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Memo to the Community on Iraq

To: Interested Parties
From: Brian Katulis
Re: Unraveling the Bush Spin on Iraq

President Bush revealed this week that he has no new ideas on how to correct his fatal mistakes in Iraq and no strategy to defeat terrorist networks with a global reach. His focus on selling a “stay the course” policy – rather than rethinking our approach and making concrete policy changes – puts U.S. armed forces at even greater risk.

The president’s empty rhetoric has also made the country’s debate over Iraq narrow and stale. It’s time to unravel the spin and reveal the truth.

1. Bush Spin: The Bush “war on terror” is making the American people more secure.

The United States is more vulnerable today than on September 12, 2001. President Bush has weakened the United States militarily and economically, destroyed alliances, undermined the country’s global reputation, and drained the Treasury. Consider:

· The number of international terrorist attacks tripled from 2003 to 2004.

· The spread of nuclear and biological weapons continues unchecked.

· Iraq has become a new haven and training ground for terrorists and a rallying cry for U.S. enemies.

· Failure to devote sufficient resources to Afghanistan is allowing that nation to slide back into instability as the Taliban reemerges.

· Osama bin Laden remains at large and al Qaeda offshoots proliferate.

2. Bush Spin: Iraq was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

President Bush continues to invoke the September 11th terrorist attacks as a part of his rationale for the war in Iraq. The 9/11 Commission and numerous intelligence investigations have found no evidence that Iraq was linked to 9/11. Iraq is only part of the war on terror because the president chose to invade.

3. Bush Spin: The United States is prevailing in Iraq.

After a brief respite following the January elections, Iraq has descended into greater insurgent and sectarian violence. More than 1,700 American troops and at least 25,000 Iraqis have been killed. Iraqis suffer from double-digit unemployment and a lack of basic services like water and electricity. The political process is mired by factional bickering by the Iraqis. The United States has spent more than $200 billion on the war, with no end in sight.

4. Bush Spin: The U.S. troop presence is making Iraq more stable.

The conventional wisdom that the U.S. troop presence is making Iraq more stable may be wrong. U.S. forces may be fueling the insurgency and providing an incentive for foreign fighters to enter Iraq. Tying our withdrawal to defeating the insurgency may lead to indefinite occupation.

5. Bush Spin: Setting timetables sends the wrong message to Iraqis.

Not setting a timetable is a recipe for failure. To date, the only time Iraqis have achieved any progress is when a timetable was set on the political transition. Iraq needs to know that the United States will stand behind it, but that it cannot use the United States as a crutch. Signaling to the Iraqi Transitional Government that it must assume a greater share of the burden will create incentives for it to accelerate the political process and invest more effort in building Iraqi military forces.

6. Bush Spin: The training of Iraqi troops is going well.

The president argues that 160,000 Iraqi troops exist – but fails to note that only 2,500 are capable of independent operations. Training Iraqi forces is a key element to helping make Iraq more secure, but it is not the only one. The Iraqi Transitional Government must disband ethnic and religious militias and root out the insurgents who have infiltrated military and police training programs.

7. Bush Spin: Iraq is inspiring democratic transitions in the Middle East.

The limited political openings in Egypt, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories have nothing to do with Iraq. Hardly any of the democratic activists in those countries cite the chaotic situation in Iraq as their model. Furthermore, elections do not automatically mean democracy, especially when terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah win positions.

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