Will a Blizzard of Facts on Iraq Change Any Minds?
The PR war over Iraq reaches a fever pitch, again, this week. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will give their long-awaited congressional testimony on how the war is going. President Bush is expected to address the nation. Antiwar Democrats will push back hard. And Congress will have some decisions to make. But so far, all the official reports of the past two weeks—from the Government Accountability Office to a panel of retired generals and law enforcement officers—have generated no consensus on what to do next. The assessments have been too mixed for that.
The critics still argue that the Baghdad regime isn't governing effectively and needs the pressure of a big U.S. troop withdrawal to get its act together. Bush, Petraeus, and Crocker reply that the president's addition of troops has improved the military situation substantially and that the Iraqi government should be given more time to succeed.
What has changed is that Bush and Petraeus have dropped hints that a token withdrawal of perhaps 4,000 troops (out of 168,000) might be possible early next year. That falls far short of what the antiwar movement wants, but some critics say that if it happens, Bush would be moving in the right direction and might gain support from those in the middle. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now saying that Democrats may compromise with moderate Republicans on legislation to start some form of modest withdrawal or redeployment, or at least to require the administration to begin planning for a pullback. One thing seemed clear: Those who want a rigid timetable for withdrawal were seeing their prospects fade.
Bush Puts His Boots on the Ground
President Bush's unannounced trip to Iraq last week did little to reframe the debate at home on the war, as his advisers had hoped. Bush spent eight hours in the war zone en route to Australia and visited the isolated Al-Asad Air Base in Anbar province, where U.S. forces are working with Sunni leaders to reduce violence. Bush says the results in Anbar and elsewhere show that the troop surge is working, and he used the trip to argue that Congress should give his policies longer to succeed. He was surrounded at almost every turn by uniformed U.S. troops, which led to many appealing visuals in the news media. Bush also met with local Iraqi leaders and with General Petraeus. But in the end, even Bush said he doubted that his visit had changed anyone's mind. It was Bush's third trip to Iraq since the war began in 2003.
A Boost for Rudy's Big-State Strategy
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and his advisers are brimming with confidence. Consider an E-mail memo to "Team Rudy" by Brent Seaborn, Giuliani's strategy director, made available to U.S. News. "Overall our operations and poll numbers are strengthening in Iowa and New Hampshire," Seaborn said. "The mayor continues to do very well in South Carolina and Florida. ... Our advantage in states with the most delegates is proving to be solid and durable." The core of Giuliani's strategy is to win the big, delegate-rich states on the megaprimary day of February 5, when about 20 states are expected to hold primaries. In New York, New Jersey, California, and Connecticut—with a total of 354 delegates—Giuliani is a strong front-runner. "A triple-digit delegate lead after February 5 is a distinct possibility," Seaborn said.
PHOTO OP: 10:04 a.m., September 6, Sydney
President Bush visited the Australian National Maritime Museum and met with aboriginal artists ( from left) Gapala Yumupingu, Cathymanka Marika, and Dharpococo Yumupingu. The main purpose of the trip was the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where Bush urged leaders to keep up the fight against terrorism.