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Talking Points: Failed Rhetoric, Failed Strategy

Despite administration rhetoric, the reality is that it is well past time to begin the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Four years ago today, President Bush issued this brazen and ill-advised challenge to the Iraqi insurgents: “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” (Watch the video.) That comment was one of many made by the president that reflected his lack of understanding about the difficulties posed by the invasion. On July 2, 2003, just over 200 U.S. soldiers had died in Iraq. Today, the number stands at 3,580. In July 2003, Gallup reported that the number of Americans who believed things were going badly in Iraq had risen to 42 percent, up from 29 percent in June. Today, a whopping 77 percent of the American public believes the war is going badly. Bush has since acknowledged that his “bring them on” rhetoric “sent the wrong signal to people.” But while conceding his rhetorical screw-ups, he has failed to understand the strategic changes that are needed. The reality is that the U.S. presence on the ground in Iraq has fomented a deadly civil war, and it is well past time to begin the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq.

  • The continued escalation of American forces has made Iraq more dangerous. In July 2003, Bush claimed, “We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” He maintained this position for three and a half more years, until January 2007, when he defied the guidance of his military generals and announced he would escalate — rather than reduce — the number of forces in Iraq. The escalation was the modern-day equivalent of Bush’s original “bring them on” dare to the insurgents in Iraq, a challenge to meet might with might on the battlefield. Countless experts have informed Bush that there is “no military solution” Iraq. The Pentagon recently released its first quarterly report assessing the impact of the escalation. It found that overall levels of violence in the country “increased throughout much of Iraq in recent months” as attacks “shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar” and into “cities and provinces that had been relatively peaceful before the Bush administration’s troop buildup.”
  • The spin from the White House has failed to mask the realities on the ground. Proponents of staying the course in Iraq have been waging a propaganda campaign to distort the reality on the ground, urging Americans to look beyond the spiraling violence and the increasing numbers of U.S. casualties. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow recently claimed that the chaos in Iraq is a sign of success. “[W]hen you see things moving toward success, or when you see signs of success, there are acts of violence,” he said. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said this weekend, “We’ve got the enemy on the run. … The surge is working.” Fortunately, the spin is not having its intended effect. A solid majority of Americans reject the claim that things are going well, and increasing numbers are calling for a withdrawal  to begin soon. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), a leading conservative voice on foreign policy issues, stated this weekend, “The withdrawal of the majority of American troops in a calm, orderly way over the next few months should be discussed so that we refurbish our ability to meet problems elsewhere in the world.” Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) issued a similar statement recently.
  • The administration should begin redeploying troops immediately out of Iraq. “More Americans than ever are calling for U.S. forces to withdraw. Sixty-six percent say the number of U.S. troops in Iraq should be decreased,” according to the latest CBS News poll. Last week, the Center for American Progress released a new report — “Strategic Reset” — explaining how an orderly transition out of Iraq can be accomplished. U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Iraq by the summer of 2007, at the latest. “U.S. troop levels in Iraq could decline to about 70,000 by January 2008, with a full redeployment completed by September 2008.” Troops would rotate to Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, back to the United States, or to other “critical missions outside of Iraq.” Additionally, the report recommends phasing out the training of Iraq’s national security forces. Insurgents and militias have infiltrated the security forces, and have helped bring about the deterioration of areas where Iraqi forces have been given control. “Instead of passively waiting for Iraq’s national leaders to make a series of political decisions that they have shown themselves fundamentally incapable of making, the United States needs to implement a strategic reset aimed at using U.S. power to protect our core national interests.”