Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush Goes on the Offensive

The thought process of the Bush team probably went something like this: What better use of a Veterans Day speech than to juxtapose our current efforts in Iraq with America’s legacy of sacrifice in war? We’ll leverage public sentimentality, drum up some sympathy, and, what the hell, take a few shots at Democrats for questioning our Iraq policy.

Bush put this plan (or a damn similar one) into action today during a speech at a military warehouse in Pennsylvania. The LA Times has a good, albeit latently opinionated, take on the event.
Launching a White House offensive to counter growing criticism of the war effort, Bush told soldiers and civilians that Democrats should reassure American troops that the nation stands behind them rather than revive a divisive debate over the war's origins.

"While it is perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the story of how that war began," Bush said in a Veterans Day address inside a military warehouse at Tobyhanna Army Depot in northeast Pennsylvania.

Bush did not respond directly to criticism that the intelligence that Saddam Hussein was seeking to develop nuclear and other unconventional weapons was wrong.

Rather, he said that others, including Democrats who are now highly critical of his decision to invade Iraq, had cited that same intelligence in announcing their support for the war in 2003.
I’m curious as to what “story” Bush is reading about the origins of the War. One of the highlights of the story I read featured then Secretary of State Powell in front of the United Nation explaining how a small vial of deadly chemical compound could wipe out a city block or two. Bush reminded his audience that “intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessments of Saddam Hussein,” but I remember the United State going to war with a Coalition of the Willing that was marked by heavy representation from nations in the Pacific Islands and a conspicuous absence of First World powers.

Bush made the point, and he’s made it before, that the war had bipartisan support from the Senate. He’s right, and this is an area in which we shouldn’t be too quick to let Democratic senators off the hook. It’s pretty easy for Sen. Kerry to say Bush “misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition,” but there wasn’t much Democratic opposition back in 2003 when the country was behind the war effort. Sure, Democratic senators and citizens alike can plead that they were tricked into supporting the war by Bush Administration sleight of hand, but gullibility is a poor defense.

But back to Bush. The rhetoric of his speech today reminds me a lot of the White House damage control in the wake of Katrina. Just as people were emerging from the initial shock of the flood and demanding to know why the response and relief efforts were so badly botched, Bush and his mouthpieces cautioned us not to play “the blame game” insisting that the country focus all its resources on solving problems rather than trying to determine their origins. That was bullshit logic then, and it’s bullshit logic now. I believe most Americans are intelligent enough to multitask when it comes to thinking about our country. We can pledge our support for the troops, push for sound Iraq policy that leads us towards withdrawal, and question the President’s motives for leading us into the war all at the same time. Unlike a certain smirking Texan, who shall remain nameless, we’re not idiots.

--Matthew McCoy