President Bush, chastened and admitting his failed strategy in the four-year-old war in Iraq, is asking a skeptical nation to give him another chance to get it right.
“Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me,” said Bush, using the passive voice in his speech from the White House library.
Bush blamed the Iraq government for putting restrictions on U.S. troop movements, al-Qaida and radical Islamists more than the policy choices his administration made that never led to the creation of a democratic Iraq anchoring a peaceful Mideast.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) delivered the official Democratic response Bush’s plan. “It is time for the Iraqis to stand up and defend their own nation,” Durbin said.
With Bush’s power as commander-in-chief, Durbin said the notion that even a Democratic Congress can actually stop more troop deployments is a “big mistake.”
The other Illinois Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, also is against a troop buildup.
Democrats are not using the word surge — a word associated with the Bush plan — because that word implies some temporary situation.
More is more. Bush wants to gamble on an escalation, a word Democrats deliberately are using because it evokes for some the Vietnam war.
Bush does not need permission to send more than 20,000 soldiers to Iraq.
They are going.
If he asked Congress today for any affirmation for what the White House is billing as “The New Way Forward in Iraq,” the Congress would not give it to him.
The opposite is happening. Saddam Hussein is dead. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. The premise for authorizing the war in the first place expired. Sen. Ted Kennedy is introducing legislation banning any more troops and dollars without congressional approval.
The war never ended the way Bush said it would. It never ended at all.
The U.S. soldiers were supposed to stand down when the Iraqis stood up. But they never did. A civil war erupted, with the root causes preceding U.S. troops by centuries.
Bush wants U.S. soldiers to stand up and Iraqis to stand up, too.
War critics, empowered by the November elections, want Iraqis to stand up. Then the U.S. military will, perhaps, have the public support to stand up, too.
Iraqis “must know that every time they call 911 we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers,” Durbin said.
Much rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his ability to govern and unite Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
“The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time,” Bush said.
If that’s the case, then Bush’s package of military initiatives may be arriving years too late.
Find briefings, statements, transcripts on Iraq at blogs.suntimes.com/sweet