Bush Warns Of "Death And Destruction" In The US If Troops Pull Out Of Iraq
Within 72 hours of dozens of students and teachers being massacred at the Virginia Tech university, President Bush gave a speech in front of school students in Ohio where he warned that America would suffer "death and destruction" if he pulled troops out of Iraq.
The nation was stunned, and horrified, by the sudden, savage violence that had been unleashed upon students and teachers at Virginia Tech, but the president used the exact same kind of talk to frighten his audience. In between the jokes, of course.
For the president it was another 90 minute long rambling monologue, with only a handful of pre-arranged questions asked by students from the local schools, the chamber of commerce and military. Some of the answers Bush gave ran on for 15 or more minutes.
It was but one of a series of "backwater" speeches and Q & As Bush held last week to try and shore up public support for the continuation of the American occupation of Iraq. It doesn't seem to have made any difference, and his roadshow scored minimal coverage on American network news. Bush's latest approval is another record low : 28%.
From ThinkProgress :
Sections of this speech scored media coverage, but only for "bizarre" and "weird" references to his marriage, to the rug he had installed in the Oval Office after he became president and "chicken plucking".
Increasingly desperate, and facing broad public opposition, Bush used his last Iraq speech on Monday to stir up fear with repeated references to September 11 and dark visions of “death and destruction…here in America” if U.S. troops were to withdraw.
His message to teenagers: fear for your lives. The Detroit News reports:
White House spokesman Alex Conant said Bush will tell the audience that “the consequences of failure in Iraq would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America.”
Of course, Bush shouldn’t expect a particularly sympathetic audience. Even as far back as 2000, reporters noted, “Most of his high school stops have been larger rallies, shielding Bush from the often-hostile high school audiences. Nobody in the campaign could remember the last time Bush took questions from high schoolers.”
From the Ohio speech :
I wish I was traveling here with Laura. The best thing about my family is my wife. She is a great First Lady. I know that sounds not very objective, but that's how I feel. And she's also patient. Putting up with me requires a lot of patience.
And I will tell you, one reason -- this may sound counterintuitive, but a good marriage is really good after serving together in Washington, D.C. It's been an amazing experience to be a husband and then a dad as President of the United States. I emphasize, that is the priority for me as the President. It's my faith, my family, and my country.
The President of the United States rates his service to his country as third in importance behind his faith and his family? A stunning public admission of the value he places on holding the highest office in the country.
On the Virginia Tech massacre :
...the President spends time at disasters. Part of the job of the presidency is to help people heal from hurt. And the amazing thing is, though, when you go down to a scene like Virginia Tech, you can't help but be buoyed by the spirit that out of the tragedy comes a certain sense of resolve.
It really speaks to the strength of this country, doesn't it, that total strangers here in Ohio are willing to hold up people in Virginia in prayer. And I thank you for that. And my message to the folks who still hurt in -- at Virginia Tech is that a lot of people care about you, and a lot of people think about you, a lot of people grieve with you, and a lot of people hope you find sustenance in a power higher than yourself. And a lot of us believe you will.
Bush immediately jumped into a virtually incoherent spiel about how he came to replace the rug in the Oval Office when he took over the presidency, which led into September 11 and the Iraq War. Rug, 9/11, Iraq. What do you mean you can't see the connection? :
My job is a job to make decisions. I'm a decision -- if the job description were, what do you do -- it's decision-maker. And I make a lot of big ones, and I make a lot of little ones. Interestingly enough, the first decision I made happened right before I got sworn in as President. I was at the Blair House, which is across the street from the White House, getting ready to give my inaugural address. And the phone rang, and the head usher at the White House said, "President-elect Bush." I said, "Yes." He said, "What color rug do you want in the Oval Office?" (Laughter.) I said, this is going to be a decision-making experience. (Laughter.)
The first lesson about decision-making is, if you're short on a subject, ask for help. So if you're a student listening and you're not very good at math, ask for help. Don't be afraid to admit that you need help when it comes to life. I wasn't afraid to admit I wasn't sure how to design a rug, so I called Laura. (Laughter.) I said, they've asked me to design a rug in the Oval Office; I don't know anything about rug designing; will you help me? She said, of course. But I said, I want it to say something -- the President has got to be a strategic thinker and I said to her, make sure the rug says "optimistic person comes to work." Because you can't make decisions unless you're optimistic that the decisions you make will lead to a better tomorrow.
And so, if you were to come in the Oval Office, what you would see is this fantastic rug that looks like the sun. And it just sets the tone for the Oval Office.
I share that with you because I make a lot of decisions, and I'm optimistic that the decisions I have made will yield a better tomorrow. The hardest decision you make is whether or not to commit troops into combat...
Bush also made it clear why there has been such a concerted push by the NeoCon-aligned right-wing media in the US to pump up the involvement of Al Qaeda in Iraq during the current conflict. While most intelligence agencies in the United States, the UK, and across Europe agree that Al Qaeda maintains a presence in Iraq, they believe it to be a very minor one, and it's a presence that simply did not exist before the US chose to invade Iraq in March, 2003. However, Bush now uses the minor, though destructive, presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq as yet another excuse for why the American occupation must continue :
Now I say that -- preventing our enemies from establishing a safe haven from which to attack us again -- because that is their stated objective in Iraq. That's what al Qaeda says. Al Qaeda is the same group of folks that attacked us on September the 11th. They have said their objective is to drive the United States out of Iraq in order to establish safe haven. And why would they need safe haven? They would need safe haven from which to plot and plan and train to attack again. They have an objective, and that is to spread their ideology throughout the Middle East. That is what they have stated. That's their objectives.
Our objective is to deny them safe haven, is to prevent al Qaeda from being able to do in Iraq that which they did in Afghanistan, which is where they trained thousands of young men to come and kill -- to eventually kill innocent people.
And yet they -- and yet, the enemy -- and the enemy -- when I say, enemy, these are enemies of free societies, primarily al Qaeda inspired -- blew up the great religious shrine in '06, a year ago -- all aiming to create a sense of sectarian violence, all aiming to exacerbate the religious tensions that sometimes were exacerbated under Saddam Hussein, all aiming at preventing this young democracy from succeeding. And they succeeded. The enemy succeeded in causing there to be sectarian strife. In other words, the government wasn't ready to provide security. People started taking matters into their own hands. I'm going to protect myself, or
I'm going to rely upon somebody else to protect me, they would say.
...the goal is a country that is stable enough for the government to work, that can defend itself and serve as an ally in this war on terror, that won't be a safe haven, that will deny the extremists and the radicals. I happen to think there will be an additional dividend when we succeed -- remember the rug? I'm optimistic we can succeed. I wouldn't ask families to have their troops there if I didn't think, one, it was necessary, and two, we can succeed. I believe we're going to succeed. And I believe success will embolden other moderate people that said, we're going to reject extremists and radicals in their midst.
Remember the rug?
Bush also used the speech to ram home the fact, as have military leaders of recent, that a free and peaceful and democratic Iraq doesn't mean there won't be suicide bombers and car bombings.
If the definition of success in Iraq or anywhere is no suicide bombers, we'll never be successful. We will have handed al Qaeda "that's what it takes" in order to determine whether or not these young democracies, for example, can survive. Think about that: if our definition is no more suiciders, you've just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead.
And then it was time for IranIranIranIranIranIranIranIran....
Iran is influential inside of Iraq. They are influential by providing advanced weaponry. They are influential by dealing with some militias, tend to be Shia militias, all aiming to create discomfort, all aiming to kind of -- according to some -- to create enough discomfort for the United States, but in doing so, they're making it harder for this young democracy to emerge. Isn't it interesting, when you really take a step back and think about what I just said, that al Qaeda is making serious moves in Iraq, as is surrogates for Iran.
Two of the biggest issues we face for the security of this country today and tomorrow is al Qaeda and Iran. And yet their influence is being played out in Iraq. I believe that if we were to leave before this country had an opportunity to stabilize, to grow -- and by the way, I fully understand and completely agree with those who say, this is not just a military mission alone. That is too much to ask our military to be able to achieve objectives without there being a corresponding political avenue, political strategy being fulfilled by the Iraqis. I fully expect them to reconcile.
Remember the rug? Well, don't forget the oil.
Imagine a scenario where the oil wealth of certain countries became controlled -- came under the control of a radical, extremist group. And then all of a sudden you'd be dealing not only with safe haven for potential violent attack, you'd be dealing with the economic consequences of people who didn't share the values of the West, for example.
Iran wants to -- they've stated they'd like to have -- let me just say, we believe they would like to have a nuclear weapon. Part of our diplomacy is to prevent them from doing so. If the United States were to leave a chaotic Iraq, not only would the vacuum of our failure there to help this young government enable extremists to move more freely and embolden them, but I also believe it would -- it could cause the Middle East to enter into a nuclear arms race.
The scenario I'm beginning to describe to you I believe is a real scenario, a real possibility for a scenario, and I believe if this were to happen, people would look back 30 years from now, or 20 years from now, and say, what happened to them in 2007; how come they couldn't see the threat?
And after almost 50 minutes of pre-amble, it was time for the questions from the audience. Such as they were.
Q Mr. President, how would you respond to the rather mistaken idea that the war in Iraq is becoming a war in Vietnam?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. There's a lot of differences. First, the Iraqi people voted for a modern constitution, and then set up a government under that constitution. Secondly, the -- that's as opposed to two divided countries: north and south. In my judgment, the vast majority of people want to live underneath that constitution they passed. They want to live in peace. And what you're seeing is radical on the fringe creating chaos in order to either get the people to lose confidence in their government, or for us to leave.
A major difference as far as here at home is concerned is that our military is an all-volunteer army, and we need to keep it that way. By the way, the way you keep it that way is to make sure our troops have all they need to do their job, and to make sure their families are happy. (Applause.)
There are some similarities, of course -- death is terrible.
I have told people that this is a unique war where an enemy will follow us home, because I believe that. But if you give al Qaeda a safe haven and enough time to plan and plot, I believe the risk is they will come and get us. And I freely admit that much of my thinking was affected on September the 11th, 2001, and the aftermath of September the 11th, 2001. I wanted to share that with you and the American people so that they understand that when I make decisions, why I'm making decisions. I can assure you I'm not going to make any decisions in regard to anybody's life based upon a poll or a focus group.More rambling, more questions, more increasingly strange and disjointed comments.
Q Would you speak a little bit about the support, or lack of support that we're getting from other countries, particularly those countries surrounding Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q -- Saudi Arabia, so forth?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. First, our mission is getting a lot of support from the Iraqis. That's the place to first look. Are the Iraqis willing to make sacrifices necessary for their own country? I think there's a lot of Americans who wonder whether or not the Iraqis want to live in a free society, and are willing to do that which is necessary to help their country succeed. If I felt they weren't, I would not have our troops in harm's way. Just so you know.
I believe they are. They have suffered unbelievable death and destruction. Yesterday's bombing -- we don't have the intel on it; I suspect it's al Qaeda. Al Qaeda convinces the suiciders to show up; al Qaeda understands the effects of this kind of warfare on the minds of not only people in Iraq, but here -- and elsewhere in the world.Q Mr. President, to kind of switch directions a little bit, illegal aliens in this country apparently are putting a lot of pressure on our social services. Could you comment on what the plans are in the future to take care of that?
Bush also took the time to provide insightful commentary on the value of polling : "polls go poof".
You know, I'm -- I've been in politics long enough to know that polls just go poof at times. I mean, they're a moment; that they are -- let me put it to you this way: When it's all said and done, when Laura and I head back home -- which at this moment will be Crawford, Texas -- I will get there and look in the mirror, and I will say, I came with a set of principles and I didn't try to change my principles to make me popular.
As I mentioned to you, this is a decision-making experience, and you cannot make good decisions if you're not making decisions on a consistent set of principles. It's impossible. Oh, you can make decisions, all right, but they're inconsistent. What I think is important is consistency during difficult and troubled times, so that people -- they may not agree, but they know where I'm coming from.
And I'll share some of the principles. You've heard one -- I believe freedom is universal. I believe that. Let me put it another way: I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe a gift from the Almighty to every man and woman and child on this Earth is freedom. That's what I believe.
Bush returned to the subject of Virginia Tech so he could warn Americans that they need to watch out for people exhibiting "abnormal behaviour".
One of the lessons of these tragedies is to make sure that when people see somebody, or know somebody who is exhibiting abnormal behavior, to do something about it, to suggest that somebody take a look; that if you are a parent and your child is doing strange things on the Internet, pay attention to it, and not be afraid to ask for help, and not be afraid to say, I am concerned about what I'm seeing.
I think there's a tendency at times for people -- and I fully understand this -- is to respect somebody's privacy, you know, and not share concerns. But some of the lessons of the shootings have been that it is -- and I don't know about this case -- and by the way, they're still digging out the facts, so I think it's very important for us not to comment until it's all said and done -- but that other cases, there have been warning signals, that if an adult, for example, had taken those signals seriously, perhaps tragedy could have been avoided.
Bush finished up his 90 minute long effort by continuing his search for an historical parallel for the 'War on Terror'. The White House and the NeoCon media have tried comparing Al Qaeda to the Nazis in the past, but that just infuriated World War 2 veterans and Nazi death camp survivors.
Bush may find himself on much safer ground in the coming months if he continues to pump the somewhat vague similarities to the "ideological struggle" of the Cold War. As Bush says himself, it's a "potential parrallel." Though it is not one that is likely to win him any more support from the American public.
It's freedom versus communism. This is a -- this is a struggle with freedom versus extreme radicalism. There have been -- how do you allow a society, or how do you encourage societies to evolve after struggle, after conflict? There are other historical parallels. My job is to continue to explain the consequences -- consequences of success, which I believe will be peace; the consequences of failure, which I believe will be creating a more dangerous situation here in the United States.