To allay some of those worries, we are offering the
White House a draft for a follow-up speech in which Bush can speak
straight to the concerns of his doubters. Like
another draft that we proposed last summer, we don’t expect this one
will get very far.
“My fellow Americans, I hear that many of you who
watched my speech the other day came away a little spooked. Some of you
thought I sounded crazy because I made it seem like we’d be at war in
the Middle East forever.
“Some even wondered what it means to win a
‘complete victory’ over ‘terror?’ After all, ‘terror’ is an emotion or a
tactic, so how do you defeat an emotion or a tactic?
“Some historians also note that terror has been
part of war for eons. It’s even in the Bible, with one tribe’s army
slaughtering the civilians of another tribe. So how do you completely
win a ‘war on terror’ even if you fight for decades?
“Some of you also wondered how I could be so
self-righteous, condemning some people who kill civilians to achieve a
political goal when I did the same in invading Iraq. Some of you
remembered those Iraqi men, women and children who died during my ‘shock
and awe’ bombing campaign at the start of the Iraq War.
“Like that Baghdad restaurant I had bombed because
I thought Saddam might be eating there. It turned out Saddam wasn’t
around, but we did kill 14 civilians, including seven children. ‘Isn’t
that a form of terrorism?’ some of you ask.
“There were a lot of those stories during the
invasion – and later, too, like when I ordered the Marines to retake
Fallujah with the help of 500-pound bombs and other heavy ordnance. No
matter how careful our troops are it’s just inevitable that kids and
civilians are going to die. That’s why a lot of you think that war
should be a last resort, never waged for frivolous or made-up reasons.
“Maybe that’s why you shook your heads when I said,
‘When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, … this
is murder, pure and simple.’ Some of you thought it was a bit
hypocritical to condemn evildoers for killing kids with bombs when I’ve
done the same.
“The problem with that kind of
thinking is what we call ‘moral equivalence,’ which means holding
me to the same standards as my enemies. That’s a mistake because I
represent what’s good and my enemies stand for what’s bad, what I like
to call ‘evil.’ Remember, after the Sept. 11 attacks, I told you my goal
was to ‘rid the world of evil.’
“Even though I have no doubt about the morality of
our cause, some of you are still miffed that I told you we were going to
war in Iraq because of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and his ties
to al-Qaeda when it turned out there weren’t any.
“You also get annoyed when I keep saying that our
enemies want to hurt us because they hate our freedom.
“Some of you insist that Muslims
don’t hate our freedom. It’s that they view us and the Brits as their
historical oppressors. They think we’ve propped up corrupt dictators for
generations so we could take their oil – like the Saudi royals, the
Kuwaiti princes, the Shah of Iran, even Saddam Hussein when my dad was
“You say these Muslims remember how
we toppled a democratic government in Iran when it got too greedy about
its oil, how we gave green lights to the Egyptian security forces to
crack down on dissent, and how we backed the Algerian army when it
voided elections because the side we favored looked like it was going to
“Another funny thing is that it
seems like more Muslims than Americans remember how I got into office by
having some of my dad’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court stop the
counting of votes when I was getting nervous that I might lose.
“Well, I responded to these concerns in my speech,
when I said, ‘these extremists want to end American and
Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for
democracy and peace.’ That's almost the same as saying they hate our
“I thought another really good part
of my speech was when I accused the Islamic radicals of trying ‘to build
a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and
violence is always the solution.’
“Some of you felt that this
‘psychobabble’ didn’t belong in a presidential speech, that it sounded
more like what you’d hear on some radio talk show hosted by Rush
Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, who often accuse their adversaries of wanting
to be victims.
“Others of you viewed this as a case
of me ‘projecting’ my own behavior onto my enemies – that I feel I’m the
real victim and that I turn to violence as a solution. Well, that sounds
wacky to me, not to mention paranoid, like someone’s trying to make me
“Others of you have suggested that
the logic in the speech was a little screwy, like when I put down people
who contend that my invasion of Iraq made a difficult situation a whole
lot worse. I slapped that argument down by saying,
‘Some have also argued that extremism has been
strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our
presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of
radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the
11th, 2001 – and al Qaeda attacked us anyway.’
“I thought the line was pretty clever, but some of
you have complained that it was a cheap shot, a way to make that
subliminal connection again between Iraq and Sept. 11. Some people even
call an argument like the one I made ‘sophistry,’ which is a fancy word
that means a plausible but misleading argument.
“I guess their point is that just about everybody,
including the CIA, thinks that my war in Iraq has strengthened Islamic
extremism and spread anti-Americanism around the world. A lot of these
experts say that before the Iraq War, al-Qaeda was a small, isolated
group that had been pretty much chased to the ends of the earth, or in
this case into the mountains of Afghanistan.
“Islamic extremists had lost in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi
Arabia and a lot of other countries. Even the government of Sudan had
booted Osama bin-Laden out.
“Then, in summer 2001, the U.S. government let its
guard down. Warnings were missed, reports went unread, the bureaucracy
seemed paralyzed. It was like somebody was on vacation. So our enemies hit us on Sept. 11.
“After that, the whole world rallied to America’s
side. We had lots of support in going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Even some unfriendly governments in the Middle East turned over
intelligence information to help us neutralize al-Qaeda.
“But some of you think that I blundered by diverting
troops out of Afghanistan too soon and rushing into Iraq without UN
sanction. You say that I surrendered the moral high ground by killing
lots of innocent Iraqis, by having no realistic plan for securing Iraq,
and by letting terrorist groups become active there.
“That’s why I answered those arguments in my speech
by saying that al-Qaeda attacked us before I invaded Iraq. And I don’t
care if you don’t think my statement makes any sense. Plus, my best
argument now for continuing the war in Iraq is that the place might get
even more messed up if we leave.
“In my speech, I also tried to explain the stakes. I
compared the fight against Islamic terrorism to the long Cold War
against Soviet-style communism.
“I understand that some of you disagree, saying that
the two really aren’t that comparable, that the Cold War was a standoff
between two superpowers while al-Qaeda remains a fringe extremist group
even in the Muslim world.
“But didn’t I sound like Winston Churchill when I
said, ‘We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything
less than complete victory.’
“Still, just in case that kind of talk made some of
you nervous – as if I was leading you and your children and your
children’s children into a dark cave with no exit – I vouched for the
inevitability of our victory.
I said, ‘Whatever lies ahead in the war against this
ideology, the outcome is not in doubt: Those who despise freedom and
progress have condemned themselves to isolation, decline, and collapse.’
”Then I went with a hopeful tone. I said, ‘Because
free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future.’
“Which leads me to a final question that some of you
have asked about, the so-called ‘gap’ between the stakes that I’ve
described in this long war and the paucity of sacrifice that well-to-do
Americans have made.
For instance, some people wonder why my daughters,
Jenna and Barbara, haven’t enlisted or why so few of my social
acquaintances have sent their kids to fight?
“The same question could have been asked about me,
you know, during the Vietnam War. Why did I accept a stateside slot in
the Texas Air National Guard, skip a required physical, miss meetings
and quit early? Why didn’t I mix it up with the commies?
“But what some of you don’t understand is that if the
fighting and dying is done by people we don’t know, then we
decision-makers are freed up to make the necessary hard choices –
without having to worry about whether one of our loved ones or the loved
ones of our friends will be put in harm’s way.
“With our own children at home, we don’t flinch when
we order sacrifices vital for the country but likely to get a lot of our
soldiers killed. In other words, if I personally knew some of the almost
2,000 American dead, I might hesitate. I might settle for a solution
short of ‘complete victory.’
So, like I said in my speech, ‘We don't know the
course of our own struggle – the course our own struggle will take – or
the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the
defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of
freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of
freedom will once again prevail. May God bless you.’”