Wednesday, March 22, 2006
President Lame Duck; Bush Decides Best Course of Action is to Shit In Punchbowl and Leave the Party.
Warns leaving too soon would boost Al Qaeda
By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff | March 22, 2006
WASHINGTON -- President Bush suggested yesterday that US troops might stay in Iraq beyond his presidency, which ends in 2009, saying at a press conference that the issue of removing troops from the country ''will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."
The president, responding to aggressive questioning at the hastily arranged morning session, declined to give a timetable for pulling US soldiers out of the increasingly unpopular war. But he warned several times about the danger of a ''premature" withdrawal.
''There's no question that if we were to prematurely withdraw and the march to democracy were to fail, then Al Qaeda would be emboldened," Bush said. ''Terrorist groups would be emboldened. The Islamo-fascists would be emboldened."
Asked whether his comments signaled that a complete pullout would not happen during the three remaining years of his presidency, Bush said the decision would be left up to the generals ''on the ground" in Iraq. Editor's Note: Article 2 section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that "The President Shall Be The Commander In Chief.." What that means Mr. President, is that it's YOUR decision. Not the "Commanders on the Ground." Man the buck doesn't even slow in your office anymore you lame duck fuck.
Bush's comments -- widely seen as an attempt to shift public expectations away from the notion of a quick pullout -- dovetailed with comments yesterday by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, the leading US ally in the war.
''This is not a clash between civilizations, it is a clash about civilization," Blair said, emphasizing that Iraq is just one piece of the larger war on terrorism.
Faced with polls in both countries suggesting growing discontent with the war, British and American leaders have spent this week's third-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion defending their actions. In the United States, the series of speeches by Bush and key members of his administration has been met with impatience over the slow pace of progress and criticism of the administration's poor planning.
Yesterday, the president appeared intense when he was asked to explain why he decided to attack Iraq.
''No president wants war -- everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true," Bush declared, bristling at a question from longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who writes for King Features Syndicate.
He chided Thomas for interrupting him after he repeated his longstanding argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks justified aggressive action in Iraq. While some administration officials have sought to tie Hussein to the attacks, the White House has said the former Iraqi president had nothing to do with them.
Bush did not blame Hussein for the attacks, but he said they led to his decision to ''use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people."
''I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people, that we will do everything in our power to protect our people," the president said. ''Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy, and that's why I went into Iraq."
At another point in the press conference -- at almost an hour, one of the longest of Bush's presidency -- he ticked off a series of his legislative victories, including tax cuts, a sweeping energy bill, and the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. But increasingly, those wins on Capitol Hill have been overshadowed by the lingering war, leading some Republicans in this election year to separate themselves from Bush.
A recent CNN-USA Today poll indicated that nearly two-thirds of Americans believed the war will define Bush's presidency, compared with 18 percent who said his tenure will be remembered by the larger war on terrorism. Just 2 percent believed tax cuts would be Bush's enduring legacy.
Further, while 69 percent had said the United States would be ''certain" to win when the Iraq war began three years ago, four in 10 people earlier this month said the country is certain or likely to lose.
Bush yesterday rejected suggestions that Iraq is nearing a civil war. The former interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, recently noted the scores of deaths every day and added, ''If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
But Bush -- while describing Allawi, once a strong supporter of the administration, as ''a good fellow" -- said he did not agree.
''Listen, we all recognize that there is violence, that there's sectarian violence," Bush said. ''But the way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war."
The president also said he would not stand for any efforts by neighboring Iran to inflame sectarian violence in Iraq. But he added that he was open to talks with Iran on the issue.
Bush stood by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, saying he has ''done a fine job." The president also took a shot at a chief administration critic, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who is seeking to censure Bush because of what Feingold said is illegal wiretapping of US citizens. The resolution -- which has no cosponsors -- is ''needless partisanship," Bush said.
Democrats hope to capitalize on Bush's low poll numbers in this year's elections, tying GOP congressional candidates to the president. While some Democrats themselves voted to authorize the war in Iraq, many have since announced that they regret their votes and were misled by the administration.
''The American people are slowly coming behind the position that the vast majority of Democrats took in the first place," said Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who opposed the war from the start. The war is ''symbolic" of the failures of Republican leadership, he said.
Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats would not succeed in defeating GOP candidates by tying them to Bush. ''Each of these individual members is going to articulate their position" on a range of issues, Forti said. ''The Democrats running [against Bush] -- that's not going to work."