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President Bush on Iraq: We Will Settle For Nothing Less Than Victory

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More than two years ago, President George W. Bush proudly declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq.

Today, with more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 casualties suffered by U.S. and coalition forces, Bush stated during his weekly radio address, “We will settle for nothing less than victory.”

But what does that mean? It’s possible that many are asking that question today, and perhaps beginning to wonder why the conditions for victory weren’t more fully explored during the quick ramp up to war those several years back.

In any event, support for the war in Iraq is reaching an all-time low.

About six in 10 in a Gallup poll taken in early June said the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops – the highest level of support for withdrawing U.S. troops since the war began.

Meanwhile, the insurgency is becoming ever more clever and sinister in delivering guerrilla-style attacks on coalition troops and Iraqis tied to the reconstruction. IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices – are particularly hazardous and difficult to defend against.

These fearsome homemade weapons are responsible for many of the more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 plus casualties suffered by U.S. and coalition forces since the invasion of Iraq two years ago this month. And they’re getting more deadly and numerous.

“They’ve gone up exponentially in number and they’re getting more powerful all the time,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kurilla, whose 24th Infantry Regiment’s First Battalion patrols the western half of this northern Iraq city that has the highest number of attacks by insurgents of any city in Iraq.

As the military is experiencing difficulty in filling its recruitment goals, some reports find the morale of the U.S. military in Iraq to be low and the state of security to be sketchy at best. Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief describes the situation in the bleakest of terms:

Living and working in Iraq, it’s hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren’t up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it’s only 4 percent.

The most powerful army in human history can’t even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad’s main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn’t stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam’s fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis’ resentment.

The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don’t work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone’s checkpoints. They’ve repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers—to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They’re overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.

Because of the casualties, the reports from the field, analysis from experts, and nose diving polls, Congress finally seems poised to take a serious look at coming up with a timetable for withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced plans to introduce a resolution calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq beginning in October 2006. The effort follows a failed Democratic amendment to a spending package requiring the Bush administration to provide an exit plan within 30 days. The Democrats’ amendment was killed by Republicans in committee.

The bipartisan resolution is sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones Jr. R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), and Ron Paul (R-TX). Rep. Jones told reporters at a press conference yesterday that at least seven other Republicans told him they plan to study and consider the resolution carefully.

Republican leaders have rejected calls for troop withdrawal and will try to prevent the bipartisan bill from reaching the floor as well.

A recent statement by Rep. Jones (yes, the Freedom Fries guy) may best sum up the uneasy mood of the nation:

“The American people are getting to a point here. How much more can we take?” he added. ‘‘Have we achieved our goals, and if not, what are those goals?”

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  • 1Potato

    You say Bush didn’t think out his plan. But what is your plan? Is it to leave and let the terrorists slaughter at a higher rate, promote anarachy, and destroy or take over the oil fields? Osama’s guys are in there now, do we just let them win?

    Before that I say we give Syria and Iran an “offer they can’t refuse” regarding their suspiciously porous borders.

  • Eric Berlin

    It’s well established that post-invasion Iraq was not planned out prior to the war. We’re seeing the consequences today.

    However, I have not personally called for withdrawal. We’re there, and I pretty much agree with Bush that we have to stay until we’re “victorious.”

    But I have no idea what that means and, more importantly, what it will take to achieve.

    And I don’t think anyone else does either.

  • 1potato

    What war has ever been well planned out, with a nice, neat “exit strategy”?

    But I think Bush has come pretty close when he said we will leave when the Iraqis can take care of their own security.

  • Eric Berlin

    There’s a big difference between a nice and neat exit strategy and poor pre- and post-war planning.

    There were many wrong turns by this administration going into this war and over the past several years.

  • Temple Stark

    Edwin Starr. Whoa oh ohoh o. ….

    Soft applause.

  • Eric Berlin

    One of my multiplicity of fantasies is to be the front man of a blues-funk revival band called Brass Tacks. We’d cover songs like “War” and Rare Earth’s “I Just Want to Celebrate.”

  • Tan The Man

    It’s funny. Most of the people that I talk to about the war say the same things about how we shouldn’t be in Iraq in the first place. I tell them that I prefer action over inaction – that we shouldn’t ignore problems anymore. They repeat that we shouldn’t be there. My response is always “well, we’re in Iraq, so what do you think we should do about it?” They respond with, “we should leave.” Nice thought-out proposition. There’s no going back to the past and avoiding the war much like there’s no going back on our actions and leaving Iraq without finishing to stabilize the region, not just Iraq. There needs to be strong solutions or at least strong ideas of possible solutions. Do I think that the administration has a clear idea of how the war is going and how to continue handling it? No. But I do think that the administration has been handling it well given all of the unrest and nonexistent support at home.

  • Patriot

    In the days of giants such as Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, and MacArthur, and Admirals like Nimitz and Halsey, there was a plan to win WWII. It was a difficult global war but it proceeded on schedule and while it took over 3 years to win a total victory, it went according to plan. And we had two formidable foes who had a big head start on military preparedness.

    Now as the world’s only superpower, we have spent over two years fighting a rag tag force and success is nowhere in sight.

    Our problem is clear — we don’t have giants in command — we have midgets making the decisions…

  • Eric Berlin

    I think Jones’ statement, which I end the piece with, is much closer to where the public is as a whole than your friend(s).

    I think this administration has had enormous support until very very recently.

  • Hoagy Wilson

    Ignorant president leads ignorant public into unwinnable war. Can’t leave due to pride, patriotism, and the ‘message’ to places like Iran, a repressive country that is still way ‘freer’ than it ever was under the Shah, and that has no history of hostility to its neghbours, though it WAS attacked by Saddam’s Iraq in the 80s, with U.S. approval. The U.S. endlessly meddles, frets, and fails. Freedom, liberty, justice…the words are tossed around like midgets: cruel, and to no effect.


    Hoagy, thank you for your post, it exemplifies ignorance.

    As for the Iraq War, if you look at all the obstructionism of Saddam, and all his overt and covert activities in order to destabilize and dominate the region, as well as the atrocities he committed on his own people as well as those of the countries he fought with, you’d have to admit that doing nothing to remove his regime from power in the region would not bring about stability or peace in any foreseeable time frame. The results of doing nothing over an extended period of time can be seen by looking at Iran, North Korea, Syria, and many other countries.

    So when and where should a democratic society take action against such a regime? If we choose to do nothing, what do we say years from now when the truths of conditions in those countries comes to light? What is our response when mass graves are uncovered, when torture rooms and death camps are revealed?

  • Temple Stark

    North Korea is your odd country out there SFC.

    Check my media coverage response to your ? in John B’s Gitmo thread


    I see it fitting in like this: Some people believed that the death of Kim Il Sung would bring about a new and better regime. Not a lot of international pressure was put on this country in hopes that Kim Jong Il would be an improvement, the “wait and see” course of action. Well, we know how that’s worked out.

  • Eric Berlin

    It sounds like you’re making the argument that the U.S. should always invade first and ask questions later, SFC.

    I’m not saying that invasion should be off the table in any situation. But every action (and inaction, as you might say) has consequences.

    And the current situation in Iraq is born of decisions — many of them poor ones. It’s not simple and there’s no easy answers. We’re there and our soldiers and Iraqi citizens are dying.

    I would hope that we’d at least try and think it through a little bit (okay, a lot) if we’re going after the next bully (bullies?) on the block.


    By no means, EB.

    Our “rush to war” in Iraq was over 12 years long. I won’t argue that certain aspects of it were poorly planned or possibly unplanned.

    US Soldiers, and to a much greater extent Iraqi citizens were dying before this war, this was a static and unlikely to change situation with no end in sight barring regime change.
    Now many will say that not much has changed, or has gotten worse with no end in sight. I disagree, though it will take a few years more and will certainly cause continued casualties, most Iraqis do have a hope for a better future that was not there before the fall of Baghdad. We’d all like it to be more certain, over sooner, with less cost, but life is not like that.

    I too hope that we will use all other means to bring change about before using miliary force, but if military force must be used, I hope the planning will be comprehensive and adequate to the task.

  • Big Time Patriot

    “I think this administration has had enormous support until very very recently.” Well, if you consider an incumbent “wartime President” winning re-election by a few percent as “enormous” support, well we disagree on that point.

    My question is, if we fought the war because of the imminent danger of WMDs, and there are no WMDs, than we have won the war and should leave immediately. I mean, we’ve already won, it’s over, let’s go.

    But aside from the lack of initial goals for what victory really is, I am more upset that after all this time George Bush still won’t say what victory really will be. I have heard the statement mentioned earlier in the comments “I think Bush has come pretty close when he said we will leave when the Iraqis can take care of their own security.”

    Is it possible to make a more vague statement than that? Will “taking care of their own security” mean that they eliminate all insurgent attacks? That they reduce ANY amount of insurgent attacks? Does “Iraqi’s taking care of their own security” imply that right now the “the US is taking care of Iraqi security” is a TRUE statement?

    Waiting for the “Iraqi’s to take care of their own security” sounds like another end of the war that will happen whenver George thinks he has accomplished his goals of reducing his own taxes as much as possible and rewarding every possible campaign contributor. Once George doesn’t need the “wartime President” thing anymore, then perhaps we can have “victory”.

  • Big Time Patriot


    From your previous posts supporting this war, I really appreciate your opening up this issue of the wars justifications both past and present to question. I don’t at all take this mean to imply that you have necessarily changed your own views, but just recognizing the lack of clarity, both morally AND rhetorically on this whole issue is a good step.

  • Eric Olsen

    BTP, I think you have the wrong Eric: I don’t remember Eric Berlin ever supporting the war.

  • Patriot

    Wars are the result of political failures. If we had the political strength to matched our military strength, we could have avoided the first Iraq war and very likely, the second Iraq war.

    On July 25, 1990, Saddam Hussein of Iraq summoned the United States Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, to his office.

    The following is part of what Glaspie said:

    GLASPIE: “I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60’s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America.”

    We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts???

    This stupidity is what causes wars.

  • david r. mark

    Regarding Walter Jones, I wrote an article last month for my blog, JABBS, on his fascinating course change on Iraq. You can read it at

  • Eric Berlin

    EO and BTP: I’ve always been against the timing, planning, salesmanship, and implementation of the war.