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Older and no wiser


In his speech of last night, George W. Bush began to show his age. The presidency of the United States tends to take a visible toll on the occupants of the office, and Bush is no exception. Yet his face, made up for the cameras, still seemed preternaturally youthful.

Where Bush's aging was suddenly so visible was his neck, where sagging flesh, camera angle, and dark shadows created the illusion of a second mouth, somewhere just below his chin and just above his adam's apple. It was as if an alien creature had bored a hole into his flesh in order to take up residence in his brain.

See it for yourself here: http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/09/08/iraq.budget/index.html

During the speech, this ghostly stoma bobbed along in time with his actual mouth as he spoke, seeming to mirror and mock his inadequate words.

Recalling this grotesque and distracting image, I now wonder what it was saying. Perhaps it was delivering the unheard speech that Bush should have been giving at that moment.

BUSH'S MOUTH: Good evening. I have asked for this time to keep you informed of America's actions in the war on terror. Blah blah blah...

BUSH'S NECK: Good evening. I have asked for this time to speak with you frankly about the situation in Iraq.

This past March, a Coalition led by the United States invaded Iraq. Our armed forces swiftly prevailed over the forces of the former regime, while doing their utmost to avoid harming the general population. They overthrew a murderous tyrant, and we can be proud of their achievement.

Since that time, a partnership of nations has worked hard to bring peace and stability to Iraq, to restore a battered and long-neglected infrastructure, and to help Iraqis establish a new and representative government. I salute the unceasing efforts of the Coalition Provisional Authority. But the challenge of reconstruction is not a simple one. It cannot be conquered in a few triumphant weeks. We have learned that is easier to pull down statues than it is to help lift a brutalized nation to its feet.

It must be acknowledged that we have faced difficulties since the defeat of the former regime. But together with our friends and allies, we can overcome those difficulties. To achieve a success in Iraq, we must first expand our efforts. But we can only so with a fixed goal in sight. The War on Terrorism is far from over. But waging it will not tie us down in Iraq indefinitely.

Our efforts in Iraq have been complicated by the persistent attempts of our adversaries there to disrupt them with violence and intimidation. Supporters of the former regime, reinforced by foreign fighters in search of a bad cause have attacked Iraq's infrastructure in a fruitless attempt to delay its inevitable restoration. They have attacked Iraqi civilians and police. They have attacked the unoffending embassy of Jordan, and even the offices of the United Nations in Baghdad. They have attacked our troops, some of whom have paid the supreme price. And recently, they have tried to set Iraqi against Iraqi, hoping to spark a civil war.

Today, Iraq faces a terrorist threat composed of both internal and external enemies. We did not run from terrorism when we pursued its perpetrators into the mountains of Afghanistan. We will not flinch from its challenge in Iraq.

But neither will we simply stand on the defensive. We will not allow our sons and daughters to become stationary targets.

As our enemies have challenged us anew, we must now respond in an appropriate fashion. Since the time that Coalition forces entered Iraq, we have worked with our friends and allies to bring about a better day for Iraqis. It is now time to expand those efforts. The entire international community has an interest in the outcome.

Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council resolution that would mandate a multinational mission there.

I recognize that not all our friends agreed with our decision to go to Iraq. But we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Just as the terrorists in Iraq have attacked the people of Iraq, and attacked representatives of the international community in Baghdad, opposing them is the cause of the international community as a whole. Together, we can and we will defend Iraq from the enemies of the civilized world.

Later this month, Secretary Powell will meet with representatives of many nations to discuss their financial contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Next month, he will hold a similar funding conference for the reconstruction of Iraq. The entire world will benefit from the success of freedom in these two countries, and they should contribute to that success.

But we cannot ask the rest of the world to underwrite the successes that these countries need so badly. I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion. The request will cover ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which we expect will cost $66 billion dollars over the next year.

This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan peoples to rebuild their own nations after decades of chaos and oppression.

The request also reflects our commitment to the well-being of our children and grandchildren. We cannot expect them to shoulder the burden of fighting terrorism and rebuilding two nations in our own lifetimes. The budget request to Congress also contains offsetting rollbacks in tax cuts that have yet to take effect. These undertakings require real sacrifice. They cannot be conducted on credit.

Finally, the American people cannot be expected to support an open-ended commitment of our blood and treasure to Iraq. Our friends and allies cannot be expected to join us in such an undertaking. And Iraqis themselves cannot be expected to depend on outside assistance indefinitely.

Therefore, we are redoubling our efforts to create a self-sustaining Iraqi polity. As I speak, the Iraqi Army and Police are being reconstituted. They will provide the basis of security on which Iraq's future rests after international forces have departed. They will answer to a centralized Provisional Government, chosen by Iraq's Governing Council to govern until free elections can be held.

America and Iraq are allies in the War on Terrorism, and Iraq's government can rest assured of the support of the United States. We will not precipitously abandon Iraq. Too much is at stake. But neither will we remain fixed in place. We did not come to Iraq to rule.

With your support, I am confident of our success.

BUSH'S MOUTH: Thank you. And may God continue to bless America.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000072.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment

It would also help if he'd added something like:

"We expect the Iraqi Constitution to be completed, and democratic elections held, by...November 2004."***

P.S. ***Or some other specific estimate, not terribly far into the future.

Posted by Mark Bahner @ 10/21/2003 12:08 AM CST

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