George Bush has made three speeches in as many days attempting to roll back the growing tide of opposition to the war in the country. Although public opinion has been slowly turning against the war, Cindy Sheehan’s campaign caught the public mood. Bush’s refusal to meet with her only strengthened her message and caught her up in a media frenzy.
Now, it’s noteworthy that’s he’s addressed her by name (though not in person) in rebuting her views of the war. This is an acknowledgment that his previous ‘duck and cover’ policy when it came to Cindy failed miserably. And the three speeches seem to be part of a broader attempt to rally the patriotic, pro-war forces and the American middle ground which hasn’t yet made up its mind about the war.
Part of the desperation inherent in the speeches is pulling Tammy Pruett out of his rabbit hat. She’s meant to be the patriotic counterpoint to Cindy Sheehan. A mother who has four children and a husband serving (or who served) in Iraq. The New York Times described this portion of his speech thus:
“There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war,” Mr. Bush said [how ’bout seeing a loved one DIE in war, George?–TK]. “Here in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett, I think she’s here, knows that feeling six times over.”
Mr. Bush quoted Ms. Pruett as saying, “I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they believe is right for our country. And I guess you couldn’t ask for a better way of life than giving it for something you believe in.”
Mr. Bush said that Ms. Pruett had four sons in the National Guard now in Iraq, and that last year her husband and another son returned from Iraq, where they had helped train Iraqi firefighters in Mosul.
Then, as the crowd roared its approval, Mr. Bush declared, “America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts.”
Ah, such noble sentiments! But of course there is one glaring difference between Pruett and Sheehan. The latter actually lost her son while Pruett has not. I don’t wish death upon anyone and certainly not Tammy Pruett. But I’d like to see what she’d say a few months after one of her loved ones dies in Iraq.
What’s also pernicious about Bush’s comment is that it implies that if the Cindy Sheehans of the nation had their way we would not live in freedom.
“As long as I’m the president, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror.”
“One of the most important battle fronts in this war on terror is Iraq.”
Rhetorically, one of the aspects of his speeches I find interesting is that he refers less to the war in Iraq and more to the war on terror. Whenever he speaks of the war it is always in the context of this. Bush, Rove et al. know that the last time they held the American consensus was after 9/11. Most Americans were with him (if momentarily) as long as he was fighting Al Qaeda and the 9/11 bombers. We stayed with Bush when he attacked Afghanistan as it seemed a logical outgrowth of the war on terror.
But many of us parted company with Bush in the lead up to the war. And millions more Americans have turned against the war since then. So what Bush has to do is frame Iraq not in the terms that everyone now does (dead GIs, roadside bombs, suicide attacks, etc.), but in the terms of 9/11.
But it won’t wash. He didn’t carry along many of us when he announced the war and he won’t carry along many of us now that he’s trying to put it back in the 9/11 context. “That dog won’t hunt,” as Bill Clinton said.
Progressive bloggers have been saying this till they’re blue in the face–but it bears saying again: Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. For Bush, the war had everything to do with Sadaam and finishing the job Daddy didn’t in 1991. Al Qaeda was a convenient peg on which he could hang the war. So don’t fall for Bush’s current sleight of hand trying to make you believe that all our boys are dying in Iraq so that Al Qaeda won’t get us and there won’t be any more 9/11s. It’s a lie as has everything Bush told us about this war been.
I’m delighted to read in the Washington Post that Sue Niederer, whose son Seth Dvorin was killed in Iraq, is taking to a campaign trail of her own: she will be shadowing Bush’s travels around the country as he drums up support for the war. She’ll be there to remind the media and the American people that there’s another side to the story that needs telling. Niederer’s own tale of loss and her attempt to confront Laura Bush and the military brass is as powerful and moving as Sheehan’s.
I find this current round of speeches rather desperate and frantic on Bush’s part. They remind me of similar speeches Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used to give to buck up the American people about how the Vietnam war was going. Remember “peace [or was it ‘victory’?] is just around the corner?” “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel?” They were mere words attempting to conceal what most Americans knew: that the war was going badly and we had to end it.
Is our current situation any different?