The Thinker

Empty Suit

There are few people that irk me more than hypocrites. Today President Bush’s hypocrisy is irritating me.

Perhaps you heard his speech to the nation Monday night, on the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I did not, although I read excerpts later. By now, most Americans have developed Pavlovian responses to George W. Bush. They amount to this: when we hear him, we turn down the sound. When we see him, we change channels. There is no point in wasting precious minutes of our lives to hear him tell us precisely the same thing he has repeated ad infinitum. That is why despite being broadcast on four networks and three cable channels, his speech on Monday drew only 37 million people. That is four million viewers less than tuned into his last State of the Union speech and a whopping 45 million less than listened to his first State of the Union speech. The speech of course was all about staying the course in Iraq and elsewhere. Those who bothered to tune in were not disappointed:

Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. Osama bin Laden calls this fight “the Third World War” — and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America’s “defeat and disgrace forever.” If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq’s resources to fuel their extremist movement. We will not allow this to happen. America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation, and a strong ally in the war on terror.

Yet why stay and fight when our tactics are self-defeating? Staying the course, as I mentioned recently, is insane. Would it have been better for Great Britain to have hung on at Dunkirk? Of course not. Thousands would have been needlessly killed. There are times when tactical withdrawals are logical. It makes no sense to continue a strategy that amounts to shooting yourself in the foot.

There is little doubt we are losing this war. For example, The Washington Post recently reported this about the western predominantly Sunni province of Iraq called Anbar Province.

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin’s classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”

I have a simple question for the president. If Iraq is truly the central front on the War on Terror, why will you not put the forces on the ground so we can actually secure the country? Apparently, 140,000 troops are not nearly enough. The Iraqi Army that we helped create and train is apparently not up to the job. They are far more interested in fanning sectarian warfare than securing national peace. Its government, such as it is, is corrupt and ineffective.

What would it take to truly secure Iraq? You heard it from generals whom your Secretary of Defense dismissed before the war: 350,000 troops or so. (It might well be more than that now.) The force must be overwhelming or there is simply no hope of securing this ethnically divided country. That you cannot make the commitment required to actually do the job that you say is so vital to the country proves that you are simply another hypocrite. At least I hope it is that. The only other option is you are too stupid to be president. So it has come to this: your strategy amounts to letting the terrorists win.

Since our troops are already stretched thinly across the globe and since, at best, we are just meeting armed forces recruitment goals, it is clear that to put the sufficient troops in Iraq to would require reinstating the draft. This, of course, is something both your administration and the Republican congress promised during the 2004 election that you would never do. However, if it is that vital to our national security, then there is no other choice. You and your Republican congress must make this unpopular decision because it is required for our national security. You said it yourself: we must defeat them there so they will not defeat us here.

To do so though would require genuine leadership and hard choices. This is something that is clearly beyond you. If America loses the War on Terror, it will be because you and your Republican Congress made the disastrously wrong choices. You substituted ideology for a dispassionate assessment of the facts and a comprehensive analysis of the complexities of the Middle East. In addition, you did not bother to learn from history. We did not win two world wars because we made halfhearted commitments. We gave each war everything we had. We focused like a laser beam on winning them. We won because we were united. The nation understood the stakes and the consequences of losing. We have yet to win a major war where we did not make this tradeoff. It did not happen in Korea, where the war came down to a draw and we are still dealing with its detritus. It did not happen in Vietnam where we lost but our fears were ultimately proven to be phantoms. Since you are incapable of convincing the country to make the necessary sacrifices to win in Iraq, it will not happen there either.

That is partly why we have tuned you out. You had the opportunity to demonstrate genuine leadership shortly after September 11, 2001 and you squandered it. Only those who felt a calling to serve their country would have to fight the War on Terror. As a result, the War on Terror gradually faded into abstraction and surrealism. It was something bad going on over there. Moreover, we received mixed messages. Your voice said it was deadly serious, but your attitude was: keep partying America! That message sank in.

Actions always speak louder than words. Your actions told us: do not work up a sweat about this terrorism thing. We the grown ups in government (i.e. Republicans) got it under control. Spend your time in Leave it to Beaver land, except of course right before elections. Then it was necessary to be really fearful of terrorists again, to make sure Republicans stayed in power. (Sure enough, it is the same strategy this year.) Right after the election though, it is back to denial. Spend, spend, spend and attend church regularly too.

Of course, we understand that we are just deluding ourselves. The carnage in Iraq has woken most of us up at this point. Now that we are sobered up, we know you and your Republican Congress are incapable of actually solving the problem. However, there is not too much we can do to change the problem because we have an intransigent president who will not shift course no matter what. So mostly, we have tuned you out. We are resigned. You have become the crazy uncle in the attic and you have a legal paper that means we cannot evict you until January 20, 2009. Then hopefully someone with a clue, perhaps General Wesley Clark, can take charge and maybe do something that will work.

After September 11, 2001, we wanted another Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead, we got a caricature of a president. Since you are stuck on your foolish course, we know that we can only expect terrorism to worsen. We cannot believe we were so gullible as to put an empty suit like you into power.


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