Does it seem to you that our President simply flails about from plan to plan? That he has no carefully thought out process toward a goal, but just tries one thing after another until he gets it right? He did it in the run-up to the Iraq invasion – trotted out a dozen different excuses for war until he found one that worked – and now he’s doing it with his post-war morass. Each week we hear something different from the White House about this continuing war, about how we have won, how we are minutes away from capturing Hussein, how we can do it alone, and now, how we need the UN (but only if we’re in charge). Tonight, Bush will make a speech clearly designed to boost his sagging ratings (when did we start treating a President like a prime-time television series?):
The tone and content of the 8:30 p.m. White House address will continue a fundamental reworking of the administration’s Iraq strategy that first became apparent last week when Bush decided to negotiate for a U.N. mandate for a multinational force in Iraq as a way to attract more troops and money from allies.
The president’s speech, to last about 15 minutes, comes at a time of growing concern in the White House. Bush is ramping up his reelection campaign against the backdrop of persistent job losses, and Democratic presidential candidates have seized on his handling of postwar Iraq as a potential vulnerability. Only months ago, Bush’s strategists saw his handling of the war on terrorism as a political trump card, and Democrats had planned generally to focus on other topics as much as possible.
Analysts called the address an attempt by Bush to take command at a time when his justification for the war has proved factually flawed, his planning for the occupation is being criticized as inadequate, and Iraq is beset by rising sectarianism, sabotage and chaos. [Washington Post]
I’m certain that we will hear more of the carefully crafted rhetoric that gave Bush his “best” excuse for the war – the White House designed speeches that give the impression of a link between Iraq and September 11, something that is simply not true; yet is believed by an incredible number of gullible Americans:
Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Bush’s opponents say he encouraged this misconception by linking al Qaeda to Hussein in almost every speech on Iraq. Indeed, administration officials began to hint about a Sept. 11-Hussein link soon after the attacks. In late 2001, Vice President Cheney said it was “pretty well confirmed” that attack mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official.
… Bush, in his speeches, did not say directly that Hussein was culpable in the Sept. 11 attacks. But he frequently juxtaposed Iraq and al Qaeda in ways that hinted at a link. In a March speech about Iraq’s “weapons of terror,” Bush said: “If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September the 11th, 2001, showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.”
Then, in declaring the end of major combat in Iraq on May 1, Bush linked Iraq and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: “The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 — and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men — the shock troops of a hateful ideology — gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions.”
Moments later, Bush added: “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th — the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.”
… In follow-up interviews, poll respondents were generally unsure why they believed Hussein was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, often describing it as an instinct that came from news reports and their long-standing views of Hussein. For example, Peter Bankers, 59, a New York film publicist, figures his belief that Hussein was behind the attacks “has probably been fed to me in some PR way,” but he doesn’t know how. “I think that the whole group of people, those with anti-American feelings, they all kind of cooperated with each other,” he said.
Similarly, Kim Morrison, 32, a teacher from Plymouth, Ind., described her belief in Hussein’s guilt as a “gut feeling” shaped by television. “From what we’ve heard from the media, it seems like what they feel is that Saddam and the whole al Qaeda thing are connected,” she said.
Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University professor of linguistics who has studied Bush’s rhetoric, said it is impossible to know but “plausible” that Bush’s words furthered such public impressions. “Clearly, he’s using language to imply a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11th,” she said.
“There is a specific manipulation of language here to imply a connection.” Bush, she said, seems to imply that in Iraq “we have gone to war with the terrorists who attacked us.”
I suppose it’s easier to believe what the White House wants you to believe, rather than think for yourself. It’s too bad that this White House doesn’t want us to believe in peace, prosperity, and equality for all people. That would be nice.