Bush's Terrifying Terror Speech
By Robert Parry
October 10, 2005
George W. Bushs Oct. 6 speech demanding complete victory in the war on terror unnerved some Americans who saw a president who looked and sounded like an obsessed sea captain charting the ship of state into an endless storm.
To allay some of those worries, we are offering the White House a draft for a follow-up speech in which Bush can speak straight to the concerns of his doubters. Like another draft that we proposed last summer, we dont expect this one will get very far.
My fellow Americans, I hear that many of you who watched my speech the other day came away a little spooked. Some of you thought I sounded crazy because I made it seem like wed be at war in the Middle East forever.
Some even wondered what it means to win a complete victory over terror? After all, terror is an emotion or a tactic, so how do you defeat an emotion or a tactic?
Some historians also note that terror has been part of war for eons. Its even in the Bible, with one tribes army slaughtering the civilians of another tribe. So how do you completely win a war on terror even if you fight for decades?
Some of you also wondered how I could be so self-righteous, condemning some people who kill civilians to achieve a political goal when I did the same in invading Iraq. Some of you remembered those Iraqi men, women and children who died during my shock and awe bombing campaign at the start of the Iraq War.
Like that Baghdad restaurant I had bombed because I thought Saddam might be eating there. It turned out Saddam wasnt around, but we did kill 14 civilians, including seven children. Isnt that a form of terrorism? some of you ask.
There were a lot of those stories during the invasion and later, too, like when I ordered the Marines to retake Fallujah with the help of 500-pound bombs and other heavy ordnance. No matter how careful our troops are its just inevitable that kids and civilians are going to die. Thats why a lot of you think that war should be a last resort, never waged for frivolous or made-up reasons.
Maybe thats why you shook your heads when I said, When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, this is murder, pure and simple. Some of you thought it was a bit hypocritical to condemn evildoers for killing kids with bombs when Ive done the same.
The problem with that kind of thinking is what we call moral equivalence, which means holding me to the same standards as my enemies. Thats a mistake because I represent whats good and my enemies stand for whats bad, what I like to call evil. Remember, after the Sept. 11 attacks, I told you my goal was to rid the world of evil.
Even though I have no doubt about the morality of our cause, some of you are still miffed that I told you we were going to war in Iraq because of Saddams weapons of mass destruction and his ties to al-Qaeda when it turned out there werent any.
You also get annoyed when I keep saying that our enemies want to hurt us because they hate our freedom.
Some of you insist that Muslims dont hate our freedom. Its that they view us and the Brits as their historical oppressors. They think weve propped up corrupt dictators for generations so we could take their oil like the Saudi royals, the Kuwaiti princes, the Shah of Iran, even Saddam Hussein when my dad was in office.
You say these Muslims remember how we toppled a democratic government in Iran when it got too greedy about its oil, how we gave green lights to the Egyptian security forces to crack down on dissent, and how we backed the Algerian army when it voided elections because the side we favored looked like it was going to lose.
Another funny thing is that it seems like more Muslims than Americans remember how I got into office by having some of my dads friends on the U.S. Supreme Court stop the counting of votes when I was getting nervous that I might lose.
Well, I responded to these concerns in my speech, when I said, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace. That's almost the same as saying they hate our freedom.
I thought another really good part of my speech was when I accused the Islamic radicals of trying to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.
Some of you felt that this psychobabble didnt belong in a presidential speech, that it sounded more like what youd hear on some radio talk show hosted by Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, who often accuse their adversaries of wanting to be victims.
Others of you viewed this as a case of me projecting my own behavior onto my enemies that I feel Im the real victim and that I turn to violence as a solution. Well, that sounds wacky to me, not to mention paranoid, like someones trying to make me look nutty.
Others of you have suggested that the logic in the speech was a little screwy, like when I put down people who contend that my invasion of Iraq made a difficult situation a whole lot worse. I slapped that argument down by saying,
Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 and al Qaeda attacked us anyway.
I thought the line was pretty clever, but some of you have complained that it was a cheap shot, a way to make that subliminal connection again between Iraq and Sept. 11. Some people even call an argument like the one I made sophistry, which is a fancy word that means a plausible but misleading argument.
I guess their point is that just about everybody, including the CIA, thinks that my war in Iraq has strengthened Islamic extremism and spread anti-Americanism around the world. A lot of these experts say that before the Iraq War, al-Qaeda was a small, isolated group that had been pretty much chased to the ends of the earth, or in this case into the mountains of Afghanistan.
Islamic extremists had lost in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and a lot of other countries. Even the government of Sudan had booted Osama bin-Laden out.
Then, in summer 2001, the U.S. government let its guard down. Warnings were missed, reports went unread, the bureaucracy seemed paralyzed. It was like somebody was on vacation. So our enemies hit us on Sept. 11.
After that, the whole world rallied to Americas side. We had lots of support in going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Even some unfriendly governments in the Middle East turned over intelligence information to help us neutralize al-Qaeda.
But some of you think that I blundered by diverting troops out of Afghanistan too soon and rushing into Iraq without UN sanction. You say that I surrendered the moral high ground by killing lots of innocent Iraqis, by having no realistic plan for securing Iraq, and by letting terrorist groups become active there.
Thats why I answered those arguments in my speech by saying that al-Qaeda attacked us before I invaded Iraq. And I dont care if you dont think my statement makes any sense. Plus, my best argument now for continuing the war in Iraq is that the place might get even more messed up if we leave.
In my speech, I also tried to explain the stakes. I compared the fight against Islamic terrorism to the long Cold War against Soviet-style communism.
I understand that some of you disagree, saying that the two really arent that comparable, that the Cold War was a standoff between two superpowers while al-Qaeda remains a fringe extremist group even in the Muslim world.
But didnt I sound like Winston Churchill when I said, We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory.
Still, just in case that kind of talk made some of you nervous as if I was leading you and your children and your childrens children into a dark cave with no exit I vouched for the inevitability of our victory.
I said, Whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt: Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation, decline, and collapse.
Then I went with a hopeful tone. I said, Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future.
Which leads me to a final question that some of you have asked about, the so-called gap between the stakes that Ive described in this long war and the paucity of sacrifice that well-to-do Americans have made.
For instance, some people wonder why my daughters, Jenna and Barbara, havent enlisted or why so few of my social acquaintances have sent their kids to fight?
The same question could have been asked about me, you know, during the Vietnam War. Why did I accept a stateside slot in the Texas Air National Guard, skip a required physical, miss meetings and quit early? Why didnt I mix it up with the commies?
But what some of you dont understand is that if the fighting and dying is done by people we dont know, then we decision-makers are freed up to make the necessary hard choices without having to worry about whether one of our loved ones or the loved ones of our friends will be put in harms way.
With our own children at home, we dont flinch when we order sacrifices vital for the country but likely to get a lot of our soldiers killed. In other words, if I personally knew some of the almost 2,000 American dead, I might hesitate. I might settle for a solution short of complete victory.
So, like I said in my speech, We don't know the course of our own struggle the course our own struggle will take or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail. May God bless you.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Back to Home Page