A man watches U.S. President George W. Bush give his televised address on his new plan for the war in Iraq on television sets in an electronics store in Wheaton, MD, outside Washington, Jan. 10. The plan includes sending more than 20,000 additional troops into Iraq. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images'There seems to be a complete failure to understand that we have been trying to suppress a rebellion against our occupation. As long as we are there, we are the number one public enemy for the Muslim-Arab world.' retired Army Col. Doug McGreggor
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Even in the face of eroding support for his policies, President George W. Bush appealed directly to the public, Jan. 10, to support his plans to increase, rather than decrease the number of U.S. troops occupying Iraq.
Mr. Bush announced that he would order an additional 21,500 personnel into combat in order to attempt to militarily pacify Baghdad, the capital city and one other province.
The proposal met with immediate condemnation, even from Republicans. “Failed policy,” “Disaster” and “Train wreck” are some of the expressions used to describe the proposal.
If Mr. Bush’s plan is carried out, it will be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a decorated Vietnam veteran told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the following day during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
The public was un-moved by Mr. Bush’s appeal. Seventy percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq, according to a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll that offers a blunt response to the Bush plan. The poll found widespread disagreement with the Bush administration over its proposed solution, and growing skepticism that the United States made the right decision in going to war in the first place.
Just as 70 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq, an equal number don’t think such an increase would help stabilize the situation there, according to the poll conducted the week of the Bush speech.
“The disappointment is that the President has not recognized that the policy in Iraq has failed, and it’s failed on the back of husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, American relatives who have lost their lives, who have been maimed,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told The Final Call in an interview. “Frankly when he promotes an escalation or a plus-up or a surge, he is presenting to the American people, a failed policy.
“Nothing that will be presented by the President appears to be a constructive mission for the United States military,” Rep. Jackson Lee continued.
“I don’t think that the addition of further troops, in a situation rife with sectarian strife is going to produce a solution,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), told reporters including The Final Call just off the Senate floor. “I think you need a political, rather than a military solution,” she said.
Some critics contend that the mere presence of U.S. troops is the reason there is continued fighting in Iraq. “I think we can anticipate that, to the degree that American troops are a major part of the problem, a major part of the violence and not the solution to the violence in Iraq, sending an additional 21,000 troops is going to lead to more violence, not less,” Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies told The Final Call after Mr. Bush’s speech.
“There seems to be a complete failure to understand that we have been trying to suppress a rebellion against our occupation,” retired Army Col. Doug McGreggor said in a broadcast interview following Mr. Bush’s address to the nation. “As long as we are there, we are the number one public enemy for the Muslim-Arab world,” he said. Col. McGreggor is a decorated combat veteran with a Ph.D., and who was an adviser to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2003.
“I thought it was a rather tragic statement, to be blunt,” said Col. McGreggor. “On the military side...I don’t see much hope of that producing any value, but what I thought was most interesting was his attempt ideologically, to reinvigorate this discredited notion that we are there to build a western-style democracy, in a Muslim-Arab country, with no middle class, where 90 percent of the population lives in abject poverty, where there is no history of the rule of law, where there’s no economic prosperity, no free market, that somehow or another, magically, at the point of a bayonet, we were going to be able to do this.”
The Bush strategy is also at odds with the advice of current senior military personnel. Mr. Bush placed no timetable on the troop increase, but military officials warned that trying to sustain the new “surge” for more than a few months would place a major new strain on U.S. forces in Iraq and in other parts of the world.
Some military families also condemned the Bush plan. “I don’t have words for it. This is a war that should never have happened, that has wreaked so much havoc on our loved ones, Iraqi children, women and men, and now to be facing, almost four years into it, this news of an escalation of the war, is just unbearable,” Nancy Lessin, with Military Families Speak Out, said in a broadcast interview.
“There are no new troops. Let’s be really clear about this,” said Ms. Lessin in response to a question from The Final Call. “The 21,500 they’re talking about, they’re going to arrive at that by taking some units and extending them, so that people who were thinking they were coming back are not coming back, and there are new units going to deploy who are in training. There will be some who will have shorter time between re-deployments.
So, we’re not talking about 20,000 fresh new bodies here. We’re talking about the ‘Back Door Draft.’ We’re talking about using those who are already in the service who have served. These are the citizen soldiers, who are with National Guard and Reserves.
“Our goal is to end the war. To end the military occupation of Iraq. Bring our troops home now. Take care of them when they get here, and make sure they never are sent off to an unjust and unjustifiable and reckless military misadventure,” said Ms. Lessin, whose organization represents 3,100 military families with loved ones in Iraq. More than 100 members of the group have had a family member die as a result of the war in Iraq.
One of the key components Mr. Bush explained will be holding the Iraqi government responsible for a greater portion of the fighting, a plan which opponents consider flawed.
“I am doubtful–though I respect the choice of the Iraqi people and their government that they duly elected–that the Iraqi government has the confidence of the Iraqi people to be able to invite in 20,000 American troops, not for the entire nation, but 20,000 into an urban quagmire, the city of Baghdad, and suggest that these troops will go door-to-door and drag insurgents out, is a mis-directed policy,” said Rep. Jackson Lee.
The truthfulness of the administration has also been called into question by the war’s critics. “I think (the voters) expressed sentiment (against the war) during the election,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said in an interview. “We have to do what we can to get out responsibly. The first thing we have to do, is start telling the truth about what’s going on, how we got there and what the mission is. Then we’ll better know what to do.”
Chief among the things the public is not being told is the administration’s plan for a permanent U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
“I think there’s little doubt that that’s the case, permanent occupation,” said Ms. Bennis. “The Iraq Study Group, in fact, did not advocate withdrawal of all U.S. troops, but advocated cutting the number of troops in half, but then spoke of a plan for a ‘sustainable occupation.’ In the context of both, creation of permanent military bases and the capacity to expand them, and permanent control of access to oil for other countries, we are talking in terms of what the U.S. goal’ is, of permanent U.S. presence in that country.
“It’s not for nothing that they are building in Baghdad, the largest embassy complex that has ever been built anywhere in the world, in all of the history of humanity,” Ms. Bennis said.
When asked about permanent U.S. bases, Rep. Scott said only: “We have to start telling the American people the truth about what’s going on.”
The U.S. military mission in Iraq has changed from what he first proposed when he advised Mr. Rumsfeld, said Col. McGreggor. “We went into Iraq to remove a regime and guarantee the absence of WMD. We did not go to Iraq originally to dismantle the state, dismantle the army, the police, and the government, to occupy the place with the object of changing the people that lived there into something they did not want to become.
“We were after all, always, a Christian army occupying a Muslim Arab country, something which in the Middle East, is essentially a disaster.”
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