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Helena Cobban

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President Bush's Address, paragraph 4

This is an important paragraph. How are we supposed to read the sentence “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me”? It perhaps aims at being– but certainly is not– an apology. Firstly, he is not actually admitting that any mistakes “have been made”, far less coming out openly and say “I made them.”

And then, I suppose the term “unacceptable” is intended to carry some real weight. (He used it often enough!) But it ends up sounding, to me, merely petulant, like a two-year-old banging his spoon upon the table. Maybe I’m jaded. I guess he was trying to sound a convincing emotional note here. But he seemed to me to fail.

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President Bush's Address, paragraph 5

I agree with Joost there. The disingenuousness of Bush’s reference to the ISG was quite stunning.

Further down in the paragraph, he starts to talk about the dire consequences of “failure” in Iraq, and this discussion on failure and success continues through the paragraphs that follow. He seems to assume we all know, and agree with him, on what actually qualifies as “success” or failure.” The closest he comes to defining success comes in para 13, where he writes (as the sort of rosy scenario) “Most of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace – and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.”

I agree with the view that this is one key component of a “successful” outcome– successful for Iraqis, that is. But it could come about through many different routes.

It strikes me that, especially after the record of the past 3.5 years, the continued presence and operations of US troops is extremely unlikely to do anything to further intra-Iraqi reconciliation. Such reconciliation might also come about as a result of a US announcement of a decision to undertake a speedy, total, and orderly withdrawal, as I have written about here

We really do need, as a citizenry, to do a lot more to explore what it is we mean by “success” and “failure” in Iraq.

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President Bush's Address, paragraph 18

I think we should cry, Joost. Cry, too, that no less a personage than the US president seems to think that crowing about the number of persons “killed or captured” in such a vastly unequal fight is any metric of success. (Maybe he should go learn a bit more about the theories of counter-insurgency?)

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President Bush's Address, paragraph 22

I have to suppose that he very sincerely believes this rhetoric, grandiose and devoid of content as it is. It’s notable to me how he seemed to avoid engaging in the discourse of “democratization” which was his leitmotif a year ago, and even more recently than that. The fact that his administration is actively undermining the democratically elected government in Palestine and did nothing to help shore up the democratically elected government in Lebanon during last summer’s Israeli assault on the country will escape few Middle Easterners.

So instead of democratizatiopn we now have a global battle between, on the one hand, “those who believe in freedom and moderation”, and on the other, “extremists.” The freedom discourse is particularly inappropriate given that today– Jan. 11– is the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees in Gunatanamo; and in light of Abu Ghraib, the necklace of secret CIA prisons around the world, the renditions to states that torture, etc….

But he’s trying to pitch himself at the level of a Winston Churchill? I find it very sad…