By: E&P Staff
By the time President Bush addressed the nation tonight, little suspense about his remarks remained. What Gen. Petraeus was going to recommend — continue to “surge” — was clear weeks ago, and excerpts from the president’s remarks were released by the White House this afternoon. So the media had plenty of time to figure out how to respond.
Below we will carry some of the reactions, with new material added at the top.
Nancy Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday night, Bush declared success and painted a rosy picture.
There was no mention of a range of government reports, from a National Security Estimate to a Government Accountability Office report and even the testimony this week of U.S. Iraq commander Army Gen. David Petraeus, that has said Iraqi civilian casualties remain high and that it will be years before Iraqi security forces can take control.
Other reports have stressed that Iraqis continue to flee their homes looking for safety at unprecedented rates and that Shiite militias continue to force Sunni Muslims from their homes. Baghdad residents complain that their city has become even more segregated than before the surge, divided now by hastily erected concrete walls to keep rival sects separate.
Editorial, New York Post:
President Bush last night told the nation that he will order a modest reduction in U.S. combat strength in Iraq, but he revealed no dramatic changes in overall policy – effectively consigning the future of Iraq, if not the entire Middle East, to the American presidential political process.
For better or for worse.
Glenn Kessler, opening a Washington Post “fact check” piece:
In his speech last night, President Bush made a case for progress in Iraq by citing facts and statistics that at times contradicted recent government reports or his own words.
For instance, Bush asserted that “Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done,” such as “sharing oil revenues with the provinces” and allowing “former Baathists to rejoin Iraq’s military or receive government pensions.”
Yet his statement ignored the fact that U.S. officials have been frustrated that none of those actions have been enshrined into law — and that reports from Baghdad this week indicated that a potential deal on sharing oil revenue is collapsing.
David S. Cloud, The New York Times:
It is the second time in 10 months that Mr. Bush has opted for higher troop levels in Iraq than are favored by some of his senior military advisers. Among those who supported a smaller troop increase than the one Mr. Bush ordered last January were members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Now, some of his advisers would prefer setting a faster timetable for drawing the force back down.
Some even suggest that Mr. Bush?s portrayal of the strategy as relying heavily on recommendations from General Petraeus has been more than a little disingenuous, given that it was unlikely that a battlefield commander would repudiate his own plans.
?This approach can work for brief periods in many places, but it?s not a good long-term solution,? said Douglas A. Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and a critic of the Bush administration?s handling of Iraq. He called General Petraeus?s testimony ?another deceitful attempt on the part of the generals and their political masters to extend our stay in the country long enough until Bush leaves office.?
The Associated Press, in a ‘fact check’ article:
“We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.”
There may well be 36 nations contributing to the cause, but the overwhelming majority of troops come from the United States. For example, Albania has 120 soldiers there and Bulgaria has 150 non-combat troops in Iraq. Bush visited both nations this summer as a thank you.
The United States has 168,000 troops in Iraq.
Editorial, The New York Times:
The White House insisted that President Bush had consulted intensively with his generals and adapted to changing circumstances. But no amount of smoke could obscure the truth: Mr. Bush has no strategy to end his disastrous war and no strategy for containing the chaos he unleashed.
Last night?s speech could have been given any day in the last four years ? and was delivered a half-dozen times already. Despite Mr. Bush?s claim that he was offering a way for all Americans to ?come together? on Iraq, he offered the same divisive policies ? repackaged this time with the Orwellian slogan ?return on success.?
Editorial, The Philadelphia Inquirer:
In July, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) snuffed out a flickering bipartisan push for regional diplomacy when he cut off debate on Iraq because Republicans wouldn’t accept a date for withdrawing troops.
But only when Congress speaks with a bipartisan voice on the war will it be able to change the course of Bush’s tragic policy.
Joseph L. Galloway, syndicated columnist:
Well, now we?ve heard from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and President George W. Bush, and it appears that the Surge has succeeded — succeeded in guaranteeing that the Iraq War will drag on for the last 16 months of the Bush presidency at a cost of another 1,600 American dead and $13 billion a month.
Extending the war, kicking that can down the road, was President Bush?s only strategic objective last January when he came up with the idea of escalating the number of American troops in Iraq from 130,000 to today?s 170,000. Put simply, the Decider wants to hand off the decision to pull the plug on his unwinnable war to someone else, anyone else.
Peter Baker and Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post:
The president’s upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq during a nationally televised address last night was shadowed by the killing earlier in the day of a Sunni sheik who led the turnaround of a key province in alliance with U.S. forces. While Bush stressed the positive, his staff finished work on a report it will send to Congress today concluding that Iraq is making “satisfactory” progress on nine of 18 political, economic and security benchmarks, just one more than in July, administration officials said.
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times
For more than four years since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, President Bush has most often defined the U.S. objective there with a single stirring word: “Victory.”
“Victory in Iraq is vital for the United States of America,” he told cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in May. “Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice,” he warned National Guardsmen in West Virginia in July.
But this week, the word “victory” quietly disappeared from the president’s vocabulary. It was replaced, instead, by a more ambiguous goal: “Success.”
Editorial, The Washington Post:
Mr. Bush’s plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It’s not necessary to believe the president’s promise that U.S. troops will “return on success” in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: “Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.”
Steven Lee Myers and Carl Hulse, The New York Times:
While touting progress in Iraq, Mr. Bush conceded that his vision for Iraq would be a difficult one to achieve. That acknowledgment was punctuated with macabre timing by the assassination today in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, of a Sunni sheik, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who had led a group of tribal leaders into an alliance with the United States and who had met the president during his trip to Iraq only 10 days ago.
The White House clearly sought to maximize the political benefits from the announcement of a troop reduction, which some military officials said would have had to happen anyway unless the administration took the politically unpalatable step of extending soldiers? tours in Iraq to longer than 15 months.
Thomas Ricks live-blogged the speech at www.washingtonpost.com. Here are some of his comments, as they occurred.
–“Return on success”? I dunno, this sounds like a Merrill Lynch slogan to me. Is it annualized?
–He just said that the “way forward” he described makes it possible to bring together both sides of the debate. This leaves me scratching my head a bit. Is the goal of the anti-war movement to get the U.S. military presence in Iraq back to the Jan. 2006 level of about 130,000? I don’t think so.
— Quoting a Dead Soldier: This is dangerous territory. It worries me a bit. It makes me think of the two paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne who were killed in Baghdad the other day, and who signed an op-ed piece in the New York Times that argued against the surge.
–I actually am surprised at how old this speech seems, more than four years into the war. The president is arguing that we have to keep troops in Iraq, and we need to make it a democracy to change the Middle East.
–Democratic Response: ‘Indefinite Presence’
That phrase, just uttered by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, sounds to be like it is going to be the Democratic response to “precipitous withdrawal.”