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Friday, September 24, 2004

Bush speaks to the press!

George Bush conducted a rare press conference Thursday:
We went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein defied the demands of the free world. We went into Iraq after diplomacy had failed....As I said before, Iraq is a central part of the war on terror. And I believe it's important for us to succeed there because of that.

See, 9/11 changed everything. September the 11th meant that we had to deal with a person like Saddam Hussein. Of course, I was hoping it could be done diplomatically. But diplomacy failed. And so the last resort of a President is to use force. And we did.
This is wrong on so many levels. I'll focus on the claim about the failure of diplomacy.

How could diplomacy have failed? The primary purpose of UN and US diplomacy from 1991 through 2003 was containment of Iraq and disarmament. After 18 months in-country, US inspectors have learned that Saddam was contained and disarmed. Prior to the war, UN resolution 1441 convinced Saddam to open his countries to inspectors and they were revealing their findings: nothing. He had no nuclear program, for example.

OK, I guess from Bush's perspective, diplomacy failed. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and former UN Ambassador John Negroponte failed to obtain a UN resolution authorizing the use of force. They couldn't get "regime change" through diplomacy. That made the war illegal, which is a failure of this administration. But I don't think that's what Bush had in mind.

The president also said this Thursday:
I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America. (Laughter.) It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future.

Talk to the leader. I agree -- I'm not the expert on how the Iraqi people think, because I live in America, where it's nice and safe and secure. But I talk to this man. One reason I'm optimistic about our ability to get the job done is because I talk to the Iraqi Prime Minister.
If I were President, I'm not sure that I'd go around saying that more Americans think the US is "off track" than do Iraqis, but he's the one trying to get elected.

Incidentally, the President was apparently referencing a poll by the International Republican Institute. I don't really know much about the source or poll, but the website features a lot of Republicans and touts an event they hosted at the Republican National Convention. Are they partisan? Do a quick google search and you'll find that poll after poll reveals that Iraqis want US soldiers to leave. Immediately.

Bush's message is truly mind-boggling: Why believe the "guesses" of your National Intelligence Council, he says, when you can talk to a hand-picked leader?

Let's see, the CIA says the best-case scenario through the end of 2005 is more of the same in Iraq, with the chance of civil war looming. Three prominent Republican Senators use words like "pitiful," "embarrassing," "dangerous," "incompetent" and "nonsense" to describe US policies in Iraq. And I didn't mention this two weeks ago, but the "safe" Green Zones in Iraq are no longer safe. The Financial Times quoted the US military leaders:
US military officers in Baghdad...have warned they cannot guarantee the security of the perimeter around the Green Zone, the headquarters of the Iraqi government and home to the US and British embassies, according to security company employees.

At a briefing earlier this month, a high-ranking US officer in charge of the zone's perimeter said he had insufficient soldiers to prevent intruders penetrating the compound's defences.

The US major said it was possible weapons or explosives had already been stashed in the zone, and warned people to move in pairs for their own safety.

The Green Zone, in Baghdad's centre, is one of the most fortified US installations in Iraq. Until now, militants have not been able to penetrate it. But insurgency has escalated this week, spreading to the centre of Baghdad.
What can we make of this president? David Kay said Bush might be delusional, if he thinks WMD are going to be found in Iraq.

I think a better metaphor was provided last week by comedian Bill Maher, who referred to Bush as "Baghdad Bob" on his HBO TV show:
Baghdad Bob, of course, was Saddam Hussein's minister of information, now immortalized on t-shirts, Web sites and even a DVD for his optimistic, if fanciful, statements about Iraq's triumph over the American infidels, right up to the point we toppled his boss's statue.
Columnist Joe Klein, of Time apparently came up with much the same idea on September 19, 2004:
Scott McClellan is beginning to sound like Baghdad Bob, the infamous spokesman for Saddam who announced hallucinatory Iraqi victories as the American troops closed in on Baghdad.
Who cares about credit?

The President's attitude reminds me of the attitude taken in that old Timbuk 3 song, "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades." Of course, it was dripping with irony.

Bush seems to be serious, and is seriously wrong. See this great post by Juan Cole, "If America were Iraq, What would it be like?"

George W. bush is our very own Baghdad Bob. Let's see if the name sticks.

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