Readers have pointed out that the "Articles of Confederation" described above do not refer to the Civil War to an earlier period. I regret the error and am thankful to readers for pointing it out. Dave writes: "I took Bush to mean the Articles of Conferation ratified in 1781 that held the colonies together until the Constitution was ratified in 1788."
I thought I had put the correction in earlier in the day but discovered that for some reason I had omitted to.
Washington Post summarizes its account of an interview with President Bush entitled "US voters 'endorsed Iraq policy' " in the following way:
President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.
"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
The BBC's "US voters 'endorsed Iraq policy' " reports the Washington Post interview in substantially identical terms: "Mr Bush said there was no need to hold any of his officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgements in pre-war planning or managing the aftermath. In an interview in Sunday's Washington Post he said that his re-election was an "accountability moment". A CBS article entitled "Bush: Voters Ratified Iraq Policy" has this for its opening paragraph.
President Bush says his re-election proves Americans agree with his decision to invade Iraq, and that as a result, there's no need to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes made in planning for the war, or its aftermath "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Mr. Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post for Sunday's editions. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
Andrew Olmstead at Winds of Change quite naturally bristles at the idea that the 2004 election conferred a blanket absolution on any mistakes or misjudgements that the administration may have made.
Demonstrating a fascinating understanding of culpability, President Bush claims that his reelection victory means there is no reason to hold anyone culpable for mistakes made in planning or executing the Iraq war and its aftermath. One wonders if everyone would have voted the same had they known that was the message they were sending.
Of course, Bush didn't actually say 'there's no need to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes made in planning for the war, or its aftermath'. The Washington Post's transcript of the interview renders the actual exchange as follows.
The Post: In Iraq, there's been a steady stream of surprises. We weren't welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven't found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn't gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.
Listen, in times of war, things don't go exactly as planned. Some were saying there was no way that Saddam Hussein would be toppled as quickly as we toppled him. Some were saying there would be mass refugee flows and starvation, which didn't happen. My only point is, is that, on a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad.
And the point is, there has to be a flexible strategy that will enable our commanders on the ground and our diplomats to be able to adjust strategy to meet the needs on the ground, all aiming at an eventual goal, which is a free and democratic Iraq, not in our image, in their image, according to their customs. See, we haven't been -- we've been there -- sovereignty was transferred in June of 2004. So this has been a sovereign nation in its new form for less than a year. I'm optimistic about it, and so are a lot of other people who were there in Iraq --optimistic about that, being optimistic about the emergence of a free government.
I'm also mindful that it takes a while for democracy to take hold. Witness our own history. We weren't -- we certainly were not the perfect democracy and are yet the perfect democracy. Ours is a constitution that said every man -- a system that said every man was equal, but in fact, every man wasn't equal for a long period of time in our history. The Articles of Confederation were a bumpy period of time. And my only point is, is that I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy. And therefore, I am more patient than some, but also mindful that we've got to get the Iraqis up and running as quickly as possible, so they can defeat these terrorists.
The interview rapidly moved on to other questions which are listed below verbatim, before passing on to the subject of Social Security.
- There [are] signs of a manpower squeeze in the regular Army. The National Guard and Reserves have been pressed to their limit. Do you plan to ask Congress to authorize additional National Guard or regular Army units?
- Why do you think [Osama] bin Laden has not been caught?
- Our allies have done all they can do to help catch him?
- Anyone you're not happy with?
- How concerned are you about the enormously high levels of anti-Americanism, particularly in the Muslim world? And is that an indication that somehow the terrorists are winning the hearts and minds of those people?
It was a pity. The Post implicitly invited President Bush to confess four sins. The first accusation was that the President had fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the War on Terror leading to "high levels of anti-Americanism" throughout the world. The second was culpability for an intelligence failure on the existence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. The third was that he made a political misjudgement in thinking that bringing democracy to Iraq was possible. The fourth was the charge of incompetence in the prosecution of the war and the occupation of Iraq.
The reader may judge for himself whether the Post's summary is a fair restatement of the President's answer. But it seems abundantly clear that he said rather more than 'the election absolved everyone of guilt'. He candidly admitted to making mistakes. "Listen, in times of war, things don't go exactly as planned." and compared the difficulties in Iraq to one of the most trying periods in American history -- the Civil War and Reconstruction. "I'm also mindful that it takes a while for democracy to take hold. Witness our own history. ... The Articles of Confederation were a bumpy period of time." President made no effort to address any of the specific charges implicitly made by the Post. He seemed content to admit that certain mistakes had gone been made -- without specifying what these were -- but seemed to insist that despite these he had fundamentally done the right thing and that the American people had agreed with him.
Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.
Thus passed another moment in the nonspecific policy debate over Iraq. Had the Post's accusations been answered individually it might have been reasonable for the President to assert that while the electorate had endorsed President Bush's general strategy on the War on Terror, the intelligence apparatus had been found definitely wanting; and that the jury was still out on the subject of whether democracy could be nourished in the Middle East and whether the military strategy employed had been chiefly correct. That would have created the possibility of closure in the fundamental approach to the War on Terror while leaving open the debate on where to go from here. The election of 2004 closed some doors only to open new ones. "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."