Myths and justifications

It was depressing to watch President Bush’s speech to the nation Monday night. It had been advertised as a call to unity on a national day of mourning, but it turned out instead to be a leaden recitation of the myths and justifications that have characterized his disastrous mishandling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was not the speech of a confident leader.

The president continues to justify the invasion of Iraq, despite the cost, as does the vice president, who last week said if he had to do it all over again, he would—even though we now know there was no link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, and that the occupation of Iraq—with its 2,600 American dead and 20,000 injured, at least 40,000 Iraqis killed, the American treasury depleted and the respect of the world forsaken—has served mostly to give the terrorists advanced training in fighting the world’s most powerful military. Don’t these leaders learn?

What do the people of Iraq want? Not democracy, now that they believe it brings chaos and bloodshed, torture and injustice. No, what they desperately need is security—simply to be safe. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, Iraqis at least could walk the streets when he was in power. Today they take their lives in their hands every time they step out the door.

When are we going to learn that guns and bullets won’t win the fight for moral supremacy in the Middle East? Bush, blinded by his idée fixe of transforming Iraq at the point of a gun, can’t see how deeply we’re now hated in the Middle East, nor how much credence he’s given to the Islamist radicals. His blind arrogance has been our greatest weakness.

If we withdraw from Iraq, he said, the terrorists won’t leave us alone. But who said they would? Nobody’s making that argument. What his critics are saying is that his administration has botched things so badly that changes must be made. Let’s hope we get a new Congress after November.