On the same day that the State Department instructed all its employees not to leave reinforced structures, due to increased rocket attacks in the Green Zone, President Bush gave a speech in Dayton, OH where he continued to paint a rosy picture of the situation in Iraq, and said the critics of the war refuse to acknowledge the progress that has been made.
The President characterized the Iraqi economy this way, “A year later, almost every key economic indicator has turned around. Since the surge began, business registrations have increased by more than 9 percent. Total inflation has fallen by more than 60 percentage points. Investment in the energy and telecom industries has increased. The agriculture sector is improving. Oil production is up, particularly north of Baghdad. The oil fields there have more than doubled production, and exports through Turkey have expanded significantly.”
He had this to say about critics of the war, “Some, however, seem unwilling to acknowledge that progress is taking place. Early in the war, they said the political situation wasn’t good enough. Then, after Iraq held three historic elections, they said the security situation wasn’t good enough. Then, after the security situation began to improve, they said politics, again, wasn’t good enough. And now that political progress is picking up, they’re looking for a new reason. But there’s one thing that is consistent. No matter what shortcomings these critics diagnose, their prescription is always the same — retreat. They claim that our strategic interest is elsewhere, and that if we would just get out of Iraq, we could focus on the battles that really matter. This argument makes no sense.”
Bush then linked al-Qaeda and Iraq again. “If America’s strategic interests are not in Iraq — the convergence point for the twin threats of al Qaeda and Iran, the nation Osama bin Laden’s deputy has called “the place for the greatest battle,” the country at the heart of the most volatile region on Earth — then where are they?”
If you heard John McCain’s speech on Iraq yesterday, then you already heard the entire Bush argument word for word. In his speech, the president never mentioned how many hours of electricity Iraqis have each day, or the amount of clean drinking water in the country. Bush avoided talking about the unemployment rate, or the status of the Iraqi school system.
According to the Brookings Institute, as of last month, oil production still has not returned to prewar levels, but oil exports have soared, meaning that Iraq has to import oil to meet its domestic needs. Baghdad still has only 7.3 hours of electricity a day, and unemployment has been stuck at 25%-40% since November 2005. If one looks at the real numbers that paint a portrait of what life is like for the average Iraqi, thing don’t sound nearly as good as President Bush makes them out to be.
The mythical al-Qaeda Iraq connection should not distract us from seeing things as they are. It is time to end this war, and let the Iraqis determine their own fate. This is not a strategy for defeat, but one that will allow both Iraq, and the United States to move forward.
The Iraq Index:
President Bush’s speech: