On President Bush's Iraq Speech
September 7, 2003
I am pleased that the President addressed the American people regarding Iraq tonight. But let's be clear—a 15 minute speech does not make up for 15 months of misleading the American people on why we should go to war against Iraq or 15 weeks of mismanaging the reconstruction effort since we have been there.
The President has a lot of explaining to do, but he failed tonight to provide answers to some basic questions:
How is he going to convince our long-standing allies and friends to join us in the effort to put Iraq back on its feet? The costs of his failure to forge a broad coalition before the war are now becoming abundantly clear. We are shouldering the burden of Iraq almost exclusively—providing 90 % of the soldiers, suffering 90 % of the casualties, and paying 90% of the bill.
Why did his administration have no plan to stabilize Iraq after Saddam was toppled—which military experts (including senior generals advising the President) always said would be the easy part? Why were there not enough troops in Iraq to stop the looting, the sabotage, or to provide for overall security so Iraqis would welcome rather than fear us? Why did we fail to secure the weapons of mass destruction sites and the ammunition dumps? How is it that although the President was apparently told where the weapons were located, they still haven't been found?
The President needs to be forthright with the American people about the costs of war. So far, $80 billion has already been spent on the war and its aftermath. The President is now asking for $87 billion more.
Just think what $167 billion could buy the American people. Just over half that amount could provide health care for every
man, woman and child in America. Just one-tenth could fully fund the “No Child Left Behind” education reforms. At a time of record job losses and economic uncertainty, when people need help from their government the most, his tax cuts are squeezing every area of the non-defense budget. Never before have our working men and women borne such a disproportionate share of the costs of war while the wealthiest are actually given huge tax cuts. This is just plain wrong. The President should have explained these ill-conceived fiscal priorities.
How are we actually safer for having gone to war? We were told that Saddam Hussein had an incipient nuclear weapons capability and large stocks of chemical and biological weapons. Where are they? Have terrorists gotten their hands on them because we failed to secure them or were they never there? Before the war there was no evidence of any link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Now al-Qaeda sympathisers and organizers are streaming to Iraq in every greater numbers, feeding off of the resentment of the Iraqis and targeting our servicemen and women.
Most of all, the President needed to explain how we are going to resolve the mess that we are in.
Failure in Iraq is not an option. But just asking other countries to participate in an American-run operation that has gone so disastrously off track is not going to do. We need to ask our allies for more troops and trained Iraqi peacekeepers to secure the streets and find the killers. We need money to get the economy going and infrastructure repaired. And quite frankly we need more people with the skill and experience to help build a stable, secure, and representative nation in Iraq. Our allies and friends have the troops. They have the money. And they have the experience. But they are not going to put their troops at risk, and they are not going to ask their taxpayers to contribute to the effort, unless they have a commensurate say in how the operation there is run. It is time to bring NATO into Iraq, and it is high time to bring in the UN and to ask for Arabic speaking troops from places like Egypt and Morocco as well as other Muslim troops to help in this effort.
A 15 minute speech is not going to convince the rest of the world that we really, truly want them to be part of this effort. The President needs to get personally involved to build a broad, international coalition. He should immediately direct his Secretary of State to get on a plane to drum up the troops and the money—and make the deals that are necessary to get our allies and friends to join us in the effort to make Iraq a better place. That is what the President's father did so successfully 13 years ago. It is high time that this President Bush follow the example set by that President Bush.