Topic: Bush Administraiton
Today W. launched the administration's new PR blitz to convince everybody that things really are going great in Iraq and that, "artificial timetables by politians in Washington" for a pullout is a bad idea. He spoke at the Naval Academy in Annapolis MD where he was assured of a raucous welcome by a captive audience of Navy and Marine cadets. [AP] (Besides speaking at GOP fund raisers and military bases he doesn't get out into the public much these days.) He thanked them for showing up---as if they had any choice---and made a joke about getting them out of class for an hour. [That's pretty funny, because there's no doubt he played plenty of hooky in his day, though, I doubt these future leaders of the Navy will have the same opportunity to get by on a gentleman's C just for showing up with their elite pedigree.]
This "major policy speech" on Iraq was pretty much of a dud. It was basically a rehashing of the same old tired dribble with an emphasis on the mythical Iraqi security forces taking up the fight against "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." I didn't hear any willingness to admit mistakes (Which are different from "experiences.") or hear anything about what we're going to do about getting out of there any time soon. Arming and training Iraqis to 'stand up so we can stand down' isn't anything new. This sounds like the same "strategy" he had back in June in a speech at Fort Bragg (But without the creepy silence.).
Back then he said, "Thousands more (of Iraqis) have stepped forward, and are now in training to serve their nation. And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting and then our troops can come home." Sound familiar? (Remember, "this will take time and patience.")
After that speech, even "conservative" commentators were disappointed by his failure to offer anything new to rally public support, but this time I'm sure they'll be falling all over themselves to say what a great speech it was and how he's finally spelled out a strategy for victory.
The right wing elite punditry will be relieved that he's actually come out and said something---anything---about the war. They've been screaming for months that Bush had to start defending the war in the face of the onslaught of Democratic and Republican criticism in congress and public opinion polls showing only minimal support for the continuation of the war. They've argued that the silence from the White House has allowed the opposition to control the "conversation" and the president had to reshape the debate. It may be too late, though; the tipping point may have come when John Murtha made his call for troops to be withdrawn within six months, basically articulating what most people are feeling about the constant reports of suicide bombings and mounting casualties that enough is enough!
Murtha let the cat out of the bag on the bogus nature of this conflict of choice and I doubt this speech, or any others that are planned for the coming weeks, are going to gain much traction with the majority of the public now convinced the whole thing is a big mess based on a big lie. The right hopes the toothpaste can be put back into the tube; however, speeches can only do so much when no one is listening.
Regardless of which way the public goes on this, the only conversation W. is having is with his hardcore base, not to the rest of the country. All the talk about freedom and terrorism will reverberate on all the news programs tonight and the right wing echo chamber will go into full carpet bomb mode. The intention is to shift the debate away from withdrawal and toward his assertions about the numbers of Iraqi battalions ready to "take the lead" in the fight, etc. and the hope is the public will zone out on the various arguments going back and forth and will just accept that there are legions of Iraqi soldiers ready to stand up so we can stand down.
What won't be discussed is the idea of immediate withdrawal, because that's just crazy talk and deeply irresponsible! (Just ask Darth Cheney, you can trust him.) Even columnists on the "left" like Trudy Rubin and Leonard Pitts are doing their part by going along with the accepted "responsible" opinion---the only one that's allowed to be aired---that, even though, yes, the war is a mess and it was foisted on us by "exaggerations"---not lies---we have to stay as long as it takes to get Iraq stable. The consensus of the elite punditry on the left and the right is that Bush has been forced to face facts by the polls and Murtha and he has no choice but to adjust his policies toward a more sensible approach to the war. A precipitous pullout would lead to a disaster in Iraq and we have to just trust that W. will do the right thing. But, he's not going to, it's just more of the same, nothing has changed.
So, while we discuss Iraqi troop levels and the merits of staying the course, the reasonable and responsible thing to do is go along with the president as he calls for another $3.9 billion to help train and buy materiel for the Iraqi security forces, this on top of the $10 billion already requested for the war next year. Above and beyond this costly price tag there are all the troops and equipment we're losing that can't be replaced for years, if ever. At some point or another we'll need the military for actually defending the country, but all the best and most experienced of our troops are getting killed and maimed over there and for what? "A democratic Iraq which will inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran?" (But not from Cairo to Baku.)
What's really irresponsible is to ask our most patriotic and dedicated men and women to keep going back to Iraq, again and again, because we don't have a big enough military. It's not fair to expect these people to have to put their lives on hold for years, to maybe lose their marriages, their jobs, their limbs or their lives for an abstraction. People will fight indefinably to protect home and hearth, but not for a struggle against an ideology.
We have to get out of Iraq now, not in four or five years. We don't have the personnel or the money to sustain this level of involvement indefinably. The old adage that things that can't continue won't is apt in this situation. We'll get out of this mess either on our own terms, or we'll be forced into leaving by our own inability to fight anymore and that's an eventuality that we really can't afford.