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June 28, 2005

Utterly Predictable
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Well, President Bush should get a little bump from his speech tonight -- or maybe not if everyone is watching dating shows instead -- but I can't see his remarks turning anything around absent better news on the ground.

After reminding progressives not to be surprised by the Administration's continued willingness to politicize 9-11, I confess to being surprised that a 9-11 scare spiel was used as the opener instead of a list of good news.  Were I writing such a speech, I'd have led with the good news -- of which there is some -- to encourage Americans that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, even if I'm not willing to put a timetable to it.

Instead we got determined gloom, doom, and sacrifice -- for armed forces members and their families, that is.

Which brings me to my other bit of surprise -- that Bush made little effort to milk his military setting, except at the end.  That he got 27 minutes in without a round of applause from the military audience really surprised me.  The remarks were written more like an Oval Office address, with few applause lines.  I listened on the radio, so perhaps I missed the visuals.  But then, with limited tv coverage, most Americans did too.

In sum, again, I don't think this turns the page or changes the subject.


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and I think there are a few things that Democrats should say:

1. Bush is lying when he says our commanders didn't want more troops

2. Bush's lack of credibility *with the Iraqi people* is hurting the mission.

Bush says that we're in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and that we have no malign designs to be in Iraq permanently. So then Democrats can and should point to polls of the Iraqi people ,which ask what the Iraqi people believe about why we are in Iraq, and whether we have plans to stay indefinitely. And we should point out that unless the Iraqi people trust why we're in Iraq, and what our plans are, they won't give us full support, and that hurts the mission.

We can also point out ambiguous, shall we say, actions that the administration has taken with regard to a permanent presence in Iraq, and point out that those mixed signals hurt us with the Iraqi people, and hurt our troops.

The estimable Needlenose blog has a great chart on the contributions various NATO countries are giving for Iraqi troop training:

Here's what is listed for the United States: "Commands the operation under Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. 60 instructors and a force protection company with NTM-I mission in Baghdad. Providing logistics and airlift support. Pledged $500,000."

Now I'm sure the US is doing more than this with regards to training, but, as fubar of Needlnose notes, "the U.S. contribution to this effort is $500,000. That's out of a reported $408 billion defense budget and another $45 billion for Iraq alone.

When did you say the U.S. troops were coming home, Mr. President? No, seriously."

Isn't there an opening for Democrats to demand that the Bush administration do a better job on diplomacy and get more NATO resources for Iraqi troop training, and for the administration to devote more money & resources for Iraqi troop training, in order to substantially increase the speed and quality of the training, and increase the chances of success?

It may seem like nitpicking, but as we've seen with body armor, the Bushies don't seem to have a sense of urgency when it comes to these kinds of things. Riding their ass when it comes to devoting maximum money & resources for Iraqi troop training might be decent politics for Democrats, and more importantly, it might be good for the country too.

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