The Reed and Kerry Show

I wanted to take a look at the “opposition” response to George Bush’s speech and plan today. There is a transcript online, but you have to be a Federal News Service subscriber to see it, and, for a 30-minute news conference by two major Senators, the news coverage has been minimal to say the least (more on right-wing blogs and news sites than in the mainstream media). So I had to make my own transcript from the C-SPAN video (not a direct link, must scroll down). What follows is a partial transcript, containing the most “interesting” (i.e., repugnant) parts, with my comments interspersed in italics. I’m putting a lot into this post, since this isn’t online elsewhere, but I’ve highlighted in bold the most important material:

Sen. Jack Reed: It’s going to take more than one speech to restore the credibility gap that the President is suffering over Iraq.

Why does Reed care about restoring Bush’s “credibility gap”? Isn’t his goal (as we’ll see shortly) to “win” the war, or to “support the troops”? Why is helping Bush on his agenda?

We appreciate what these soldiers are doing.

Speak for yourself, bud. What the “soldiers are doing” is killing thousands of Iraqis, many of them entirely innocent civilians. And what they have done since they started their “mission” is to kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, maim uncounted thousands more, and thoroughly ruined what was a functioning country.

We can’t fail there, but we have to have a plan to succeed.

Oh, we can “fail” there, whether you like it or not. And would you care to define “success”?

[Bush’s] inability to articulate such a plan has allowed the nation’s doubts to grow about the course of our efforts in Iraq.

No, the nation’s “doubts” (a.k.a. “strong opposition to the war”) have grown because thousands of Americans are dead, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, the “justification” for the war has been revealed to be a total (and deliberate) fraud, and the former Iraqi Prime Minister says the country is worse off than it was before. Bush’s inarticulateness has little or nothing to do with it.

The American people are hungry for a frank appraisal of how we’re doing.

No, the American people could care less about a “frank appraisal,” what they are “hungry for” is an American withdrawal from Iraq.

The President failed to answer the questions that all Americans are asking: How do we know if progress is being made there? How do we measure success? How much longer should America expect to be in Iraq?

These may be the questions that Democratic Senators are asking, but they are not the questions that “all Americans” are asking. They are asking two questions: what is the “mission”, and why aren’t the troops coming home already?

What will be the cost in terms of dollars, but more importantly, the cost in terms of deployment of our troops and their safety?

Did you forget something, Jack? Like the cost in casualties to Americans and Iraqis? Your last two words might suggest your concern for American casualties, but not a word out of your mouth (or Kerry’s) suggests you care a fig about the Iraqi people.

Sen. John Kerry: The best way to protect the troops is to provide the best policy for success in Iraq. All of us believe that the troops are doing an extraordinary job. They are committed to this mission. They believe in this mission, and we, all of us, believe in our troops.

Just what is that mission, John? I’m afraid that in 30 minutes, neither you nor Jack Reed managed to even attempt to answer that question.

This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal. What it did on the Democratic side seek to do was to set an estimated timetable for success which will permit the withdrawal of our troops.

I’m so glad we have now clarified just what the Democrats want. An “estimated timetable for success.”

Everything that we have presented has been presented on the basis of how you succeed.

Succeed at what?

All of us agree, we’re talking about how to win, how to succeed, how do you best achieve our goals?

What goals exactly? And, by the way, I hope that by “all of us” you are referring to “all of us Democratic Senators,” because you certainly aren’t speaking for the American people, and you’re not even speaking for all your Democratic colleagues in the House.

Every one of us supports the elections that are going to take place in a couple of weeks. The success of those elections provides a benchmark of success which allows you then to withdraw some of the troops which you will notice the President and Vice-President and the Secretary of Defense have now acknowledged if the elections are successful.

Yes, because elections under occupation are so meaningful. Since the “success” of the elections is pretty much guaranteed (except in the cities which are under assault by American forces and hence won’t actually be voting), why not just leave now? And, by the way, this notion that removing troops after the elections is a “withdrawal” is absurd. The troops levels were just increased before the elections, so removing some after the elections hardly qualifies as a real “withdrawal,” does it?

Gen. Casey has said very clearly that it is the large presence of American forces on the ground that feeds the insurgency and makes it more difficult for the Iraqis to assume responsibility because they don’t have to. Our own Generals are telling the President that our presence in large numbers is part of the problem and that you have to begin to reduce that.

Yes? And? Draw any conclusions from that, John? Like the U.S. ought to get the hell out of Iraq now?

45% of the Iraqi people believe it is all right to injure and kill Americans. 80% of the Iraqi people want us to withdraw. The largest portion of the Iraqi elected officials have now voiced themselves publicly saying they believe the United States needs to reduce its presence and withdraw.

Yes? And? Draw any conclusions from that John? Like the U.S. ought to get the hell out of Iraq now? You’ve got the facts before you. Americans are the problem. Iraqis don’t want us there. Isn’t the conclusion rather strikingly obvious?

You need to reduce that presence over a period of time in order to be able to succeed, not fail.

Yes, wouldn’t want to hurry things. Four or five or ten years ought to do it.

And none of us have suggested a policy that allows the United States to leave a failed state or to withdraw precipitously.

Failed state? It takes one to know one. Who is the United States to call a country a “failed state” and conclude that that “status” requires the benevolent presence of the United States to cure?

The strategy for exit is part of the strategy for success.

Success? Meaning what exactly?

— Answering questions —

Kerry: Obviously Congressman Murtha’s comments, though neither Jack nor I agree with the particular choice he made, are enormously important.

Yes, let’s make sure we make clear we’re not for actual withdrawal.

When 80% of the people say we want America to withdraw, and when 45% of the people in the country we’re fighting for say it’s ok to kill Americans to help us get there, the President’s not dealing with a certain kind of reality that is important to the lives of our troops.

And you? You’re dealing with reality? You at least acknowledge those numbers, I doubt that Bush does. So why don’t you draw the obvious conclusion? If Iraq is a sovereign country, and 80% of the people don’t want us there, surely you can’t think we should stay, whatever the puppets you put in charge have to say?

You know, I didn’t come back from Vietnam until 1969. I didn’t wind up demonstrating until 1971, two years later. And a lot of names were added to the wall in that period of time, and a lot more between then and 1973. And what I learned is the best way you protect the troops is by standing up for them, by giving them the best policy possible with which to achieve the goals of our nation.

This almost speaks for itself, but obviously Kerry doesn’t hear the answer, so I guess I’ll have to spell it out for him. Staying in Iraq will accomplish exactly what staying in Iraq did between 1969 and 1973 – nothing but the death of more Americans and Iraqis/Vietnamese. How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake, John? And how do you ask an Iraqi civilian to be the last Iraqi civilian to die for a mistake? Evidently your answer is, you no longer care.

Reed: I don’t think there’s anyone here that argues about the basic notion of a condition-based redeployment plan. The President talked about that, he’s now talking about it I think much more so because we were the ones in the Senate, along with our colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, who talked about a phased, conditional withdrawal based upon the circumstances on the ground.

It’s official. There is no difference between the Democratic and Republican “strategy” for “success” in Iraq.

When that happens, frankly, that is the purview of not only what is going on on the ground, but also if anyone should have insight into when that takes place it should be the President. And I think that’s what the American public are asking for.

And not only aren’t there any differences, but the Democrats concede that the President should be the one making the decisions. Why don’t they just go home and save us the trouble of listening to them?

ELI STEPHENS runs the Left I on the News website. He can be reached at: