President Bush dropped the word "progress" from his recent speeches and appearances designed to bolster flagging public support for the war in Iraq.
On Aug. 11, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush peppered his comments about the war with references to progress in Iraq.
Bush said in a short public appearance:
- "Political progress … is taking place in that country."
- "We're making progress training the Iraqis. Oh, I know it's hard for some Americans to see that progress, but we are making progress."
- "I am pleased with the progress being made when it comes to training Iraqi units."
- "And so we're monitoring progress. The important thing for the American people to know is we are making progress. There's a political track on which we're making progress, and a security track on which we're making progress."
In his Saturday, Aug. 20, radio address to the nation, Bush did not use the word "progress."
When he spoke on Monday at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he did not use the word "progress" related to the war in Iraq.
On Tuesday, at another mini-press conference before going fishing in Idaho, Bush told reporters that he would speak the next day about progress in Iraq.
"I'll remind the people that we're making progress on two fronts," he said.
Speaking to Idaho National Guard on Wednesday, his only use of the word "progress" was when he cited a soldier who "had seen the progress firsthand."
Bush went from nine usages of the word "progress" in a mini-press conference in Crawford to two usages in his week-long campaign to buck up his war support.
While Bush abandoned the word "progress" over a two-week period, he did return to a time proven and misleading phrase. From Saturday through Wednesday in the appearance mentioned above, he referred to Sept. 11 at least 13 times.
He knows better. He knows that Iraq was not behind the terrorist attacks on that awful day. Yet he persistently makes the false linkage between Sept. 11 and the justification for the Iraqi war.
Public opinion polls suggest, however, that few Americans are buying his war leadership. According to a Harris Poll, Bush's approval rating is only 40 percent, while 58 percent few him negatively. An American Research Group finds his approval rating at 36 percent, down six points from July.
The president's sagging support may explain why he concocted a new reason for his open-ended stay in Iraq. He said in his radio address, "We must finish the task that our troops have given their lives for and honor their sacrifice by completing their mission."
Staying in Iraq so that more Americans will die there is neither an honorable nor moral reason for the war. His newest argument is divisive and desperate. It essentially plays off families of dead soldiers who support the war, pitting them against families of dead soldiers and others who oppose the war.
Opposition to the war reflects opposition to Bush's leadership—the way he sold the war and fails to find a constructive end to it—not American soldiers.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.