Keeping to the propagandist’s script that says the American people will support the Iraq War only if they think victory is possible, President Bush repeated the word “victory” at least ten times in his press conference on October 25. He used the phrase “achieve victory” eight times, and showed his hand when he said: “The people need to know that we have a plan for victory. . . . If the people think we don’t have a plan for victory, they’re not going to support the effort. And so I’ll continue to speak out about our way forward.”
But repeating the word “victory” does nothing to ensure victory.
And mischaracterizing the conflict is no way to attain it, either. And that is what Bush did at his press conference.
“This young government has to solve a host of problems created by decades of tyrannical rule,” he said, adding a little bit later, “There’s a lot of people still furious about what happened to them during Saddam Hussein’s period.”
But what about the people who are furious about what’s been happening to them since Bush invaded?
The families of the 650,000 Iraqi civilians who may have died.
The more than a million Iraqis who have become refugees.
The millions of Iraqis without regular electricity.
And the millions without security.
These grievances relate not to Saddam’s rule but to Bush’s rule.
Bush doesn’t get that.
In classic Bush speak, he said, “The reason I’m confident we’ll succeed in Iraq is because the Iraqis want to succeed in Iraq.”
But if he’s going to invoke the will of the Iraqis, he’s in trouble, because 71 percent say they want the U.S. out within the year, and 61 percent say that it’s OK to shoot at U.S. troops.
Nor was Bush’s endorsement of Prime Minister Maliki full-throated.
Though Bush stressed his backing of Maliki several times, he let slip once that “We’re with him, so long as he continues to make tough decisions.” The implication was clear: If he doesn’t do what Bush says, he’s in trouble.
And Maliki seems in no mood to dance whenever Bush pulls the string. Just hours before the press conference, Maliki displayed resentment at the benchmarks Bush was imposing on him. “This is an elected government, and only the people who elected the government have the right to set a timetable,” he said. One tough decision Bush wants Maliki to make is to crackdown on militias, but Maliki criticized the U.S. military for going after a militia in Sadr City without his approval.
When Bush said, “We’ve got patience, but not unlimited patience,” that was another warning to Maliki that his days are numbered.
Bush does have enormous patience with Donald Rumsfeld, however. “He is a smart, tough, capable administrator,” adding, albeit tepidly, “I’m satisfied” with the job he’s doing.
“Ultimate accountability rests with me,” Bush said. And, as he has done before, he cited the last Presidential election as a stamp of approval for his Iraqi War policy.
The coming election may offer a different stamp.