By Bob Shrum
Brackets indicate what Bush was really thinking.
Italics indicate my sense of what’s really going on here.
BUSH: Good evening.
Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror and our safety here at home (There were no weapons of mass destruction; there was no al Qaeda connection; there was no terrorist training ground until Bush invaded on cooked intelligence).
The new strategy I outline tonight will change America’s course in Iraq and help us succeed in the fight against terror. [I’m staying the course but calling it something else.]
When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. (As was said of Pyrrhus: One more success and we shall be undone.)
We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together [I was wrong—not we] and, that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops. (The ones we’re training appear to be deeply involved in the civil war, not in pacifying the country but in protracting the conflict.)
But in 2006, the opposite happened. (You got one thing right.) The violence in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s elections posed for their cause. (The violence—just look on TV; stop trying to make this Al Qaeda and 9/11, it’s a smarmy trick.) And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. (And the insurgents will keep doing it because the generals you fired said you only fueled the insurgency. You’re sending more. Duh?)
They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam—the Golden Mosque of Samarra—in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. (Did anybody think about this in the post-war planning?)
Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.
The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people (that’s for sure), and it is unacceptable to me [so I’ll make it worse]. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely (Are there any Bushes there?). They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me. (It sure does, and why the passive voice?)
It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq (And how ’bout regime change in Washington?). So my national security team [not the generals I fire when they disagree with me], military commanders and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review [designed to protect my legacy].
We consulted members of Congress from both parties [and didn’t listen], allies abroad [that took about five minutes; we gave them our marching orders], and distinguished outside experts.
We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group [henceforth to be cited but ignored], a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker [stole Florida for me, wants to redeem his reputation as a statesman but stuck it to me in this report and I’ll never forgive him] and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq (certainly not yours and as far as America can tell, under you, the war is all over but the dying). And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States. [And for the George W. Bush Library]
The consequences of failure are clear [I will be remembered as the worst president in modern history]: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. (They are…because you listened to the nitwit neo-cons and invaded Iraq.) Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. (It’s not now?) Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people.
On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. (Stop desecrating the people who lost their lives on 9/11 by using them to justify the invasion of a nation that had nothing to do with it.) For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq. (What does that mean? And how dare you connect your foolish war with 9/11?)
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. (Did Rumsfeld not understand this? Or does the buck stop with you?) Eighty percent of Iraq’s sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves (isn’t the country a series of sectarian enclaves?) and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis (What confidence? Anyone can get killed at any time in this civil war. By the way, is that a phrase you can’t bring yourself to utter?) Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people (So why are we sending 20,000 more troops?). And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it. (What—attack the Sunnis? Or do you actually believe that Maliki is an honest broker—in which case, he would like to sell you the Baghdad Bridge. You’d probably buy it as long as Halliburton commission.)
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed (we agree with you on that) for two principal reasons (three actually, and you’re one of them): There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents (why did you fire the generals who warned you about that?), and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have (and too little body armor—although they shouldn’t have been there in the first place).
Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes (and I fired the ones who didn’t agree with my preconceived attempt to redeem my failed policy). They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work (and what would have happened to them if they had dissented?).
Let me explain the main elements of this effort (I look forward to this).
The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital (Do they get medals and epaulets?). The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad’s nine districts (And under Vietnamization, the South Vietnamese will defend their own country).
When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police (almost as big as the gigantic South Vietnamese forces that repulsed the Vietcong and “saved” Saigon). These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations (also known as centers for the militias); conducting patrols, setting up checkpoints, and going door- to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents (or terrify them).
This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help (here it comes—those 18 Iraqi brigades don’t count for much). So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign (I thought we started this) to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad.
This will require increasing American force levels [or admitting that I was fundamentally wrong]. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq (How many Bushes?). The vast majority of them—five brigades—will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations [and the vast majority of them may be only a small minority of the troops I ultimately send the next time I tell you we have to do more to prove that I was right in first place].
Our troops will have a well-defined mission (that would be a first): to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs (blah, blah, blah; didn’t Nixon say something like this?).
Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed (they certainly will) when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not [I’m just hoping they believe me this time because I’m not sure I believe myself].
Here are the differences [unfortunately, I’m still here].
In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents but, when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. (No one told you this could happen? This never occurred to you? Talk to a high school ROTC instructor.)
This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared (why would we believe you now?).
In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods (What if the other side doesn’t obey the red light; by the way, this is really pedestrian, can you get Gerson back to write the speeches?). And Prime Minister Maliki has pledged (and we certainly believe him) that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended (when does it end?). If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises (they won’t), it will lose the support of the American people [but not the Bush administration’s—what else do I have left?]. And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people (Is there the remotest chance they haven’t already?).
Now is the time to act (four years ago was the time not to act for the US). The prime minister understands this (Stop kidding us, he ain’t Churchill). Here is what he told his people just last week: The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation (and he really meant it—no one has been killed since then).
This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations or IED attacks (that’s for sure—or even a long-term end). Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering [and my administration will do everything I can to discredit the images].
Yet, over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers (or joining them), fewer brazen acts of terror (or maybe more), and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad’s residents (maybe you really will buy the Baghdad Bridge).
When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas (this is from the 2004 speech).
Most of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace [and only I could have brought them to this pass after 1,300 years of enmity]. And reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations (or could have done without them). Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.
To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November (you already said something like this; Can we leave?).
To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis (Could we do that in the US?).
To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs (How ’bout spending our own money on reconstruction in America?).
To empower local leaders (Muqtada al Sadr?), Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year (why do we think the good guys will win?).
And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s political life (they’re fleeing the country in record numbers), the government will reform de-Baathification laws (wasn’t that one of your biggest screw-ups?) and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq’s constitution [as long as the White House approves them].
America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. (We’re staying the course, but in drag and it’s quite flamboyant. More troops, more rhetoric.) In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group [which I have almost entirely ignored], we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units (read: this is yet another way to say we’re sending more troops and has nothing to do with who sleeps where) and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division.
We will help the Iraqis (we’ve done a great job so far) build a larger and better-equipped Army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces (and what will they do to the Sunnis?—or don’t we care?), which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq (Come again?).
We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility [unless they disagree with me] to spend funds for economic assistance.
We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams [at least “teams” is a word I understand]. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen moderates and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance (When is this going to happen other than in your repeated speeches?).
And Secretary Rice (How did that ever happen?) will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq (and maybe she could have a coordinator to talk with Colin Powell).
As we make these changes [all 20,000 of them, but I don’t want to mention that number again; I hope I fool you into thinking there really are changes], we will continue to pursue Al Qaida (remember—Afghanistan) and foreign fighters. (Is that us?)
Al Qaida is still active in Iraq (never was before you sent us there). Its home base is Anbar province [isn’t it great I learned to pronounce it?]. Al Qaida has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital.
A captured Al Qaida document describes the terrorists’ plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. (Was anyone thinking of this before you invaded?) This would bring Al Qaida closer to its goals of taking down Iraq’s democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad (So you think Al Qaida wants to have a Shia empire. You are too dumb to be president).
Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing Al Qaida leaders (what ever happened to Osama bin Laden?) and protecting the local population (I hope we don’t get this kind of protection in Cape Cod or New York City). Recently, local tribal leaders (actually, many of the Republicans have deserted you) have begun to show their willingness to take on Al Qaida (In Iraq? where, how many, and what have they done?). As a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists [who, by the way, have multiplied tenfold since I invaded].
So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar province by 4,000 troops (again, how many Bushes?). These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces (who may not work with them) to step up the pressure on the terrorists. America’s men and women in uniform took away Al Qaida’s safe haven in Afghanistan (but it’s coming back because we’re in a quagmire in Iraq), and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.
Succeeding in Iraq (and in the Bush presidency) also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge.
This begins with addressing Iran and Syria (if all else goes wrong, manufacture another war: attack them). These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces (there’s always another war if you need it). We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq [If things get worse, I could do worse—you have no idea how bad I could be].
We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East [including new contracts for Halliburton]. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.
We will expand intelligence sharing, and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies (we could do with both more intelligence and more patriotism). We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border (the Turks don’t like what we’re doing). And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region (and we’re doing great on that).
We will use America’s full diplomatic resources [what is this word, “diplomatic”? As president, I never heard of that] to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East (good luck). Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States [the model democracies I mentioned in my second inaugural address] need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival (wait, I thought that’s what the U.S. did in Iraq).
These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq’s unity government (they’ve really been there when we’ve needed them).
We endorse the Iraqi government’s call to finalize an international compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform.
And, on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region (please don’t) to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East (you blew that one already; you brought war to the Middle East).
The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East (question from Potus: what is that?) is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time (I don’t think you get it at all). On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life (what about those of us who believe in freedom and think you are the extremist and fantasist and may even suspect that you’re kind of dumb? Can we have a third category called: “Bush is dumb”?).
In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people (is to make sure we never elect another Bush) is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy (that could be most candidates, Democrats or Republicans—but McCain is sounding increasingly like a Bush talker instead of a straight talker), by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom (how many Bushes?), and help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East (how ’bout on health care in the US?).
From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories (if I were you, I wouldn’t mention these places outside of confessional), millions of ordinary people (I’ve never actually met any) are sick of the violence (who invaded Iraq?) and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq.
They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists (or will we continue to rule as a quasi-imperial power?), or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom? (So why is Cheney saying we should be with the Shia, suppressing the Sunnis? Let’s be honest: this is not about ideals, but interests.)
The changes [escalation] I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy (stop kidding me) that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security (and where you have put our security gravely at risk).
Let me be clear (not again): The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent (how did this start—did you have nothing to do with it?). Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue. And we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties [But there’s a chance my legacy may be saved].
The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success (No). I believe that it will (and you thought the “mission” was “accomplished”).
Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved [or the one I promised—in fact, there may not be one, but I’ll claim one]. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship (understandable that you didn’t mention aircraft carriers).
But victory in Iraq (oh yeah, the light at the end of the tunnel, as we heard in Vietnam) will bring something new in the Arab world: a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people (or maybe none of the above). A democratic Iraq will not be perfect (that’s for sure; and it will be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic). But it will be a country that fights terrorists (for or against) instead of harboring them, and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren (what about the Bushes?).
Our new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq (and after 3,000 dead Americans).
Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States (How did that happen?) and, therefore (This is the first ‘therefore’ in the entire Bush administration), our policy should focus on protecting Iraq’s borders and hunting down Al Qaida (go to Afghanistan). Their solution is to scale back America’s efforts in Baghdad or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces (finally, a good idea).
We carefully considered these proposals (you bet). And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale (and the bloodbath isn’t happening now? What is the endpoint of this policy? What is the date of success? Or is this just a last-ditch effort to redeem a Bush disaster?).
Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer (well, they could leave), and confront an enemy that is even more lethal (who created that?). If we increase our support at this crucial moment (we will escalate again), and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence (or escalate it), we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home (how ’bout by the end of the year—not begin, but finish).
In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief [lie to] Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them [unless they disagree with my resolve to prove that I was right in the first place]. If circumstances change, we will adjust (translation: more troops in a few months. Anything but tarnishing baby George as our commander-in-chief—not mine).
Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny (then stop connecting 9/11 to Iraq). And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed (how ’bout you?).
Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman (wishing I had never worked for him since he now apparently works for you) and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group (is he all you got?) that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror (I thought we were talking about Iraq; stop killing and lying in the name of 9/11). This group will meet regularly with me and my Administration, and it will help strengthen our relationship with Congress [and will be regularly ignored if they disagree with me].
We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century (blah, blah, blah again. Which Bushes are enlisting?). We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas, where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny (before you change the world, try to figure out how to avert disaster in Iraq).
In these dangerous times (you’re kidding!), the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us (how many Bushes?). These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary (where are the weapons of mass destruction?), and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time (the catastrophic mistake of the Bush presidency).
They serve far from their families, who make the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table (they’re not lucky enough to be at Camp David beating their chests with their families surrounding them and the turkey on the table. Oh I forgot George, you were in the Air National Guard). They have watched their comrades give their lives to ensure our liberty [or my legacy].
We mourn the loss of every fallen American, and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice (but not to kill more Americans in, as John Kerry said, “The wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time”).
Fellow citizens [you didn’t get a big tax break, your kids fight the war, but I think you’ll fall for some patriotic or fundamentalist appeal]: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom (it could be good to put aside the stupidity of Bush).
Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation (good character, in fact: they think you’re wrong).
And, throughout our history [which I have not read], Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century (but you don’t understand it). We can and we will prevail (as long as you and your progeny are gone from the center of power in 2008).
We go forward with trust that the author of liberty (Talking to God is fine. But do you really think He talks back to you?) will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night (No, thank you and go away).