In a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday, President Bush warned that a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would lead to mass bloodshed similar to what happened in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. He referenced the killing fields in Cambodia and the re-educution camps in Vietnam.
President Bush: "There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle, those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam, and they must do the same today."
Bush’s speech appears to be part of a coordinated White House effort to bolster support for the war ahead of the debate on Capitol Hill in September.
While Bush was speaking in Kansas City, a newly formed organization called Freedom’s Watch launched a month-long $15 million pro-war advertising campaign. The group described its efforts as a grassroots campaign, but it is being led in part by President Bush’s former spokesperson, Ari Fleischer. In an interview yesterday, Fleischer said: "There’s been a three-year silence from conservatives and others who believe in peace through strength. The cavalry is coming, we’re going to help to get that message out." The first ad by Freedom’s Watch links the attack on 9/11 to the war in Iraq.
Freedom’s Watch ad: "Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I re-enlisted after 9/11 because I don’t want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything I’ve given and sacrificed will mean nothing. They attacked us, and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics."
Meanwhile in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at his U.S. critics on Wednesday during a stop in Syria. Al-Maliki said U.S. politicians have no right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country can find friends elsewhere. Al-Maliki’s comments came two days after Senator Carl Levin called for his ouster.
Nouri al-Maliki: "We do suffer from such comments. However, they often reflect a certain discomfort. Maybe this person who made the statement yesterday is upset by the nature of our visit to Syria because of his ulterior motives. These statements do not concern us a lot. What concerns us is our democratic experiment and adhering to the constitution. We will find many in the region and around the world who will support us in our endeavor."
On Wednesday, Senator Hillary Clinton joined Levin in calling for Maliki to be removed from office. Clinton said, "I share Senator Levin’s hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks."
Meanwhile, the website IraqSlogger reports Republican lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration are now aiding and supporting the efforts of a possible replacement for al-Maliki — former Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The Republican lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers is now working for Allawi. The company has purchased the website domain AllawiforIraq.com and has been sending emails to members of Congress on his behalf. Last week, Allawi argued in a Washington Post op-ed that Iraq will descend into chaos unless Maliki is replaced as prime minister.
In other Iraq news, a new poll has found that 64 percent of conservative foreign policy analysts feel the so-called surge in Iraq is having no impact or a negative effect. The poll was conducted by the magazine Foreign Policy and the think tank Center for American Progress.
Former CIA operative Robert Baer is predicting the U.S. will attack Iran within the next six months. Baer wrote an article in this week’s Time Magazine in which he cites an unnamed Bush administration official saying, "There will be an attack on Iran." On Wednesday, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News that he hopes the attack will happen.
John Bolton: "Absolutely. I hope Iran understands that we are very serious, that we are determined they are not going to get a nuclear weapon capability, and unless they change the strategic decision they’ve been pursuing for close to 20 years, that that’s something they better factor into their calculations."
John Bolton is preparing to release a new book titled "Surrender is Not an Option."
The Bush administration’s plan to conduct domestic surveillance by using spy satellites is facing opposition on Capitol Hill. House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson has warned the Department of Homeland Security that Congress plans to closely oversee the program. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation’s vast network of spy satellites. According to officials, the spy satellites will be used in part to monitor the nation’s borders and to aid federal and local law enforcement agencies. Access to the high-tech surveillance tools would, for the first time, allow Homeland Security and law enforcement officials to see real-time, high-resolution images and data. Experts say there is effectively no legal framework governing their domestic use, raising concerns from privacy advocates that Americans could be subject to warrantless surveillance from space. Some military experts have questioned whether domestic use of such satellites would violate the Posse Comitatus Act. The act bars the military from engaging in law enforcement activity inside the U.S., and the satellites were predominantly built for and owned by the Defense Department.
In environmental news, The New York Times is reporting the Bush administration plans to issue new regulations to allow the expansion of the controversial coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams. Environmental activists say the rule change will lead to accelerated pillage of vast tracts and the obliteration of hundreds of miles of streams in central Appalachia. Joe Lovett of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment criticized the new rules. He said, "This is a parting gift to the coal industry from this administration. What is at stake is the future of Appalachia. This is an attempt to make legal what has long been illegal."
In Burma, police and pro-government supporters have shut down another pro-democracy protest. According to news reports, about 40 demonstrators, mostly members of the National League for Democracy, attempted to defy Burma’s military junta by marching in Rangoon earlier today. The activists marched for two miles, but then the demonstration was stopped. Five of the protest leaders were arrested. This marked the third public protest in Burma since Sunday against rising fuel costs. Earlier in the week, police arrested 24 other pro-democracy activists. Human Rights Watch slammed Burma’s military junta for the arrests, saying the crackdown was a violation of the "fundamental rights of assembly." This week’s protests are among the largest seen in Burma since 1988, when the army killed an estimated 3,000 people in an effort to put down anti-government demonstrations.
And the state of Texas executed Johnny Ray Conner last night by lethal injection. Conner became the 400th person to be executed in Texas since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Texas is planning to execute three more men next week, including Kenneth Foster. Conner was convicted of killing a grocery store clerk named Kathyanna Nguyen. Shortly before his execution, Conner apologized to Nguyen’s daughter Marie. He told her, "I love you even though you don’t know me. I ask you to one day in your heart forgive me. What is happening to me is unjust, and the system is broken." Johnny Ray Conner’s sister Diamond Alexander spoke to a reporter outside the prison.
Diamond Alexander: "Life in prison is a punishment for anyone who get that. That’s a true death sentence there."
Reporter: "And so, for you, right now — you were telling me earlier that this is unnecessary. You were calling this barbaric."
Diamond Alexander: "It is very barbaric. I can’t see how the person who’s doing the injection can have any peace at home and in his mind or in his conscience."