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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Bush Should Have Said

On April 20th, the New York Times printed an article by David Barstow in which he denounced the government for using retired military officers to get it's side of the story out on the war.

It appears that the government has backed down.

They should not have.

This is the prime time speech President Bush should have delivered.

My fellow Americans

I come to you tonight to discuss an important issue. In fact, it may well be the most important issue of the next decade.

On September 11, 2001 we were attacked by forces that have declared war on the United States. Prior to that date, neither my administration nor previous administrations took the threat seriously enough.

On 9/11, 19 men, armed with box cutters, murdered nearly 3000 of our fellow citizens, destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, destroyed part of the Pentagon, and had it not been for the courage and valor of the passengers on Flight 93, would have destroyed the Capital.

This was not, as some would have it, a crime; it was an act of war. I understood - and the American people understood - that we could not deal with this threat with police on the beat or with FBI agents. War had been declared, a terrible attack had been launched and we decided to act.

On December 7, 1941 it took the Japanese empire a battle fleet consisting of six aircraft carriers, numerous battleships, submarines, cruisers and destroyers to attack Pearl Harbor, yet they killed fewer Americans on that day than died on 9/11. Modern technology has made it possible for a mere handful of determined people to visit destruction on society that was undreamed of mere decades ago.

The old paradigm involving conventional armies wearing uniforms and fighting on battle lines no longer applies. The killers of 9/11 did not wear uniforms, did not spare civilians and broke virtually every rule of war; yet they succeeded in inflicting the deadliest attack on American soil in history.

The enemy is shares a belief that is inimical to ours. They oppose democracy, despise pluralism, deny freedom of religion, deny the equality of men and women, and demand strict obedience to a medieval moral code on pain of death. In pursuit of their objectives they are willing to commit crimes that are repugnant to civilized society. Their primary tactic is indiscriminate murder and grotesque beheadings. That is why we have called the war we are in the “war on terror.”

But while their chief tactic is wanton slaughter, their objective is more political than military. Their tool is the bomb, their objective is propaganda. They use terror tactics for media effect. And this can be effective. In Spain, a train was bombed at rush hour. 190 were killed, over a thousand wounded. The attack was timed just before an election. The result was the defeat of a government that was actively fighting the terror war and its replacement by a government that withdrew from that war.

Similar violence or threats of violence have occurred all across the globe, in every continent and virtually every country from England to India, from Indonesia to the Philippines, from Pakistan to Russia, violence has led to terrible loss of life and a population that lives in fear. As your President, it is my first duty to protect the American people from facing another 9/11, or something worse.

To that end the brave men and women in our military have gone to meet the enemy where he lives and plots his next attack. Our enemy is not a state, but an ideology. But our enemy has his state sponsors and it is our objective to end the state sponsorship of terrorism. It is a very difficult job, but our men and women in uniform have performed magnificently. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay. Many have suffered wounds and many have lost their lives, and their sacrifice humbles us.

But while our troops have made great progress in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, the battle will not be won by arms alone. This war like no other before it is an information war. The primary objective of the enemy in bombing, killing and maiming is not a conventional military victory; it is designed for the news media. It is designed to get it media attention and demoralize the people at home. Its objective is not to defeat armies in the field but to defeat the nations’ will.

The war is not being fought just on the streets of Iraq, it is being fought in the media: in newspapers and magazines and on radio and TV. And in this war we have barely begun to fight. The enemy knows it cannot beat us in battle, but it believes it can beat us in the press. The enemy has tried to convince you that the war was lost. That resistance is futile and that we should pack up and go home. We have shown that this war can be won and that we are winning it. The people of Iraq have experienced life under al Qaida and have said “enough.” They have turned against the jihadists and are cooperating in the pacification of their own country.

But that is not the message that the American people have received. Prior to the surge, the media was filled with images of bombings; there was a daily focus on death tolls as if the press was taking a morbid delight in each milestone. Once the situation improved, the news from Iraq virtually disappeared.

Things were not always thus. In World War 2, reports of Allied disasters were often not reported. During a training exercise for the D-day landings, nearly 749 men died in one day. Not a word was reported and no newsmen were critical of the people who were involved. In that long ago world, our troops, our press and our people stood fast against the enemy. We knew who we were and we knew we were right. The press was not a disinterested spectator between good and evil; between the forces of freedom and oppression.

Somehow Viet Nam changed all that. In a debate some years ago, an American reporter was asked what he would do if he saw the enemy prepare to attack American troops. He stated that he would be honor bound by his reporter’s code to stand by and watch the Americans get ambushed. In other words the story was more important that the lives of America’s soldiers.

That appears to be the code being followed by the leaders of the mainstream media today. American failures like Abu Ghraib get non-stop headlines, front page coverage for weeks on end. There is no question that Abu Ghraib was a scandal and people responsible have been punished. But the wall-to-wall media coverage made it into a major propaganda defeat, even as mass murder was being committed by the enemy.

Even lies like the story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet – a physical impossibility – are repeated by so-called responsible media outlets.

The recent successful effort by the Iraqi army in Mosul was reported by most of the media as an Iraqi defeat, with Muqtada al-Sadr, still an exile in Iran, being hailed as the victor. Strangely enough the so-called victor is still in hiding and the Iraqi army, who were reported by the Mainstream media as the losers, is arresting his followers.

The American government is learning and adapting to this new kind of warfare. We realize the importance of information, not only to the troops but also to the American people. Young American men and women from cities and towns throughout the land are daily volunteering to serve in the military. You provide the troops; they are your sons and daughters. You are the support for the troops; you deserve to know the truth.

There are many good and honest reporters in this country, but we realized that we could not depend on the American press to tell you the entire story. Whether this is due to ideological biases, the use of local partisans as reporters in the field or simply lack of knowledge of military tactics and strategy, I believe it is important for the American people to get the facts. I believe that you deserve the truth, warts and all. But you do not deserve to be shown only the warts, and not the whole picture. You do not deserve to be shown only battlefield losses, not battlefield wins.

And this is important not only for you, the American people, but for people throughout the world. After all, the Koran flushing story was eventually carried worldwide, creating indignation and riots in which people were killed.

To begin to counter this incessant drumbeat of pessimism and defeat we offered to show some knowledgeable retired military officers what was really going on. We allowed them to see for themselves the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. We invited them to see the detention facility at Guantanamo. And they gave their assessment of what they saw to you, the American people. This is important to counter the media campaign which is being used so successfully by the enemy. We are determined that they will not be able to wage the media war without opposition.

Strangely enough, this administration effort has been denounced by the mainstream media as if it were a scandal. The NY Times wrote an article about it that implied wrongdoing by the American government and accused the retired military men of being war profiteers.

The arrogance and presumption of this leading media outlet seems to know no bounds. They are in effect telling you, the American people, that they are the only source of information you are allowed to have; that other sources are illegitimate; that the American government cannot bring you the truth even as they bring you their version of the truth often laced with enemy propaganda. They are – in essence – telling your government that it cannot counter the enemy’s lies and the media’s slant.

This will not stand. I will not allow an arrogant and unelected media to limit what you, the American people, are allowed to know about this global war.

It once was said that you don’t want to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. But this is too important for the future of the American people and the people of the globe. Thanks to new technologies like the Internet and an increasing diversity on radio and television, you have access to the truth that the mainstream media find inconvenient; that does not fit their template of defeat, of blame America first. I will not allow the media Barons to set the tone for the nation.

We are determined to fight the enemy not only on the battlefield but also in the media, because this will determine the outcome of the war.

You deserve the truth and the truth will set you free.

Thank you and God Bless America.

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