Loose Canons

Hope Is Not a Policy

Something for the President’s teleprompter this Monday night.

By 5.24.04

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President Bush is going to give a prime-time speech on Iraq on Monday night. It will be political, aimed at stopping the hemorrhaging of the past few months. The President's political strengths have been diminishing in direct proportion to the rising bloodshed in Iraq. Dubya can't give just another "stay the course" and "by the way, we're winning" speech. The situation in Iraq is grim, and though we are making progress, it's been of the "two steps forward, one step back" variety. Free advice is not, as the lawyers say, always worth what you pay for it. I don't know what the president will say. But I'm fairly certain what he should say. Will someone please slip this onto the teleprompter on Monday?

"Winston Churchill once said that any clever person can make plans for winning a war if he has no responsibility for carrying them out. Here at the Army War College, you study how to make those plans work. It is people such as you and I who have the responsibility -- that awesome responsibility -- to carry out them out and win the war against the terrorists and the nations that support them.

"Some people think that all I need to do to make this country safe is to apologize for what America has done since 9-11. Those who oppose what we are doing in Iraq come in three varieties. First are the terrorists and the nations that fund them, equip them, and give them sanctuary. They are hearing from us every day. And they will continue to do so. We have -- ever since military action began in Afghanistan in October 2001 - been fighting a war to defend our way of life. The terrorist nations that remain should consider the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq. We have learned -- and are still learning -- the lessons of this war. They had better think long and hard about that.

"Second are those -- such as many in Europe and the United Nations -- who think that diplomacy is the answer to everything. Were we to follow their advice, we would be stuck in a quagmire of diplomacy, waiting endlessly for the world to decide what to do. You know why we can't wait for the U.N.? After 9-11, the U.N. decided to condemn terrorism, and obligate all its members to fight it. But after that, the U.N. fell in to its usual disarray, and can't even agree on a definition of terrorism. How can you fight something when you can't say what it is? We know what terrorism is, and we can't sit around waiting for the U.N. to figure it out. We welcome the help and cooperation of any and all free nations, and of the U.N.. But none can expect us to wait forever to end the threat to our children, our homes, and the freedoms we hold dear.

"The third bunch of critics has its home in the Democratic Party. The Democrats are proving themselves anti-war extremists. They would rather we lose in Iraq than see me win in November. Senator Kennedy said that Iraq is my Vietnam. He must think we're going to choose to lose this war, and withdraw from Iraq in defeat. He could not be more wrong. Look at what the Democrats' leader in the House of Representatives said last week. Congresswoman Pelosi said, "I believe that the president's leadership and the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience." This is from a little lady who opposed our war to liberate Iraq. You know why? She said at the time she was opposed to war because wars cause fires, and fires are bad for the environment.

"Some of these anti-war Democrats -- and amazingly even some Republicans -- seem to be blaming New York for the devastation of 9-11. They're now nitpicking the decisions made by the commanders of the firemen and policemen who were dealing with a catastrophe that no one could have foreseen. Let me tell you something. When I stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center with some of the New York firemen who survived that terrible day, I took pride in being among some of America's greatest heroes. You know, I'll bet none of those sanctimonious critics could ever summon up the courage that every one of those firemen and policemen showed that day. These critics should be ashamed. But they won't be. They're shameless.

"The Democrats are so consumed by their desire to beat me in November that they have sunk into a sort of anti-war McCarthyism. They haven't reached the level Jane Fonda did in 1972, but they're getting mighty close. To them, anything we do to fight terrorists is unjustifiable, illegal, even immoral. They are wrong. We are engaged in a war for the existence of our way of life. We will leave no stone unturned, no fight unfought, and no enemy safe from our retribution and justice. At least not while I am president.

"Have we made mistakes? Of course. Will we make others? Sure we will. And when we discover them -- as we are doing with the prisoner abuse problems -- we will fix them and get back to the job. American forces are engaged against the enemy in more than 100 countries. The war is being fought well and bravely but not without setbacks. But everything we do has one purpose: to kill or capture the terrorists who still threaten our citizens and our homes, and to destroy the power of those who support the terrorists in their evil practices.

"I said we're learning more every day about how this war has to be fought. Let me talk about Iraq for a minute. We've had a rough few months there, and we may some more. We are doing different things in different parts of Iraq. In the north -- in Falluja -- it appears that the Iraqis are on the successful road to providing their own security. We can and will fight the insurgents. But the sooner that Iraqis are trained and equipped to do so, the sooner the insurrection will end. In the south, in Najaf and Karballah, we are defeating the insurgents of the terrorist Moqtada al Sadr. There, too, we are making great strides. About 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia, and the responsible Shia clergy is condemning Sadr and his phony militia. They are as much opposed to thugs like him as we are. They are taking more responsibility for their own affairs. It is our job to make sure they can.

"Iraq will be free, and safe from the intermeddling of its neighbors. I can't tell you precisely when. Wars don't run on perfect time tables. We all wish the fighting would end. We all hope that the war against terrorists and the nations that sponsor them will end soon. Our opponents offer hope and wish for peace. But they pose no solution to the problems we face. They aren't serious people. Anyone who criticizes what we're doing should have an obligation to offer a different solution. They don't. They just want to be reasonable, to talk, and offer hope for peace and their wish for our enemies to make peace with us.

"But hope is not a policy. And wishing for peace will not defend America from the threat of global terrorism. Let me tell you one other thing. Peace isn't about wishing and hoping. It's about winners and losers. We didn't start this war, but by Heaven we're going to finish it. Thank you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

Just a suggestion, Mr. President. Good luck. And give 'em hell.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.