Senate Democrats

Empty Rhetoric: President Bush and Iraq

Today, President Bush used yet another historical comparison to try to boost sagging support for his Iraq War strategy. But no matter what comparison he uses, it does not change the fact that Iraq is going through its bloodiest summer yet, the Iraqis are no closer to political reconciliation and the President’s Iraq policy is not working. The President is also using this new rhetoric to avoid talking with the VFW about the major failures in providing care for veterans that have occurred on his watch. President Bush should stop politicking and work with Congress to change direction in Iraq so that we can start bringing our troops home and ensure that our valiant veterans receive the care they deserve.

President Bush was against Vietnam before he was for it:  

In 2004, Bush Opposed Comparison Between Iraq and Vietnam:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it. What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It’s hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation’s interest. [Press Conference by the President, 4/13/04]

In 2007, Bush Embraced Comparison Between Iraq and Vietnam: “‘I want to remind you that after Vietnam, after we left, millions of people lost their life,’ Bush said here when an audience member asked about comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. ‘The Khmer Rouge, for example, in Cambodia. And my concern is there would be a parallel. . . . The same thing would happen. There would be the slaughter of a lot of innocent life. The difference, of course, is that this time around, the enemy wouldn’t just be content to stay in the Middle East; they’d follow us here.’” [Washington Post, 4/20/07]

Today, Bush Embraced Comparison Between Iraq and Vietnam. “Finally, there was Vietnam.  This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans, and the tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech.  So I will limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today.  Then as now, people argued that the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.” [President Bush Speech to VFW, 8/22/07]

Administration officials and war supporters have consistently opposed comparison to Vietnam:

Senator McCain Opposed Comparison to Vietnam. “I happen to know something about Vietnam, and I know that we do not face another Vietnam.” – Senator John McCain on April 7, 2004 Speaking on the Senate Floor.

White House Counselor Dan Bartlett Rejected Comparison Between Iraq and Vietnam. “I couldn’t disagree more with his assessment of what’s going on in Iraq. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, there have been difficult days of fighting. In war, nothing goes exactly as planned. But [Senator Chuck Hagel] is wrong when he says this is just like Vietnam.” – Former White House Counselor Dan Bartlett on August 23, 2005.

Secretary Rice Said Comparison Between Iraq and Vietnam Was Not Helpful or Correct. “I think that, first of all, historical parallels of that kind are I think not very helpful, and I don’t think they happen to be right. This was a different set of circumstances with different stakes for the United States and a different kind of war. Iraq is in the center of the Middle East. This is a country that we clearly liberated from a dictator. I don’t think that most Iraqis disagree that Saddam Hussein was bad for Iraq. And so the U.S. role here is very different than it was in Vietnam.”– Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Speaking on November 4, 2006 on the Parallels Between Iraq and the Vietnam War. 

General Pace Said He Saw No Similarities Between Viet Cong and Terrorists in Iraq. “I see no similarities between what communist North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were doing in Vietnam and what the al-Qaida and other terrorists are doing in Iraq.” – General Peter Pace on February 24, 2007 Response to a Question at a Town Hall Meeting with Troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Empty rhetoric comparing Iraq to past wars is nothing new from President Bush:

The President has compared the Iraq War to the Revolutionary War…“On Independence Day, we are also mindful that the promises of the Declaration have been secured by the service and sacrifice of every generation…At posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world, our men and women in uniform are taking the fight to the terrorists overseas, so that we do not have to face the terrorists here at home. And by freeing millions from oppression, our Armed Forces are redeeming a universal principle of the Declaration that all are created equal, and all are meant to be free. Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our nation’s uniform.” [Presidential Radio Address, 7/2/05]

…and to the American Civil War…“Iraq is the latest battlefield in the war on terror. Our work there is difficult and dangerous because terrorists from across the region are converging on Iraq to fight the rise of democracy…During that hot summer in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago, from our desperate fight for independence to the darkest days of a civil war, to the hard-fought battles of the 20th century, there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way. But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths: We know that the freedom we defend is meant for all men and women, and for all times.” [President Celebrates Independence Day in West Virginia, 7/4/05]

…and to World War I…“And we must remember the lessons of Europe, and that is, democracies are able to live peacefully side by side; a part of the world that — where there was war after war, where thousands of American soldiers had died, not only in World War I and World War II, is now whole, free and peaceful, because of the spread of democracy. And it’s that spread of democracy in the greater Middle East that will yield a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren.” [President Discusses Social Security with National Association of Realtors, 5/13/05]

…and to World War II…“Sixty years ago this Friday, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. With Japan’s surrender, the last of our enemies in World War II was defeated, and a World War that began for America in the Pacific came to an end in the Pacific. As we mark this anniversary, we are again a nation at war. Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. Once again, America and our allies are waging a global campaign with forces deployed on virtually every continent. And once again, we will not rest until victory is America’s and our freedom is secure.” [President Commemorates 60th Anniversary of V-J Day, 8/30/05]

…and to the U.S. commitment to Korea.  “President George W. Bush would like to see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role, the White House said on Wednesday…’The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you’ve had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and, therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability,’ [White House Press Secretary Tony] Snow told reporters.” [Reuters, 5/30/07]

President’s Iraq policy is not working:

This Summer Has Been The Deadliest for American Troops.  According to research published by the Brookings Institution, June, July and August of 2007 have been the deadliest summer for American troops with 229 killed so far. In June through August of 2006, 169 Americans were killed. During that same time period in 2005, 2004 and 2003, 217, 162 and 113 American soldiers were killed. [Brookings Institution: Iraq Index]

Iraqi Unity Government Has No Sunni Members and 17 Ministers Have Either Quit or Suspended Membership This Year. According to reports, the five Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraq’s first post-Saddam leader, Ayad Allawi, began boycotting government meetings, further deepening the political crisis that threatens the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The boycotting ministers, members of the Iraqiya List, left the government, at least temporarily, with no Sunni participants. The boycott raises to 17 the number of government ministers who have either suspended membership or quit this year. Prime Minister Maliki decided to hold a meeting with Sunni officials as an effort to bring them back to their respective roles. Sunni officials however claimed they could not trust Mr. Maliki’s government to implement any promises made at the meeting because past promises to deliver government services in Sunni areas of Baghdad still remain largely unfulfilled. In addition, in a written statement addressed to the Arab world, Adnan al-Dulaimi, the Sunni coalition leader, claimed that Shiite death squads and Iranian agents were conducting “genocide” against Sunnis with the tacit approval of government institutions. [Associated Press, 8/6/07; New York Times, 8/13/07]

Secretary Gates, Discouraged By the Sunni Boycott, Said The Administration May Have Misjudged the Difficulty of Achieving Political Reconciliation in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was discouraged by the departure of the major Sunni Arab bloc from Iraq’s coalition government, and noted that the Bush administration may have misjudged the difficulty of achieving reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian factions. Gates said: “I think the developments on political side are somewhat discouraging at the national level. And clearly the withdrawal of the Sunnis from the government is discouraging. My hope is that it can all be patched back together.” [New York Times, 8/2/07]

Iraq’s Parliament Adjourned Without Passing Key Legislation. Iraq’s parliament shrugged off U.S. criticism and adjourned for their month-long August recess, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the Prime Minister to deliver benchmark legislation for their vote, as requested by Washington. Critics have questioned how Iraqi legislators could take a summer break while U.S. forces are fighting and dying to create conditions under which important laws could be passed in the service of ending sectarian political divisions. Many lawmakers blamed Maliki. ‘Even if we sit next month, there’s no guarantee that important business will be done,’ said Mahmoud Othman, a prominent Kurdish legislator. [Washington Post, 7/31/07]

July Was Second-Deadliest Month of the Year for Iraqis With 2,024 Violently Killed. According to published reports, Iraqi deaths rose, with at least 2,024 civilians, government officials and security forces killed in July 2007, about 23% more than the 1,640 who died violently the month prior. That made July the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year; at least 2,155 Iraqis were killed in May. The figures are considered only a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted. [Associated Press, 8/1/07]

 Meanwhile, veterans are left behind:

President Bush Said There Would Be a Quick Response to Any Problems Found by Dole-Shalala Commission. “Any report of medical neglect will be taken seriously by this administration, I’m confident by the Congress, and we will address problems quickly. I’ve asked two of America’s fine public servants, Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala, to chair a commission that will analyze our health care both at the Defense Department and at the Veterans Department, to ensure that not only our soldiers but their families have got complete confidence in the government’s upholding its responsibility to treat those who have been wounded… And I’m confident that this commission will bring forth the truth. And as I assured the chairmen, I am confident that there will be a quick response to any problems that you may find.” [Remarks by President Bush, 3/7/07]

  • After their Report Came Out, the White House Said President Bush Would Not Act Quickly on Dole-Shalala Recommendations. “White House press secretary Tony Snow said that Bush would not be acting immediately on any of the recommendations.” [Associated Press, 7/25/07]

VA Disclosed Personal Information of Vets and Had a $1 Billion Budget Shortfall. Other trials included the theft last summer of a VA laptop computer and external hard drive containing personal information of 26.5 million veterans, and a $1 billion budget shortfall in 2005 that prompted Nicholson to go to Capitol Hill to ask for more money.” [Washington Post, 7/18/07]

Rooms in D.C. Veterans Home “Spattered with Blood, Urine, and Feces.”  “Reports of a rising death rate and rooms spattered with blood, urine and feces at the Armed Forces Retirement Home prompted the Pentagon yesterday to begin investigating conditions at the veterans facility in Northwest Washington.” [Washington Post, 3/22/07]

Review Finds Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Bad Shape – Beset with Mold, Leaky Roofs and Rodents. “The Veterans Affairs’ vast network of 1,400 health clinics and hospitals is beset by maintenance problems such as mold, leaking roofs and even a colony of bats, an internal review says. The investigation, ordered two weeks ago by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson, is the first major review of the facilities conducted since the disclosure of squalid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.”  [AP, 3/21/07]

VA’s Claims Backlog is About 600,000.  “[VA] Had a claims backlog of roughly 600,000.”  [AP, 3/13/07]

Takes VA Between 127 to 177 Days, or Four to Five Months to Process Benefit Claims. “Took between 127 to 177 days to process an initial claim and an average of 657 days to process an appeal, resulting in significant hardship to veterans. In contrast, the private sector industry takes about 89.5 days to process a claim.”  [AP, 3/13/07]

Administration Shelved a Program to Ensure Seriously Wounded Vets Aren’t Lost in the Bureaucracy.  “A proposal to keep seriously wounded vets from falling through the cracks of the bureaucracy was shelved in 2005 when Jim Nicholson took over as the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, according to the former VA employee who was responsible for tracking war casualties.” [ABC, 3/7/07]

Reservists Failed to Receive Adequate Job Protection. Thousands or reservists returning from active duty face job loss, demotion, loss of benefits or loss of seniority at their civilian jobs, a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). According to the GAO, more than 16,000 reservists filed USERRA complaints between 2004 and 2006, though the GAO estimated that fewer than 30 percent of reservists who experience violations file a complaint. The GAO found that resolving complaints took on average nearly two years. Additionally, the burden of proof in such cases is on the employee not the employer, with investigators often failing to investigate further than an employer’s initial answer. [GAO, 2/07; GAO, 10/05; Washington Post, Gershkoff Op-Ed, 8/4/07]