Friday, September 01, 2006

The President's Speech

Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein. Many are frustrated with the level of violence. But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century, so we will defeat them in Iraq. (Applause.) Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic. But they could be -- they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies: Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran and al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban. They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets in Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, in other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us." - President George W. Bush speaking to the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention held in Salt Lake City

"Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein. Many are frustrated with the level of violence. But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century, so we will defeat them in Iraq. (Applause.) Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic. But they could be -- they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies: Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran and al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban. They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets in Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, in other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us." - President George W. Bush speaking to the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention held in Salt Lake City

President George W. Bush delivered the first of what he promised to be a series of speeches aimed at restoring the public's flailing trust in his Iraq war strategy and consequently bolster his party's chance to retain control of both houses of Congress this November. The failure to locate any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in Iraq, the allegations of torture following the Abu Ghraib debacle, the rising cost in American lives and dollars, and the growing sectarian violence have seriously undermined the president's case for the war.

Two firm supporters of the war - Congressman Chris Shays (R-Connecticut) and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) have since turned against it. The former, facing a serious challenge from the Democrat vying for his political seat this November, now calls for a timetable for a withdrawal. The latter, a Democrat who is running to be his party's nominee for the White House, would give the president one more year.

(Mr. Biden's campaign strategy is risky but it might work. The Democratic White House prospect could win the liberal anti-war base with his new-turned opposition to the war and retain moderate support for being one of the last hold-outs. It's risky. The liberals might not believe it or think "too little, too late" but if they are pragmatic and know that their generally anti-war instincts are not shared by the voting public -including those who have since turned against the Iraq War- as a whole, they might vote for him).

Remarkably, the president no longer asks us to support his decision to go to war. "Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein. Many are threatened by the level of violence." The president has all but conceded that the voting public no longer buys into his assertion that pre-war Iraq was tied to the Al Qaeda terrorists that killed thousands when they hijacked and crashed four airplanes - two into the Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon, and one in Pennsylvania. (Mr. Bush still believes the war was justified and reminded his audience that Saddam Hussein, by refusing to cooperate and allow weapons inspectors unlimited and unsupervised access to his countries facilities, gave us no indication that we should believe he dismantled his weapons program.)

Mr. Bush would nevertheless have us believe that "post-war" Iraq is central to an ideological battle between the United States and its Islamofascist enemies. "If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies: Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran and al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban. They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead." In other words, we created the battlefield that we must now fight on.

This might happen, but it is by no means certain. Our enemies by no means share the same goals. The Mahdi Army fights for an Islamic but strongly unified Iraqi state,it's militia rival for Iran, the Sunni Baathists for their return to power, al Qaeda for a new terrorist training camp and to drive up recruitment.

Far less plausible is his assertion that we are diverting the terrorists from American soil by fighting them in Iraq. The failed attempt to hijack American airplanes in London last week, as well as the prior bombings in London, Madrid and Indonesia point to a broader ideological movement that can rely upon its adherents in the countries it counts as its enemy.

However, the case for the war in Iraq is no less strong today than it was when we first removed Saddam Hussein from power. In fact, the case is stronger now than it was before we invaded Iraq. Withdraw now, and the country will fall apart and draw its neighbors into a regional war that will further the cause of the radicals who will use it to undermine the moderate regimes we have come to rely upon in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

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