As Iraqis make progress toward a free society, the effects are being felt beyond Iraq’s borders. Before our coalition liberated Iraq, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Today the leader of Libya has given up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom. In the last few months, we have witnessed elections in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working. The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder and make our nation safer.
We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America’s resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.
America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there, we will fight them across the world and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. ~President Bush, June 28, 2005
The excerpt from Mr. Bush’s speech could have come from any of a dozen of his previous speeches since the invasion in March 2003. The same could be said for most of the speech. Short remarks mentioning a few details about counter-insurgency training do not constitute a serious answer to the doubts of the public. When it comes to parroting the official line on Iraq and terrorism, one thing we can say for Mr. Bush is that he is dreadfully, mind-numbingly consistent. Consistency is often a good quality, provided that it is consistency in practicing virtues and living out noble convictions, and perseverance is even more admirable, as long as it is perseverance in the right course of action. Mr. Bush has been consistently wrong about Iraq, and yet perseveres in folly nonetheless.
For Mr. Bush, it has become axiomatic that Iraq is a vital anti-terrorist effort. He has become so enmeshed in his own rhetoric, so “on message,” that he is incapable of imagining the real criticisms of his position and finding ways to address those criticisms. If he believes the only serious criticisms concern the setting of a timetable for withdrawal or the problem of whether to send more soldiers (and from this speech, one gets the impression that he cannot imagine anything other than that as real criticism), he can dismiss these easily by simply reiterating that the mission is too important and that we want to empower Iraqis, etc. Lacking anything serious to say, he will invariably return to his boilerplate material talking about people who hate freedom, “fighting the terrorists over there” and the cult mantra “freedomdemocracyfreedomdemocracy.” If the public was expecting the president to demonstrate something other than his ability to spout cliches and the trite, hackneyed leavings of worn-out ideologies they were sorely disappointed Tuesday night.
This speech betrays a remarkable disconnection from reality, not only from the realities of Iraq but also from the political realities here in America. Mr. Bush’s numbers are at their lowest levels of his presidency, and are among the worst of any second-term president in history. Yet, in a speech designed to rally the public and give the American people some sense of direction in the Iraq war and a reason for hope of relatively speedy victory, he essentially ignored the growing disaffection and unease in the country, told us to wait just a little longer and, of course, to rally ’round the flag. His supporters can tout this brazen obliviousness to his own unpopularity as proof that he is a man of conviction–but what sort of convictions?
The insurgency has not been significantly weakened in the last year, in spite of all the “turning points” that have been reached. Iraqis are being killed much more frequently in much greater numbers than before the “handover” (which should tell us how inauthentically Iraqi and sovereign the transitional government appears to the consituencies fueling the insurgency). Our soldiers continue to die and be wounded at a steady rate, and each “turning point” in “breaking” the insurgency seems only to have spread it out and made it more aggressive. Mr. Bush paid no attention to these problems, except by way of denouncing the freedom-haters, intra alia.
What is the virtue of a political or military leader who is oblivious to present circumstances? Instead of leadership, we get a glorified press release reiterating the same, tired bullet points. This is what the cultists of the presidency venerate? One thing that can be said for our more successful wartime presidents, even those whom I loathe, is that they were adaptable and flexible (that they were sometimes as morally flexible as they were in tactics is another issue). The inability to adapt in war is a fatal flaw. Whatever the merits or demerits of the war, there should be a broad consensus in this country that fumbling along unsuccessfully for several more years is unacceptable and profoundly detrimental to our armed forces, which incidentally have a real war to fight elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Bush’s indefatigable persistence in an erroneous course of action is a threat to the welfare of our armed forces and to the security of this country. The longer this Iraq debacle drags on, the more radical the insurgents will become until we find ourselves confronted with our own versions of the Moscow theater crisis or the Beslan massacre. Mr. Bush’s incompetent Iraq policy has potentially created a new source of terrorist threats to this country, and it is only to that extent that the country of Iraq has ever had anything to do with anti-American terrorism.
Congress must impeach and remove Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for this illegal war, or the administration will continue to blunder along as thousands more die in a profitless and pointless cause.