Tonight’s [Tuesday’s] State of the Union address should be unlike any in recent memory. Not because George W. Bush turns it into the expected paean to bipartisanship, or abases himself before his newly ensconced opposition. Rather, it should stand apart because the President uses the occasion to speak unvarnished truth to power.
In fact, Mr. Bush must use it as a national “trip to the woodshed,” an opportunity – a perhaps as a practical matter, his last on such a stage – to call to account the small-minded politicians who are telling the American people what they want to hear about the war we are in, rather than the unpleasant facts. In the process, they are putting the Nation on a course that invites the greatest possible peril. They must be held, as the President himself put it last week, “responsible” for advancing courses of action doomed to fail in Iraq and far beyond.
Other Presidents have followed Ronald Reagan’s lead in using individuals seated with the First Lady to assign a human face to various policy points. On this occasion, Mr. Bush will doubtless do the same, populating the visitors’ gallery with wounded servicemen and women, and loved ones of those who have selflessly given their lives fighting our Islamist totalitarian enemies. Their sacrifice deserves to be recognized, and acclaimed.
President Bush should also have another group represented there: the people of Iraq. No, not the ambassador or parliamentarians. He should have regular Iraqis, the kind of ordinary folks who, by the millions, took us at our word when we liberated them. Those who took unimaginable risks to stand and vote for a different sort of Iraq than the terrorists and Iran’s totalitarian neighbors are determined to impose on them.
For those are the people that American politicians of both parties are preparing to abandon. Mr. Bush must insist that everyone listening to his address – Democrats and Republicans, the audience in the chamber and that around the world – look those people squarely in the eye.
As the President does so, he must state certain facts: One of the finest things this country has done in decades was to put an end, at long last, to Saddam Hussein’s misrule. We did it because Saddam actually posed a threat to us, as well as his own people, that was both real and intolerable. And this nation’s honor would be indelibly stained were we now to abandon to his despotic would-be Baathist, Wahhabi or Iranian-allied successors the untold numbers of those Iraqis who want no more of sectarian strife than we do.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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