George W. Bush keeps trying to rally popular support for his war in Iraq. But he has little to offer other than stay-the course-ism. He cannot point to progress in Iraq. Nor can he point to a plan that would seem promising. Thus, he is left only with rhetoric–the same rhetoric.
That was on display during a presidential press conference at the White House on Monday. Here’s a selective run-down.
One reporter asked,
More than 3,500 Iraqis were killed last month, the highest civilian monthly toll since the war began. Are you disappointed with the lack of progress by Iraq’s unity government in bringing together the sectarian and ethnic groups?
No, I am aware that extremists and terrorists are doing everything they can to prevent Iraq’s democracy from growing stronger. That’s what I’m aware of.
He could not bring himself to say he is disappointed by the government’s inability to curb the sectarian violence? That was an odd way to defend his actions in Iraq. Bush did go on to say,
And, therefore, we have a plan to help them–“them,” the Iraqis–achieve their objectives. Part of the plan is political; that is the help the Maliki government work on reconciliation and to work on rehabilitating the community. The other part is, of course, security. And I have given our commanders all the flexibility they need to adjust tactics to be able to help the Iraqi government defeat those who want to thwart the ambitions of the people. And that includes a very robust security plan for Baghdad.
A question: when would it be fair to judge the plan’s success? The plan has supposedly already been implemented. Yet the death count is rising in Iraq. A sharp-eyed (or sharp-eared) reporter should have asked, “If the death count goes up next month, will that mean the plan is a failure? And how should Americans (and Iraqis) evaluate whether the plan is working?” Or as Donald Rumsfeld might say, what are the operative metrics?
Bush repeatedly said that it would be disastrous for the United States to disengage from Iraq. He claimed,
It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers. In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales.
Regarding the “reformers”–and Bush noted this included reformers throughout the region–the US invasion of Iraq and the recent (and partially still ongoing war between Israel and Hezbollah) has undercut the reformers of the Middle East, or so say many such reformers. These reformers report they are on thinner ice because of US policies. Bush’s actions, according to the grunts of Middle East reform, have not emboldened them. As for turning Iraq into a safe haven for terrorists and extremists, Bush has already accomplished that. An American journalist who had recently returned from Baghdad told me a few weeks ago that neighborhoods within a mile or so of the Green Zone in Baghdad are totally under the control of insurgents. Whole swaths of Iraq are beyond the authority of the Iraqi government. These areas can be safe havens for all sorts of miscreants. And it’s fear-mongering to suggest that if the United States were to withdraw that anti-American jihadists will control the state and be enriched by oil revenues. Last time I checked, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds all had an interest in Iraq. These groups are unlikely to turn the nation over to the few jihadist terrorists operating within Iraq.