Have a look at this exchange in today's Whitehouse press briefing where Tony the Snow job lays it out clearly for us.
Q We hear a lot about the fact that the President believes we're not succeeding quickly enough. He has replaced the Defense Secretary, he is now awaiting not only ideas from Democrats, but from an Iraq Study Group, he's chosen a new Defense Secretary from this group. Is this not an acknowledgment -- and some straight talk here -- that the policy in Iraq is broken?So, basically, do you get the feeling that the W, Rove and Co is stalling on moving forward on a plan to withdrawal troops until it is actually recommended by people they appointed to tell them that rather than the Dems?
MR. SNOW: No, it's an acknowledgment that you've got a tough situation. What you've just -- what's interesting is that you tried to insinuate that Bob Gates was brought in by virtue of his membership in the Iraq Study Group, which isn't true. Furthermore, as we have -- furthermore --
Q -- and all we hear is that we're not succeeding quickly enough. The question is, the American people spoke on this point about the war. Isn't, in fact, the policy broken? Is that not the concession?Yup, it looks like it to me. This idea for troop withdrawal has more legs on it than Tony suggests. But hey, what about the rationale they keep insisting was the real reason to invade Iraq expose facto?
MR. SNOW: You know what's interesting -- no. I think what it is -- no. What it is a concession of is, the war is hard. The war is very hard. And that the people who spend morning, noon, and night thinking about this, constantly do what they can to adjust and to get it right. The policy is to create an Iraq where the Iraqis have the ability to sustain, govern, and defend themselves so that they can stand up, so that they will have a democracy that can stand on its own two legs, can defend itself, will have the support of its public, will have an economy that offers opportunity, will have security, will have the ability to demonstrate to terrorists once and for all that despite all their best shots, it just wasn't going to work.
Q You concede that we didn't go into Iraq for those reasons, don't you? And do you think the election had anything to do with us wanting to get out?What's the prize when we win? How do we know we've won?
MR. SNOW: You know, it's interesting, Helen, if -- there are some polls that I've seen referred to, but I haven't seen today. I think -- well, let me back up. If you ask Americans, do you want to win, my guess is, the answer is going to be yes.
Q No, it isn't the point.
MR. SNOW: No, it is the point.
Q We went in for weapons --
MR. SNOW: No, you just asked -- you just asked if we want to get out. The answer is yes, we want to get out when we win. That's when we want to get out.
Q When we win -- but what do we win? I mean, you're going to have to --Well, I don't know if we are the ones doing the slaughter, but you have to concede that there is a great deal of carnage going on in Iraq that wasn't happening before we got there.
MR. SNOW: What we win -- well, I'll tell you --
Q And how much slaughter? Every day we have slaughter.
MR. SNOW: Are you trying to place us in a morally equivalent position to the al Qaeda terrorists who deliberately are --
Q That's not an argument.
MR. SNOW: Sure it is. No --
Q I'm not saying --
MR. SNOW: No, you're accusing -- are you accusing the Americans of slaughter? Who are you accusing of slaughter?
Q I'm not accusing -- the best defense is offense. We understand your tactic here.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm just asking the question because you talked about slaughter, and it gave the impression that we're engaged in slaughter.
Q Well, how many people are dying every day?
MR. SNOW: It depends on what the -- does it not depend on -- well, let me put it this way, Helen, when people are dying because of car bombs it illustrates the difficulty of the situation and the nature of the people we are fighting.
Q But isn't our presence the cause of that?Well, a little bit later we find ourselves getting lost in the rhetorical sauce. Have a look:
MR. SNOW: No, no. As the President has pointed out many times, this stuff began long before September 11th. And, furthermore, it had been practiced throughout the Middle East long before September 11th. But these tactics --
Q In Iran?
MR. SNOW: And furthermore -- no, in Iraq. That's right. They're trying -- in Iraq you had a situation where you had a dictator who was contributing to the terror network, and who in the process was murdering hundreds of thousands of his own people.
Q But the President said there was no tie-in with the terrorists.
MR. SNOW: No, he said there was no tie-in with September 11th. There's a difference.
Q Tony, back on Iraq, a couple of questions. First, in an interview yesterday, Carl Levin said, "The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over, and that they are going to have to solve their own problems." Does the President believe that the United States needs to send a signal to the Iraqi government that the open-ended commitment is over?Sounds open ended to me with the war mongering machinery set to become more and more profitable a business opportunity. Time to invest anew in Halliburton et al?
MR. SNOW: No, because we've never had an open-ended commitment.
Q Our commitment now is not open-ended?
MR. SNOW: No, our commitment is to get to the point where we achieve victory.
But let's leave you with the final analysis from Tony as to whether we are winning the war in Iraq or not:
Q Tony, with all the changes going on right now, and the President admitting that he's not happy with the situation in Iraq, can this White House still stand by the statement that we are winning in Iraq?Sounds open ended to me. Too bad we issued them a blank check to execute this monstrosity.
MR. SNOW: The fact is, April, we would like progress to be moving more quickly. That's obvious. But on the other hand, when you see what has been going on with the Prime Minister stepping up and assuming more responsibility, working now, shaking up the government, because he also wants to get better results, the fact is, yes, you're moving forward on this. And in the failure narrative that quite often gets written is one that, as you know, has been deeply distressing to many of the men and women who are fighting over there because they at least have a different picture. Some of it has been portrayed in recent days in press reports.
But this is hard. It's a war. And there are going to be time when you have a great deal of motion in the direction of victory, and there are going to be times when you have setbacks. And there's just no way to get around it.
Q You're not saying victory just for the sake of keeping morale up? You're saying victory because we are winning?
MR. SNOW: We're saying victory because we are -- we are winning, but on the other hand, we have not won.
Q Is it still the President's policy, though, that a democratic outcome in Iraq is the only acceptable outcome? Is that correct?
MR. SNOW: Yes.