COL Bush justifies Iraq mission
Bush lays out long-range plans to American public
Sunday night President Bush told America that it is in a fight to keep terrorism from, conceivably, Rochester's streets. The front line of this battle is Iraq, said Bush.
Bush was urged, dragged depending on your point of view, to talk to the country and make clear what our commitment in Iraq is going to cost. How he got to the podium isn't as important as what he said.
At a cost of $87 billion and the exposure of 130,000 U.S. troops to ongoing attacks from what Bush said were fighters bent on stopping the development of democracy in Iraq, Bush made it clear we are in Iraq for the long haul.
In both blood and money, this nation will do what it takes to accomplish three stated goals, Bush said.
In the speech, Bush made the expected overture to the United Nations. He said the time had come to ask for a new U.N. resolution that would bring an expanded multinational force to Iraq. However, he said the force would fall under U.S. control.
Up to now, other nations, France and Germany, for example, have made their military involvement contingent on U.N. control. How Bush's remarks will play might be a reprise. Still, Bush has turned a corner by making U.N. support in Iraq a listed goal.
The continued destruction of terrorists is another point on Bush's list of goals. Significantly absent from his words were gunslinger remarks reminding voters about the dead-or-alive rewards for Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Both are symbols of the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush did reach into his bag of tough-talk lines and said that any terrorist that attacks U.S. troops will find himself hunted.
Finally, Bush said an Iraqi constitution is coming soon. This document would guide Iraqi political leaders, police and a growing army, said Bush. America's aim, he said, was to return Iraq to Iraqi management.
The speech was needed. Funerals for dead U.S. troops have people wondering whether there is a plan. Bush outlined one, gave the cost and demonstrated to the country his commitment.
The idea that Iraq is the front lines of a war against terrorism was the most ringing thought from Bush's speech. We fight the enemy there to keep from fighting here is a powerful motivation for continued involvement.
The money, $87 billion, is a whopper of a bill. The number of troops needed is more than expected. A change from a go-it-alone status to asking for U.N. support is a 180-degree swing in policy.
That it took this long for Bush to reach out to the United Nations for assistance and to his country for backing is troubling. Yet, as Democratic leaders said following Bush's remarks, now is better than never. Democrats predicted support in Congress for Bush's goals.
Although Bush put it all on the line and gave a reason for spending the money, the human toll and the altered policy, the rationale for all of the above was one of fear. We need to do this because we are fearful of another attack. On one very big level, this is a reasonable stance. It did happen here on a date that requires no detail -- Sept. 11.
Bush only hinted at what would be a much more positive reason for our involvement in Iraq. There is an idea that we are fighting in Iraq to bring a modern democracy, complete with refrigerators, sofa-recliners and delivered pizza to Iraq, and by expansion, the entire Middle East. Here's a hope forwarded by many: If we bring modernity to the Middle East, maybe the young fighters of today will be focused on meeting the mortgage instead of meeting us in the streets, with guns.
In a roundabout way, this idea of hope is just another angle from Bush's fear-based reasoning. It comes with an assumption that we are all more alike than not.
Finally, and it needs to be considered, maybe Bush is right. Maybe what is on our hands is a fight that was going to happen sooner or later. If so, Bush is right to take it to them.
We are not any safer now that Bush has shared with the country his ideas about Iraq. We are, though, more informed, and that's a good first step.