Certainly, with the volume of speechifying amplified by the presidential propaganda catapult (read Condi et al.), we have every reason to carry forward with an objective and serious look at what the W, Rove and Co spokes models are saying with a critical eye. Over the last few days, I’ve had a chance to do just that. This is a long post, so bear with me.
Why, just Tuesday, Tony the Snow job asked us to wait and see what the president has to say regarding "the way forward" for Iraq. We Americans are a patient people. However, our patients are wearing thin, no?
Q Tony, this goes to your previous acknowledgment that the President is aware of public anxiety about the situation in Iraq. What would your guidance be to a public that has seen the President stand under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, proclaim an end to major combat operations, the Vice President talking about the "last throes" -- how should the public go into viewing this speech tomorrow?And so we waited to be requited, listened, patiently, and with great anticipation for Wednesday's speechifying to lift the veil of concern about how the way forward might remedy the current Iraqi situation.
MR. SNOW: I think the public ought to just listen to what the President has to say. You know that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln. And the President, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he? He said it was the end of major combat operations, but he did not say it was the end of operations. Instead, he cautioned people at the time that there would be considerable continued violence in Iraq, and that there would be continued operations for a long period of time. That single episode has been more widely mischaracterized than just about any aspect of the war.
Q We can debate whether the sign should have been there, whether the White House should have not had it there, but the fact is he stood under it and made the speech.
MR. SNOW: You're right, after people had been on a 17-month deployment, and had said "Mission Accomplished" when they're finally able to get back to their loved ones, the President didn't say, take down the sign, it will be bad. Instead what he did is he talked about the mission. And I would direct you back to the speech he gave then, Peter, because the President --
Q No, I know --
The trouble is, with the raft of errors and missteps that have been perpetrated by the W, Rove and Co over the last five or so years, their trustworthiness and credibility are shot to hell. One wonders if we should have ever had W installed as president given his pathetic history of running organizations like his baseball franchise.
Q I'd like to ask you a question -- we've danced around this a little bit -- the question here about "mission accomplished." Does the President worry at all about his own personal credibility as the messenger, as the person carrying this message? He has given a number of speeches, all of which were designed to tell the American people, I have a plan for victory. And I think that hasn't worked out the way he had hoped, and you're asking them to, again -- almost hear him again to say much the same thing.Really, is there any one else out there getting tired of Tony trying to equate Bush with such historically heroic and substantially and substantively different figures?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me ask you -- I'll turn it at a different angle. If you had asked any other President in American history during a time of war whether they had a credibility problem because they had not foreseen changes on the battlefield, you probably would have had plenty of cause. I mean, Abraham Lincoln constantly guessed from Manassas straight through until the final months of the war. You had George Washington going from defeat to defeat to defeat to defeat to victory, and there was considerable consternation.
So there's the notion here that it is incumbent upon a President to have perfect knowledge of what the conditions on the battlefield are going to be. It's important for a President to have the determination to succeed. Winston Churchill -- was Winston Churchill responsible for the Blitz? What Winston Churchill did was talk about the conditions for victory. And the President, adjusting to constant changes on the battlefield, is adjusting and talking about conditions for victory, and that's the most important thing to do.
Oddly, the W, Rove and Co. plan is to increase troops that we don't have, and in a tragic mistake we see them inviting dead GIs to re-up:
Q The AP reports that the U.S. Army sent letters to 75 officers who were killed in action encouraging them to reconsider -- to consider returning to active duty. And while General Richard Cody has apologized for this computer error, there's no report of anyone being disciplined for this. And my question: What does the Commander-in-Chief of the Army have to say about this horrendous error, and about what else such computer errors could do?Sure, that's a computer glitch but emblematic of the troubles with trying to generate over 20K more bodies to occupy the Iraqi space.
MR. SNOW: I'd refer that to the Pentagon, Les.
We would all be justified in asking for more detail and why the President and his cronies deserve another shot to fix the mess they will no doubt be leaving to another president to remedy. But ask yourself as you read this next spin a couple of questions:
- Do you have faith that the W, Rove and Co way is the right way forward in Iraq?
- Will we get an opportunity to actually look at the plan to make a qualified judgment, or is it more leadership by faith over fact being requested of the American people?
Q Tony, were you, were other senior White House officials dismayed about the plan's reception on Capitol Hill yesterday and today? What's the reaction, the feeling behind closed doors?This leads us to another pressing question. Given the history of how the Iraq conflagration has been fueled by the W, Rove and Co, should we trust them in the Iran and Syrian fronts as well?
MR. SNOW: I don't think we're terribly surprised. I mean, you knew going in that there was going to be opposition, and you knew that a lot of people had made public statements about the commitment of additional forces to Iraq. But on the other hand, what we now expect is people actually look at the plan.
Americans -- I think if you say, if things have been going along as before and you just put more troops into the situation and into a strategy that we said wasn't working, we wouldn't support it. But, instead, the President's proposal involves a whole series of changes that are designed to make the Iraqi efforts not only more effective, but also more prominent, so that Americans are going to have confidence that the Iraqis themselves are stepping up and taking lead roles in everything from combat operations to reconstruction to diplomatic outreach. That has to happen, and Americans want to see it -- and if there wasn't some doctrinal change in the way in which we conducted counter-insurgency efforts, but there is. So now comes a time when members of Congress are going to have an opportunity to look at it.
Let me also add, Bret, that funding for the forces and to dispatch them to the region, it's already in the budget. So we're going to proceed with those plans. And what's going to be interesting is the members of Congress are going to have an opportunity to see how things are working in the next months ahead. And at that point, they'll also be able to make judgments as we get closer to the time to look at some real legislative effort.
Q Well, on that point, Secretary Gates was asked repeatedly yesterday and today, when will we know whether this is working. And his answer was, in about two months we should know whether the Iraqis are really meeting up with their commitments. So in two months' time, will this administration kind of do another review to see if what they've done is actually working?
MR. SNOW: I think we've tried to make the point that we continue to do reviews all the time. And so there is constant monitoring of the situation. It's not as if you say, okay, we're going to sit back and just wait for two months. We talk every day with the embassy in Baghdad, there is constant interaction with the commanding general and others on the ground. So I think it's important to realize that there is consistent and constant monitoring of the situation, and we'll continue to make adjustments.
And let me also reiterate what we've been saying all along with members of Congress. Most members of Congress come to the White House and said, we think it's vital to succeed in Iraq. They understand what the stakes are. And they also say, we want there to be success for the Iraqi government. If they don't think is the best way to do it, we do want to hear what they have to say. We have listened to and analyzed proposals throughout the entire range of possibilities. And we will continue to listen to people, because the chief objective here is to succeed in Iraq. And if people are proposing things in the spirit of good will and constructively, that's going to be an important addition. And those who think they have a better way, I think have an obligation to step up and share it.
Q And one more, on urban myth number one. You're not saying that there are not currently battle plans available to the Pentagon for Syria and Iran?Really? I’m not surprised by these statements. Are you?
MR. SNOW: I just don't know. There's lots of war gaming. What I'm saying is that this notion that somehow what the President was announcing was a precursor to planned military action -- a planned war against Iran, that's just not the case.
Q In that connection, did the President give orders to invade the offices of the Iranians and to go into Somalia? And what right do we have to do that?
MR. SNOW: Number one, we don't comment about ongoing military operations. There have been --
Q Is it ongoing, or is it over?
MR. SNOW: You're talking about where?
Q In the case of Iran.
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what you have was -- what has been reported are actions -- and I'm not going to comment beyond what's been reported publicly -- there have been actions in the northern part of Iraq against something that was originally misreported as an official government facility for the Iranians, and it was not.
Q What was it?
MR. SNOW: It apparently was sort of a liaison place where some Iranians would occasionally come.
Q Well, if it was official liaison for Iran --
MR. SNOW: No, it was not an official office, and that at least has been the characterization we've gotten out of Iraq.
Q Aren't you splitting hairs?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. There's a big difference.
Q And what right do we have to do this?
MR. SNOW: Well, the real question, Helen, is, do you want somebody to intercept those who are trying to kill Americans in Iraq?
Q I'm asking you, what right do we have to be there --
MR. SNOW: I've just answered your question.
Q -- and I don't think it's right for you to turn around --
MR. SNOW: Okay. Then I'll answer the question. It's important to go after people who are trying to kill Americans.
Q Is that their purpose? I mean, or are they in Iraq to help Iraqis?
MR. SNOW: People have made considered judgments about this, and apparently --
Q Why do you keep saying everybody wants to go kill everybody.
MR. SNOW: I think you're the one -- what do you mean, everybody wants to kill everybody? We're not saying that. But we are saying that when somebody gets intelligence that there are efforts to place in jeopardy the lives of Americans, the lives of Iraqis and destabilize the government, that's an important consideration.
Q How about the Somalia announcement?
MR. SNOW: That I can't comment on.
Certainly, the debate about whether the President's way forward is really moot.
Q Tony, by pointing out that the money is already in the budget and you're going to go ahead, it seems to be saying, we're just going to go ahead with our plan for the rest of the year. So what relevance does the administration attach to the congressional debate and the public debate?The W, Rove and Co, it seems, is continuing business as usual. That they suggest there is room for debate and critique is only a political ploy to make us feel like we have a say in the way forward. In reality, they have continually and still to this day ask us to follow them based on faith over fact.
MR. SNOW: Oh, we think it's very important, and we welcome the debate. Look, if you take a look at the congressional debate, there actually is a substantial amount of agreement. It seems to me that the locus of this agreement is, do you put 20,000, 21,500, do you put the troops in or not. If you ask the question, do you need to succeed, the answer is yes. If you ask the question, should the Iraqis be taking the lead, the answer is yes. Should the Iraqis be pushing for greater political reconciliation, in terms of the hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification reforms, parliamentary reforms, the answer is, yes, we're pursuing that.
Unfortunately, the facts tip the scale, and it's the Iraqi and American people that will be paying a heavy price. And, it will be the new GIs, and their families, they suggest they will be recruiting that will eventually pay the ultimate dues.
Q Thank you. Tony, Defense Secretary Gates wants 92,000 more soldiers and Marines. Where is he going to get them? And is there any desire to bring back the draft?Will the Bush twins finally pony up, enlist and then become the face of the new Army by posing in uniform on recruitment posters? How many of you will be signing up for this? Don't worry. I’m not holding my breath.
MR. SNOW: The answer to the second is no. And the answer to the first is, you recruit them.