Bush Vows to Stay in Iraq But Offers No Strategy To Improve Situation

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Bush began his third prime time news conference Tuesday with a 17-minute speech that focused almost exclusively on Iraq. As the US death toll continues to experiences a dramatic rise, the president rejected comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam and characterized the uprising there as a “power grab.” [includes rush transcript]

Last night Bush gave the 12th press conference of his presidency and his 3rd in prime time. To put these numbers in perspective, both President Clinton and President George HW Bush had done 72 press conferences at this point in their respective presidencies. Last night, Bush began the press conference with a 17-minute speech that was almost exclusively on Iraq. He referred to what he called “a couple of tough weeks” in Iraq and said he was confident that the US public will stand with him despite what he called “gut wrenching” images on television of soldiers and other Americans killed in Iraq. Bush’s speech comes as the US death toll continues to experiences a dramatic rise. According to the U.S. military, at least 83 U.S. soldiers have been killed this month and more than 560 wounded.

Reports from the country indicate that public opinion in Iraq is increasingly against the US and the occupation. Both Sunni and Shiite groups are fighting US forces and abducting foreigners. The demand of most of the kidnappers is that foreign occupying forces leave the country. In his address last night, Bush rejected comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam and characterized the uprising there as a “power grab.” Here is some of what Bush had to say last night:

PRESIDENT BUSH: The success of free government in Iraq is vital for many reasons: A free Iraq is vital because 25 million Iraqis have as much right to live in freedom as we do. A free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East. A free Iraq will show that America is on the side of Muslims who wish to live in peace, as we’ve already shown in Kuwait and Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America’s word, once given, can be relied upon, even in the toughest times. Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people. Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver. The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew. We’ve seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the USS Cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001. None of these acts is the work of a religion. All are the work of a fanatical political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the Middle East and beyond. They seek to oppress and persecute women. They seek the death of Jews and Christians and every Muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror. They seek to intimidate America into panic and retreat, and to set free nations against each other. And they seek weapons of mass destruction, to blackmail and murder on a massive scale. Over the last several decades, we’ve seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed. And the enemy has seen, over the last 31 months, that we will no longer live in denial or seek to appease them. For the first time, the civilized world has provided a concerted response to the ideology of terror–a series of powerful, effective blows. The terrorists have lost the shelter of the Taliban and the training camps in Afghanistan. They have lost safe havens in Pakistan. They lost an ally in Baghdad. And Libya has turned its back on terror. They’ve lost many leaders in an unrelenting international manhunt. And perhaps more frightening to these men and their movement, the terrorists are seeing the advance of freedom and reform in the greater Middle East. A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy. And our work may become more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead or the cost that they will bring. Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America in Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder, as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers. We will succeed in Iraq. We’re carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change. Iraq will be a free, independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We serve the cause of liberty, and that is always and everywhere a cause worth serving.

  • Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter.
  • Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter and contributing editor at Mother Jones, the Nation and American Prospect and author of a new blog on TomPaine.com.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush at his news conference last night, just the third in prime time in his presidency, the first since the invasion of Iraq. We’re joined by Robert Dreyfuss, author of a new blog at Tompaine.com, and Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter. Russell, you were there and can you describe the scene and respond to what President Bush did say?

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: I was there and I was embarrassed for my fellow colleagues and myself and the country as this president continues to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. He talked about theocratic terror- that stuck in my mind. A man who General William Boykin says, believes was appointed by God, not elected by the people of the United States, who believes we have a Christian army. This is General Boykin speaking. And who has terrorized the people of Fallujah, and hundreds dead there with very few outside witnesses and calls for an investigation into — you know, what could have been a massacre paid for by American taxpayers. None of this was raised. I think one of the problems is we don’t have a real serious opposition party in the United States. There should be impeachment hearings ongoing right now. There are no impeachment hearings because of a — an opposition party without backbone because the opposition candidate voted for this war, and supports sending 40,000 more troops to Iraq. So, we have — and the press similarly —- I mean, it was like as you pointed out, Amy, Elizabeth Beumiller of “The New York Times” has said the—

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Does he know that the Democrats don’t have the internal fortitude to initiate impeachment against him in an election year?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re as also joined by Robert Dreyfuss who was at the press conference last night.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Unlike Russell, I don’t want it fault press. I thought that the president came out there with a single message that he wanted to deliver, which is that nothing that he or his administration since 9-11 has done is wrong, that their — this is a drowning man. He’s untethered from the remotest connection to reality. You know, as this is unfolding the catastrophic misguided intervention in Iraq. He pretended as if simply by continuing to do what we have done, except maybe do it with more force or vigor, we can somehow staunch the bleeding. I mean, what’s unfolding in Iraq as we get closer to this June 30 deadline is an absolutely impossible situation. Iraq is on the brink of a civil war, which would make Lebanon’s look mild by comparison. There’s no way that Iraq can survive under the present course that the president is pursuing. My concern is not to score political points about President Bush, or even to —- or certainly to criticize the press, but we as a nation now have to grapple with the fact that we have destroyed an entire country. We have pushed it to the brink of a bloodbath, and there’s very few options—-that the world has to deal with the problem that’s unfolding there and then President Bush comes out last night and says, all we need to do is stay the course. I find it breathtaking in the denial of reality. I actually thought that the unrelenting questions from the press about, you know, what about all of these mistakes we were going to be welcomed with flowers and where were the weapons of mass destruction, tell us what mistakes that you have made. What have you learned? There was unrelenting series of questions from the press that i thought was quite strong, and the President simply failed — sailed above it. I appreciate Russell’s effort to be rhetorical about impeachment, but, you know — let’s be realistic here. Impeachment is — I mean, it’s a silly idea.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: It was an unconstitutional war. It was supported by the Democrats.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: I don’t want to argue.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Now, wait, wait, wait. You said it was a silly idea. It was an unconstitutional war, supported by the Democratic Party, that’s why there is no impeachment, although Congressman John Conyers is considering bringing articles of impeachment. It’s the only method that we have in this country of bringing down an elected president. So I see it’s not a silly idea. He has committed high crimes and he ought to be faced with it.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: I’m not going to get into that.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: You said it was a silly idea.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: It’s silly because it’s politically impractical.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: It was not impractical. There are 90 articles of impeachment and we get a discussion.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: You get about nine votes in the House.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask a quick question to Russell Mokhiber. I asked Dennis Kucinich on the campaign trail. He said he was opposed to impeachment. He said the election is a form of that, let the people decide and not make a martyr out of President Bush. Your response.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Then we should get rid of impeachment as a recourse to get rid of the president. If he believes only elections should remove the president, then let’s get rid of impeachment. Of course, that’s not right.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Could we talk about Iraq and the problems in Iraq and what the president said here? The fact is that the United States —

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Dreyfuss.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: The fact is that United States has one way out of this crisis, and that’s for the United Nations to step in and assume responsibility for a nation that has been broken into a million pieces. Now, the only — the only — only bright spot in the president’s entire theme last night was to say that a former foreign minister of Algeria, a Sunni Muslim, and someone who I believe has the best interests of Iraq at heart, is over there in the midst of chaos trying to make sense of it. There’s — if the United Nations were somehow between now and June 30 to come in and reassert control, if the United States were to surrender, basically, its control of Iraq to the United Nations, there’s a small chance, and I underline small chance, that perhaps Iraq can be saved as a nation. I was very encouraged by the fact that John Kerry, on the day before yesterday, actually said that we should allow the new United Nations Administrator to replace Bremer. The President said last night, there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing. I’m on this holy mission from the Almighty to spread freedom in Iraq and the Middle East. Well, to me, that means the chances of this happening are virtually nil. I wrote in my blog the other day, if you go back to 1968 when Vietnam, just after the tet offensive was completely falling apart and you had 5 — an almost unhinged President Johnson, what finally stopped the bloodshed, at least for a few weeks was the entire American foreign policy elite got together and read the riot act to President Johnson. They had a meeting in the White House, and forced Johnson to say that he wouldn’t run again, that he was going to stop the bombing and try to find some way out. That’s because at that point, the foreign policy elite had realized the catastrophic nature of our mistake in Vietnam. Now, we all know what happened. Mccarthy and Kennedy, you know, went nowhere and Sumfri got the nomination, and Nixon got elected, and Vietnam continued for seven more years. Well — well, we have a chance now in Iraq for the — for — to stop this President, but I think that the press conference yesterday alarmed an another mass chunk of — not just the American people who saw it, but the foreign policy establishment who, you know, are made up of many sensible realists be not people who I agree with everything on politics. But people like James Baker and Brent Scocroft and others. These are people across both parties who know that we are now run by — led by a president who is unhinged and who is still committed to supporting the foreign policy vision of this little clique of neoconservatives who are guiding this administration and who have guided it really since day one.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question to Russell Mokhiber, you were in the news conference, the climate there, who gets to ask questions? Who doesn’t? Helen Thomas, who we are used to hearing well in olden times — the lead-off question, no longer does that, doesn’t get any question in.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: All show she —

AMY GOODMAN: Hasn’t gotten a question in.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: There are 100 reporters or so in that room and only ten or so get to ask questions. A lot of people are going to be left out. But the reality is, the President chooses who he wants to have — to ask questions, and I think some of the reporters are — or all of the reporters know they’re going to get a question in. For example, yesterday when the A.P. reporter stood up, the first reporter, the President — the reporter stood up before the President said yes, you. So, the reporter knew he had the first question. I think the other reporters also know, and the president knows where he’s going to get tough questions and where he’s not. So, he calls on reporters who are not going to embarrass him. In general, despite what Robert said, there was not embarrassing questions yesterday. Robert said he was encouraged by Kerry saying that he wants Brehimi to replace Bremer. I wonder if he’s encouraged by Kerry saying he wants to send another 40,000 troops to Iraq to stabilize the situation. This is a serious problem that we don’t — I am not. The president says we should hold people accountable for their words and actions. We have not held the president accountable for his words and his actions, especially about the slaughter in Fallujah. Last night, that question was not asked. He was not asked about the slaughter. He should have been. He should have been asked about impeachment. I was disappointed by the performance of the press last night. Obviously, by the performance by the president and I’m — I continue to be disappointed by the Democratic Party and the people who support them in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, and Robert Dreyfuss has a new blog at Tompaine.com.

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