Thursday, May 26, 2022 |
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• Bush’s words alone won’t do it
Bush’s words alone won’t do it
When President George W. Bush addressed the U.S. Army War College on Monday night, he spoke to a nation deeply worried that the president is losing his way in Iraq. As one administration official put it, the president was trying to dispel “this idea that we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Bush tried to be reassuring, while admitting to difficulties ahead. He vowed to “hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty.” And, in answer to critics who say he doesn’t have a clear strategy, the president laid out a five-point plan for moving Iraq toward a freely elected government.
But the rhetoric was unlikely to persuade those not already persuaded. And the plan was little more than repackaging old ideas. It’s difficult to see how Americans or Iraqis will be reassured. In fact, the president himself didn’t seem as optimistic as he once was that he could achieve the highly idealistic goal of bringing democracy to the greater Middle East.
The speech comes at an extremely difficult time for the president. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq is approaching 800. Opinion polls show the president’s approval rating at an all-time low, with only four in 10 people approving of the way he has handled the war. The prison scandal at Abu Ghraib has shocked Americans and alienated Iraqis. Some conservatives have joined liberals in asking whether the president has a grip on the situation, with events tending toward the chaotic in Iraq and U.S. strategy shifting day-to-day.
Bush tried to turn some of the recent bad news in Iraq into a fresh justification for the war. The people who assassinated the head of the Iraqi Governing Council last week and who decapitated Nick Berg are murderers and terrorists who don’t want Iraqis to have a free government, he said. As for Abu Ghraib, the president promised to tear down that symbol of Saddam Hussein’s torture and U.S. disgrace. The prison didn’t cause the humans running it to abuse prisoners, but the destruction of the symbol of tyranny and perversion is still a good idea.
It’s hard to see how more words on the president’s part are going to reassure Americans or bring more international help. Instead of words, the president needs to call an international summit to which he invites European and Arab nations. There, he needs to seek not only their help, but also their advice.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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