Is U.S. Winning in Iraq? Tony Snow Says, “I Don’t Know”

By: E&P Staff

At his daily briefing today at the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow fielded a barrage of questions related to the recent upsurge in U.S. deaths in Iraq and worries that the Iraqi government is failing to stem the tide of violence. Suddenly one reporter put the issue squarely: ?Sorry. Just the simple question: Are we winning??

Snow punted.

?We’re making progress,? he replied. ?I don’t know. How do you define ?winning?? The fact is, in taking on the war on terror — let me put it this way, the President has made it obvious, we’re going to win. And that means, ultimately, providing an Iraq that is safe, secure, and an ally in the war on terror. And at any given time, as you’ve seen in previous wars, there are going to be spikes in violence. And it is natural for Americans who have — really are probably the most empathetic people on the face of the earth, to feel deeply the loss of those who have given their lives in battle.?

Later, another reporter, speaking almost as directly, asked why the president had claimed for three years that the U.S. would ?stand down? as the Iraqis ?stood up? ? but despite alleged Iraqi efforts to rise, the U.S. has not been able to withdraw at all. A lengthy exchange followed, with the reporter noting, ?So they are standing up, but we’re not standing down. So is that principle no longer operable?? Snow responded, ?It seems to me that we’re playing — this is kind of a fun verbal game.?

That “Get Up, Stand Up” (as Bob Marley put it) portion of the transcript follows. Snow’s office also revealed that he will be doing a total of 17 fundraisers for the GOP, and three other campaign appearances, in the next three weeks.

Q Tony, when you were talking before about the Iraqi military being trained more, they have — it does seem that more police, more Iraqi military have been trained in recent months, over the last couple of years. But the White House had repeatedly said that as they stood up, we’d stand down. Does that principle still hold? Does the White House still believe, as they stand up, we’re standing down?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Because it doesn’t appear like we’re standing down.

MR. SNOW: Well, we’re not standing down because everybody is needed in the fight right now. Also, when it comes to police, both sides — I mean, the Maliki government — and Prime Minister Maliki, in his USA Today interview, acknowledged they’ve had some real problems, and they’ve — the matter of professionalizing the army — I mean, the police still remains undone. The army training has been more effective, but at this time, with these levels of violence, you still have to work together to help go after the people whose vested interests are in destroying Iraq. When those levels of violence wane, and when we believe that the Iraqis are secure and able to stand, then we will be prepared to move, but we’re not going to do it under the present circumstances.

Q So they are standing up, but we’re not standing down. So is that principle no longer operable?

MR. SNOW: Well, let’s see, they stand up, and also, in standing up, you quell the violence and you also deal with some of the root causes of the difficulties.

Q That’s the proposition that the White House put out there, that as they stood up, violence would come down, and we’d stand down.

MR. SNOW: As part of our constant adjustment, let me just add that apparently, the terrorists have also decided not to stand down. They’ve got to stand down.

Q Right, so that’s my question. So is “stand up, stand down” no longer the principle, or —

MR. SNOW: Well, it depends on how you — how you want to cast it. It seems to me that we’re playing — this is kind of a fun verbal game, but —

Q No, but that’s what the President said, stand up/stand down.

MR. SNOW: But, yes —

Q We’re standing up —

MR. SNOW: Well, you know, then you get into, what does he mean by, “stand up,” and “stand up” means you have the ability to assert effective control within Iraq so that you have peaceful, secure neighborhoods. We’re not there yet.

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