Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush's Speech

The AP story -- the news story -- gives it the big slant in the lede and then turns the story over to Bush's critics for the rest of the top:

President Bush, in the most forceful defense yet of his Iraq war policy, accused critics Friday of trying to rewrite history and charged that they're undercutting America's forces on the front lines.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," the president said in his combative Veterans Day speech.

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," the president said.

Bush's defense of his policy came at a time of growing doubts and criticism about a war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,050 members of the U.S. military. As casualties have climbed, Bush's popularity has dropped. His approval rating now is at 37 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll, an all time low point of his presidency.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who ran unsuccessfully against Bush last year, quickly challenged the president's charges.

"I wish President Bush knew better than to dishonor America's veterans by playing the politics of fear and smear on Veterans Day," said Kerry, who voted in 2002 to give Bush the authority to wage war but later voted against additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction. Kerry argued at the time that Bush didn't have a solid plan to restore peace.

"This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition," Kerry said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said, "It's deeply regrettable that the president is using Veterans Day as a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war."

AP also dished up a Ron Fournier sidebar saying essentially the same thing:

President Bush seems to be turning the clock back to Election Day 2004, parrying with ex-rival John Kerry and harshly questioning his critics' commitment to U.S. troops.

You can't blame him for being nostalgic for better political times, when most Americans felt he was a strong, honest leader and gave him the benefit of the doubt on Iraq.

That's certainly not the sentiment these days. With his approval ratings plunging, even some Republican leaders are showing signs of abandoning Bush's listing ship.

The New York Times went the AP one better and actually buried the speech, making Bush's woes, not the speech, the lede of its main story.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 - Faced with a bleak public mood about Iraq and stung by Democratic accusations that he led the nation into war on false pretenses, President Bush is beginning a new effort to shore up his credibility and cast his critics as hypocrites.

In a Veterans Day speech on Friday in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush will take on a new round of accusations by Democrats that he exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, a senior administration official said Thursday, conceding that the Democrats' attack had left more Americans with doubts about Mr. Bush's honesty.

Reuters, naturally, rode hard on the same angle:

President George W. Bush ripped into Democratic critics of the Iraq war on Friday, charging them with trying to rewrite history by accusing the White House of manipulating intelligence before the war.

Bush, facing waning public support for the war that has helped push his approval ratings to new lows, hit back at critics who have said his administration misused intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the war.

Democrats responded to Bush's Veterans Day speech by accusing the president of exploiting the holiday to try to shore up his faltering political standing.

Oh, and Helen Thomas piled on, too. No surprise there:

In a Veterans Day address in Tobyhanna, Pa., on Friday, President Bush — obviously feeling the heat from growing opposition to the war and his low standing in public opinion polls — lashed out at Democratic critics, saying more than 100 congressional Democrats voted to support the war against Saddam Hussein.

Now, look. I rarely encourage you to go read a whole speech, especially one of Bush's. But go read this one, and tell me if you think the reporting accurately reflects the totality of what Bush said. I think it was a pretty good speech, for him. Stirring at points. Here are a few sections that rang true to me:

Over the years, these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: the Israeli presence on the West Bank, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the defeat of the Taliban, or the crusades of a thousand years ago.

In fact, we are not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.

No act of ours invited the rage of killers and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence.

Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century.

Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, quote, what is good for them and what is not.

What this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life.

We have seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg and Margaret Hassan and so many others.

In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, I don't feel your pain, because I believe you're an infidel.

And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

Recently in the town of Huwaydar, Iraq, terrorists detonated a pickup truck parked along a busy street lined with restaurants and shops just as residents were gathering to break the daylong fast observed during Ramadan. The explosion killed at least 25 people and wounded 34.

When unsuspecting Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast are targeted for death or 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, this is murder, pure and simple: the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion.

These militants are not just the enemies of America or the enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and they are the enemies of humanity.

And we have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before, in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution and the killing fields.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims.

Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves.

Under their rule, they have banned books and desecrated historical monuments and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, to control every aspect of life, to rule the soul itself.

While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing a future of oppression and misery.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent.

But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children, and the elderly with car bombs and cuts the throat of a bound captive and targets worshippers leaving a mosque.

Toward the end, there's this:

By standing for hope and freedom of others, we make our own freedom more secure.
America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East — including Egypt and Saudi Arabia — to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people.

We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow.

We're making our case through public diplomacy, stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination and the rule of law and religious freedom and equal rights for women; beliefs that are right and true in every land, and in every culture.

As we do our part to confront radicalism and to protect the United States, we know that a lot of vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself. And the work's beginning.

Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that,

Killing an innocent human being is like killing all of humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all humanity.

After the attacks on July 7 in London, an imam in the United Arab Emirates declared, Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim nor a religious person.

The time has come for responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends and defiles a noble faith.

Many people of the Muslim faith are proving their commitment at great personal risk. Everywhere we've engaged the fight against extremism, Muslim allies have stood up and joined the fight, becoming partners in this vital cause. Afghan troops are in combat against Taliban remnants. Iraqi soldiers are sacrificing to defeat al-Qaida in their country.

These brave citizens know the stakes: the survival of their own liberty, the future of their own region, the justice and humanity of their own tradition. And the United States of America is proud to stand beside them.

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers.
And yet this fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle between those who put their faith in dictators and those who put their faith in the people.

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision. And they end up alienating decent people across the globe.

Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure, until those societies collapse in corruption and decay.

Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent, until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course our own struggle will take or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

Thank you for coming. May God bless our veterans, may God bless our troops in harm's way and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Too bad you won't hear any of that on your nightly news.

P.S.: I think Bush is basically wrong about politicians grandstanding against the war being a drag on troop morale. I think most troops in most American wars don't give a damn what politicians rant about, unless it's pay raises for troops. By the time they're in battle, the soldiers are fighting for one another, and for personal reasons. E.g. here.

I think he's right, though, that it's an encouragement to the enemy. But Zarqawi seems to be having P.R. troubles of his own these days.

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