Home > Iraq News > Selling Iraq, Part CXXVII

Selling Iraq, Part CXXVII

September 14th, 2007

So Bush spoke on Iraq today, which is to say that he lied. Six of one.

Once again, Bush attempted to strengthen the idea that Iraq=al Qaeda, Iraq is a direct result of 9/11, that if we leave Iraq, then 9/11 will happen again like it happened before. All in all, Bush mentioned al Qaeda twelve times:

Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda. … The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. … Today, a city where al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. … They pledged they would never allow al Qaeda to return. … They show al Qaeda that it cannot count on popular support…one of the brave tribal sheikhs who helped lead the revolt against al Qaeda was murdered. … One year ago, much of Diyala Province was a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital of Baqubah was emerging as an al Qaeda stronghold. … A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. … Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries. … We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda… It is never too late to deal a blow to al Qaeda.

As if al Qaeda were the only, or even the predominant, enemy. As if even the element that identifies itself as al Qaeda in Iraq is the same “al Qaeda” that wants to “follow us home” and attack the U.S., when in reality, al Qaeda is more of an idea in Iraq than an organization, and those who subscribe to it have no interest in following us anywhere.

But Bush claims that leaving Iraq not only would be abandoning Democracy itself, but that it would pose a clear and present danger to the people of the United States in their homes. He punctuated it with a blatant 9/11 reference:

We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world. And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people.

Of course, Bush is not saying that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, right? He’s only stating things in a way that will make uninformed listeners believe that such is the truth.

In making his case, Bush had all the sincerity of a farmer smearing lipstick on a pig: the Anbar leader who Bush lauded was assassinated today. Bush emphasized that remaining leaders pledge to push on, but the news was a blow to the success of the province, which is anything but stable. Despite its relative security, Anbar remains the second most violent province in Iraq today, after Baghdad itself. More lipstick included the oil-revenue-sharing Bush lauded has been deadlocked for a long time now and has less chance to succeed than it has to fail.

In his speech, Bush pushed idea that Anbar Province is proof of success of the surge. The problem with that statement? Anbar started turning around only because of internal Sunni politics. The leader who was killed today decided to turn last September–months before even the idea of the surge was known. And the violence started dropping in Anbar last year in November. The “Surge” was announced in January, and the full force of the surge did not arrive in Anbar until later. All Bush did here was move the “Surge” into an area where local politics was fueling success, then went on a PR trip there to claim the success as his own.

Bush continued his speech by building on the Anbar “success” and suggested that this “success” is spreading throughout Iraq. “Ordinary life is beginning to return.” Rosiness all around, everything is going peachy. Except that it’s not. Bush simply chose one or two bright spots in Iraq and ignored the dark areas, the places that have gotten worse, like Kirkuk, Tikrit, Samarra, Diyala, Balad, Basra, Mosul, and Amarah. As so many have pointed out, Iraq–like most insurgencies–is a whack-a-mole situation, where violence will ebb in one place only because the insurgents have moved on to easier grounds elsewhere to spread their violence.

And then there is the claim that Bush is “pulling troops out of Iraq,” when really what he’s planning is to bring troop levels back down to pre-surge levels–and even then, not until the summer of 2008–which, by coincidence, is just before the elections. Surprise!

You know when you go to a store and see an item marked down “50%”? And you know that the item was probably assigned a retail price by the manufacturer that was lower than you’re looking at, but the store then pasted their own ridiculous “retail” price to it, and then “slashed” that price to give you the illusion of a bargain? That’s what we’re getting sold to us here–a troop draw-down which is really just a restoration to what we had before.

Actually, Bush is probably pulling down those numbers more because of resource constraints than anything else: he has so crippled our military that we simply cannot maintain the “Surge” numbers beyond the timelines he has set down.

When it comes down to it, when Bush leaves office, two years after the American people gave the clear and undeniable message that they wanted out of Iraq, we will have about the same presence in Iraq that we had before the 2006 midterms. By using the “Surge” and throwing in all these delays (“just wait a little longer… and then longer after that… and then we’ll reveal that all that is needed is to wait a little longer!”) and tweaking troop levels, he will have successfully played Americans for fools and completely ignored their clearly-stated demands.

At the end, Bush could not help but to shamelessly use the sacrifice of a soldier and the grief of his family to paint a poignant facade on his incompetence. Once again, he tied the utter failure of his administration in Iraq to the honor and sacrifice of the troops, as if the two had any connection whatsoever. This continues to strike me as the most reprehensible of all political maneuvers. If Bush wants to honor the troops for their sacrifice, great; if he wants to make his case about Iraq, let him. But to honor the sacrifice of the troops only as a selling point for his miserable failure that caused the needless sacrifice that the soldiers bravely supplied, this is contemptible beyond expression.

After Bush’s speech, politicians were given the mic and more or less gave their standard stump speeches. Barack Obama said, “The bar for success has been lowered so far that it is almost invisible” (a variation on the statement he’s made in the past day, “The bar for success is so low that it’s almost buried in the sand”).

John McCain, on the other hand, expressed an interesting new twist in rationalizing the “Surge” which he helped author: blame Rumsfeld. He characterized everything bad that happened as the “Rumsfeld strategy,” and painted himself as having heroically fought against that since the beginning–as if there was nothing wrong with the invasion or with the administration’s management of the war aside from Rumsfeld, and McCain only suggested stuff that worked. As with Obama, McCain cribbed from his stump speech, he’s been on a “blame Rumsfeld” kick for a week or so now.

Michael Ware on CNN had an excellent sum-up of how Bush’s claim that “ordinary life is beginning to return” is full of it.

If the president means by ordinary life, families essentially living locked up in their homes, in almost perpetual darkness, without refrigeration, or perhaps constantly struggling — struggling for ever more expensive gas to run generators, if he means waiting in their homes, wondering if government death squads will drag them off and torture and execute them, if he means living in sectarian, cleansed neighborhoods where people who were your friends have had to flee, if he’s talking about living in communities that are protected by militias, then, yes, life has returned to ordinary.

Ware painted a very bleak picture of “ordinary life” in Iraq today. He may have emphasized the despair too much, but I would bet good money that his assessment of life in Iraq today is far more accurate than Bush’s.

One last nitpick: Bush said in his speech that “We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq….”

Thirty-six? According to Wikipedia, there are 22 countries with troops on the ground in Iraq today (21 by the count of the Center for American Progress), including the United States. There were 18 other nations that sent troops (if you include Iceland’s 2 soldiers and several other nations, like Japan, who sent troops for strictly non-combat duties). Perhaps he is counting the ten extra countries involved in NATO’s training mission, a non-combat affair–where none have more than 15 people involved? Even with that, it doesn’t add up to 36.

So, where is he getting the number 36? The best I can tell, there were by some counts 36 nations in the Coalition with troops on the ground when the invasion of Iraq began–but Bush used the present tense, “have troops on the ground,” not “had.” That’s written in the pre-released transcripts as well.

Edit: I started writing this just after Bush finished his speech–but it looks like I’m not the only one who caught the “36 nations” lie.

Bush can’t even tell the straight truth about how many countries are helping us–or he is in extreme denial over the countries who have lost faith in the mission and have pulled out.

For Bush, Iraq continues to be one colossal, bloody lie.

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  1. September 14th, 2007 at 15:28 | #1

    Maybe it’s like the Olympics where territories “count” as nations. So if you count Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, etc you can get a few more nations. Maybe?

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