Talking Our Way to More of the Same
The September 9 prelude – the network and cable Sunday talk shows – was dominated by Senators, although one program included retired Marine General James Jones, the chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, who discussed his group’s report presented to Congress on September 6. (And the Jones Commission report itself followed one by the Government Accountability Office on benchmarka met or not met by the Iraqi government.)
The main event started Monday at 12:30 pm when the general and the ambassador testified before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees
Tuesday, in back to back hearings of the Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations committees, the ambassador and the general covered much the same ground. The tone of the questions, however, seemed sharper.
Wednesday the general and, to a lesser extent, the ambassador spent a good part of the day giving interviews for television, radio, and print media.
Thursday afternoon President Bush met with leaders of Congress while the press received the usual administration background spin from unidentified “senior administration officials” – one of whom undoubtedly was National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
Thursday night the president spoke directly to four audiences in a 17 minute 20 second address: to the American people, the Iraqi people, Iraq’s neighbors, and to the troops, diplomats, civilians, and others “on the front lines.”
Friday afternoon, the White House released its bi-monthly report to Congress on Iraqi progress in reaching the 18 benchmarks. The administration claimed progress in 9 of the 18 areas, but did concede that there was very movement politically and economically over the last two months. Also on Friday, the pundits emerged (those who had by-passed all the post-speech opportunities.
Sunday will see the “wrap” for this week, possibly dominated by House members as the previous Sunday’s was by senators.
But of course, Sunday will not be the last “rap” anymore than the appearances of Petraeus and Crocker this week were a “new” beginning, a new strategy, the “turning the corner, the “beginning of the end,” or the infamous phrase of Vietnam: “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The president made it clear that at the end of his second term sixteen months from now, there would still be substantial numbers of U.S. forces in Iraq. That is obviously neither “return on success” since the president still has not defined by what standard he would declare “success,“ nor would it risk, in the words of General Petraeus, a “rush to failure.“
What it does guarantee is the continuing flow of White House bi-monthly fantasies about “winning” as well as a steady flow of coffins home to the United States and to Iraqi homes.