As General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, prepares to report to Congress on 15 September on the success of George Bush's 'surge', Bush himself is trying hard to talk it up and to discredit the policy of withdrawal. In a speech on 22 August to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, he resorted to the new and risky strategy of using the example of the US withdrawal from Vietnam to support his position on Iraq. 'Then as now, people argued the real problem was America's presence,' he said, but 'one unmistakeable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens.' He went on to stress, as he often does, that withdrawal would be seen as victory by al-Qaida, and that 'unlike in Vietnam . . . this enemy will follow us home.' In July, in a press conference convened to allow him to put his spin on the 'interim report' just published by the White House's National Security Council (NSC), he also tried to sell the war in Iraq as a Manichean struggle against al-Qaida. 'We can't let al-Qaida gain safe haven inside of Iraq. My attitude is we ought to defeat them there so we don't have to face them here . . . So on my orders, good men and women are now fighting the terrorists on the front lines in Iraq.' The 30,000 extra US troops sent to Iraq as part of Bush's 'surge' bring the total number there to 165,000.
LRB 6 September 2007 | PDF Download