Not many bloggers noticed it, but yesterday Dan Froomkin revealed what it will take for President Bush to decide the Iraq mission is fulfilled so that our troops can leave.
He is waiting for Iraq to thank him.
Alarmed at a brief dribble of actual un-spun news from inside the White House, spokesman Tony Snow yesterday tried his darndest to discredit it.
The dribble emerged courtesy of four scholars invited to talk with President Bush about Iraq on Monday. None of them substantively disagreed with Bush’s policies — see my column yesterday, Bush Bubble Alive and Well — but they did talk to New York Times reporters afterwards about where the president seemed to be coming from.
As a result, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti wrote in the Times yesterday: “President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday. . . .
“[T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd.”
Froomkin goes on to describe Tony Snow’s denial of the President’s frustration. The President is not frustrated, says Snow. He is determined. And that’s the official White House position.
But Froomkin found more evidence of presidential frustration.
As columnist Sidney Blumenthal points out in Salon today: “Bush’s demand for expressions of gratitude from the Iraqis is not a new one. In his memoir, L. Paul Bremer III, head of the ill-fated Coalition Provisional Authority, records that above all other issues Bush stressed the need for an Iraqi government to declare its thanks.”
Peter W. Galbraith has more in his article on Bremer’s book for the New York Review of Books: Bremer “had lunch with the President before leaving for Baghdad — a meeting joined by the Vice President and the national security team — but no decision seems to have been made on any of the major issues concerning Iraq’s future. Instead, Bremer got a blanket grant of authority that he clearly enjoyed exercising. The President’s directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as ‘we’re not going to fail’ and ‘pace yourself, Jerry.’ In Bremer’s account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. . . .
“Bush had only one demand: ‘It’s important to have someone who’s willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.’ According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush’s candidate for president of Iraq’s interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had ‘been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition.’ “
If that’s what he’s waiting for, Iraq, by all means thank the man. Send him flowers and a fruit basket. Bake him the biggest bleeping cake you can fit into an oven and write Thank you President Bush on top. And add a picture of Bush surrounded by bald eagles (white and dark chocolate feathers!). If you can’t mail the cake, send him some of the chocolate feathers with a photo of the cake and tell him it was delicious.
If it’s not too much trouble, stage a parade in his honor. I know you can’t have a real parade without inviting mass slaughter, but maybe you could build a secured soundstage and fake it. Have marchers walk past one of those blue screens and add street scenes later. Or maybe some Bollywood producer would make it for you, in India. The President won’t know the difference. Trust me on this.
Tell him you’re commissioning Iraq’s best sculptor to create a statue of President Bush the Victorious to be erected where the statue of Saddam Hussein used to stand. Send him sketches showing three or four versions of what the statue might look like, and tell him he can pick the one he likes best. Promise to invite him to a big ceremony when the statue is unveiled. Don’t forget to make up some excuse to explain why it’s going to take a really long time to get the statue finished. Like, you’re all out of bronze.
And don’t forget to tell the President that because of his determined and resolute guidance Iraq is all grown up now and can manage on its own. Say you’ll miss us, but now you’re standing up, and you want all those coalition soldiers so dear to your hearts to stand down. Maybe promise the President a nice going away present — something really special you’ll send him just as soon as all the Americans and Brits are gone.
You don’t have to mean it.