Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trying To Win The War Of Words

I have to work for a living, so I didn't get to see the preznit's big Iraq speech today. But Dan Froomkin from the Washington Post provides a pretty good summary:

Refusing to bow to growing public pressure to produce an exit strategy in Iraq, President Bush today pugnaciously declared that his focus is on winning, not leaving.

"We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory," he said in this morning's speech at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Or, as he put it even more succinctly yesterday in El Paso : "We want to win."

Bush's speech -- combined with a new, rosy, slogan-filled White House document entitled " Victory in Iraq " -- kicks off a bold public-relations campaign to recast the debate about the war.

But there are several reasons to suspect that it might not work:

* It doesn't answer the most compelling question in contemporary American politics: When are the troops coming home?

* It doesn't even include any objective ways of measuring progress towards an eventual U.S. pullout.

* It is at heart a restatement, rather than a reappraisal, of a strategy that according to the polls the American public has overwhelmingly rejected.

* The White House did not address, not to mention refute, the argument that the continued presence of American troops is making things worse, rather than better.

* And nothing Bush said is likely to change the fact that he has a big credibility problem with most Americans.

Bush's speech, delivered to an enthusiastic, captive audience of Navy midshipmen, was the first in a series that Bush will be making between now and the December 15th elections in Iraq.

This is what Bush had to say about when troops come home: "As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political progress advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists.

"These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington."

The new White House document put it this way: "We expect but cannot guarantee that our force posture will change."

Bush did cover a little new ground today. For the first time, he defined the insurgency as consisting of three constituent parts: "The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists.

"The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein. And they reject an Iraq in which they're no longer the dominant group. . . .

"The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein, people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. . . .

"The third group is the smallest but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida."

But even in this, his most sophisticated analysis of the enemy, Bush did not mention the important role that resistance to an occupation plays in Iraq.

Bush ramped up the rhetorical attack against those who are calling for him to establish some objective goals and timetables in Iraq, accusing them of wanting to set an artificial deadline.

"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is weak and an unreliable ally," he said.

"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends.

"And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorist tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder and invite new attacks on America.

"To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief."

There were several straw-man arguments. For instance:

"Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, quote, 'Stay the course.'

"If by 'Stay the course,' they mean, 'We will not allow the terrorists to break our will,' they're right.

"If by 'Stay the course,' they mean, 'We will not permit Al Qaida to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America,' they're right, as well.

"If by 'Stay the course,' they mean that we're not learning from our experiences or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong."

My understanding is that by "stay the course" at least some of his critics mean remaining obstinately and indefinitely in a quagmire, where our presence just makes things worse.

Gee, several straw-man arguments in a Bush speech?

Frankly straw-man arguments, savage partisan attacks, and talking tough in front of vetted military audiences is about all the preznit can give us these days.

And that's all he gave us today.

Nothing new, nothing to feel hopeful about.

This motherfucker hasn't learned anything from his mistakes. He's completely delusional. You can see it in his demeanor and hear it in his words. He still thinks he's going down as one of the greatest American presidents ever for brining democracy to Iraq and taking the fight to the terrorists.

What a mess - both Iraq and America.

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