Can't win in Iraq? Somebody told us that we already had

So Howard Dean is a "bloodthirsty traitor" for expressing "pessimism" about the war? Remember what the president once said?

By Tim Grieve
Published December 8, 2005 1:34PM (EST)

When Howard Dean said what he said earlier this week -- "The idea that the United States is going to win the war in Iraq is just plain wrong" -- the right went ballistic, and the shooting hasn't stopped yet.

On Fox News, Erich "Mancow" Muller said that the chairman of the Democratic Party should be tried for treason. "These people want every boy to die," he said. "They're bloodthirsty animals. Howard Dean is a vile human being ... He is evil. I'm telling you, I really think that every time you report another dead body in Iraq, they go, 'Hoo hoo, it's perfect.'"

Michael Reagan skipped the whole "trial" for treason part, saying that Dean should be "arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war." The New York Post screamed, "He's Howard the Coward." With at least one blogger offering up the obligatory if not-exactly-on-point photo depicting Howard Dean as Hitler -- maybe you had Neville Chamberlain in mind, Einstein -- the president's dismissal of Dean as a "pessimist" who's "playing politics" seems downright mild by comparison.

Maybe that's because George W. Bush has been a bit of a pessimist himself. Yes, the president has a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." But if you'd clicked on "Document Properties" in Adobe Reader when the White House Web site first posted the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," you would have seen that the document used to be called the "National Strategy for Supporting Iraq." That was before Bush brought on board a Duke University political scientist who argues that Americans will support just about anything if they think there's victory at the end of the tunnel -- and before some helpful Bush administration Web scrubber updated the version of the national strategy posted at the White House site so that the embarrassing metadata about its origins doesn't appear anymore.

And don't forget what the president himself once said of the war on terrorism. When Matt Lauer asked Bush about the war on terrorism in August 2004, the president said: "I don't think you can win it." He flip-flopped his way out of it a couple of days later on Rush Limbaugh's show, saying that he "probably needed to be a little more articulate" and really just meant that "this is not the kind of war where you sit down and sign a peace treaty."

To be fair, Bush's 2004 comments were about the war on terror generally, not just about its "central front." On Iraq, of course, there was no need for prognostication. As the president himself had already said a year and a half earlier, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Tim Grieve

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

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush Howard Dean Iraq War War Room