PRAGUE, Czech Republic, July 17 (UPI, The Washington Post) — “If that’s what you need, that’s what you got,” was the latest Bush-speak delivered in Cleveland, Ohio, last week. President George W. Bush was referring to a request from Gen. David Petraeus, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, for 20,000 extra troops. In fact, the general had asked for 100,000 more troops. This was rejected by Bush and his advisers.
Petraeus was correct in asking for an increase of 100,000 — he knows he actually needed 200,000 more in his theater of operations — troop strength no longer available in the U.S. arsenal. But 100,000 would have been possible, and would have given the “surge” a fighting chance to work; a necessary coefficient would include increased diplomacy. Which begs the question: Why didn’t Bush increase the force by the requested amount?
I have been known to say that “I believed that Bush believes in what he is saying.” While I have hammered Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in my column, I have not considered Bush to be disingenuous. But the president is showing a tendency to issue statements that even he cannot possibly believe. And this goes to the heart of why the Bush administration — and now the Republican Party — is in very deep trouble politically.
It seems that even some of the president’s most ardent supporters are jumping ship. Even those people like me, who are doubting Thomases and who have long seen a serious problem with the president’s staff, were prepared to give him the personal benefit of the doubt. And folks, I am no Bush supporter — never was, never will be.
But like most Americans living overseas, I have often defended the United States despite disagreeing with the administration. Especially after Iraq, I have found myself in conversations — as have all overseas Americans (according to the Association of Americans Resident Overseas there are some 7 million of us) — defending the United States and her interests. As a patriot, I am always prepared to give our commander in chief a fighting chance.
After Sept. 11, 2001, there was enormous goodwill towards the United States around the world. Even after Afghanistan, most countries understood and supported targeting the Taliban. But poll after poll of world citizenry puts the United States behind such democracies as North Korea, China and Yemen as a leading cause of disunity around the world.
Of course I disagree — massively — and it puts me into a great rage that our great country is in a political free-for-all in the minds of many. But others, and there are many of them as well, wait for a new America and a new direction. I want that as well. Nobody, and not even his closest security advisers, see a link between those who committed Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq. Was it desperation that led the president to try to connect both again in his speech at Fort Bragg, N.C.?
The president stated: “The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us — and the terrorists we face — murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression — by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror.
“Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.”
On the face of it, I actually agree with the president. But the link to Iraq is simply not true. And he knows it.
What’s more, the war has roped in other countries and has sacrificed their citizens too. Every time a link is made to Iraq we take many steps back in our ability to create a coalition against terror. The United States cannot win alone.
We are following the war against terror — and its consequence.
Some of us have served in that war.
We know better.
(UPI Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. A venture capitalist with seats in Berlin and Prague, he sits on the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Democratic Party.)