President Bush reported progress against terrorism and other bad things on Thursday night:
Four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of Al Qaeda. Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fund-raising. Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iraq was a gathering threat, and Al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.
Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror; Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders; Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests; Libya is dismantling its weapons programs; the army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom; and more than three-quarters of Al Qaeda's key members and associates have been detained or killed. We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer.
Balanced against all this, I wouldn't go so far as to say that America is hated around the world, but that America has certainly lost it's moral stature. When the US speaks of human rights in other countries, it speaks as the country of Abu Ghraib. When the US speaks of democratizing other countries, it speaks as a country whose president completely ignored the popular opinion expressed on February 15th of last year and who never acknowledged that the people on that day were right. When the US speaks as the arbiter of other people's elections, it speaks as the land of the butterfly ballots and of disenfranchised voters and voting machines designed by a Republican supporter and that still can't guarantee fair results or a proper verification.
In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat, and voted to authorize the use of force.
Not quite. Kerry and Edwards voted to give the president the authority to attack IF he showed that Hussein had not complied with the UN resolution.
We went to the United Nations Security Council, which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm, or face serious consequences. Leaders in the Middle East urged him to comply. After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world.
All the evidence we have found to date has shown that Hussein disarmed back in 1991, at the latest 1995. Conservatives have wondered aloud why Hussein did not make it clear that he had eliminated all of his Weapons of Mass Destruction. Considering that Iraq still maintained an army of 200,000 troops and how many wars there had been in the region in the last decade, I don't think publicly disarming would have been a very prudent thing to do.
He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make.
What exactly did Hussein refuse to do? UN inspectors were let into Iraq and given free reign to poke and prod and examine and verify all they wanted.
Do I forget the lessons of Sept. 11 and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.
Again, as I have heard many times before, we have here the unsubstantiated allegation that Hussein was a madman. I have heard this more times than I can count. Whenever I argue this point in detail with conservatives, I get a lot of vague generalities. Whenever we get down to nitty-gritty details, they admit they have no evidence to back that up. Notice I'm no saying Hussein was a fine and moral fellow, I'm just saying I see no evidence that he was suicidal enough to do something stupid like attack the US. The President says he had to “defend our country”? From what? Hussein had no WMD and was not a madman. He had no serious ties or connections to the terrorrists of al Qaeda. What exactly was Bush defending us from?
As importantly, we are serving a vital and historic cause that will make our country safer. Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace.
So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: We will help new leaders to train their armies and move toward elections and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.
As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region. Palestinians will hear the message that democracy and reform are within their reach, and so is peace with our good friend Israel. Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming. Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror. Reformers and political prisoners and exiles will hear the message that their dream of freedom cannot be denied forever. And as freedom advances, heart by heart and nation by nation, America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.
Notice everythinghere is in the future tense. As a NY Times columnist pointed out, the US has in effect declared victory in Iraq three times. All three times, these declarations have proven very premature and we still haven't the vaguest notion of when, if ever, American arms will prevail.
Our troops know the historic importance of our work. One Army specialist wrote home: "We are transforming a once sick society into a hopeful place. The various terrorist enemies we are facing in Iraq," he continued, "are really aiming at you back in the United States. This is a test of will for our country. We soldiers of yours are doing great and scoring victories in confronting the evil terrorists." That young man is right; our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America.
This would be inspiring if it were truly a letter from a soldier in Iraq. Unfortunately:
I'm at JFK waiting for my flight out, and there's lots of good stuff in my email. Such as this, from Oliver Willis over at Media Matters:
The soldier's letter that Bush referenced in his acceptance speech was from Joe Roche, adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
"The National Center is THE CENTER for conservative communications." - Tom Delay
Nice. And Bush made it sound as though it was a genuine letter from an average soldier. It was a PR missive.
Since 2001, Americans have been given hills to climb, and found the strength to climb them. Now, because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below. Now, because we have faced challenges with resolve, we have historic goals within our reach, and greatness in our future. We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America - and nothing will hold us back.
Uh, no, I'm afraid not. The journey is nowhere near complete. There were more terrorist incidents worldwide in 2003 than in 2002. More US soldiers died in Iraq in 2004 than in 2003. We are nowhere in sight of the mountaintop, let alone of the "valley below".