose our will. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and all that.
Without naming him, Bush criticized Jack Murtha’s recent proposal for withdrawal. It would make America less safe, Bush said, although he offered no arguments to back up that claim. It would be giving the terrorists what they want, Bush said. Yeah, that’s what they want you to think, fratboy.
The Council of Foreign Relations audience sat quietly through most of the speech. Only once did they interrupt with applause — very tepid applause — after Bush had said something about not leaving Iraq. I was listening to the speech on MSNBC and didn’t watch it much, but I did take a peek at the end to see if Bush got a standing ovation. It appears he did, but the cameras only showed the guys in the front rows. For all I know the rest of the audience was already sneaking out the door.
And, like last week, as soon as the speech ended somebody played “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Canned? I can’t imagine the Council of Foreign Relations keeps a marching band around. Kind of weird, if you ask me.
Update: Thanks to Ken Melvin for this link —
Bush’s speech, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, was the second in a series of four to answer criticism and questions about the U.S. presence more two and a half years after the war started. He spoke to a group of foreign policy experts, many of whom have been critical of his policies. They gave him a cool reception. Some in the audience interrupted to applaud when Bush said the U.S. would not run from Iraq, but most sat stoically during the entire speech.
Also: Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the Washington Post.
Update update: Jack Murtha is giving a rebuttal to the speech. I missed part of it, but essentially he’s saying he tried to warn the President and the Pentagon before the invasion that the job in Iraq was going to be harder than they seemed to think it was. If you find a transcript or video, please post the link!