If al-Qaida in Iraq loses–we win. If the insurgents in Iraq lose–we win. If the Iranian influence in Iraq loses–we win. If we just can sell the occupation to the Iraqis–we win. And in order to “win”, we need to sell the invasion and occupation to the Iraqis.
Instead of charting a new direction for U.S. policy in Iraq, President Bush’s speech to the nation last evening was an impassioned plea to the American public to stay the course. But much of Bush’s argument for staying the course was based on spin instead of reality. In this edition of Annotate This… Stephen Zunes and Erik Leaver analyze Bush’s statements and offer an alternative interpretation of the situation on the ground.
Last week’s briefings for the press by U.S. civilian and military officials in Baghdad were uniformly upbeat, cautious, and predictable.
While the American people are seeking a way to bring the troops home from Iraq, the President and his administration are aiming to stay for much longer by redefining “victory” in Iraq once again—this time as a permanent occupier. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on June first this year that he favors a mutual agreement with Iraq in which “some force of Americans…is present for a protracted period of time….” Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, in charge of daily military operations in Iraq, supported this idea, comparing our involvement in Iraq to our continued military presence in South Korea. This type of “victory” was not what America signed up for as Bush led the nation to war. But even worse, this victory isn’t even realistic.
Remember January 10, 2007? That was the night that President Bush told the American public, in effect, to stop complaining about the fighting in Iraq. As the “decider-in-chief,” he was “surging” an additional 21,500 troops – five army combat brigades and four Marine regimental combat teams – to cut the high daily death totals and provide stability and security in Baghdad and al-Anbar province.
On April 11, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) visited the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) to defend his support of the “surge” tactic in Iraq. Meant to bolster his campaign, McCain’s appearance was not quite the shot in the arm he’d hoped for. The 1,200 cadets were a friendly venue – an important factor if one is a candidate for president. But reporters found that not all of the students agreed with McCain that the “surge” is going to stabilize Iraq sufficiently to allow other post-war programs to function. McCain’s remarks went beyond the “surge” to encompass other national security issues: the ramifications of a perceived “defeat” in Iraq, U.S. strategy and international security, and how the politics of today might influence the shape of terrorism tomorrow. “Supporting the troops” was another predictable theme. Less predictable was McCain’s reference to the Iraq War as not only necessary but also “just” – a characterization made twice but with a different tone each time.
Boots from the American Friends Service Committee project Eyes Wide Open, a traveling exhibition on the costs of the Iraq War. Photo by Jochen Strack.
President George W. Bush will address the nation Wednesday night on his new strategy for his same-old goal of “victory” in Iraq. Most of the plan has been leaked — in this case probably the expression ”handed to” would be more accurate — to the press with the approval and encouragement of the White House. The most carefully guarded secret, as of this writing, seems to be the venue: The Oval Office; the White House Map Room; or Vice-President Cheney’s last undisclosed location.
In his popular weekly radio and subsequent television quiz show, ÂYou Bet Your Life,Â Groucho Marx featured the “magic word.” If a contestant happened to utter it during the course of the show, he or she would instantly receive $25 or $50 or some other, inflation-adjusted amount.