Published on Thursday, June 30, 2005 by the Kennebec Journal (Maine)
Bush Fails Again to Speak Candidly About War in Iraq
|President Bush missed another opportunity Tuesday night to level with the American people about the war in Iraq.|
In a speech that was broadcast worldwide, Bush reaffirmed his "stay the course" commitment to the conflict. And for the umpteenth time, he attempted -- again, unconvincingly -- to link the Iraqi insurgency with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 3,000 people.
Bush mentioned 9/11 five times during his 28-minute speech at a gymnasium filled mostly with 750 soldiers and airmen in dress uniform at Fort Bragg, N.C., one of the nation's largest military bases. It was a transparent effort to bolster declining public support for the war in Iraq by again linking it to 9/11 and the war on terror.
The president's claims conflict with the findings of the 9/11 commission, which determined last year that Iraq was not linked to Osama bin Laden and that it had not cooperated with al-Qaida in attacks on the United States.
Further, Bush admitted in September 2003 that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the Sept. 11 (attacks)."
Bush's speech was also an obvious attempt to allay the troops' concerns about the changing tide of public opinion toward the war. Understandably, members of the military are confused. They want their commander in chief to provide assurances.
We heard none in what Bush said.
The president's speech came during an especially confusing time for his administration. Vice President Cheney said recently that the insurgents in Iraq are on "the brink of defeat." In contrast, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld predicted a few days ago that the war could last another 12 years.
Bush needed to clarify the inconsistencies and offer honest assessments of what is happening and where we are headed in Iraq.
He failed on all fronts.
Sounding more somber than usual, Bush said he understands public concern about the 27-month-old war that has killed about 1,750 Americans and 12,000 Iraqi civilians and cost more than $200 billion. The president insisted the "sacrifice is worth it," although he did little to support that claim. Instead, he kept falling back on the baseless assertion that under Saddam, Iraq had connections to the 9/11 perpetrators.
Bush's speech was a regurgitation of old claims and allegations. It provided no information on how the United States and the U.S.-led coalition must change their plans for the war. Bush surprised many, for example, by saying there is no need to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, which, at almost 140,000, makes up the vast majority of the coalition's forces.
Further, Bush continued to avoid an explanation of how a war originally intended to find and remove Saddam and his biological, chemical and maybe nuclear weapons of mass destruction -- none of which has ever been found -- has evolved into a battle against Muslim militants.
The president also failed to acknowledge that Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorist groups, partly because of mistakes the United States made after defeating Saddam and occupying the country.
Bush continues to overstate the level of international support for the war, claiming Tuesday that an "international community" of some three dozen nations is providing troops.
In truth, more than a dozen countries have withdrawn from Iraq or announced plans to do so soon. They include Spain, one of the three original co-sponsors of the invasion, which removed its forces more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, the president claimed that about 40 nations and three international organizations have pledged $34 billion in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction. But Bush ignored a few key details: About $20 billion of that money is from the United States, and much of it has been diverted to pay for security or has never been delivered. Also, only about $2 billion of the remaining $14 billion in pledges -- made almost two years ago -- has been provided by the rest of the world.
Despite all of this, Bush insisted that the international community continues to support the war and agrees that success in Iraq is essential. Basically, that means other nations are rooting for the United States to win the war, no matter its length or cost.
Overall, the president's speech was more of the same: another attempt to put a bright and favorable spin on a war in Iraq that is losing supporters at home.
Bush had an opportunity Tuesday to speak candidly about the war. Again, he blew it.
© 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.