Thursday, August 25, 2005

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy; the Big Fool Says to Push On

From the Washington Post:

President Bush, rebutting a rising antiwar movement in the country and on Capitol Hill, told National Guard soldiers and their families Wednesday that terrorists "want us to retreat" but vowed that he never will.

The same old, worn-out cliches, looking more and more threadbare. If the terrorists "want us to retreat" and we aren't retreating, and the level of violence continues to go up and up and up and up, then how is "not retreating" serving to win the war and achieve U.S. goals? If Bush's sole reason for refusing to leave Iraq or announce a plan for leaving Iraq is that the terrorists want us to, and he doesn't want to give the terrorists what they want -- even though not giving them what they want (presuming what they want can be defined as simplistically as Bush has defined it) has led to a de facto civil war and could end up tearing the country apart, then how does he justify that as a responsible decision for America?

Bush spoke frankly for the second time in three days about the casualties the U.S. military is continuing to suffer in Iraq but rejected demands for the troops to come home, calls that have gained widespread attention during the month he has spent at his ranch in Texas.

"An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations," he said. "So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror."

Withdrawing U.S. troops would embolden the terrorists? What would that look like, exactly? How would it be different from what's happening now? What does Bush think, exactly, is the terrorists' state of mind right now, if not emboldened? Does he think they are demoralized? Chastened? Shy? Does he even begin to have the glimmerings of an idea about just how emboldened the terrorists are in Iraq right now?

Add to that: Americans and others are not necessarily all asking for immediate withdrawal. Most people would experience overwhelming relief if Bush simply acknowledged the reality that the war is not going well and is not achieving its goals, and come up with a plan that adjusts U.S. policy to the reality of what is happening. Tell us how you are going to ensure that the U.S. does not get sucked into this quagmire for the next 20 years, George. Is that asking too much?

During a month when he has been shadowed by war protester Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, the president drew thunderous applause from the camouflage-clad National Guard troops and others in the Idaho Center arena when he saluted "a mom named Tammy Pruett," who has watched six loved ones deploy to Iraq.

Asserting that "the stakes in Iraq could not be higher," Bush contended that the nation is "achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq." It is that last contention -- that the United States is moving purposely toward its goals and an accompanying exit from Iraq -- that has been subject to increasing skepticism by Democrats this summer.

What are our strategic objectives in Iraq, and how have they been achieved? Provide examples of how the United States is moving purposely toward its goals and an accompanying exit from Iraq, especially given that Bush has refused to give any markers or timetables.

Bush's aides said they realize that the death toll in Iraq -- at least 1,867 at the time Bush spoke -- will soon reach 2,000, a milestone that will provide a major platform for his critics. Against this backdrop, the aides said the speech was designed to portray a stark choice between completing the mission in Iraq and showing weakness to terrorists who are prepared to strike in the United States -- suggesting dire consequences at home from a hasty withdrawal abroad.

In other words, using the fear card again. Appealing to the emotions of terror, grief, and anger stemming from the attacks of 9/11 to get support for your war policy. Has "not showing weakness" prevented terrorists from striking again -- in Spain, in Saudi Arabia, in London, in Iraq itself? If "not showing weakness" in Iraq has not prevented the terrorists from striking at American interests in Europe and all over the Middle East, what makes Bush think staying in Iraq and changing nothing will prevent the terrorists from striking in the U.S.? What signs have the terrorists given, in terms of their behavior and actions, that would lead Bush to believe they would hesitate to strike in the U.S.?

While Bush did not mention [Cindy Sheehan] by name, he broke with his two-year policy of avoiding specific mention of casualties and gave a figure about the loss of life for the second speech in a row. "In this war, we have said farewell to some very good men and women, including 491 heroes of the National Guard and reserves," he said. "These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country, and now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission."

In other words, we will honor their sacrificed lives by demanding and causing the sacrifice of other lives. We can best honor the 1,869 American men and women who have died by continuing a policy that will lead to the deaths of a thousand more, or two thousand more, or who knows how many more.

By unmistakable implication, he offered Pruett as a counterpoint to Sheehan. She has four sons serving in Iraq with Idaho's National Guard. A fifth son and her husband, Leon Pruett, returned last year from the country, where they helped train Iraqi firefighters.

"There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war," he said. "Tammy says this -- and I want you to hear this: 'I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country.' And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in. America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts."

Sure you could ask for a better way of life than giving it for something you believe in. You could ask for the way of life that George W. Bush has: the kind of inherited wealth and power that allows him to take five-week vacations at a sprawling Texas ranch while Tammy Pruett's loved ones risk their lives in Iraq for something they believe in; all the while knowing that you never in your own life valued giving your life for something you believe in highly enough to do it yourself, even when you had the chance.

One other thought: Pres. Bush frequently says that U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq so that Americans don't have to face the terrorists and fight them here on our own soil. And he said several times in this Idaho speech that U.S. freedom, safety, and national security are dependent on staying in Iraq and keeping the policy just as it is.

So here's what I'm wondering. What happened to the George W. Bush who told us that we live in a world where our own freedom and security increasingly depend on the freedom and security of others? I'm sure you all remember what I'm talking about:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.

So why is the United States seeking to be the master in Iraq? Why are we building permanent military bases? Why are we giving Iraqis deadlines for writing their own constitution? And, arguably even more important than these questions, there is this question: Why, if the "survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," and if the "best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," is the president of the United States condoning -- indeed, insisting on -- a military policy in Iraq that secures our own safety and freedom while creating a reign of terror for Iraqis? There were no militias acting outside established authority before March 2003. There were no daily executions on the bridges of towns like Haditha before March 2003. There were no suicide bombings killing dozens of people at once on a daily basis before March 2003. Iraq is in a state of near-anarchy, on the verge of civil war, with Iraqi police units torturing other Iraqis in secret interrogation centers, and everyday life a constant chaotic whirlwind of violence. And since Bush refuses to retreat from or change the policy that has led to this hell on earth for Iraqis, because he says the policy is ensuring the safety and freedom of Americans, I can only conclude that when he spoke those soaring words about Americans' freedom and safety being inseparable from the freedom and safety of everyone in the world, he was lying through his teeth.

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