"The bloody flag of 9/11"

The early editorial returns on Bush's speech: A disappointment and a disconnect.


Tim Grieve
June 29, 2005 5:55PM (UTC)

The president's Iraq speech came too late in the day Tuesday for most newspaper editorial pages to weigh in. But judging from the early returns, the White House might want to schedule the president's next speech for a little later still.

Here's a sampling of what's out there so far:

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Washington Post: "President Bush sought last night to bolster slipping public support for the war in Iraq by connecting it, once again, to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to the war against terrorism. That connection is not spurious, even if Saddam Hussein was not a collaborator of al Qaida: Clearly Iraq is now a prime battlefield for Islamic extremists, and success or failure there will do much to determine the outcome of the larger struggle against them. But Mr. Bush didn't explain how a war meant to remove a tyrant believed to wield weapons of mass destruction turned into a fight against Muslim militants, a transformation caused in part by his administration's many errors since Saddam Hussein's defeat more than two years ago. The president also didn't speak candidly enough about the primary mission the United States now has in Iraq, which is not 'hunting down the terrorists' but constructing a stable government in spite of Iraq's sectarian divisions and violent resistance from the former ruling elite. It's harder to explain why Americans should die in such a complex and ambitious enterprise than in a fight with international terrorists, but that is the case Mr. Bush most needs to make."

New York Times: "We did not expect Mr. Bush would apologize for the misinformation that helped lead us into this war, or for the catastrophic mistakes his team made in running the military operation. But we had hoped he would resist the temptation to raise the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks. . . . Sadly, Mr. Bush wasted his opportunity last night, giving a speech that only answered questions no one was asking. He told the nation, again and again, that a stable and democratic Iraq would be worth American sacrifices, while the nation was wondering whether American sacrifices could actually produce a stable and democratic Iraq."

Los Angeles Times: "President Bush's pep talk to the nation Tuesday night was a major disappointment. He again rewrote history by lumping together the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the need for war in Iraq, when, in fact, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda. Bush spoke of 'difficult and dangerous' work in Iraq that produces 'images of violence and bloodshed,' but he glossed over the reality of how bad the situation is. He offered no benchmarks to measure the war's progress, falling back on exhortations to 'complete the mission' with a goal of withdrawing troops 'as soon as possible.' . . . . If more months pass with Iraqi forces leaning on the safety net of U.S. troops, politicians putting tribe and religious community ahead of nation, and the daily havoc of suicide bombers, presidential scrutiny through rose-colored glasses will fall on ever-deafer ears. The public can recognize the difference between rhetoric and reality."

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Tim Grieve

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

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George W. Bush Iraq Middle East War Room

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