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.

BUSH: Yes.

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...

BUSH: Yes.

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.

By Phillip Carter |  April 14, 2008; 7:14 PM ET  | Category:  Iraq
Previous: Why Isn't the Army Broken? | Next: Behind the Surge's Success


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Telling a little bit of the truth, (or a whole lot, like he was a co conspirator in the conspiracy to violate the Geneva Conventions and the constitution) is just a bit more of "It doesn't cost George a thing." For another nine months he gets to strut and posture and mumble on about how right he is as President. Then he gets to spend his remaining years of freedom posturing before hand picked audiences of true believers talking about how great his Presidency was.

If there is any justice in the Hague Courts, that freedom won't last very long.

Unless he really does own a ranch in Paraguay.

Posted by: | April 14, 2008 7:03 PM

I think a lot of us already knew this, so it's not quite the bombshell Phil thinks it is. ISTM a real bombshell would be Mr. Bush telling anything approximating the truth; that would rate a banner headline.

BTW, didn't the president actually provide another "bombshell," Phil? Didn't he own up to having known before-the-fact about the principals' meetings that blessed the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques?" They call it "enhanced"; others call it "torture." This is really a startling admission. Chief Magistrate (a quaint term these days) knows about contemplated/potential violations of law before they actually occur and does nothing about it.

What's very clear at this late date is that this man has learned nothing during his term of office. Ever smug and self-satisfied, he's very proud of himself.

Bush Iraq objectives: Hold on for dear life until safely out of office and thus avoid blame for losing Iraq, and then play a leading role in sharpshooting the next president for doing the inevitable.

Posted by: Publius | April 14, 2008 9:34 PM

Publius, you just know there'll be a dynamic PowerPoint presentation of the glorious timeline of the Bush Victory in Iraq years at the future Bush Library. Maybe even with real sound effects to give a visitor the feeling of what it was like to be there - sheesh...

Posted by: PFM | April 14, 2008 10:36 PM

To talk about anything other than an 'indefenitie' stay would be foolish: lefties and indeed many Americans may wanna know when it'll all be over but the reality is the place is too central to America's security concerns to admit to such rash and irresponsible definitions. We're there until either Vietnam-like we are forced to leave or until in the great scheme of things it seems fit to leave - which may be, as McCain has correctly stated, decades from now.

Posted by: Aukland | April 15, 2008 7:01 AM

Raddatz did get some good questions in, but you can't but lament the brain power of the empty suit in the White House, who sees strategy as endlessly repeating empty slogans.

I suppose there is small comfort in knowing that Shotgun Dick operating out of the Cheneybunker is actually the one in charge . . .

As to the comments concerning their torture policy, not really a bombshell at this point.

Posted by: seydlitz89 | April 15, 2008 7:57 AM

"he justified such dishonesty in the name of supporting the troops and protecting their morale."

Cheerleading is all Bush knows. He earned his letter as a cheerleader in high school and in college. George W has never been an achiever or man-of-action. He thinks that leadership is all about pom-poms and a megaphone.

Posted by: mike | April 15, 2008 11:36 AM

Another take away from Bush's interview is that, he and his administration does not have confidence in the ability of the American people to have a conversation/discussion on our country's foreign policy and military strategy.

That alone should be an impeachable offense.

Posted by: Jimmy | April 15, 2008 1:36 PM


Well said, yes the eternal cheerleader. He explains the domestic psyops nature of the "surge", and in a way it is a very interesting example of mass manipulation. The bad part being that it covers an ever increasingly unstable geostrategic situation, what for the US appears a strategic debacle . . . of widening proportions. It makes you wonder when the economic shoe is going to drop?

Posted by: seydlitz89 | April 15, 2008 6:07 PM

Is the president really this stooooopid?

Or does he don this stupidity as an act?

I wish someone would strap 60 pounds of Kevlar, ammo and water to his back and send him on a few foot patrols in Sadr City. Dude might think twice about his policies.

Posted by: TE Lawrence | April 16, 2008 2:30 AM

And another thing -- next time I see Fred Kagan open his blowhole about anything related to Iraq, I'm going to puke. That guy is an oxygen thief and he too should be forced to don body armor and accoutrements and go patrolling around Sadr City. I hear he's 38 years old. There's still time for him to enlist. I would cheerfully pay to watch a drill sergeant bugger him for 8 weeks of boot camp.

Posted by: TE Lawrence | April 16, 2008 2:32 AM

One thing you can absolutely count on is that whatever "President" Bush says publicly, it is a lie. The war was generated through lies. The presidency was stolen twice. Democracy is in shreds because of lies. The Constitution has been negated because of Bush's lies to Congress and their willingness to comply. The economy is on the verge of collapse. Two weeks ago Bush said it was robust. Presidential appointees to the Supreme Court lied during their hearings. The justice department lied their way through various investigations. Gonzales, Bush's friend and confidant, lied under oath about political infiltration into the highest legal office in the land. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rove, Pearlman, Chalibi, Rice, and many others, have lied about Iraq, Iran, politics, the economy, public relations, corruption, torture, and billions of missing dollars. The fact that Bush can stammer, misinform, and intellectually be manipulated, means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Posted by: Jan Huston | April 16, 2008 12:15 PM

I am not sure I believe that claim. This was less about the troops in Iraq and more about the public. I think they were hoping to flag the moral of the general public who was getting restive more than the troops who were well aware of the situation in Iraq. She shouldn't have let him get away with that crap.

Posted by: ET | April 16, 2008 12:54 PM

Here is another view point to look at. We had GEN Casey in Iraq at time making a complete mess of tactics. He ran the war from huge FOBs, the troops would conduct a patrol and then head back to their gigantic FOB for the night. After GEN Petreaus took over we establish FOBs in the communities and were available to the public!

GEN Casey is and was an idiot who got promoted by Congress with Obama's assistance. The guy is an idiot who got rewarded for being a turd!

PS I am a vet and have been to the desert and gotten shot at, unlike some of the posters in the blog. Remember the President doesnt control tactical level decisions Generals do, and I am no fan of the Iraq War or the President, but since we are there we should ensure that the Iraqi people have a stable country.

Posted by: Jason | April 17, 2008 10:42 AM

I don't know if anybody else has noticed this, but Bush has been linking Iraq to 9/11 for quite a while now. He seems to have conviently forgotten that the terrorists were from Afganistan, NOT Iraq. If Bush was really staging a "war on terror" he would have gone where the terrorists were instead of Iraq. His goal was to complete what his daddy didn't- remove Saddam, set up a goverment, get out of there, and enjoy the "victory." The original plan was to be out of Iraq in 5 months. It had nothing to do with terrorism, unless you count nonexistant WMDs.
It is sad to me that a president would take a trajedy like 9/11, one that shook this nation to its core, and use the fear that followed to his advantage. He STILL uses the fear tactic. He became president when I was in 6th grade, and I cannot count how many times I've heard, "If you don't do ---- the terrorists will attack!." The man uses the excuse of "National Security" for everything from illegal wiretaps to POW torture.

Overall, I'm insulted that the President thinks the public is so stupid that we wouldn't figure it out. This man has been given WAY to much slack. The next President needs to investigate him up and down.

Posted by: Kassie | April 17, 2008 9:29 PM

Brings to mind a bit of Shakespeare's Henry V:

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at
such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left.

If there is a just God, which I personally doubt yet publicly pray for, my fellow ex-Midlander is in for a heavy reckoning.

Posted by: nima | May 11, 2008 1:40 AM

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