Thursday, September 23, 2004

A Little Truth, Please

An editorial in the Miami Herald:

President Bush’s U.N. speech Tuesday about Iraq’s budding “democracy” was reminiscent of his “Mission Accomplished” banner and aircraft carrier speech last year in which he declared an end to major combat in Iraq. Mr. Bush overstated the case then, and he does so again now. This is both misleading and a disservice to the American people who deserve straight talk from their president about the true state of affairs in Iraq.

The picture in Iraq isn’t as rosy as the president describes, and democracy there isn’t the certainty that he claims. For one thing, U.S. forces are mired in asymmetric warfare in Iraq with insurgents whose attacks and boldness since last year’s invasion have increased, not decreased. As a result, the bulk of the more than 1,000 U.S. combat deaths in Iraq occurred after the president’s premature “end of major combat” announcement.

Even as the president called for “a new definition of security” on Tuesday and said that Iraq was on its way to building a stable and democratic society, Islamic extremists were decapitating one kidnapped U.S. contractor and, the next day, claiming to have beheaded another. With those detestable acts, the terrorists were making the point that U.S. forces are incapable of protecting U.S. citizens in the country.

The success of U.S. forces in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, and continued U.S. aid and support for the newly installed interim government have created the possibility of a more-stable Iraq in the long term. But we don’t know what Iraq’s ultimate fate will be. Civil war or worse is still a possibility.

We wouldn’t expect the president to paint a Doomsday scenario of U.S. operations in Iraq. But it isn’t unreasonable to expect a little more truth-telling than one finds in a stump speech for reelection.