If you could distill all the many massive mistakes Bush has made and continues -- 28 months later -- to make in Iraq into one overarching problem, it would be this: that facts and rhetoric aren’t the same thing. That the White House continues to be blind to this distinction is what’s dragging down Bush’s second term -- and, more to the point, dragging down the country.
Until recently, the Bush team has been pretty successful at spinning things their way here at home. But the wheels are starting to come off, with approval of the war now down to 39 percent, and with mounting defections from within the president’s own party.
The problem is even greater overseas. Bush spin turns out to be one of those things that doesn’t translate so well.
In the U.S. media, the debate about Guantanamo often focuses on the propriety of the language used to describe the treatment of prisoners. The White House, conservative columnists and his Senate colleagues criticized Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) for saying U.S. interrogation techniques were reminiscent of Nazi Germany…. In the foreign media, the debate is more likely to focus on the propriety of the treatment itself.
He then goes on to give example after example of how news outlets in Yemen, Australia, Bahrain, South Africa, and Pakistan, immune to the administration’s spin, are reporting on Bush’s conduct of the war and Guantanamo.
And nowhere is this unspun truth more apparent than in Iraq itself. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld can give all the rosy “last throes of the insurgency” predictions they want, but the Iraqi people know differently. And it’s their hearts and minds that need to be won before this war can ever be said to be won. But with every passing day -- and every fresh episode of mayhem inflicted on Iraqi civilians -- we’re getting further and further from having any chance of winning that battle.
Bush and Rice can spin all they want about schools and electricity and all the “success stories” going on in Iraq, but it’s nightmare tales like this one reported by the LA Times that are being seared into the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis like Tahir:
Tahir says U.S. troops shot his son in a car on an overpass. He buried the boy, and then, a few days later, word came through the littered streets of his neighborhood: Six nephews and cousins had been slain and mutilated and left alongside a road by unknown attackers.
And we didn’t score any “hearts and minds” points when U.S. forces mistakenly arrested Mohsen Abdel Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, during a pre-dawn raid last month.
"At 4 a.m.,” said Hamid after his release, “American soldiers attacked my house from all directions. They blew up doors and took me and my three sons. They blindfolded me and put me in a helicopter and took me someplace. They interrogated me all day. Then they let me go."
Sadly, this kind of thing happens all too regularly in Iraq -- we only heard about it this time because it happened to someone prominent.
Meanwhile, the administration spins away. And the further they spin away from reality -- which the world can see all too clearly, and the Iraqis live all too painfully -- the bigger a disaster this war becomes for America.