Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bush's Speech

from Arabnews.comThere is nothing about Mr. Bush's latest Iraq speech so far on the Tehran Times  website, nor on Russia TodayThe Straights Times  (Singapore) has a reprint of a generic AP article.  Arabnews  (Saudi Arabia), likewise, has no report yet; they do, however, have a cartoon showing Bush falling off a bicycle.  Nothing on Jerusalem PostKaleej Times  (UAE), interestingly, has a short article that mainly echoes the statements John Kerry made after the speech:

Bush said the United States would stay in Iraq until it was free and democratic and suggested that more US soldiers might have to be sent to stop enemy forces bent on destroying the new government.  In response, Kerry said: “That's going to require the president to genuinely reach out to our allies so the United States doesn't have to continue to go it alone and to create the stability necessary to allow the people of Iraq to move forward. That's what our troops deserve, and that's what our country and the world need at this moment.”

Kerry has said on the campaign trail that Bush has damaged relations with allies to the point that only a new president can repair them.

Kaleej Times also has a short article, containing some critical statements  that Madeline Albright made after the speech. 

In this post, I refer to news reports that came out after Bush's speech today.  (Note that it is late at night in the Middle East right now, and most of the news websites there seem to refrain from updating continuously through the night.)  There isn't much blogger commentary out there yet, although I'm sure dozens of people are writing theirs as I write this.  At The Rest of the Story,  I include more quotes about the speech, and conclude with my own comments.

Madeline Albright (SecState under Clinton), as quoted from CNN in the Kaleej Times, stated:

“He laid out five points (on the future of Iraq) but they raised as many questions as he provided ideas about,” Albright told CNN.

Albright said Bush did little to assure the public that Iraqis would support the new government, or how to improve security, rebuild the country, bring in additional foreign troops, or hold elections.

from AljazeeraA Sydney (Australia) news site has an article  headlined "Attacks will get 'more brutal', warns Bush." 

Aljazeera does not have an article up yet about Bush's speech, although they do have an article abbot the latest UN resolution, accompanied by an unflattering picture of Bush.   Japan Times has nothing yet.  The Washington Post (United States of America) has an article about the speech:

A Speech Meant to Rally Public Support Doesn't Answer Key Questions

By Robin Wright and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 25, 2004; Page A12

With only five weeks before the transition in Iraq and five months before the U.S. elections, President Bush last night called for more patience, more time, more resources and more support to transform troubled Iraq.

[...] Nor did Bush try to answer some of the looming questions that have triggered growing skepticism and anxiety at home and abroad about the final U.S. costs, the final length of stay for U.S. troops, or what the terms will be for a final U.S. exit from Iraq. After promising "concrete steps," the White House basically repackaged stalled U.S. policy as a five-step plan.

The Sacramento Bee (USA) has an article with a positive headline but mostly negative content.

Bush gives plans for new Iraqi government
By DAVID WESTPHAL, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Last Updated 9:05 pm PDT Monday, May 24, 2004

[...] Bush reaffirmed a June 30 target date for transferring "full sovereignty" to an interim government and touted a new overture to win international support at the United Nations. He also offered a fresh formulation for why success in Iraq is fundamental to fighting terrorism.

"The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region," Bush said in a speech at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. "This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world."

[...]  Although the administration has been unable to prove pre-war theories of a strong link between deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaida terrorist network, Bush sought in his speech to put Iraq squarely in the context of the fight against terrorism.

Drawing a straight line beginning with the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and continuing on to Baghdad, Bush portrayed Iraq as a war of necessity.

[...]  Touting a five-point plan, Bush said the United States would "hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government, help establish security, continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international support and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people."

There are other articles, but I did not find any that gave a positive impression.  CNN, for example, leads with this:

Bush outlines Iraq transition
Speech was first of six before June 30 handover

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 Posted: 12:10 AM EDT (0410 GMT)

[...]  "Despite past disagreements, most nations have indicated strong support for the success of a free Iraq, and I am confident they will share in the responsibility of assuring that success," he said.

The CNN site also has video of the speech, and the text of the draft UN resolution.  And earlier today, CNN had this to report, about an earlier speech:

Bush's shaky base
Monday, May 24, 2004 Posted: 10:59 AM EDT (1459 GMT)

[..] As ACU vice chairman, Devine was privileged to be part of a pre-dinner head-table reception with President Bush. However, Devine chose not to shake hands with the president. Furthermore, he is one of about 20 percent of Republicans that polls classify as not committed to voting for Bush's re-election.

[...]  What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president. If Devine's purpose in devoting his life to politics was to limit government's reach, he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending. A study by Brian Riedl for the conservative Heritage Foundation last December showed government spending had exceeded $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II. Riedl called it a "colossal expansion of the federal government since 1998."

Basically, most of the news items focus on Mr. Bush's persistent attempts to imply a connection between the war in Iraq and the War of Terror, his insistence that the transfer of power on June 30,2004, and his statement that we will transfer full sovereignty.  Of course, full sovereignty would mean that Iraq would be able to arrest, take to trial, and convict US soldiers and contractors implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal.  That obviously never will happen.  And the attempt to link the War in Iraq to the War of Terror is a little like the McDonald's commercials that show a lot of smiling children.  They never say that your kids will be happy if you get them a happy meal, but watching the commercial leaves you with that impression anyway.  Likewise, Bush did not state explicitly that the War in Iraq was an antiterrorism operation, but it sure seems that way, listening to him talk about it.  Bush did not repeat his apology for Abu Ghraib, but he should have.  This omission calls into question the sincerity of his previous apology. 

On the positive side, I will say that the speech was among the better ones that Mr. Bush has given.   No gross mispronunciations, grammar generally was acceptable, and he did not make himself look bad with poor oration.  Unfortunately, the style is there, but the substance is not.  There really was nothing new in the speech.  As Albright said:

“It was a little bit more organized"  

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
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