December 19, 2005


Posted in Politics at 2:46 pm by antonello

Last night’s speech was atrocious.  W. again had the opportunity to make statement about where United States fits into the Iraqi reconstruction now that the Iraqi election is done with.  W. could have explained something about what “victory” means for him.  I sure as Barney Miller don’t have a frickin’ clue.

Near the end of the speech he said

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country — victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I don’t expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

Throughout the speech, Bush continued the artificial distinction between “victory” and “defeat.”  This is just one example of a bunch of examples.  The only clear thing I picked up is that defeatists think we’re going to lose.  Fascinating insight, indeed.   It is a ridiculous reduction of people who are questioning how the war has proceeded.
Opposition to how W has executed the war, whether you agreed with the invasion or not, is not a matter of despair.  It is a matter of being concerned about what the United States hopes to accomplish, how many lives will be lost on both sides, and whether our presence is helping to realize change.  It’s not a matter of “supporting everything [Bush] do[es]” because we don’t know what Bush is doing!
What signifies Bush’s victory?  Let’s look at some of the goals he has set out for himself, for the sake of argument: WMD’s, from the fact that they were not there from the beginning, are not there.  Saddam has been deposed.  Iraq has a constitution and a election.  So what next?  Move the goalposts much?
The continued conflation of the war on terror, 9/11 and Iraq is also detrimental to his argument.  The war on terror presumably is ongoing war because the US need to be forever vigilant. Ok.  But how does that carry over to Iraq?  Bush shooed away “artificial timetable” but what about any milestones?  Before I was offended by the connection between 9/11 and Iraq; now I’m just sick of it.  Let’s talk about the subject at hand.
Also in terms of the speech itself, I thought it was underwhelming.  Bush was particularly rigid last night.  I am in the minority in my lefty circles: I don’t think he’s a half-bad speaker when the subject is somber and the speech is prepared.  (He is terrible when he is debating or speaking off the cuff, but that’s a whole other bag of paella)  Last night, he had the written thing down, but his attempt to be optimistic came off as strained.

From a writing perspective, several of the anecdotes were underwhelming [Please note that I realize speechwriters wrote it, just bear with me.] Last night he said:

Three days ago, more than 10 million Iraqis went to the polls — including many Sunni Iraqis who had boycotted national elections last January. Iraqis of every background are recognizing that democracy is the future of the country they love — and they want their voices heard. One Iraqi, after dipping his finger in the purple ink as he cast his ballot, stuck his finger in the air and said: “This is a thorn in the eyes of the terrorists.” Another voter was asked, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” And he responded, “I am Iraqi.”

Both of these anecdotes are vague.  Who are the voters?  Why do they have faith in the new Iraq?  Because both are so devoid of detail, it reinforces that the anecdotes as rhetorical devices.

Later W. spoke about visiting wounded soldiers in the hospital

My most solemn responsibility is to protect our nation, and that requires me to make some tough decisions.  I see the consequences of those decisions when I meet wounded servicemen and women who cannot leave their hospital beds, but summon the strength to look me in the eye and say they would do it all over again. I see the consequences when I talk to parents who miss a child so much — but tell me he loved being a soldier, he believed in his mission, and, Mr. President, finish the job.

In terms of the speech, W’s speechwriters missed a real opportunity.  Imagine how effective it would be to echo Murtha’s speech from a couple weeks back.  Tell the story of a soldier who questions Bush’s actions, then have W respond to him with his justification for the war.  It would be a much more subtle and real.  This feels like an obligatory acknowledgement of the soldiers’ contribution.  That is not respectful to the soliders or his audience.

Also what was with the “Christmas and Hannukah” greetings?  Wouldn’t have “holidays” been a more fluid and more inclusive?  God forbid this is deference to the most recent kerfuffle about Christmas cause that shit is dumb.
We have no idea how long the United States is going to be in Iraq.  At every opportunity the administration has obscured what the plan is.  Let’s get something concrete.

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