The president’s speech, and the questions he didn’t answer

Which Iraqis will fight? How long will Americans stay? Who will pay for it all?

Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq war, War Room,

The president's speech, and the questions he didn't answer

George W. Bush has just finished laying out his ideas for the “new way forward” in Iraq. We had a lot of questions about the plan before he began speaking. We still have a lot of questions now that he’s done.

The Iraqis: The president said that the Iraqi government will deploy 18 Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Guard brigades across Baghdad. There are about a thousand troops in each brigade; 18 brigades would therefore represent something like 18,000 Iraqi forces. But in its latest report on conditions in Iraq, the Brookings Institution says there are only about 10,000 “politically dependable” Iraqi security forces in the entire country. Will the Iraqis somehow come up with an additional 8,000 or so competent and cooperative troops, or will they simply rely on ones who have yet to prove themselves or who have already proved themselves to be unreliable?

The new Baghdad security plan: Even assuming that there are enough Iraqi troops to work with the additional troops Bush plans to send — and assuming, moreover, that the combined U.S.-Iraqi forces are successful in clearing insurgents out of the neighborhoods they patrol — what happens next? The president said his new plan is different from his old plan because there will now be enough U.S. troops on hand to “hold the areas that have been cleared.” But hold for how long? The Joint Chiefs of Staff have already told the president that they can’t maintain his increased troop levels for long. What happens when the extra U.S. troops have to leave? Why can’t “the killers,” as Bush called them, just return again, just like they did when American forces had to leave the areas before?



Nouri al-Maliki: In a classified memo written in November, Bush’s national security advisor said that conditions on the ground in Iraq suggest that the country’s prime minister is “either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.” But Bush’s new plan turns almost entirely on his faith that Maliki will have both the power and the will to get things right this time around. Bush said that Maliki understands that Americans are running out of patience with his government, and he said — entirely unequivocally — that the Iraqi government will do all sorts of difficult things it hasn’t done so far. In addition to implementing the third-time’s-a-charm Baghdad security plan, Bush said the Iraqi legislature will adopt legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis, that the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion on reconstruction and infrastructure projects, that it will reform de-Baathification laws, that it will hold provincial elections this year, and that it will adopt a process for considering amendments to Iraq’s Constitution. How can Bush be sure of what any sovereign nation and its legislature might do? Why should any of us believe that Maliki and his government will really do what Bush says that they will do this time?

The cost: The president said tonight that the year ahead will “demand more patience, sacrifice and resolve.” He’s certainly right when it comes to American soldiers and their families, but what about the American people? The president’s war of choice has already cost about $360 billion, and the president has done everything in his power to prevent today’s taxpayers from feeling any of that pain. The president’s new plan will cost an additional $5.6 billion this year — $5.6 billion on top of what the status quo will cost — and the president once again said nothing about who will be paying the cost. The obvious conclusion: The financial sacrifice for the American people won’t come in the “year ahead,” but sometime long after George W. Bush is resting comfortably back in Crawford, Texas.

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>