When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.
"We" thought wrong. Apparently because "we" had never heard the ancient proverb, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." It's impossible to stage elections for three groups of people who've been hopelessly divided by ethnic and sectarian strife for centuries, and expect them all to magically transform into Rodney King overnight. The Shi'a and the Sunni don't want to be brought together. They want to exterminate one another. And both of them want to exterminate the Kurds. All the ballot boxes in all the gin joints in the world won't change that mindset.
But in 2006, the opposite happened.
The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me.
The difference is that the American people have, by a significant majority, figured out why it's unacceptable.
Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
Three correct in a row! This could be the beginning of a trend.
It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.
Welcome to the party. You're four years late.
We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.
Apparently, "benefitted from" is not synonymous with "acted upon."
In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq.
A good thing, too, because I believe Doctor Strange, Zatanna, and Mandrake all washed their hands of this mess a long time ago.
One message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.
Why is it so hot here? And what are we doing in this handbasket?
For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.
The safety of the men and women of our armed forces, however, can take a flying leap off a short pier.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: Baghdad is unsecurable. And American troops should never have been stuck with an impossible task by their Commander-in-Chief.
So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.
Let me get this straight: The way to stop the violence in Baghdad is providing 20,000 additional targets? Yeah, that'll work. Just like the way to stop smoking is to up your tobacco intake to five packs a day.
Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not.
You cagey mind reader, you.
Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.
Replace the word "Iraqi" with "South Vietnamese," and the above paragraph turns into a quote from Lyndon Johnson, circa 1967.
In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
What Prime Minister Maliki actually said was: "It's time for somebody to put his foot down. And that foot... is me." When Maliki speaks, who listens? Not the people with the guns and bombs.
I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people.
You can't lose what you don't have.
And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.
This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks.
So, if we've already figured out that it's not going to solve the problem, why are we doing it?
Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shi'a want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.
Umm... no, they don't. If they did, there wouldn't be violence in Baghdad.
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations.
True. It involves a time-honored operation known as "getting the heck out of Dodge."
The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life.
Which side is which again? I lose track.
Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.
That makes one of us.
A democratic Iraq will not be perfect.
Let's rephrase: A democratic Iraq will not exist. In order for democracy to occur, the people have to first understand what democracy is. Then, they have to want it. The people of Iraq neither understand nor desire democracy. In fact, they don't understand why we think they ought to desire it. Democracy is entirely outside their realm of historical experience. Selling democracy to the Iraqis is parallel to selling thong bikinis to the Inuit.
We concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.
Sort of like what's happening now. Three thousand dead American service personnel counts as mass killing in my book.
If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.
You left off three key words: "In body bags."
In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us.
Yes, we are. It would be an even greater blessing to us, and to their families, to have them be extraordinary, selfless, and alive.
We mourn the loss of every fallen American -- and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
What we owe them is not to add to their numbers without sound reason.
Times of testing reveal the character of a nation.
As though all of life's challenges could be solved with a Scantron sheet and a Number Two pencil.
Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can, and we will, prevail.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Labels: The Body Politic