Why is he doing this? Y'got me... I really have no idea. Maybe it's what it seems to be on its face -- Bushco believes that if they can flip voters on Iraq, they can come out of the elections with their power intact. Maybe they're all nuts (not much of a longshot, really) and think Iraq really is going well. We know that Bush doesn't like getting bad news -- maybe he just doesn't know because no one will tell him. He's said he doesn't listen to the media, he only gets information from his own staff.
At any rate, Bush has been spreading it a little thick. In answering -- or, rather, failing to answer -- a question about whether we're winning in Iraq at wednesday's press conference, Bush said, "This war is more than just finding people and bringing them to justice; this war is an ideological conflict between a radical ideology that can't stand freedom, and moderate, reasonable people that hope to live in a peaceful society."
OK, I know who the 'radical ideology that can't stand freedom' is supposed to be, but who are the 'moderate, reasonable people [who] hope to live in a peaceful society?' It sure isn't the worldview expressed by an administration who's basically said that we have to be in a state of eternal war.
Luckily, the press is getting something that approximates balls and the reporter pressed Bush on the issue:
Q Are we winning?
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely, we're winning. Al Qaeda is on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account. Most of al Qaeda that planned the attacks on September the 11th have been brought to justice.
Of course, the reporter meant Iraq. We can try people from now until the sun burns out and it'll never have any effect on Iraq. Likewise, putting 'al Qaeda on the run' won't do much there. Al Qaeda's always been a much smaller problem in Iraq than the administration's made it out to be. They'd like us to believe that a lion's share of the violence stem from them, when the fact is that it stems from civil war. Remove al Qaeda from the board and you still have the Sunni insurgency, which is much bigger and better armed, for example.
It doesn't help that Bush's grasp on the realities of Iraq don't seem to have much to do with the actual realities of Iraq. "It's becoming increasingly clear that Bush sees the war in Iraq in very simple terms," Dan Froomkin writes in the Washington Post. "As he himself said, he believes that the only way to lose is to leave. Therefore anything else is winning -- anything else at all.
"Even if no progress is being made -- even if things are getting worse, rather than better -- simply staying is winning."
Whether Bush actually believes this or not is anyone's guess, but to assume Froomkin's right is to assume Bush is telling the truth and offering his what he believes is a valid argument. So, we're left with the choices we're often left with when we assume the president's telling the truth -- he's either stupid or nuts or both.
One of the problems may be that the people explaining this stuff to the president are nuts and Bush is just dumb enough to believe them. Donald Rumsfeld, for example, told reporters that the situation in Iraq was 'not complicated', then scolded a reporter at the same press briefing, "Now, you’re looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some date isn’t met. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff. It’s difficult. We’re looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty.
"So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it’s complicated, it’s difficult. Honorable people are working on these things together. There isn’t any daylight between them. They’ll be discussing this and discussing that. They may have a change there, a change here. But it’ll get worked out."
If this is the sort of thing Bush is hearing, it's no wonder he doesn't really understand Iraq -- he'd be perpetually confused. He's confused about the role of al Qaeda in Iraq, anyway. Quoting Bush from Dan Froomkin's piece:
"Here's the way I view the enemy there: al Qaeda is lethal as hell -- scratch the 'hell' -- it's lethal. The suiciders tend to be al Qaeda. The VBIEDs ['Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices' or car bombs] tend to be al Qaeda. The spectacular killings tend to be al Qaeda. We can't measure -- solely measure how many Shia killings are al Qaeda that then caused the Sunni reprisal. But you've got to know some are. A lot of the bloodshed these days, of course, is the revenge killings -- Sunni on Shia -- it's obvious. There is a criminal element in Iraq, as well, that the government is going to have to deal with. There is a vacuum, and into vacuum moved criminals."
So al Qaeda's responsible for everything -- any violence from anyone else is merely a 'reprisal.' If we could just get rid of al Qaeda, everyone else would just settle down and play nice.
You know? Rereading that argument, I think Bush just might be telling the truth -- which means he's stupid or crazy or both. I vote for 'both.'
Technorati tags: politics; war; Rumsfeld; terrorism; Bush seems to think Iraq is all about al Qaeda -- the Sunnis and Shia don't matter much