I want to back up a few days and offer some comments on President Bush's speech concerning Iraq at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Monday night. First, though, it may be worth looking at this Flash animation that depicts Coalition casualties in Iraq day by day since the war began in March 2003. As Matthew Gross, whose blog pointed me in the direction of the casualty map, aptly noted about the colored flashes, "Those are people, you know."
The speech on Monday was squarely within the "stay the course" genre. Bush offered no adjustments to the course, no indication of where, exactly, we are on the course (and of course no indication of when we can expect to have completed the course), and no acknowledgments of ever having been off course. More disturbing, however, is the fact that the speech suggested that Bush believes we're on a course in Iraq that few others believe to exist. Five times Bush invoked 9/11 in the speech in spite of the fact that the final report of the 9/11 Commission disavowed any link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. Repeatedly Bush spoke of Iraq, as he often has, as the central front in the "war on terror" in spite of the fact that experts worldwide believe the war in Iraq has served as a recruiting tool and a training ground for terrorists. Bush's message was, in effect, "trust me" in spite of the fact that little he has said about Iraq since 2002 has been trustworthy. In short, Bush said nothing in the speech to offer hope, shore up his credibility, or suggest that he has the situation under control.
Consider what others have said about the speech. Here are three columnists to start with:
- Richard Cohen (Washington Post), writing on Thursday;
- Paul Krugman (New York Times), writing today; and
- Bob Herbert (New York Times), writing on Thursday.