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Monday, May 24, 2004

Nothing to See Here

I thought tonight we were supposed to hear Bush's "clear plan" for fixing the mess in Iraq. Instead we got the same platitudes he's spouted many times before. There was no hint of any change in approach, despite the accumulating evidence that the approach we've taken is failing.

To be fair, Bush did make the minor announcement that we're going to tear down Abu Ghraib prison. I was amazed he talked about that but made no vow to punish the people who perpetrated the torture there and those who allowed it to happen. He also noted that Lakhdar Brahimi will be announcing this week to whom we're giving "full sovereignty" (repeated several times though never defined in the speech) at the end of next month. Still, there's no guarantee he'll be able to come up with something people accept. And for good measure, Bush said he thinks the knife wielder on the Berg beheading tape is Zarqawi, a subject of some uncertainty to say the least.

The role of the US military in Iraq after this nominal handover of power is unclear as well. I have a hard time believing a country can be fully sovereign when it has over 100,000 foreign soldiers present, and they will undoubtedly have some role in setting policy in the country. Madeline Albright was just devastating in her remarks on CNN after the speech ended, allowing that at least Bush was "more organized" in stating what he'd already made public previously. Will look for that transcript later.

What bothered me the most, though, are the president's nonfactual assertions. He claimed all of the violent resistance to US troops comes from people who want tyranny to take hold of the country. I doubt that since at least some of the insurgents probably just want the Americans the hell out of Iraq so they can build the kind of government they want, not something we force on them. After all, "Iraqis are proud people who resent foreign control of their affairs, just as we would," to cite the president's own words. Bush also shamelessly linked the Iraq conflict to 9/11 again.

In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country, and events have come quickly. Americans have seen the flames of September the 11th, followed battles in the mountains of Afghanistan, and learned new terms like "orange alert" and "ricin" and "dirty bomb." We've seen killers at work on trains in Madrid, in a bank in Istanbul, at a synagogue in Tunis, and at a nightclub in Bali. And now the families of our soldiers and civilian workers pray for their sons and daughters in Mosul and Karbala and Baghdad.

We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it.

None of those other attacks had anything to do with Iraq. Bush doesn't provide any evidence that they did, either, but he links them rhetorically to give this false impression to listeners. This is not "the world as we find it" but a war that the Bush administration was planning long before 9/11 occurred. The fundamental dishonesty about the war's premise continues to be stunning.