Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

GWB speeches

President Bush delivered the last of his four Iraq speeches yesterday. (Here’s the Text of his Philadelphia speech, delivered earlier this week.)

A couple of snippets, first from Philadelphia:

The third key challenge is establishing rule of law and the culture of reconciliation. Iraqis still have to overcome longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, and the legacy of three decades of dictatorship. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, Shia, Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed, and for some there is now a temptation to take justice into their own hands. Recently, U.S. and Iraqi troops have discovered prisons in Iraq where mostly Sunni men were held, some of whom have appeared to have been beaten and tortured. This conduct is unacceptable, and the Prime Minister and other Iraqi officials have condemned these abuses, an investigation has been launched, and we support these efforts. Those who committed these crimes must be held to account.


We will continue helping Iraqis build an impartial system of justice that protects all of Iraq’s citizens. Millions of Iraqis are seeing their independent judiciary in action, as their former dictator, Saddam Hussein, is put on trial in Baghdad. The man who once struck fear in the hearts of Iraqis has heard his victims recount the acts of torture and murder that he ordered. One Iraqi watching the proceedings said: "We all feel happiness about this fair trial." Slowly but surely, with the help of our coalition, Iraqis are replacing the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law, and ensuring equal justice for all their citizens.


Oh, I know some fear the possibility that Iraq could break apart and fall into a civil war. I don’t believe these fears are justified. They’re not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need. Encouraging reconciliation and human rights in a society scarred by decades of arbitrary violence and sectarian division is not going to be easy and it’s going to happen overnight. Yet the Iraqi government has a process in place to resolve even the most difficult issues through negotiate, debate and compromise. And the United States, along with the United Nations and the Arab League and other international partners, will support these efforts to help resolve these issues. And as Iraqis continue to develop the habits of liberty, they will gain confidence in the future, and ensure that Iraqi nationalism trumps Iraqi sectarianism.

Noteworthy here is the President’s recognition that one of the challenges Iraqis face is reconciliation. Even after the military goals have been met, the Iraqis will face a contentious process of accounting for injustice and grievance. There are lots of folks in the world who have some experience and expertise here, and the President has just invited them in.

And now from his final speech:

Some in Washington are calling for a rapid and complete withdrawal of our forces in Iraq. They say that our presence there is the cause for instability in Iraq, and that the answer is to set a deadline to withdraw. I disagree. I’ve listened carefully to all the arguments, and there are four reasons why I believe that setting an artificial deadline would be a recipe for disaster.


First, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the Iraqis. As Iraqis are risking their lives for democracy, it would tell them that America is more interested in leaving than helping them succeed, put at risk all the democratic progress they have made over the past year.


Secondly, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the enemy. It would tell them that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run. It would vindicate the terrorists’ tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder. It would embolden the terrorists and invite new attacks on America.


Third, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the region and the world. It would tell our friends and supporters that America is a weak and unreliable ally, and that when the going gets tough, America will retreat.


Finally, setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to the most important audience -- our troops on the front line. It would tell them that America is abandoning the mission they are risking their lives to achieve, and that the sacrifice of their comrades killed in this struggle has been in vain. I make this pledge to the families of the fallen: We will carry on the fight, we will complete their mission, and we will win. (Applause.)


Victory will be achieved by meeting certain clear objectives: when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can protect their own people, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks against our country. These objectives, not timetables set by politicians in Washington, will drive our force levels in Iraq. As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And when victory is achieved, our troops will then come home, with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

These arguments are unanswerable, and repeated Democratic calls for benchmarks don’t really try. This WaPo analysis tries to find confusion or equivocation in the two formulas--victory or "standing down as the Iraqis stand up"--that the President has used in speaking about when troops will come home. It seems to me that the President was tolerably clear. The Iraqi business is above all with Saddamist rejectionists, who are politically marginalized but need to be defeated militarily. This is a task that, increasingly, the Iraqi military is handling. Our business is ultimately with the Zarqawi-led terrorists. So long as they are operating in Iraq, we can’t leave. So with respect to one of the military threats, it makes sense to stand down as Iraqis stand up, but not with respect to the other.

And, of course, standing down is a process: we’re standing down as we hand bases over to the Iraqi military, as we lower our profile, as we change the configuration of our forces, as we moves from providing security to providing training and logistical assistance, and as we reduce our overall numbers in the country and in the region.

These were good, compelling speeches. The Democratic response was weak and unpersuasive. The headline and lead in this story are telling. And as for Jack Murtha, Cindy Sheehan’s successor, there’s nothing better than this response.

Discussions - 22 Comments

"Timetables" set by "politicians in Washington" are bad.

"Objectives" set by George W. Bush (who is not a politician, and does not work or reside in Washington) are good.

This even allows for Dear Leader to set a timetable at a later date and not look like he’s changed his mind, since he’s NOT A POLITICIAN IN WASHINGTON! Brilliant! I’m jotting that down, and I trust that Major Connable has done the same (unless he already knew that one - he’s so SAVVY!).

Just curious, Baghdad Bob--how many people are you hoping will die during today’s elections so you can score partisan points against the administration?

Be sure to write that one down, too, Baghdad! Bush committed this country to this insane war (though it is not a war) against terror (though there were no terrorists there until we got there) and the 9/11 attackers (though they were mostly Saudis who are friends of the Bushes, and who remain free, and safely distant from Iraq).

Bush committed this country to this debacle, and yet it is the critics of Bush who hope american soldiers will die. Who writes this stuff? What kind of people believe it?

"Victory will be achieved by meeting certain clear objectives: when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can protect their own people, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks against our country."

When do we achieve these objectives here in the U.S.? Has the Bush administration told us yet to stop buying duct tape and bottled water? Have they caught the group or person behind the Anthrax attacks? Have they made our borders safe from unauthorized crossings? Have we caught all the terrorists lurking in our cities? We can’t even keep the Republican leaders in Washington free of indictment!

If we cannot do it here, then how can we have any faith that we will ever leave Iraq?

Baghdad Bob? I don’t understand, Hal. In any case, to suggest that we are hoping someone will die during today’s elections is simply loathsome. In case you haven’t heard, the Baghdad Press Club is a creation of the U.S. military. Since it is they who are fighting to bring Freedom, Democracy, Life itself - in short, a breath of Hope straight from God’s Lungs (that’s mine, expect to see it in an op-ed in next week’s Tikrit Times!) - I don’t know why you would accuse them of wanting anyone over there, other than the terrorist insurgents of course, to die. We are, by definition, pro-U.S. troops and pro-Iraqi. What lunacy will you suggest next, that the Baghdad Press Club is anti-American?

Once again another rightwing/leftwing website basically about "we are right/they are wrong". No hope for the middle at all.

I saw the news this morning (and last night) and they all led with the great turnout in Iraq and the coverage seemed quite optimistic to me. But I suppose it will never be good enough for you people.

And all those remarks about hoping people die to achieve a political end, that has to stop sometime. You folks remind me of nothing so much as losers like Abby Hoffman who was prone to say exactly the same thing about republicans in his day.

Isn’t this all so sad. You are tearing the republic apart.

Valid point center. Forums such as these are to be considered entertainment in most cases, as there are rarely intellegent arguments occuring. It reminds me of high school debate teams where neither ’side’ is right, but you argue nonetheless. With the occasional exception these become a game of one-upmanship, who can write the most sarcastic/degrading comment...but I’ll keep coming back, not to be convinced, but to be entertained.

Dear fence-sitters,

Out of the way -- there is a war going on, here! I wouldn’t spend too much more time with my head in the sand around this crowd, if I were you. If you do, you’ll find other parts exposed, and you saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib! They’ll tax you, send you to fight in Iraq, spy on your family while you’re gone, take away your health care, throw you in prison for criticizing them, and deny you due process. If you’re gay, or Black, or Hispanic, they’ll point their guns at you when you demand equal protection under the law. If you’re a child, they’ll beat your behind with a paddle, and deprive you of Social Security. If you’re a female, they’ll have you obeying your husband, and wearing a veiled hat in church. If you’re a scientist, they’ll send the Inquisition.

LOL...see? I’ll run right out and redress all your wrongs...as soon as I’m done reading all the comments on No Left Turns...no better yet...I’ll address your grievances as soon as I win a No Left Turns mug!!

Seriously though, you, Fung, as long as its REALLY you, always help me get through lunch hour. Keep posting and again, thanks.

Out of the way -- there is a war going on, here! I wouldn’t spend too much more time with my head in the sand around this crowd, if I were you. If you do, you’ll find other parts exposed, and you saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib! They’ll tax you, send you to fight in Iraq, spy on your family while you’re gone, take away your health care, throw you in prison for criticizing them, and deny you due process. If you’re gay, or Black, or Hispanic, they’ll point their guns at you when you demand equal protection under the law. If you’re a child, they’ll beat your behind with a paddle, and deprive you of Social Security. If you’re a female, they’ll have you obeying your husband, and wearing a veiled hat in church. If you’re a scientist, they’ll send the Inquisition.

Wow, sounds like a much milder version of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Refresh my memory, Fung, where did you stand on the issue of removing Saddam from power?

"a much milder version of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq"?? Ah, yet again, the "soft bigotry of low expectations"!

That’s only if one believes that Fung’s paranoid fantasy of what conservatives actually want has any basis in reality.

Hmm, interesting. I thought the name "Martin Bramah" sounded familiar, then I recalled that he played for a couple of semi-New Wave bands in the 1980s. A little googling reminded me that one of them was The Fall (a pretty decent band, in fact), but then I saw that "Craig Scanlon" was another guitarist for the band. "Craig Scanlon," of course, also posts left-wing nonsense around here. Coincidence?

OH MY GOD!! MR. MOSER HAS "OUTED" ME!!!

I guess I’ve been mistaken to think that your posts would not sink to such laughable -and wholly irrelevant- depths. I won’t dignify the implied accusation with a "defense" about my identity, but I’ll just note the following:

Believe it or not, there’s another "Martin Bramah" in my city phonebook! I actually even met a Marta Bramah once in Sydney. How many other Craig Scanlons there are, that AREN’T related to this unknown band you refer to, I can only guess, but I’d feel safe in assuming that there are many. What you should also understand is that there are still at least a few dozen people in the world who don’t turn up when Googled. Yes, really.

Perhaps your familiarity with "semi-New-Wave bands" of the ’80s was really just prompted by a Google search to simply find out who the enemy Martin Bramah is? But admitting that you’d care enough to do such a thing to investigate a blog commenter who bothers you might (understandably) be embarrassing for you, thus your stated knowledge of the Bramah name and a subsequent jogging-your-memory tale about the band and the other guy.

Alternately, giving this contrived theory far, far more consideration than it deserves, could it be possible that two people who were in the same band, and likely travel in the same circles, might have roughly similar political ideas (thus, more "left-wing nonsense"!!), and that one of them might have referred the other to the blog? Could that even be possible, you think?

Hey, maybe. I actually don’t make a habit of googling people’s names around here. So many use pseudonyms that it hardly seems worthwhile. As I said, your name sounded familiar, so I started to wonder whether there really might be a semi-famous musician posting here. Then I decided to start tapping your phone.

Just kidding. How paranoid are you?

Seriously, though, if that’s your real name, I applaud you for having the courage not to use a pseudonym. If it isn’t, then your righteous outrage seems a bit misplaced, doesn’t it?

No worries. Maybe there IS a "semi-famous musician" posting here. So, what other bands was Martin Bramah (errr..."I") in? And what is your favorite record by this group The Fall?

In that last paragraph (that I guess you just added) you said:

"...if that’s your real name, I applaud you for having the courage not to use a pseudonym."

Do you mean because you think that semi-famous musician is (errr..."I am") crazy to expose himself to the right-wing blog paparazzi (haha), or just on the idea that using one’s real name is the principled thing to do here, regardless? I guess I should feel honored that I was deemed "worthwhile" for one of your rare Google investigations.

Apparently "you" were also in a band called the Blue Orchids. The name is familiar, but I can’t place any of their songs, I’m afraid. As for The Fall, I never really followed them, but remember hearing (and liking) a few of their tunes in the mid-1980s, when I was in college and into the alternative radio scene.

Since it looks like I’ve not run into a true blue fan, I’ll let the mystery persist as to whether I am the semi-famous Martin Bramah or a completely anonymous (at least on the worldwide web) one.

Happy Holidays!

Cheers, mate! And I’ll just go on being the non-pseudonymous-but-still-quite-unknown John Moser.

And if you ever go on tour with your band in this part of Ohio, stop by and I’ll buy you a pint.

John - The answer to your question (comment 11): I thought that the status quo was preferable to an invasion that was not supported by our old friends. I recognize some of the problems that we experienced during the weapons inspections, sanctions, etc.., but I thought then, and I think now, that those evils were preferable to what we have done. Saddam was and is bad news, but we was no worse than alot of other leaders that we have not attacked (and for equally good reasons.)

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