Surely, somewhere, someone has compiled all the changing reasons for the War in Iraq. By that I mean how it started out to be about an imminent threat to the U.S. — smoking guns, mushroom clouds — that was not imminent; then about finding weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there; then about establishing a democratic government; then about training enough Iraqis to maintain their own civil order. And now the goal has devolved to just reducing violence to an “acceptable level” so that we can declare victory and leave.
As Jeff Feldman says, the acceptable level of violence in for most Americans is zero.
Jeff quotes a bit of an interview of Bush by Charley Rose, which I believe is the same stuff to be heard in the video I posted yesterday.
GWB: I mean, there is an acceptable level of violence in certain societies around the world, and the question is, you know, what is that level? And that’s where the experts come in.
They’ve got experts for deciding what levels of violence are acceptable?
I — you know, you and I can’t determine that sitting here in New York, but we can — we can ask people’s advice upon that; David Petraeus would have an option on that. Ryan Crocker, our ambassador in Iraq.
Notice it doesn’t occur to him to ask an Iraqi.
But it’s a very interesting way of putting the question, and — because all — there is an acceptable level of violence in all societies, even our own.
CR: And where do you —
GWB: Even though all violence is to be abhorred, nevertheless, there is — you know, there’s certain violence — levels of violence that people say, “Well gosh, I can go about my life, I’ve got [unintelligible]”
In other words, reduce the level of violence until it’s just a nuisance.
I keep thinking of what John Kerry said in 2004 about terrorism becoming a nuisance. Here’s a snip:
In the interview published on Sunday, Kerry told New York Times reporter Matt Bai, “As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise — it isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.
The wingnuts went absolutely ballistic over this. I think Kerry should have thought this out a bit more carefully before he said it. It’s one thing to go on about your life knowing that there’s illegal gambling going on somewhere, and quite another to live with a threat of suicide bombers. Certainly the possibility of terrorism can never be reduced to zero, and maybe Kerry was trying to say that the goal is to make terrorism a remote enough possibility that we aren’t constantly worried about it. I can’t imagine it ever being just a nuisance, however.
But here’s Bush thinking there’s some level of violence to which people can adjust. “Well gosh, I can go about my life, I’ve got [unintelligible],” in spite of there being corpses in the street. There may be a point at which people become numb to violence, but adjusting? I don’t think so.
The Bush-Rose interview continues,
GWB: Well — and by the way, if the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory. In other words, if you say, you know, “I’m going to judge the administration’s plan based upon whether they were able to have no car bombings in Baghdad,” we will have just given — because car bombings are hard to stop — or suicide bombings — very hard to stop. We have just given al-Qaeda or any other extremist a significant victory.
And that’s one of the problems I face in trying to convince the American people, one, this is doable — in other words, I wouldn’t have our troops there if I didn’t think this is, one, important, and secondly, achievable. But I also understand on their TV screens, people are seeing horrific bombings, and they’re saying to themselves, “Is this possible? Can we possibly succeed in the face of this kind of violence?” And that’s where this enemy — the enemy of moderation has got a — you know, they’ve got a — they’ve got a powerful tool in [unintelligible]
Actually, I’m not seeing horrific bombings on my TV screen. Compared to what part of the Vietnam War we used to be able to watch on the nightly news, Iraq is nearly invisible. We hear about it more than we see it.
Along these lines, Eugene Robinson has a great op ed in today’s Washington Post called “Lost in the Fog With Commander Guy.”
In Tipp City, just before his reminder about the Oval Office rug, Bush said success in Iraq would be defined as “a country that is stable enough for the government to work, that can defend itself and serve as an ally in this war on terror, that won’t be a safe haven, that will deny the extremists and the radicals.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to bloody suicide bombings, he added. “Think about that: If our definition is no more suiciders, you’ve just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead.”
Yeah, think about that.
Speaking to the contractors’ group Wednesday, the president elaborated: “Either we’ll succeed or we won’t succeed. And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
What is the man talking about? What “parts of our own country” experience violence remotely comparable to that in Iraq? Is he serious?
Sheltered and delusional would be a better guess.