George Bush, in his Philadelphia speech today, has shown unmistakable signs of cutting and running on Iraq. He made some pretty astonishing acknowledgements for a President who has lived and died on being bullheaded. He and his administration have constantly referred to any plans to withdraw from Iraq as cut and run. He even went so far as to consider acknowledging problems on Iraq as a sign of weakness. Therefore, he has pronounced judgment on himself today when he acknowledged 30,000 civilian casualties in Iraq.
Bush did another thing that would have been unthinkable until now – he actually took questions from the audience in a setting that was not partisan. There are three things that have come out of this speech – he knows that he has lost the war and lost the debate over Iraq and that it is now a matter of when we will pull out; not if. The next thing is that given his current 35% approval ratings, he has decided that he has to completely revamp his image if he wants any chance of getting back his popularity. Thirdly of all, he is still showing every sign of intending to drag his feet as much as possible on Iraq. He will not go out quietly; he will be dragged out of Iraq screaming and kicking. Our job now is to help drag him out.
Bush intends to soften the blow of the intended withdrawal to his base as much as possible. He intends, therefore, to hype the election up as much as possible in the face of all the evidence showing that the elections do not matter. He intends for his base and the right-wing bloggers to have one more field day celebrating all of the monumental accomplishments of the so-called Victory in Iraq. Then, behind the scenes, he plans to proclaim victory and leave gradually.
The problem of the Bush administration is a fundamental one for an administration run solely on PR and spin – all of his benchmarks for progress in Iraq have been used up. Therefore, he can no longer point to events like the October referendum and the December elections as “proof” of progress. Everything will be downhill for him on Iraq after this week’s elections.
It will not be a question of who wins in Iraq; the Shiites will continue to vote in lockstep in the upcoming election. There is widespread disgust with the government, which means that Allawi’s party and others will probably cut into their majority. But the essential policies of the new government will remain the same. And that includes the Iraqi Declaration of Independence in which almost all of the Shiite and Sunni factions, including Chalabi, have committed to pushing for a US withdrawal.
But despite Bush showing unmistakable signs of caving in on Iraq, the leopard has not changed his spots. He still remains a dangerous opponent who will say anything to bolster his position. For example, take this factual howler from his speech today:
In a speech in Philadelphia, Bush likened Iraq’s attempts to build democratic institutions to the founding of an independent democracy in the United States, which he said was marked by tension, “disorder and upheaval.”
That is not true. While there was widespread disagreement among the Founding Fathers about how best to form the country, this disagreement was not marred by the type of violence seen in Iraq. As we see from this gem, Bush continues to distort history for political propaganda purposes.
Actions speak louder than words. If six months passes and no troops have been withdrawn, all that tells me is that Bush told yet another lie and that he leaked a false story about impending withdrawals to the press in an effort to blunt the impact of his slide in the polls. It is totally possible that Bush’s recent changes could be cosmetic and designed for PR purposes rather than an actual withdrawal plan.
“No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts,” Bush said at Philadelphia’s World Affairs Council, which is just a few blocks from historic Independence Hall, where the U.S. constitution was signed in 1787.
I might also point out that no foreign power was needed to assist this country after Britain surrendered to the Americans in 1781. We were able to solve our own problems without the need for foreign assistance. Therefore, the lesson from history to be learned is that we need to withdraw as soon as possible in a way that helps restore stability there. I don’t recall the French being needed to maintain order after 1781.
Another questioner challenged the administration’s linking of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington with the war in Iraq. Bush answered that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a threat and was believed by many people to harbor weapons of mass destruction, the main reason the administration gave for invading Iraq.
“I made a tough decision,” Bush said. “And knowing what I know today I’d make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.”
More evidence that the leopard has not changed his spots. Despite his own admission of the difficulties the US is facing in Iraq, he refuses to admit to any mistakes. This is a matter of Bush’s psychological makeup. In the aftermath of Katrina, on his interview with Diane Sawyer, he was a broken man, on the verge of tears. That is the kind of gut-wrenching decision it is for him to have to admit to a mistake.
Based on the bombings in London, Bali (twice), Egypt, and Madrid, the world is not a safer place. I suggest those people would beg to differ from that assessment. These bombings totally debunk the flypaper argument that we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. Furthermore, the First Gulf War was what spawned Bin Laden and his gospel of hatred and revenge. Keep in mind we never heard of Bin Laden in 1991. The longer we stay, the more likely it is that we will breed the next Bin Laden, given the strong anti-colonialist attitudes of a large segment of Muslims.
Bush went on to blame Syria and Iran for the massive influx of terrorists that he says disrupts the process of democracy in Iraq. But that ignores the fact that all the numbers show that they constitute only 5-10% of the people fighting our forces. It is true that most of the suicide bombers are foreign. But there is a fundamental difference between the insurgents and Zarqawi’s fighters – many insurgent groups condemn and oppose the suicide bombings. If we were to leave tomorrow, the nationalists would have no more use for Zarqawi and his fighters and would kick them out of the country.
Bush then went on to assert that there were 200,000 Iraqi soldiers now trained. But that is contradicted by his own defense secretary. By Rumsfeld’s numbers, we have only trained 120,000 Iraqi troops. This suggests three things.
First, I suggest that not only is Bush out of touch with the people of this country, he is out of touch with his own defense secretary. This suggests that Bush has no more use for Rumsfeld, given that he gives wildly different figures than Rumsfeld does. The second thing I suggest is that he does not rely on his own generals anymore, except those who would tell him what he wants to hear. Instead, he relies on PR people and spinners, given the fact that the entire so-called “Strategy for Victory” was authored by a PR person. The third is that I suggest he doesn’t know how many have been trained and that he just pulled the numbers out of his hat. So, if he doesn’t know how many people have been trained, then no wonder he refuses to set an end date for our involvement – he doesn’t know.
It is highly dangerous for our national security for a President who is supposed to be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces not to know how many Iraqi troops have been trained. If he doesn’t know this basic fact about how many people have been trained, then what else does he not know?
Around the blogs:
Many bloggers question where Bush got the 30,000 figure from when Lancet estimated over 100,000; and Lancet does not even count Fallujah and what has happened since the election in November 2004.
I was under the impression from everything I’ve heard that this figure is far greater that 30,000. Has anyone seen the media reports the White House referenced and can anyone provide better figures on this so we can hold the White House to account on their ridiculous statement.
The original Lancet study is online–registration is required to access. The radio show This American Life also did a segment earlier in the year on the credibility of the Lancet study, and found it to be credible.
The Lancet study was widely critiqued by the right for its methods, which were made public and employed very common statistical sampling techniques, some deriving from a Pentagon statistictian. So should the method behind Bush’s number be made public.