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Author Topic: Bush changes mind (again)  (Read 896 times)

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Offline alisenjafi

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Bush changes mind (again)
« on: October 14, 2006, 04:08:33 PM »
Here are two very interesting stories;


Bush keeps revising war justification

By TOM RAUMSat Oct 14, 12:40 PM ET
President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil."

Republicans seized on North Korea's reported nuclear test last week as further evidence that the need for strong U.S. leadership extends beyond Iraq.

Bush's changing rhetoric reflects increasing administration efforts to tie the war, increasingly unpopular at home, with the global fight against terrorism, still the president's strongest suit politically.

"We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West," Bush said in a news conference last week in the Rose Garden.

When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.

After Saddam's capture in December 2003, the rationale became helping to spread democracy through the Middle East. Then it was confronting terrorists in Iraq "so we do not have to face them here at home," and "making America safer," themes Bush pounds today.

"We're in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," he told a California audience this month. "It's a struggle between good and evil."

Vice President Dick Cheney takes it even further: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us," Cheney tells audiences.

Except for the weapons of mass destruction argument, there is some validity in each of Bush's shifting rationales, said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution who initially supported the war effort.

"And I don't have any big problems with any of them, analytically. The problem is they can't change the realities on the ground in Iraq, which is that we're in the process of beginning to lose," O'Hanlon said. "It is taking us a long time to realize that, but the war is not headed the way it should be."

Andrew Card, Bush's first chief of staff, said Bush's evolving rhetoric, including his insistence that Iraq is a crucial part of the fight against terrorism, is part of an attempt to put the war in better perspective for Americans.

The administration recently has been "doing a much better job" in explaining the stakes, Card said in an interview. "We never said it was going to be easy. The president always told us it would be long and tough."

"I'm trying to do everything I can to remind people that the war on terror has the war in Iraq as a subset. It's critical we succeed in Iraq as part of the war on terror," said Card, who left the White House in March.

Bush at first sought to explain increasing insurgent and sectarian violence as a lead-up to Iraqi elections. But elections came and went, and a democratically elected government took over, and the sectarian violence increased.

Bush has insisted U.S. soldiers will stand down as Iraqis stand up. He has likened the war to the 20th century struggles against fascism, Nazism and communism. He has called Iraq the "central front" in a global fight against radical jihadists.

Having jettisoned most of the earlier, upbeat claims of progress, Bush these days emphasizes consequences of setting even a limited withdrawal timetable: abandonment of the Iraqi people, destabilizing the Middle East and emboldening terrorists around the world.

The more ominous and determined his words, the more skeptical the American public appears, polls show, both on the war itself and over whether it is part of the larger fight against terrorism, as the administration insists.

Bush's approval rating, reflected by AP-Ipsos polls, has slid from the mid 60s at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to the high 30s now. There were light jumps upward after the December 2003 capture of Saddam, Bush's re-election in November 2004 and each of three series of aggressive speeches over the past year. Those gains tended to vanish quickly.

With the war intruding on the fall elections, both parties have stepped up their rhetoric.

Republicans, who are also reeling from the congressional page scandal, are casting Democrats as seeking to "cut and run" and appease terrorists.

Democrats accuse Bush of failed leadership with his "stay the course" strategy. They cite a government intelligence assessment suggesting the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a book by journalist Bob Woodward that portrays Bush as intransigent in his defense of the Iraq war and his advisers as bitterly divided.

Democrats say Iraq has become a distraction from the war against terrorism — not a central front. But they are divided among themselves on what strategy to pursue.

Republicans, too, increasingly are growing divided as U.S. casualties rise.

"I struggle with the fact that President Bush said, `As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' But the fact is, this has not happened," said Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn., a war supporter turned war skeptic.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, said after a recent visit to Iraq that Iraq was "drifting sideways." He urged consideration of a "change of course" if the Iraq government fails to restore order over the next two or three months.

More than 2,750 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war, most of them since Bush's May 2003 "mission accomplished" aircraft carrier speech. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

Recent events have been dispiriting.

The United States now has about 141,000 troops in Iraq, up from about 127,000 in July. Some military experts have suggested at least one additional U.S. division, or around 20,000 troops, is needed in western Iraq alone.

Dan Benjamin, a former Middle East specialist with the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, said the administration is overemphasizing the nature of the threat in an effort to bolster support.

"I think the administration has oversold the case that Iraq could become a jihadist state," said Benjamin, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If the U.S. were to leave Iraq tomorrow, the result would be a bloodbath in which Sunnis and Shiites fight it out. But the jihadists would not be able to seek power."

Not all of Bush's rhetorical flourishes have had the intended consequences.

When the history of Iraq is finally written, the recent surge in sectarian violence is "going to be a comma," Bush said in several recent appearances.

Critics immediately complained that the remark appeared unsympathetic and dismissive of U.S. and Iraqi casualties, an assertion the White House disputed.

For a while last summer, Bush depicted the war as one against "Islamic fascism," borrowing a phrase from conservative commentators. The strategy backfired, further fanning anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world.

The "fascism" phrase abruptly disappeared from Bush's speeches, reportedly after he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant now with the State Department.

Hughes said she would not disclose private conversations with the president. But, she told the AP, she did not use the "fascism" phrase herself. "I use `violent extremist,'" she said.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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and on a similar note from my favorite Iraqi dentist:
http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/
Healing Iraq
"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into."   Jonathan Swift

Daily news and comments on the situation in post Saddam Iraq by an Iraqi dentist

Friday, October 13, 2006
The Human Cost of the War in Iraq
I urge you to carefully read the study first. Very few people seem to have actually done so.

In comparison, the much-criticised Iraq Body Count relies only on media reports (mostly Western and often by conflating 2 different sources) for their maximum body count of 48,639 civilians. I have said and will say again that the media reports only a tiny fraction of deaths in the country, usually the victims of car bombings or other significant violent events.

The collaborative study by the John Hopkins University, The School of Medicine at the Mustansiriya University, and the MIT Center for International Studies, pubished in The Lancet, is not the same. It is not an actual body count. This is an estimate of the total number of excess deaths over the last 3 years.

It uses cluster samples (uniform groups of samples in a specific geographical areas) as opposed to simple random samples. This is usually much more cost-effective and easier and in this case it’s, unfortunately, the only available method to get an estimate.

Simply put, the methods used by the study are valid, but in Iraq’s case, where the level of violence is not consistent throughout the country, I feel that the study should have been done differently. 654,965 excess civilian deaths is an absurd number. My personal guesstimate would be half that number, but the total count is not the point now.

Take a look at the incidence of reported deaths from violence across the country over the last 3 years. (My map, with data compiled from news stories.)


And compare it to population density across the country. (CIA map.)


The survey used 48 cluster samples from 16 governorates (a total of 1,849 households) and extrapolated the findings across the whole country based on the total population. I may be wrong, but I think this is problematic and can be misleading since the level of violence in, say, the Muthanna or the Erbil governorates is hardly even close to that of Baghdad, Diyala or Anbar. The results would have probably been much more accurate if the samples were selected solely from the areas I’ve depicted above in the map, and then to project the findings to the actual population of these areas. This makes more sense to me, but then I have a limited grasp on statistics and I stress that I may be wrong.

Now lets move on to reactions to the study.

One problem is that the people dismissing – or in some cases, rabidly attacking – the results of this study, including governmental officials who, arguably, have an interest in doing so, have offered no other alternative or not even a counter estimate. This is called denial. When you have no hard facts to discredit a scientific study, or worse, if you are forced to resort to absurd arguments, such as “the Iraqis are lying,” or “they interviewed insurgents,” or “the timing to publish this study was to affect American elections,” or "I don't like the results and they don't fit into my world view, therefore they have to be false," it is better for you to just shut up. From the short time I have been here, I am realising that some Americans have a hard time accepting facts that fly against their political persuasions.

Now I am aware that the study is being used here by both sides of the argument in the context of domestic American politics, and that pains me. As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction. The people who conducted the survey should be commended for attempting to find out, with the limited methods they had available. On the other hand, the people who are attacking them come across as indifferent to the suffering of Iraqis, especially when they have made no obvious effort to provide a more accurate body count. In fact, it looks like they are reluctant to do this.

By the way, these same statistical methods were used to count civilians deaths in Darfur, but then I didn’t see anyone objecting to that.

In regard to Iraqi governmental officials, it was their responsibility to provide reliable numbers, but when the Ministry of Health and the Baghdad Medico-legal Institute (Baghdad’s main mortuary) is under the control of Sadrists, who have prohibited access to medical records and morgue counts by the press, and who have an interest in manipulating numbers for their own political agendas, I would absolutely question their criticism of this study. And by the way, most cemeteries in Iraq would not accept a body without a death certificate, unless the bodies are buried in mass graves or backyards without reporting them to health authorities (look at this to understand why), which in this case the government would regard them as ‘missing.’ While working in hospitals and health centres in Iraq, it was sometimes my responsibility (when the late-night doctor was unavailable or, in some cases, sleeping) to oversee the checking in of corpses at the hospital and to issue a death certificate indicating the cause of the death. No certificate is issued without a body, and it is required that several copies are kept. IDs of dead people are shredded at the spot and their names are removed from their family’s food ration cards. The Ministry of Health should have access to certificates issued throughout the country over the last 3 years. And both the Defense and Interior ministries have their own counts. Now why isn’t any independent body looking into that information?

The conservative count of 100 civilian deaths per day in the Baghdad area is a standard number these days.

When I spoke at the ONA conference in Washington last Saturday, I was asked whether the Western media was neglecting the good news from Iraq. I answered that it used to be that way in the early days following the war, but that now they are failing to capture how bad it really is. Western reporters are holed up in their offices in Baghdad. Even their Iraqi stringers who do most of the actual reporting are now finding it increasingly difficult to venture into certain neighbourhoods of Baghdad. What about the rest of the country? How many reporters, Western or Iraqi, are there in the Anbar governorate? Ninewa? Diyala? Salah Al-Din? Babel? Maysan?

There also seems to be a common misconception here that large parts of the country are stable. In fact, not a day goes by without political and sectarian assassinations all over the south of Iraq, particularly in Basrah and Amara, but they always go unnoticed, except in some local media outlets. The ongoing conflict between political parties and militias to control resources in holy cities and in the oil-rich region of Basrah rarely gets a nod from the media every now and then, simply because there are very few coalition casualties over there. The same with Mosul and Kirkuk, both highly volatile areas. I am yet to see some good coverage on the deadly sectarian warfare in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, which has the highest rate of unknown corpses dumped on the streets after the capital, and which was about to be announced an Islamic Emirate by the end of Ramadan. There are absolutley no numbers of civilian casualties from Anbar. There is no one to report them and the Iraqi government controls no territory there, while American troops are confined to their bases. And much, much less data from other governorates which give the impression of being 'stable.'

I have personally witnessed dozens of people killed in my neighbourhood over the last few months (15 people in the nearby vicinity of our house alone, over 4 months), and virtually none of them were mentioned in any media report while I was there. And that was in Baghdad where there is the highest density of journalists and media agencies. Don’t you think this is a common situation all over the country?


# posted by Zeyad : 10/13/2006 08:04:00 AM
comments (48)
« Last Edit: October 14, 2006, 04:10:19 PM by alisenjafi »
"You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does"
The Smiths

 


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