"All we are saying is give peace a chance," says John Lennon's anti-war protest song. But though President Bush's recent remarks to the Greater Cleveland Partnership may have borrowed a page from Lennon's songbook, they sang quite a different tune to a pro-war beat. All Bush is saying is give Gen. David Petraeus a chance.
The president said, "I welcome a good, honest debate about the consequences of failure, the consequences of success in this war. But I believe that it's in this nation's interests to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations. Š I believe Congress ought to wait for Gen. Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions."
That is a reasonable request; especially since the progress report was originally slated for September. There has been progress against the enemy, as Sen. John McCain reported from his latest trip to Iraq. But the political season has begun and between Democratic politicians who are conducting their own insurgency against a weakened president - a president they have helped weaken by their non-support of the war effort - and a few Republican politicians whose only interest seems to be not the establishment of a stable Iraq, but the preservation of their jobs - reasonableness has become a casualty of this struggle.
The president said, "We can accomplish and win this fight in Iraq. ŠWe must, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren." The president said that after Gen. Petraeus gives his report "then we can work together on a way forward."
That, too, is a reasonable request, but in a day when the hot air in Washington rivals the near-triple digit temperatures on the thermometer, asking politicians to do reasonable things and to embrace victory, rather than defeat, is like hoping for snow in July.
There ought to be no question that declaring defeat in Iraq will encourage every terrorist organization and nation state that means us harm. Defeat will not be the end of it; it will be the beginning of the end of us. Whatever political victory politicians might achieve by sustaining themselves in office will be lost to terrorists who will make sure that those who think they are secure in their congressional seats will face the ultimate insecurity in their homes and offices. Remember, the 9/11 airplane hijackers would have destroyed the Capitol Building were it not for the surge of the brave passengers on United flight 93.
Why is this so difficult for them to understand? It isn't difficult and it pains me to say it, but too many politicians would mortgage the nation's future in exchange for a few more years in office.
At the risk of repetition, it is not enough for the president to plead for patience and understanding. He must do more - much more - and he must do it immediately. He needs to open a second front - a surge - in the propaganda battle. He should directly challenge those who want to give-up to provide him with a specific plan to win the wider war against terrorists should the defeatists prevail and Iraq devolve into chaos and become a base for launching new terrorist acts throughout the world. They don't have such a plan and a challenge from the president would expose their empty and self-serving rhetoric.
Simultaneously, the president should bring to Washington Iraqis who are grateful for their liberation and wish to thank America for its sacrifice. Let them tell their stories of murder, rape and torture under Saddam Hussein and then let the mostly Democratic congressional leadership and those Republicans with terminal cold feet face them and tell them they'd be better off dead, or in prison.
The president expects our troops to be more aggressive, so he needs to demonstrate more aggressiveness at home.
The president was correct when he reminded the dwindling numbers listening: "I wish I could report that this Š threat, this struggle is going to end shortly. It's not. That doesn't mean we have to have kinetic action all the time. But it does mean America must not lose faith in our values and lose sight of our purpose. And that's going to be the challenge facing this country."
It's up to him to ensure that we don't lose faith.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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