President Bush says the American people deserve a "clear strategy for victory" in Iraq. So why won't he give us one?
On Wednesday, the president released his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." Speaking to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Bush was surrounded by imposing, blue signs touting his "Plan for Victory." The prop was as convincing as his "Mission Accomplished" banner.
Some news stories described the 35-page "strategy" and Bush's speech as "detailed." That is true only if verbosity is equated with detail. Bush delivered only long reiterations of previous speeches.
Bush had barely taken the podium before he invoked Sept. 11, which he invariably though implicitly links with Iraq. He said Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror." He added, "By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."
Nowhere in his speech or his "plan" did Bush acknowledge — much less rebut — the argument that the occupying forces themselves exacerbate the anger that sometimes erupts in terrorism.
Instead, Bush asserted that the United States will not leave Iraq until America achieves victory, which won't happen until Iraq's security forces can secure the peace. How can we know how long will that take? That will "take time and patience."
That's not a plan. It's a platitude.
The written plan for victory is no more concrete. It defines "victory" as the point at which Iraq defeats the terrorists and neutralizes the insurgency. How does Bush define "defeat" and "neutralize"? He doesn't. Nor does he offer clear, quantifiable goals marking the road to victory.
Instead, Bush rehashes familiar refrains: that we will accept nothing but victory, that we will not "cut and run" (like cowards do), that we are cultivating freedom, that freedom is the destiny of "every man, woman and child on this Earth."
Meanwhile, the president's speech did not mention weapons of mass destruction, which were the ostensible reason he waged war in the first place.
As usual, the president's vaunted rhetoric either ignores or misstates what dissenters actually say. He suggested that war critics would "allow the terrorists to break our will" and that they would allow Iraq to become a breeding ground for terrorists, like pre-2001 Afghanistan.
And again, the president equates empirical, verifiable measures of progress with "an artificial timetable" for withdrawal.
Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, succinctly rebutted Bush's red herring. "This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal," he said. "No one is talking about running in the face of a challenge. We're talking about how to win, how to succeed, how do you best achieve our goals? That's the choice here. And what the president did not do today is acknowledge the fundamental reality of the insurgency."
It shouldn't be too much to expect the president to admit some hard truths, like the fact that many Iraqis dislike the occupying forces. Many Iraqis, according to a recent survey, believe it's OK to injure or kill Americans. That isn't what we were told before the war. We were to be "greeted as liberators."
We deserve straight talk about the carnage. Platitudes and falsehoods dragged us into war. They won't get us out. They certainly can't pave the road to "victory."
© 2005 Daily Camera