Speaking to midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, President Bush did a terrific job laying out our strategy, explaining the progress being made by Iraqi security forces and how we have adjusted the training of Iraqi forces as the need to do so has become evident.
Identifying the enemy in Iraq as a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The President points out that these groups have nothing to offer the Iraqi people but share the same ideology as the terrorists attacking innocents around the world:
These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they have is the capacity and the willingness to kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will to achieve their stated objectives. They will fail. America's will is strong. And they will fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty. (Applause.)
The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.
This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
Our strategy in Iraq has three elements. On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies, so we're helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq -- and to marginalize those who never will. On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy, cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.
As we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.
And on the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. In doing all this we have involved the United Nations, other international organizations, our coalition partners, and supportive regional states in helping Iraqis build their future.
The president then focused on the training and development Iraq's security forces:
The training of the Iraqi security forces is an enormous task, and it always hasn't gone smoothly. We all remember the reports of some Iraqi security forces running from the fight more than a year ago. Yet in the past year, Iraqi forces have made real progress. At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now, there are over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists -- typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support -- and they're helping to turn the tide of this struggle in freedom's favor. America and our troops are proud to stand with the brave Iraqi fighters. (Applause.)
[. . .]
As Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead in the fight against the terrorists, they're also taking control of more and more Iraqi territory. At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods. Last year, the area around Baghdad's Haifa Street was so thick with terrorists that it earned the nickname "Purple Heart Boulevard." Then Iraqi forces took responsibility for this dangerous neighborhood -- and attacks are now down.
[. . .]
Progress by the Iraqi security forces has come, in part, because we learned from our earlier experiences and made changes in the way we help train Iraqi troops. When our coalition first arrived, we began the process of creating an Iraqi Army to defend the country from external threats, and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to help provide the security within Iraq's borders. The civil defense forces did not have sufficient firepower or training -- they proved to be no match for an enemy armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. So the approach was adjusted. Working with Iraq's leaders, we moved the civil defense forces into the Iraqi Army, we changed the way they're trained and equipped, and we focused the Army's mission on defeating those fighting against a free Iraq, whether internal or external.
Now, all Iraqi Army recruits receive about the same length of basic training as new recruits in the U.S. Army -- a five-week core course, followed by an additional three-to-seven weeks of specialized training. With coalition help, Iraqis have established schools for the Iraqi military services, an Iraqi military academy, a non-commissioned officer academy, a military police school, a bomb disposal school -- and NATO has established an Iraqi Joint Staff College. There's also an increased focus on leadership training, with professional development courses for Iraqi squad leaders and platoon sergeants and warrant officers and sergeants-major. A new generation of Iraqi officers is being trained, leaders who will lead their forces with skill -- so they can defeat the terrorists and secure their freedom.
Similar changes have taken place in the training of the Iraqi police.
[. . .]
As more and more skilled Iraqi security forces have come online, there's been another important change in the way new Iraqi recruits are trained. When the training effort began, nearly all the trainers came from coalition countries. Today, the vast majority of Iraqi police and army recruits are being taught by Iraqi instructors. By training the trainers, we're helping Iraqis create an institutional capability that will allow the Iraqi forces to continue to develop and grow long after coalition forces have left Iraq.
As the training has improved, so has the quality of the recruits being trained. Even though the terrorists are targeting Iraqi police and army recruits, there is no shortage of Iraqis who are willing to risk their lives to secure the future of a free Iraq.
President Bush went on to say that as the Iraqi's stand up our forces can stand down and come home when the circumstances in Iraq, not politics, justify it:
As the Iraqi security forces stand up, their confidence is growing and they are taking on tougher and more important missions on their own. As the Iraqi security forces stand up, the confidence of the Iraqi people is growing -- and Iraqis are providing the vital intelligence needed to track down the terrorists. And as the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down -- and when our mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation. (Applause
[. . .]
We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. If our military leaders tell me we need more troops, I will send them.
For example, we have increased our force levels in Iraq to 160,000 -- up from 137,000 -- in preparation for the December elections. My commanders tell me that as Iraqi forces become more capable, the mission of our forces in Iraq will continue to change. We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide, to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.
As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists. These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington. (Applause.)
The President acknowledged the sincerity of some of his critics:
Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."
Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
Finally, the President welcomed the debate about the war and heralded the advancement of freedom:
And we should not fear the debate in Washington. It's one of the great strengths of our democracy that we can discuss our differences openly and honestly -- even at times of war. Your service makes that freedom possible. And today, because of the men and women in our military, people are expressing their opinions freely in the streets of Baghdad, as well.
Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible. And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. In World War II, victory came when the Empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri. In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.
[. . .]
In the short run, we're going to bring justice to our enemies. In the long run, the best way to ensure the security of our own citizens is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. We've seen freedom conquer evil and secure the peace before. In World War II, free nations came together to fight the ideology of fascism, and freedom prevailed -- and today Germany and Japan are democracies and they are allies in securing the peace. In the Cold War, freedom defeated the ideology of communism and led to a democratic movement that freed the nations of Eastern and Central Europe from Soviet domination -- and today these nations are allies in the war on terror.
Today in the Middle East freedom is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom, and as democracy spreads in the Middle East, these countries will become allies in the cause of peace. (Applause.)
Advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring the success of a free Iraq. Freedom's victory in that country will inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, and spread hope across a troubled region, and lift a terrible threat from the lives of our citizens. By strengthening Iraqi democracy, we will gain a partner in the cause of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, and an ally in the worldwide struggle against -- against the terrorists. Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation -- and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans. We will meet the challenge of our time. We will answer history's call with confidence -- because we know that freedom is the destiny of every man, woman and child on this earth. (Applause.)
The speech was exactly right. Don't let the negative main stream media form your opinion for you. If you were unable to listen to the speech I encourage you to read it, listen to it or watch it. The transcript is available here.
As I have posted before, Reading summaries, excerpts and critiques lets others do your thinking for you. Snippets can't help you grasp the import, which you should have especially if you want to disagree in a knowledgeable manner. This speech deserves to be read in its entirety. Please invest the 40 odd minutes required to read, listen or watch the whole thing.
Designers of the Flight 93 memorial have made a bowl-shaped piece of land its centerpiece, replacing the "Crescent of Embrace" design that many of us took as a symbol honoring the terrorists. According to the Associated Press, the design was otherwise unchanged:
In both old and new versions of the design, a tower with 40 wind chimes welcomes visitors to the site, where they can then walk to a large circular field ringed by 40 groves of red and sugar maple trees, symbolizing the 40 passengers and crew who died. There will also be pedestrian trails, a plaza from which to view the crash site, and a white marble wall with the victims' names inscribed.
In the Flight 93 National Memorial's newsletter, Murdoch described the new design as an "evolution" of what was announced two months ago, reflecting input from the public, the competition's jury and others.
Flight 93 was was hijacked after deparing Newark, New Jersey. It crashed as the passengers fought to take control of the plane from the terrorists. The original design simply had to be changed and the blogosphere deserves some of the credit for making that clear.
I listened to President Bush's speech at the U.S. Naval Academy. The President did a terrific job laying out our strategy, explaining the progress being made by Iraqi security forces and how we have adjusted the training of Iraqi forces as the need to do so has become evident.
If you were unable to listen to the speech I encourage you to read it, listen to it or watch it. I have some dear friends, people who I think are very smart and generally well informed, who are opposed to this war. I find it frustratingly impossible to have any meaningful discussion with these friends. They had their minds made up about the war from the beginning. Because their minds are made up they refuse to inform themselves about what we are doing. They won't listen to or read what the President says, and he has given a remarkable series of speeches about the war and simply doesn't get enough credit for them. The point is if we are going to meaningfully debate how, or whether to continue to fight this war, and I think it is important that we do, it requires that the debate be informed. Don't let others decide what you think, decide yourself.
The White House has released a 35-page document it called the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. which it said articulates "the broad strategy the president set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining."
According to the New York Times, the release of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's emphasis yesterday on improvements in Iraqi forces, and President Bush's speech this morning, are designed to answer "Democratic leaders in Congress who have argued that Mr. Bush has no plausible plan for bringing home the nearly 160,000 troops engaged in a war against the insurgency."
Why a document like the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, assembling our strategy into a single unclassified document, has never been done before now escapes me. It was obviously something that should have been done long before now.
The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is available here.
The Associated Press reports that a U.S. congressional delegation to Venezuela was not permitted to leave the plane at the country's main airport and left.
The delegation on the plane intended to meet with Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and other government officials.
Hyde's office issued this press release:
A high-level delegation headed by International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde and Ranking Democratic Member Tom Lantos was refused entry into Venezuela by government officials after the delegation had been held onboard their aircraft and harassed by customs officials for two hours at Caracas' Simon Bolivar International Airport.
The delegation's itinerary, composition and scheduled meetings had been shared with Venezuelan officials several weeks prior to the delegation's arrival from Washington, including a meeting with President Hugo Chavez.
The delegation departed Venezuela after government officials refused to guarantee that the delegation would be allowed to disembark and carry out its planned schedule.
The bipartisan delegation comprised of Chairman Hyde, Ranking Democratic Member Lantos, Representatives Watt, Faleomavaega, Watson, and Fortuno. The delegation members expressed their profound disappointment in the Venezuelan Government's capricious and unexplained decision and actions given that the purpose of the mission was to seek ways to reduce strains in the increasingly troubled relationship between the United States and Venezuela.
According to the Associated Press, Jose Cabello, president of the airport, denied that Venezuelan authorities turned back the U.S. delegation:
"They didn't contact Venezuelan authorities" at the airport, Cabello told the state-run TV channel.
[. . .]
"We understand they went to Aruba. There was no problem," he said.
Returning From Iraq, Connecticut's Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman praises U.S. strategy and urges President Bush to tell the American people details about the progress being made in liberation of Iraq:
"We do have a strategy," he said. "We do have a plan. I saw a strategy that's being implemented."
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.
[. . .]
It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
[. . .]
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
[. . .]
While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
[. . .]
Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.
Riviera Beach, Florida is located across the inlet from Palm Beach. According to the Los Angeles Times, Riviera Beach is "mostly black" and "blue-collar."
The community's the mayor and other elected leaders want to move about 6,000, of the towns 32,000 residents, tear down their homes and use the emptied 400-acre site to build a waterfront yachting and residential complex for the well-to-do.
More fuel for the debate prompted by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling allowing New London, Connecticut, to force homeowners to sell their properties for a private development. Is this area of Riviera Beach truly suffer from "slum and blighted conditions" making the proposed "redevelopment" necessary "in the interest of public health, safety, morals and welfare?" Or is this, as a Florida state legislator put it, reverse Robin Hood - robbing the poor to benefit the rich?
The eight-term California Republican said he was is shamed:
"The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office," he told reporters, his voice strained with emotion. "I know I will forfeit my reputation, my worldly possessions -- most importantly the trust of my friends and family."
[. . .]
Under the agreement, Cunningham acknowledged a conspiracy to commit bribery, mail and wire fraud and tax evasion. He also pleaded guilty to a separate tax evasion violation for failing to disclose income in 2004.
Prosecutors said Cunningham had taken bribes from contractors, which enabled him to buy a mansion, a suburban Washington condominium, a yacht and a Rolls Royce.
A government statement said Cunningham received at least $2.4 million in bribes and will forfeit his $2.5 million mansion and about $1.8 million in cash, antiques, furnishings and other valuables.
The charges carry a potential penalty of 10 years in prison and up to $350,000 in fines.
I hope Cunningham gets the maximum. Regardless how remorseful Cunningham claims to be, the damage he has done to the public trust demands a harsh penalty. What a disgrace.
The charges against Cunningham and his plea plea agreement are available here and here (pdf format) cortesy of FindLaw.