President Bush gave a stunning disclaimer when asked Sunday on “ABC’s This Week” to explain the difference between “stay the course” and “cut and run” in the war in Iraq.
“We’ve never been stay the course, George!” Bush said to interviewer George Stephanopoulos.
That doesn’t jibe with comments Bush made as recently as Friday. Speaking to contributors, the president said, “We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq.”
“Our goal hasn’t changed, but the tactics are constantly adjusting to an enemy which is brutal and violent,” he told Republican contributors, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Speaking in Utah a less than two months ago, Bush used the phrase “stay course” verbatim.
“Iraq is the central front in this war on terror,” he said. “If we leave the streets of Baghdad before the job is done, we will have to face the terrorists in our own cities. We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century.”
At his Texas ranch in August 2005, the president said: “We will stay the course; we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We’ll help the Iraqis develop a democracy.”
Bush said the U.S. would “stay the course” repeatedly in April 2004.
On April 5, he said: “But we will stay the course. We will do what is right. We will make sure that a free Iraq emerges, not only for our own security, but for the sake of free peoples everywhere. A free Iraq will change the Middle East. A free Iraq will make the world more peaceful. A free Iraq will make America more secure. We will not be shaken by thugs and terrorists.”
A week later in a prime-time address to the nation and press conference, Bush said: “And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course; we’ll complete the job. My message to our troops is, we will stay the course and complete the job and you’ll have what you need. And my message to the loved ones who are worried about their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, is, you’re loved one is performing a noble service for the cause of freedom and peace.”
A few days later with Prime Minister Tony Blair, the president again promised to “stay the course.”
In December 2003, Bush said in a press conference: “We will stay the course until the job is done…. And the temptation is to try to get the president or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course. And it’s very important for the Iraqi people to know that.”
President Bush’s long-standing policy is “stay the course.” He uses wedge-issue politics to accuse anyone who opposes his policy as cowards who favor “cut and run.”
One of our editorials pointed back to a February editorial “Just War in Iraq Requires Reasonable Hope for Success.”
The editorial critiqued Bush’s State of the Union address in which he said, “We are winning” in Iraq and “I am confident in our plan for victory.”
The editorial said that “claiming that the U.S. is winning the war does not mean that the U.S. is in fact winning the war. Hoping for victory is not the same as holding a reasonable hope for victory.”
The editorial concluded: “Staying the course in Iraq moves us down the road of folly and a long way from a just war.”
A September 2006 editorial commenting on the earlier article said, “Everything has worsened since that editorial.”
“Now, the situation is commonly characterized as a civil war,” we said in September. “And after the foot-dragging approach to reaching a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.S. has even more negatives in the Middle East.”
The editorial concluded: “We need a new course in Iraq, one guided by just war rules. We need change.”
According to Iraqi Coalition Casualties, 84 American military personnel have been killed in Iraq so far in October, making it the deadliest month since October 2005.
For President Bush to misstate, intentionally or unintentionally, his clearly stated failed policy is baffling.
Now is not the time for revisionism. Now is the time for straight talk. Now is the time for moral voters to vote for change.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.