Sunday, December 18, 2005

On the President Bush Oval Office Speech

"Deer Bush - We're listening,
our ears are poised for your
insightful new revelations,
but you just aren't speaking to us."

On the President Bush
Oval Office Speech

I appreciated the tone of the President's speech tonight, and I am one of those non-defeatist, sincere critics of whom he spoke. I think I'm one of few bloggers who have actually put forward a moral vision to counter my criticisms.

The speech sounded like a constant plea for us to believe we're not losing in Iraq. Which means we are losing in Iraq. What did the president offer to convince us we're winners in Iraq today? An admission that he has made life-taking errors and his word that he has learned from those dreadful mistakes. Soon, the Pentagon will ask for another hundred billion dollars from Congress. Was this speech worth another one hundred billion of our tax dollars? Not if you ask me. The Oval Office has proven itself to be incompetent.

President Bush needs to internationalize this effort - making his plan for the defeat of terror in this world a multilateral goal - a unified front with alternatives to military occupation rather than a unilateral war-only goal. This Middle East intervention was never meant for America to handle alone. We're currently looking at a small, well-paid coalition of limited nations that has grown smaller and will likely disappear in 2006. With that coalition dissipated, we are looking at a future of severely impractical goals for our troops to handle alone. If we love those troops and if we want their morale to soar, let's tell them they're coming home. Let's create a vision to end terrorism that the world will rally around. Let's talk about a success we can all get behind.

Until I hear a hint of that, President Bush's fine talk is vain - "like sounding brass and hopeless gain."

The use of Longfellow's "....the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men.." was insulting to my Christian sensibility. The sadness of this song reflected HW Longfellow's bitter feelings about the Civil war because it divided the nation (I wonder how he'd feel about our divided nation and the lack of peace on earth today because of America's elective war?) I don't think any of us should be using Longfellow's heartfelt words for politics- that's a cheap Christmas stunt. The song calls only for peace. Our nation is not at peace this year - not even close. We're being told to expect more death and violence.


+ Most blatant false choice:
From the Bush speech:

"My conviction is this: We do not create terrorists by fighting them. We invite terrorism by ignoring them.."
There's more way than one to reduce terrorism.

+ I thought terrorists hated a free society!?
From the Bush speech:

"Behind the images of chaos that the terrorists create for the cameras, we are making steady gains..."
Judging from public poll results revealing a lack confidence in the leadership of the Iraq war, "steady gains" must not be camera-friendly or ratings-worthy. Say! What was all that embedded journalism about - if not a creation for cameras? Whatever happened to the embedded stories?

+ Most false political labeling:
From the Bush speech:

"Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts..."
Most dissent about this war has been intelligent, concerned, and constructive. For example, there is nothing partisan about a Roman Catholic who trusts the Pope's leadership in saying this war was immoral and unjust. There is nothing defeatist about understanding the cause in which the nation is engaged, but expecting a moral and civil approach to that engagement. There is nothing defeatist about searching for alternatives to "the course." On Monday, Dec. 19, the president said to a member of the press corps who asked about the government spying on its citizens (FISA):
"If I were you I'd be asking these questions, too."
If that's true, why does he turn around and call those who ask similar questions "defeatists?" It's nothing but politically disingenuous.

+ President Bush: It's not "what you'll allow"'s HOW you'll do it!
From the Bush speech:

"To retreat before victory would be an act of recklesseness and dishonor, and I will not allow it...."
I'm certain that Republican Senator John Warner would disagree with this statement. The word "victory" may come back to bite the President in the butt.
From a great PBS discussion on November 30th:

JIM LEHRER: Do you believe then, Senator, if I hear you correctly, that forget this word "victory" and substitute "successful mission"?

SEN. JOHN WARNER: Well, that's just one senator's view. I guess I've been around too long and been in too many experiences over the past half century...The last real victory was World War II. I was a young sailor then in the training phases of that war. And I remember the outpouring after VE Day and VJ Day into the streets of America and the parades. But then I also served in Korea with the Marines. And I remember coming home and people really didn't want to know where we were.
There's an honest debate in this country about how we got into this war and how we have failed to achieve success in many missions. Bush says he's changing his strategy and tactics as he learns from mistakes on the ground. It's not "what he'll allow" that's important, but HOW he'll achieve success in various missions.

+ Victory is a word that no two people can define in the same way when they speak about our engagement in Iraq.
From the Bush speech:

"Our forces in Iraq are on the road to victory, and that is the road that will lead them home..."
Senator Jack Reed commented on November 30:
"...this notion of a complete victory is too amorphous. I think it's too amorphous for the military commanders. They want an objective that is clear-cut, that is in some respects measurable. And the president alluded to that in some respects when he talked about a stable country, one that's not going to collapse because of internal division, and one also that's not going to offer a haven to terrorists.

Those are I think more achievable objectives but once again it undercuts the president's more grandiose theme of this democratic transformation of the Middle East. But I think that's a more clear-cut objective. I think you can plan for that. I think also you can dedicate resources. And I also agree with the chairman in that this is not just a military strategy. It has to have an economic component and it has to have a political component. We've made progress, but I don't think we've made the kind of progress in the political field and the economic field that is going to complement our military efforts...

...there's still a huge challenge. And that challenge is not so much technical training. It's building a reliable, professional corps of leaders that will support the government of Iraq and not be swayed by sectarian or community issues because of the nature of Iraq.

Rep John Murtha in an interview with Laura Rozen on "victory":
There are only two positions—the president’s position and my position. Whatever else is in-between. We have 96 congressmen on the resolution [calling for redeployment]. I sent a nine-page letter talking about why I decided to do this, and how strongly I feel about it. They had no hearings. They keep trying to undermine what I’m doing with rhetoric and false resolutions—the resolution on floor today [Friday]—I want them to address this from a standpoint of substance, of experience. I believe that the policy of the president—total victory—is not a policy. I believe that is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion. And I believe that there’s no end to it, that we will be there 10 to 15 years.

Look at this question from a Bush press conference on December 18th, the day after his Oval Office speech. Look at how the word "victory" is used, and look at Bush's reasoning for staying.:
Q: Mr. President, you said last night that there were only two options in Iraq -- withdraw or victory. And you asked Americans, especially opponents of the war, to reject partisan politics. Do you really expect congressional Democrats to end their partisan warfare and embrace your war strategy? And what can you do about that to make that happen?

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I said that victory in Iraq is much larger than a person, a President, or a political party. And I've had some good visits with Senate and House Democrats about the way forward. They share the same concerns I share. You know, they want our troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible, but they don't want to do so without achieving a victory....there are some in this country that believe, strongly believe that we ought to get out now...It's a wrong strategy, and I'd like to tell you again why...democracy is hopeful and optimistic...I can't think of anything more dispiriting to a kid [American troop] risking his or her life than to see decisions made based upon sends the wrong signal to the enemy. It just says, wait them out; they're soft, they don't have the courage to complete the mission -- all we've got to do is continue to kill and get these images on the TV screens, and the Americans will leave...
Soldiers do not concern themselves with politics. They fight for their friends, they concentrate on their mission. If we told them they were coming home today, they'd rejoice. Democracy is hopeful and optimistic, but Bush's strategy in Iraq has not inspired hope or optimism in America, more importantly, he has failed to engender his citizens' trust, and the last time I checked, he was the leader of a nation called America. The false choice surrounding the macho fear-mongering "we're soft - they'll wait us out.." and "this is bigger than politics.." will be laughable when we start drawing down our troops in another year, anyhow..leaving Iraq in chaos. Even Donald Rumsfeld was man enough to admit that the insurgency will last at least another twelve years.

+ Hope vs. truth in the face of civil war in Iraq
From the Bush speech:

"...this vote -- 6,000 miles away, in a vital region of the world -- means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror."
The recent elections represented hope. Hope is a powerful thing. Can hope overcome a bitter reality that looms heavy over a population? Imagine a national referendum on slavery in 1857 America. Imagine the numbers of Americans coming out to vote their passions (one way or the other - for or against slavery). Would this have stopped secession? Would it have 'headed off' the Civil War in America? I doubt it seriously. As sure as you're born, there is a great civil struggle coming in Iraq. This will mean Middle East instability. This will mean an extended U.S. presence - perhaps a permanent presence. We have a new embassy in Iraq, and we have suspicions that Bush and company has no plan to end a military presence in that nation.

General George Casey recently said:
There is much work to be done in 2006 as the new Iraqi political leaders settle in, Casey said. The government has to form, he said, and “take the reins and get on with governing.” The Iraqi government will face difficult political and economic challenges not only in 2006 but also for several years thereafter, he added. [my emphasis]

On the political side, Casey said Iraq’s increasingly confident and competent leaders still must debate whether to amend the country’s new constitution and foster a discussion about the future of federalism. He said he expects such debates “to be heated and probably divisive.” .. The end of the string of elections in 2005 does not mean the insurgency has gone dormant, said the commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq. But continued political successes gradually will erode the potency of the insurgency, he said....U.S. and coalition forces will continue to carry out a dialogue with all the political and ethnic groups in Iraq in an effort “to continue to bring people away from the insurgency and into the political process,” Casey said.
We shouldn't doubt the good General's words. If we believe him, and there's no reason not to believe him, we are going to be in Iraq for quite some time - permanently, perhaps.

Why isn't George W. Bush telling us the truth?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell understands that it is Bush's intention to have a military presence in Iraq for many years to come. According to the WaPo,
"Powell said the United States was widely unpopular around the world, saying "we have created an impression that we are unilateralist, we don't care what the rest of the world thinks. I don't think it's a fair impression."
I would sit General Powell down and grill him on this point. Given real facts from current history, how can he possibly believe the world could see the Bush administration's position on Iraq as anything but unilateralist?

+ Another blatant false choice:

From the Bush speech:

"If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone."
A false choice: Initiate an unjust war upon a nation having no links to 9/11 - or do nothing. Was this the only choice? If so, we have certainly come to the end of American ingenuity, creativity, and morality. The solution to alleviating terror is and always has been about winning hearts and minds. If Bush can't win ours with honesty and sound moral leadership, how can he ever expect to win theirs?


Out there in the Blogosphere:

+ Blony makes some salient points, such as:
The single most important fact the President fails to comprehend is that there is no possibility of U.S. victory in Iraq because there was never any meaningful threat to the U.S. from Iraq. You cannot fashion 'Victory' out of arrogant, ignorant, unnecessary aggression. What's left is, how do we best clean up after the long series of stupid mistakes and let Iraqis get on their way to being however they are going to be?
They'll start by asking middle class Americans to foot a $100 billion bill while the richest Americans are asked to make no sacrifices - and are actually enriched. The only sacrifices in America today are coming from the blood of military families and the treasure from middle class pockets. This is not my vision of America - this is not the dream of our forefathers nor is it the promise of great men such as FDR.

+ My fellow writer at Syracuse Progressive, Fred Bieling, is a National Guardsman and a veteran of the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He says:
Did any of you caught the special on NBC about the troops from the 2-108th INF from Glen Falls? I'll be thinking of them as I make my rounds through the halls of Headquarters today. And President Bush, you have 6-8 months to get results. It's your last chance to get it right.
6-8 months.

What will we accomplish in that time? I predict that we'll see little reduction in violence in six months and we will leave Iraqis in chaos, regardless of time or what the President says now about leaving politics out of the equation. Who does he think he's fooling? He's the leader -and he's had one eye on the political calendar from the lead-up to the war until now.

By the way, I saw Tom Brokaw's special 'To War And Back' last night - and I think it was one of the best productions I've seen about the "connect" we need to make between the Iraq war and the real lives of the men and women who serve. Nate Brown's story was especially moving - and the thought of any of these men being forgotten for their sacrifices, in any way, would be a national sin.

I saved the best for last.
- "..we found some capacity to restart weapons programs."

- George W. Bush, 12-18-05

_ _ _

- "....I suspect that they have a pretty good idea if they had some weapons or not. This unearthing that this guy had something buried in his back yard for 12 years, I swear, it looked like a carburetor some redneck would have in his garage, and they put this thing up and we’re going to get blown up by this? It was buried for 12 years. I mean, they may have — as Vice President Cheney said right here in this chair, they may have a reconstituted nuclear program, but we sure haven’t found anything close to it yet or a nuclear bomb..."

- James Carville, Meet the Press, June 29, 2003

On A December Day, Union Station D.C.

The Sharing Session
By Marion Brenish
[from Chicken Soup For the Soul/Christmas Treasury]

"My parents, like yours, taught me to share, but it wasn't until that day in Union Station that I truly learned the meaning of that word..."

Read the story here.

From President Nixon to Iddybud

I've cared about environmental issues for quite some time. Going through an old family album, I came across this document from when I was about 15 years old (my son's age now).

Right Bloggers Cry: Freedom!(for G-Men Spying on Quakers)

Right Bloggers Cry: Freedom!
(for G-Men Spying on Quakers)

Atrios has tongue-in-cheek commentary about the right bloggers' odd defense of the startling revelation that the government is spying on good Americans:
Shorter Conservatarian Blogosphere
We are very concerned by the fact that people are exposing illegal acts by the government to the press.
Larry Johnson on Spying on Americans (and John Bolton)

Martin Garbus: Would Bush's signing the order to allow this kind of domestic spying without legal warrant an impeachable offense?

A citizen at DU recommends an investigation into the NYT for their part in covering up an impeachable offense, "willfully suppressing reporting on an outrageous, repetitive violation of the Constitutional rights of our citizens."

Karen Kwiatkowski:
Apparently, the White House over a year ago asked the New York Times not to publish the facts of NSA eavesdropping on American citizens. True to character, the Times complied and cooperated. But now that we know about it, the media, every member of Congress and every concerned American, should be asking "Is this Constitutional?" and "Is this legal?" The executive branch itself should be asking these questions as well. Further, the executive branch would do well to ask, in a business sense, "Is this worthwhile?" and "Is it cost effective?" and "Does it work to improve national security?" I'd like to think that, in addition to these questions, my old boss Michael Hayden is asking the very simple, straightforward, and ultimately the most courageous question. "Is it right?"
Katrina Vanden Heuvel: Spying and lying

Mark Schmitt (the Decembrist) on Alito and the Wiretaps

David Sirota: Bush's "Need for Speed" Lie Runs Into the Truth

A hilarious quote from Mark Adams [Dispassionate Liberalism]
And to the officials who keep rummaging through all the packages arriving at my doorstep, be aware that I haven't ordered any bomb making supplies recently, just a talking Scooby Doo and Barbie's Fairy Tale Palace. So keep your damn mits off my kids' Christmas presents, dammit!

Tar Heel Tavern

Tar Heel Tavern

This week's Tar Heel Tavern is up at Ogre's Politics and Views. I want to thank Ogre for hosting during such a busy time.

I don't know why it slipped through the cracks, but I did not link the Tavern from two weeks ago at Colonel (Kenneth) Corn, and this was his first time hosting.

Jane has graciously offered to host at Pratie Place on Christmas Day and she currently offers free daily holiday music downloads until then.