Adding Insult to Injury
In an interview with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz Friday, President Bush attempted to clarify what he meant by saying that Gen. David Petraeus will have "all the time he needs" to prosecute the effort in Iraq. Bush claimed that he didn't want to suggest that America will stay in Iraq indefinitely, but rather that he would defer to his top general in Iraq and make decisions on the basis of "conditions" on the ground.
Uh huh. Which is to say that if security conditions improve, we'll stay longer in order to consolidate those gains and facilitate political progress. And if security conditions deteriorate, we'll stay in order to restore order and prevent chaos. How exactly does this translate into anything other than an indefinite stay in Iraq?
Later in his interview (full transcript here), President Bush dropped another bomb that has curiously not provoked much response.
Raddatz -- a fearless combat journalist and tenacious interrogator -- teased this moment of reflection out of the president:
RADDATZ: All during that period -- April, May, June, July [of 2006] -- when things were really going downhill, people were talking about there being civil war.
RADDATZ: .You were saying, 'We're winning. We have a plan for victory. We are winning,' up through October.
BUSH: Well, there was -- I also recognized -- I think if you'd go through the -- kind of fully analyze my statements, I was also saying, "The fighting is very tough, it's -- you know, the extremism is unacceptable. The murder is unacceptable." And you know, it's very important to be realistic.
RADDATZ: But the overall thing -- when you say, "We're winning," you know what the American people hear. You know how that will play.
BUSH: Well, yes. I think we -- and I wanted -- that's as much trying to bolster the spirits of the people in the field as well as -- look, you can't have the commander in chief say to a bunch of kids who are sacrificing either, "It's not worth it," or, "You're losing." I mean, what does that do for morale? I'm the commander in chief of the military as well, obviously, as, you know, somebody who speaks to the country. And if you look at my remarks, they were balanced. They weren't Pollyannaish.
RADDATZ: But you weren't talking about a new strategy. I mean, I remember going to some strategy tactic things with you. You weren't talking about a new strategy publicly. It's one thing for the troops and boosting morale. I totally understand that. But do you think you lost credibility with the American people? Do you think that's one...
RADDATZ: ... of the reasons you couldn't sell this?
BUSH: I think the quickest way to lose credibility with the American people is for them to think the president makes decisions based upon the latest public opinion poll or what's good for a political party.
There you have it folks. The president of the United States admitting that his own certainty about the mission was more important than telling the truth to the American people.
I was in Iraq during this time in 2006. I remember well how the violence spiraled out of control after the Samarra mosque bombing in February 2006. How every single indicator pointed in the direction of doom; how all our advisory efforts seemed to produce little to no security improvement; how we felt like spectators watching a civil war engulf Iraq, with too few troops to make a difference, and no political direction to do so.
All through this period, I remember the president, his senior aides and senior military commanders toeing the party line that things were going swimmingly. The dissonance between the rhetoric from Washington and our experience in Iraq was stark. WWe knew the ground truth. Being deceived by our senior political leaders certainly didn't change that, nor did it help morale at all. If anything, it hurt morale by undermining confidence in the chain of command. Put bluntly, if you can't trust your generals and political leaders to tell you and your families the truth, how can you trust them at all?
It's disappointing to hear now, two years after the fact, that the president was knowingly bull----ing us the whole time. And that he justified such dishonesty in the name of supporting the troops and protecting their morale. That's an insult to America's men and women in uniform (and their families), who deserve to be told the truth by their political leaders about what's going on. It's also an insult to us, as voters, who deserve the truth so we can make the right decisions in the voting booth.
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