In an attempt to sound like Winston Churchill during the darkest hours of the London blitz, George Bush's speech in front of hundreds of red bereted soldiers at Ft. Bragg, N.C. was unadulterated recalcitrance. I was wrong in my earlier article (Listen to the Language) when I said to look for a tiny bit of apology for a mistake or two. There was none. It was an uncompromising and muscle-flexing speech. His words were directed at his base, no one else. He was telling those soldiers, and any young American who is considering enlistment to sign up, stay the course, do the work of good against evil, and you will be American heroes just like all the other American heroes who have gone before you.
Bush declared: "Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren."
What he didn't say was that there were no terrorists to hunt down before we invaded Iraq.
What he didn't say was that only 5% to 7% of the current insurgents are foreign jihadis, that the rest are actually Iraqi citizens in rebellion against us.
What he didn't say was that freedom in the broader Middle East is far from a realization.
What he didn't say was that our children and our grandchildren are inheriting a bankrupt future created by his "war on terror."
What he didn't say was that this is a rebellion, a resistance, which is exactly what an insurgency is.
What he didn't say, and what is the Achilles heel in this entire mess, is that Iraqi soldiers are having a hard time fighting other Iraqis who are fighting against a perceived occupier, not a liberator as Bush had hoped. It's the same problem Palestinian leaders who genuinely want to put down groups like Hamas have. Using Palestinian police to quell Palestinians, who regard themselves as freedom fighters, has not worked. It will not work in Iraq. And the longer the American occupation lasts, the bigger the resistance will grow.
Bush claimed that Iraq has "160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions...". Why is it that 160,000 Iraqi security forces are not even close to being enough and that they, apparently, are utterly ineffective? Are most of them directing traffic? How many will we need? 500,000? 1,000,000? What will it take for an Iraqi army to fight against its own people?
Public television's post-speech coverage consisted of Gwen Ifill interviewing Tom Oliphant of the Washington Post, Rich Lowry of the National Review, retired Marine General Bernard Trainor, and retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor. Despite the fact that a progressive voice was not included, Colonel MacGregor did his best to inject some reality into the discussion.
Contrary to the Bush administration claim that 12,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war began, Colonel MacGregor used the figure "over 111,000." He also described Iraq as a country with jails everywhere filled to capacity. He put the figure at 5% of the insurgency that is actually foreign, and the rest are fighting for their "homes, tribes, and families." MacGregor made the point that the US needs to define the conditions necessary for us to leave Iraq. Those conditions have never been clearly defined. He made the point that many Iraqis believe we will never leave.
One thing that all four of these men seemed to agree on was that we can't simply cut and run, that we must stay the course, somehow, and find a way out that is honorable. Sound familiar?