Sunday, August 27, 2006

# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN TRYING TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS? Over at Red Strate, streiff is blasting John McCain for his statement that the administration led the public to believe that the war in Iraq would be "some kind of day at the beach."

To make his point, streiff produces a number of quotes in which Bush and Rumsfeld clearly warned that there would be a long, hard road ahead. For example, in his famous Mission Accomplished address, Bush warned that:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq.
A few months later, Rumsfeld said that:
It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.
Those quotes are accurate but they don't tell the whole story. In the process of writing a doctoral dissertation about presidential rhetoric, I had to confront the fact that presidents often try to have it both ways by making very general statements that go against the grain of their overall message without contradicting it directly.

Thus, Bush could deliver an address under the heading of Mission Accomplished while also paying lip service to the importance of appreciating just how hard it may be to rebuild Iraq. If one is charitable, one might say that Bush was recognizing the objections of his critics. If one is not, one might say that he was just protecting himself in case the occupation spun out of control.

How then, does one penetrate such rhetoric and assess what sort of expectations a president is actually setting? One good way is to look at the numbers. When Paul Wolfowitz lashed out at Gen. Shinseki for suggesting that we would need several hundred thousand soldiers to pacify Iraq, he was setting expectations we'd need fewer.

When the military drew up plans after the fall of Baghdad to reduce our presence to 30,000 soldiers within 6 months, they were setting expectations. Admittedly, neither of these examples comes directly from the President, so I encourage you to look up his old speeches and post relevant quotations in the comment section below.

Numbers that aren't said also influence expectations. The President may have ritually invoked the hardship ahead, but did he tell us after the fall of Baghdad that thousands of soldiers would have to lay down their lives to defend our victory? I don't believe so.

In contrast, I have some recollection of senior officials warning before the invasion of Iraq that several hundred or even thousands of American soldiers would have to give their lives to defeat the Iraqi army, especially in the urban jungle of Baghdad.

So what about McCain? Is he doing the same thing as the Presidnet, trying to have it both ways? Liz Mair asks:
Is McCain trying to have his cake and eat it, too, by saying, in effect, "the war was and is just, but those leading it were and are wrong"? Or is he stating a fact that both vocal defenders of the President, and vocal opponents of the war, simply find difficult to digest?
Let's go back to McCain's exact wording: "some kind of day at the beach". Offhand, I can't recall Bush or Cheney ever making light of the challenges of occupation, so perhaps McCain's words are a bit harsh. Then again, given the massive failure to plan for the occupation or to recognize that an insurgency was underway in the summer of 2003, perhaps such harsh words are merited.
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

While I am not a huge fan of McCain, I think he sold out after Bush and cronies zapped him in South Carolina in the primary, he repeatedly says he supports the war but not the way it is being run. He clearly thinks Donald Rumsfeld is the wrong guy for the job. I think the job itself is wrong.

Posted by the Lemming Herder from Don’t Be A Lemming!
I've always thought that people made too much of the "Mission Accomplished" banner. It was a ceremony for the troops recognizing the end of major combat operations against the organized army of Saddam's regime. I understand that people want to make it a symbol, but certainly some sort of ceremony was perfectly appropriate when moving from one phase (and suffering fewer than expected casualties during it) to another.

They have a big ceremony with congratulatory speeches when people receive their Ph.D.s. They don't spend the entire time warning people how hard it is to get tenure, which for many is more difficult than grad school itself. (And many people feel insufficiently warned about that.)

The "Mission Accomplished" banner and ceremony has always felt the same as that. It is an entirely typical thing to do at the end of one operation and the beginning of a another.
Hey David

I just tried to respond to this, but unfortunately, the site didn't go to "preview" and deleted my post! So, for anyone who is interested, I'm going to post my reply to this over at my site. Should be up shortly (once I've re-written it!).
After VE day, there was a whole lot of boats sailing west, bringing most of the men home because that mission had been accomplished.

Bush landed a plane on the aircraft carrier Lincoln and stepped out in a flight suit with a banner behind him that said Mission Accomplished. This ceremony, this stunt, was not about the men who did the accomplishing. It was a 'crassly choreographed' photo-op for Bush.

The White House later admitted this.

This is a common approach with Bush. Say one thing. Let the gullible believe it. Then say he didn't really say that. WMDs and Sadaam behind 9-11 come to mind.

Non-admission admissions.
Gen. Tommy Franks says that the "Mission Accomplished" ceremony was his idea. There were business people poised to make investments in Iraq who told him they would come in when there was some kind of official recognition that hostilities were over. After the event, of course, they welched.
This fleshes out the plot line, but it doesn't remove the air of mendacity.
As promised, I have responded to some of David's points, and a few of the comments made by Oxblog readers. For those who want to check it out, or comment on this issue on my site, here's the link to my piece: http://www.gopprogress.com/story/2006/8/28/124721/213
"Then again, given the massive failure to plan for the occupation"

Boy, there's a non-sequitir that dies hard. Talk about having no concept of what a war is.
On the topic of myths about Bush and Iraq being shattered I'd like to invite the readers of this blog to my interview with top Clinton advisor Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson about what the Clinton administration knew about Saddam Hussein's links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Please go here for more...
Links to the audio file and podcast subscription are also available.

Keep up the great work here Protein
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