Tuesday, July 05, 2005

In July 4 Address, Bush Provides West Virginians With Empty Words

President Bush spent part of his Independence Day trying to gain traction for comments he made a few days earlier in a nationwide address.

Speaking at West Virginia University, Bush once again tried to tie together the terrorists who struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 (aka Al Qaeda) and the "terrorists" that the U.S. fights today in Iraq (aka the Iraqi insurgency), repeating the themes of his June 28 speech as well as his July 2 weekly radio address.

It's sad how easily Bush can turn misleading statements into applause lines. It's an easy recipe: mention Sept. 11, throw in some patriotic phrasing -- great for television soundbites! -- and mix and match facts until you come up with something that's pleasing to the ear. Sadder still, the "mainstream media" chose yesterday not to fact-check the president, acting like stenographers as they highlighted the main themes of yesterday's speech. The harshest thing most reporters could come up with was that Bush's popularity ratings have slipped.


Let's take a look at the core of Bush's speech -- his case for fighting in Iraq.

BUSH: At this hour, our men and women in uniform are defending America against the threats of the 21st century. The war we are fighting came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. After that day, I made a pledge to the American people, we will not wait to be attacked again. (Applause.) We will bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies. (Applause.)

FACT-CHECK: Bush mixes and matches facts here to get two applause lines. Ask the West Virginians who Bush meant when he talks of troops "defending America," and undoubtedly they'll say the troops in Iraq. But then -- bait-and-switch -- Bush says the war we are fighting "came to our shores on September the 11th."

Why is it bait-and-switch? Because the Iraqis didn't attack us on Sept. 11. Al Qaeda did. Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind Sept. 11, remains at large. The 9/11 Commission found no "credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," so fighting in Iraq isn't "bringing justice" to those that struck us.

One tenuous tie between post-Saddam Iraq and Al Qaeda are the "foreign fighters" who have joined the Iraqi insurgency. The Bush Administration has said that those foreign fighters include Al Qaeda, although they have not brought forth any hard evidence to support that opinion. By most objective accounts, the percentage of foreign fighters in Iraq has been small, although the Bush Administration has argued their numbers are growing.

BUSH: Our enemies in this new war are men who celebrate murder, incite suicide and thirst for absolute power. They seek to spread their ideology of tyranny and oppression across the world. They seek to turn the Middle East into a haven for terror. They seek to drive America out of the region. These terrorists will not be stopped by negotiations, or concessions, or appeals to reason. In this war, there is only one option, and that is victory. (Applause.)

FACT-CHECK: Al Qaeda and its allies have, since Sept. 11, attacked Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh and Bali. Bush, in his June 28 address, quoted (and paraphrased) Bin Laden, saying: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." (The placement of the quotation marks is Bush's, suggesting Bin Laden never said "This Third World War is raging in Iraq.")

One could argue the insurgents want to drive the U.S. out of Iraq, but it's a stretch to say they "seek to spread their ideology of tyranny and oppression across the world." Who is Bush actually talking about to get his applause lines? Al Qaeda.

Bush speaks for another two paragraphs before he finally utters the word "Iraq." At that point he says:

BUSH: Iraq is the latest battlefield in the war on terror. Our work there is difficult and dangerous because terrorists from across the region are converging on Iraq to fight the rise of democracy."

FACT-CHECK: Again, by most accounts, the percentage of Iraqi insurgents who are "foreign fighters" remains a minority, and the Bush Administration has not yet provided evidence that the foreign fighters are Al Qaeda, vs. individuals who are either pro-Saddam, anti-U.S., or simply wanting to fight what they see as an occupying nation.

But this two-sentence piece of Bush's speech is noteworthy for a positive reason: the president finally distinguishes Iraqi insurgents from "terrorists from across the region." It wasn't an applause line or a soundbite, but it wasn't misleading, either.


Blogger The Bulldog Manifesto said...

His speeches are starting to sound almost scary. They are so remarkably full of lies. His usage of September 11 is akin to a stand up comic saying "_________(name of city) audiences are the best audiences in the entire world!"

He is the president for the uber-simpleton.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush/Rove likely figures the media already exhausted itself discounting the 9-11 and Iraq connection from his last speech, that this time they'll back off so his misleading, deceitful lies this time can break through to the half of the country too lazy, too ignorant or too upset over 9-11 to figure it out.
The problem is to most intelligent people this president does not have a shred of credibility left.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

This is my favorite: "...terrorists from across the region are converging on Iraq to fight the rise of democracy."

This is usually presented as a positive development and linked with the idea that we are "fighting them over there [in Iraq], so we don't have to fight them here [in the US]".

The spin being that there is some fixed number of "terrorists" who are sitting around at Terrorist Headquarters and trying to decide where to go today, and as long as we can present them with a more inviting target in Iraq they'll be too busy to make the trip to New York.

Please, please, please tell me he's just spinning lies for the denial-brigades and is not actually that stupid!

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard it best from a woman who lost her son in Iraq.
Bush's policies have recruited the very terrorists our solidiers are risking their lives and limbs fighting.
And Bush again by his own discreet admission is claiming to make another people and country, Iraq, pay for our terrorism problem. Isn't this genocide?

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Take Back America said...

When will the chickenhawks learn that you cannot simply bomb people into liking us. I just pray we aren't rushing to become the new Isreal (as an occupying target for nationalistic suicide-bombers) in the middle-east. Maybe we should pay more attention to sorting out the real Isreali-Palistinian quagmire first, before we so eagerly try to emulate it.

11:26 AM  

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