Saturday, November 12, 2005

President's Veterans' Day Speech

I missed watching the President's speech yesterday but I've read the transcript and some commentary on the topic. Like most others who have been standing fast against the "Bush lied" myth and revisionists, I greatly approved of the President finally getting back in their faces with the facts and doing so publicly. I hope it's a harbinger of more of the same to come from the President.

One of the items I noted in the speech was a direct contradiction to the often-repeated lie that the Bush administration cuts veterans' benefits and the budget of the VA. Simply not true as the numerical facts will readily display to anyone who bothers to actually look at them. Both the budget for the VA and the committment of dollars for benefits have increased in this administration, not decreased. Veterans have access to more services and funding than before George Bush was elected, not less. The claim that administration has cut funding is the old perspective shift trick. During these past 5 years there have been suggestions to increase spending on veterans by more than what was actually done. Raising the budget for the VA by 51% instead of 75% is not a cut in benefits or spending, but that's the story critics try to sell. Their claim resonates with people, however, and only the repeated telling of the facts will fight that. The President made the right move in getting that out there.

I am also heartened by the identification of our enemy and the clear distinction drawn regarding their acts. I'll quote the President there for this one:

::::::::All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness -- innocent men and women and children who have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology -- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and against Muslims, themselves, who do not share their radical vision.

Emphasis mine. This has long been a contention of mine in talking with people who, in the wake of terrorist attacks and criminal behavior like murder, rape, and kidnap, immediately say something to the effect of, "they're sick." No, they're not. They are not insane. There's a difference between sick and evil and what these terrorist organizations are doing when they blow up innocent people is evil. There is no honor in it, there is no excuse for it, and there is no sense in empathizing with it. The President also calls out the enemy clearly here: "Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism." He is correct in saying that it's not the same as the religion of Islam. I know muslims, and the ones I know are all good people who, while confident in their faith, do not threaten the lives and well being of people who don't pray the way they do. That said, it's important to realize that while not all muslims are terrorists, the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts in the last 5 years have been perpetrated by those claiming Islam as the impetus for their acts. Muslims everywhere need to stand up and help us in fighting these people. They need to not condone the actions of terrorists and they need to speak out against these actions loudly, publicly, and often. I would urge them to not let their silence be consent. The President also reminds those of us who aren't muslims to not allow the terrorists to draw us into condemning all muslims. As I said, I know plenty of these folks and I'm proud to call them fellow Americans.

Most importantly, in my eyes, the President addressed the debate on the topic here at home, if you want to call it a debate.

::::::::And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.)

This is the lynchpin of the argument and it's a point I've made on numerous occasions. In spite of the fact that multiple investigations have found that the Bush administration did not manipulate intel leading up to the war and that the available intel supported a conclusion that Hussein's government had WMD at their disposal, the cries of "Bush lied! Bush lied!" still go on today. That very point also belies the fact that WMD was only one of almost a dozen reasons explicitly stated by the President, publicly, supporting the decision to invade. The debate has most certainly not been fair-minded and the unfairness is largely coming from the anti-war crowd. They ignore evidence when it suits them. They dismiss the notion of having to prove their own points rationally, relying on strawman and ad hominem attacks in place of true argumentation. They create the offense of someone calling them "unpatriotic" and substitute righteous indignation over the perceived slur for rational debate. And make no mistake, I think some of them are, in fact, acting damn unpatriotic. When people openly support the actions of the enemy and call for our own troops to "frag" their officers - that'd be American citizens, those officers - then that's unpatriotic and I have no issue calling it that. If they don't like it, they shouldn't act unpatriotically.

There are good reasons to have done what was done in pursuing this front in the war on terror. The President needs to get out there in front of the American people and remind them of the facts more often. I am hopeful this speech marks the beginning of such an effort.