I passed these yard signs this afternoon, sad but colorful sentinels in the snow, reminders of the only real issue on people's minds as George Bush presented his latest iteration of a wartime State of the Union address, with his war nearly four years old now and no end in sight. Once again, he laid out the case for prolonging the Forever War. If you ask me, the references to Iran spelled out the name of the battleground where he clearly believes this conflict will be decided.
A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. And Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon’s legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia — and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.The Jim Webb rebuttal for the Democrats was the first rebuttal I've heard in years that wasn't mushy pabulum written by a committee. Webb wrote it himself, and his words were focused, eloquent and determined.
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.
The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.It's a stark contrast: Escalate, or de-escalate. We're entering a dangerous time, with the clock running out. Bush won't get another chance in Iraq, and he won't accept defeat. All that's left to him is to escalate the conflict by taking the fight to Iran, positioning it as a defensive reaction to a provocation that will either be provoked or manufactured. Will Congress have the spine to stop him? Stay tuned.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.