President Bush delivered a great speech tonightâ€”one that was long overdue. He brought the nation up to date on the progress of the war in Iraq, defended his decision to go to Iraq in the first place, and warned about the deadly consequences of pulling out of Iraq before winning the war. He assured the American people, â€œNot only can we win the war in Iraqâ€”we are winning the war in Iraq.â€
The President also directly addressed his critics and political opponents:
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country — victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom (source).
About two hours after the speech, Ron Fournier of the Associated Press released an â€œanalysisâ€ of the Presidentâ€™s speech. Fournierâ€™s characterization of what the President said was as pitiful a thing as I have ever seen:
After watching his credibility and approval ratings crumble over the course of 2005, President Bush completed a rhetorical shift Sunday night by abandoning his everything-is-OK pitch to Americans and coming clean: He was wrong about the rationale for going to war in Iraq; he underestimated the dangers; the country has suffered “terrible loss”; and the bad news isn’t over (source).
Fournierâ€™s summary is a deceptive mischaracterization of what the President said.
The President never said that â€œhe was wrong about the rationale for going to war.â€ He did say that our troops never found the weapons that he thought theyâ€™d find in Iraq. On this point, U. S. intelligence was incorrect. But this is a far cry from saying that the President was wrong about the â€œrationaleâ€ for war.
The main â€œrationaleâ€ for the war was Saddam Husseinâ€™s continued defiance of the United Nations. Security Council resolution 486 was all about Saddamâ€™s refusal to verify the dismantling of his pre-1990 WMD stockpiles. Saddam never did comply with this obligation, and this became the legal premise that the President cited for the war in Iraq. Saddamâ€™s defiance of Resolution 486 (and about a dozen others through the 1990â€™s) had to be dealt with, whether the weapons were really there or not. For more on this point, I have written previously on it here and here.
How Fournierâ€™s piece passes for legitimate analysis is beyond me. Fournierâ€™s â€œanalysisâ€ reads as if it were written by the very â€œdefeatistsâ€ that the President was warning us about. What a sad response to a clarion call from the President.