Bush Flops in Prime-time
by Mike Whitney
- - The Bush prime-time fiasco was the biggest presidential pratfall in the history of the office. Bush was expected to lay out a new vision that would soothe the jittery nerves of the country but, instead, ladled out the same tired bromides he's used for the last 5 years. Even his worshipful audience of servicemen and women slumped into stunned silence as the Commander in Chief exhumed the pitiable rhetoric of the Vietnam era. The reverberations of Westmoreland's "light in the tunnel" speech resonated through the Fort Bragg auditorium as Bush blathered on about "no timetable" and "staying the course". The oratory offered no explanation for why the nation continues to slip beneath the Iraqi quicksand.
"The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September 11, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us and the terrorists we face murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent," Bush moaned.
Nothing new here; just the same threadbare platitudes reiterated in the familiar Bush-drawl.
"Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists. We are helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror."
"Terrorists"? Even the polls show that most Americans now understand that the insurgency is mainly comprised of Iraqis, so why invoke the terrorists?
"Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom... They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well."
Now the speech begins to take shape and we can see that the expectant nation will not get a straight answer, just more nattering about the scourge of terrorism.
"The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take." Let's see..so far, the terrorists, as Bush likes to call the Iraqi resistance, has killed 1,700 American servicemen. Bush's Legions, on the other hand, have killed more than 100,000 Iraqis. Who are the terrorists?
"The terrorists can kill the innocent but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11," Bush crooned.
At this point the camera scanned the audience of glowering servicemen; some of whom looked glazed by the rhetoric and others who still looked hopeful that they would hear something that might clarify why they were headed back to the Iraqi hell-hole. Nothing Bush said would ease their burden.
. "progress is being made. We are improving roads and schools and health clinics and working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. Together with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens."
"Progress"? By every objective standard, things are worse now then they were under Saddam (which was confirmed by a recent UN report). Power is normally on from 3 to 6 hours a day, hospitals lack essential medicines and supplies, cholera and typhoid have broken out in areas of the capital, there's been an up tick in mysterious cancers (depleted uranium?), sewage and sanitation are worse than before the war, clean water is scarce, and unemployment has skyrocketed to 70%.
The new Iraqi government is "building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal justice under law;" the very same "institutions" that are currently under fire at home by the Bush Administration.
"There will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons who are capable of any atrocity.. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001."
9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11, and, oh, by the way, did I mention 9-11?
So far, the only people to use "lethal weapons" (WMD) in Iraq have been the US Army. The same rule applies to Bush's charge that the Iraqi resistance is "capable of any atrocity". Perhaps, he should review his notes on Abu Ghraib and Falluja and decide who was really responsible.
"And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens!" Bush boomed.
Ah, yes; the old canard of the Islamic hordes swooping across the Great Plains, ravaging our women and wiping out our precious consumer culture. Just 2 weeks ago the LA Times reported that the CIA allowed two of the 9-11 terrorists to enter the country and intentionally withheld the information from the FBI. In other words, the "killing of our citizens" occurred because someone at the highest level of law enforcement was ordered to "stand down" and let the threat materialize.
"And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces."
A shameless plug for the military?
"Be All You Can Be" in 115 degree heat covered in sand fleas ducking mortar rounds?
Wouldn't it have been nice if Bush had honored that "higher calling" and showed up for his service in the Alabama National Guard instead of absconding on a coke-binge to some undisclosed location?
"Well, it has been difficult. And we are prevailing...May God bless you all."
"Prevailing"? Not according to Senator Chuck Hagel, who admitted just last week that the US was "losing in Iraq" and that "The White House is completely disconnected from reality;" a view that is shared by a larger part of the American public every day. Those fears were not allayed by Bush's predictable 35 minutes of inane chatter.
Bush had his work cut out for him last night. He had to articulate a clear strategy for resolving the current firestorm in Iraq. He failed to do that; relying instead on demagoguery and the frayed imagery of a global war on terror. The American people disserve better.
He produced no plan, no strategy, and no vision; just a continuation of the same trends; the steady erosion of national confidence, a precipitous decline in credibility, and the daily loss of life.
Death by a thousand cuts.
Already, the polls have signaled what we all should have anticipated. Democrats and liberals didn't watch the speech; they've had it with the Dear Leader. All Bush had to do was win over "the faithful"; the Republicans and conservatives who still want to believe in him, but are waiting for a straight answer.
They didn't get one last night.
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