Friday, March 28, 2008

There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well

At the Air Force Museum in Ohio yesterday, Bush gave a speech from which only one line is worth passing on: “You know, when I mentioned justice of the cause, you see that when Americans in full battle gear hand out books to children, hand out books to total strangers.”

The Marine Corps is dropping all charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum for his role in the Haditha Massacre (see previous posts), evidently in exchange for his testimony against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. According to a press release, “This was done in order to continue to pursue the truth-seeking process into the Haditha incident.” A justice-seeking process might also have been nice.

Today Bush met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who, when asked by an Aussie reporter how he would describe him, he called “Fine lad, fine lad.”

When asked about foreign policy differences with Rudd (Iraq, China, greenhouse gasses, etc), Bush said “I guess it depends if you’re a half-glass empty guy or a half-glass full guy,” adding that he really could see no differences, but maybe that’s because he’d just drunk half a glass of tequila. He didn’t even see policy differences over Rudd’s plan to pull troops out of Iraq. “Obviously the Prime Minister kept a campaign commitment, which I appreciate. I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he’s going to do.” And yet it never rubs off.

But he didn’t ascribe Rudd’s decision to the will of the Australian people as expressed by the polls, no, that would violate Dick Cheney’s “So?” Doctrine. “I would view the Australia decision as ‘return on success’”. He also demonstrated his understanding of Aussie policy with his usual clarity: “But the commitment of Afghanistan is not to leave Iraq alone; it’s to change mission.”

SOME PEOPLE CAN TELL AN INTERESTING STORY, SOME PEOPLE CAN’T: “And so he told me about an interesting story. He met with the Prime Minister, Maliki. Prime Minister Maliki says to Kevin Rudd -- or Kevin Rudd says to Prime Minister Maliki, what can we do to help you. It wasn’t, what can we do to abandon you. He said, how can we help you?”

MORE PRAISE FOR RUDD: “He’s an expert on China -- it’s clear when you talk to him, he is an expert on China.”

Many of the reporters’ questions focused on Maliki’s... in honor of Mr. Rudd, I’m hereby officially naming it Maliki’s Basra Balls-Up.

A LOT OF DEFINING GOING ON: “I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq. There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well.”

IT TALKS! “The decision to move troops -- Iraqi troops into Basra talks about Prime Minister Maliki’s leadership.”

Q&A: “And one of the early questions I had to the Prime Minister was would he be willing to confront criminal elements, whether they be Shia or Sunni? Would he, in representing people who want to live in peace, be willing to use force necessary to bring to justice those who take advantage of a vacuum, or those who murder the innocent? And his answer was, yes, sir, I will. And I said, well, you’ll have our support if that’s the case, if you believe in evenhanded justice.”

IT’S NOT JUST A DEFINING MOMENT: “it is an interesting moment for the people of Iraq”.

WHAT’S SO INTERESTING ABOUT IT? “And so -- the other that’s interesting about this, by the way -- this happens to be one of the provinces where the Iraqs are in the lead -- Iraqis are in the lead, and that’s what they are in this instance.”

IT’S NOT JUST A DEFINING MOMENT AND AN INTERESTING MOMENT: “And this is a good test for them.” Given that Maliki just had to extend his surrender deadline by 10 days, I guess they’re taking an incomplete.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE ABILITY TO BE CRIMINALS: “And of course, routing out these folks who’ve burrowed in society, who take advantage of the ability to be criminals, or the ability to intimidate citizens, is going to take a while. ... And one of those things that’s been well known is that Basra has been a place where criminality has thrived. It’s a port, a lot of goods and services go through there.”

WHAT HE SUSPECTS MALIKI WOULD SAY: “And I haven’t spoke to the Prime Minister since he’s made his decision, but I suspect that he would say, look, the citizens down there just got sick and tired of this kind of behavior. ... And so I’m not exactly sure what triggered the Prime Minister’s response. I don’t know if it was one phone call. I don’t know what -- whether or not the local mayor called up and said, help -- we’re sick and tired of dealing with these folks. ... But this was his decision. It was his military planning. It was his causing the troops to go from point A to point B.”

SAD MONKEY: “And, yes, there’s going to be violence. And that’s sad.”

Yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown showed what two national leaders really need in order to bond: a football.

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