Bush's desperate spin

With each passing day, the administration's claims that the Iraq attacks are signs of "desperation" sound increasingly, well ...

Published October 29, 2003 8:12AM (EST)

For months the White House has answered virtually every terrorist attack inside Iraq with the same talking point: The enemy is "desperate." The killing and chaos were the surest signs that America was making headway rebuilding a free and peaceful Iraq because, the administration insists, it's progress that threatens freedom-hating terrorists.

Desperate? How about sophisticated? Or brazen, coordinated or cocky? The terrorists are roaming freely inside Iraq, picking off their targets seemingly at will: hotels, police stations, embassies, mosques, even Baghdad's deputy mayor. Undaunted, administration officials are sticking with the spin they committed to months ago. A highlight reel:

"We cannot afford to allow Iraq to revert to the remnants of the Baathist regime that now ranges throughout Iraq in their desperate bid for influence and power."

-- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, May 22, New York Times

"I think they're desperate. I think they're becoming less and less organized. This is not guerrilla warfare. It is not close to guerrilla warfare, because it's not coordinated, it's not organized and it's not led."

-- Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, Commander U.S. Army 4th Infantry, quoted June 19, Agence Press France

"[U.S. chief administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer] also said that though he wished that Saddam Hussein were in custody or dead, 'every evidence' suggested that he was not in charge of the well-orchestrated resistance and that the Iraqis attacking allied forces 'are a small group of desperate men -- they do not pose a strategic threat to the Iraqi people or to the coalition.'"

-- New York Times, July 6

"I think as we make political progress here we'll see more violence, more desperation for a time, and it's the nature of the enemy that we're fighting. So we shouldn't underestimate how hard they might fight."

-- U.S. military commander for Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, July 21

"And as we have more successes across the board, we should be prepared for more desperate attacks against our forces and the Iraqi people. But we will not be deterred."

-- White House spokesman Scott McClellan at press briefing

"'We see this more as a desperation move,' Gen. Odierno said. 'And I think in a way, it's backfiring, because we've found when they do this, it's causing more Iraqis to come in and give us information.'"

-- Sunday Mirror, July 27

"I think that what you're seeing is that the more progress we make, the more desperate these terrorists become. The terrorist attack yesterday in Baghdad only reinforced the importance of what we are doing."

-- McClellan, Aug. 20 briefing

"President Bush was defiant today. He said: 'Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated, and these killers will not determine the future of Iraq.'"

-- New York Times, Aug. 20

"The more progress we make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become. Freedom is a threat to their way of life."

-- Bush, New York Times, Aug. 27

"Our military leaders have said that some of these attacks have become more sophisticated, but what you're really seeing is that the more progress we make, the more desperate these killers become."

-- McClellan, Aug. 27 briefing.

"I'm not trying to put a gloss on a bad day, but this was a desperate reaction to the real signs of progress."

-- Anonymous senior Bush advisor, Time magazine, Sept. 1

"And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country into chaos."

-- Bush's nationally televised speech, Sept. 7

"First, that Iraq is still a dangerous place. They also show, I think, the desperation -- the desperation of the adversaries that we face. We're actively engaged in rooting out this threat with more and more Iraqis coming forward with information and a willingness to help us."

-- Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying before Congress, Sept. 9

"Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there and they must and will be defeated. The building of a new Iraq also provides opportunity for a different kind of Middle East."

-- National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Oct. 8 speech at Chicago Council of Foreign Relations

"We're fighting on many fronts and now Iraq is the central front. Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists are trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and to throw that country into chaos."

-- Bush, speaking at Air National Guard base, Oct. 9

"It's the central front in the war on terrorism, and foreign terrorists and remnants of the former regime are desperate because they know we are making significant progress. We are achieving successes."

-- McClellan, Oct. 10 briefing

"A visibly disturbed Wolfowitz, who was whisked from the hotel, denounced the attack as 'the desperate acts of a dying regime of criminals' but could not guarantee that the Rashid Hotel could be fully protected against them."

-- Oct. 26, Agence Press France

"Even with the number and sophistication of the daily attacks accelerating, Mr. Bush's response to questions about how the United States should respond has become almost automatic: The United States is slowly winning hearts and minds, and making Saddam Hussein's loyalists 'more desperate' each day."

-- Oct. 27, New York Times

"I think the reason they are doing this is because they want to get as much attention as they can and they are becoming more and more desperate each day."

-- Maj. Gen. Odierno, Fox News Channel, Oct. 27

"Their desperate attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate us or the brave Iraqis and Afghans who are joining in their own defense and who are moving toward self-government."

-- Bush's Oct. 28 press conference

"I believe there will be a time when they become more and more desperate, that the regime loyalists will look to go to foreign fighters and try to integrate with them, but we have not seen that so far."

-- Maj. Gen. Odierno, Oct. 28, Agence Press France

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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George W. Bush Iraq War