First Published: 2005-07-08

Bush: fighting the Iraq war at home

It is clear that the infantile fantasy of its architects, ‘shock and awe,’ ‘a cake walk,’ ‘flowers at our feet,’ ‘six months and out,’ and ‘the spreading of democracy throughout the Middle East’, did not pan out, says James J. Zogby.


Middle East Online

President Bush has a problem.

This war was supposed to have gone so differently. By now it is clear that the infantile fantasy of its architects ("shock and awe," "a cake walk," "flowers at our feet," "six months and out," and "the spreading of democracy throughout the Middle East") did not pan out. Instead, US troops have been transformed into an occupation army fighting an enemy about whom we know too little, with stories and pictures of hideous terrorist attacks and growing tallies of war dead filling the daily press.

As a result, strains are beginning to show. US public support for the war is waning, with President Bush's job performance in the war effort now down to 40% and a strong majority of 60% now saying that the war in Iraq wasn't worth fighting in the first place.

More worrisome to the White House are signs that not only Democrats, but some prominent Republicans, are beginning to raise tough questions about the war and how it is being conducted. Add to this, the embarrassment created last week with leading Administration figures publicly contradicting each other and the military over assessments of how the war is going.

Clearly something had to be done to stop the drift and reestablish public confidence in the President's leadership in the war effort. And so White House strategists (including newly hired consultants specializing in "war-time presidents" and public opinion) have launched a campaign to seize control of the public discourse on the war. The prolonged attacks on Senator Durbin (for his criticism of the behavior of US forces in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere), top Bush aide Karl Rove's blistering indictment of the weaknesses of "liberals" in the war on terror, the President's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, and his televised speech to the nation provided the launching pads for this campaign.

The themes engaged by the White House are not new. The President packaged the war in the context of the war on terror and 9/11-" we are fighting the enemy there so we won't have to fight them here." He further defined the struggle as one to expand freedom, calling it America's "mission in the world." And the President stressed that we dare not fail and will not fail, because if we do, our sacrifices will have been in vain and Iraq will become a haven for al-Qaeda. Now while there are serious questions that can be raised with each of these themes, the real problems faced by the White House lie on a different level.

First, despite the President's confidence and optimism, the reality is that the American people are weary of this war. The Pentagon may want to wage a war without end, but the public appears to be uninterested in any such prolonged foreign engagement so lacking in clarity and whose outcome is so uncertain.

Second, there is the persistent disconnect between the Administration's obvious pride in the developments they point to on Iraq's political track (the elections, a new government, work towards a constitution, etc.) and the security situation which continues to steal headlines and dominate the news. In the end, they win no points for the political progress as long as the casualties continue to mount and the security situation severely hampers reconstruction efforts.

Finally there is the fact that this war is not the President's only problem. As bad as the situation is, the war on terror remains one of his stronger suits. On the domestic front Bush is finding it difficult to gain traction on a number of his targeted priorities. For example, after waging a six-month long campaign to sell his Social Security reform program, public support for his efforts is now lower than it was when he began.

What is saving the President, at this point, is the fact that with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress he faces no real challenge from the legislative branch. In addition, Democrats have not been able to mount a coherent and effective opposition. It might be said that, more than the White House, Republicans in Congress are now driving the agenda on a range of issues-from Social Security reform to action on a number of conservative "social issues." And Democrats, without any clear national spokesperson and absent any clear message, have not been able to break through and drive the public debate on either the conduct of the war (for which they have not presented an alternative) or on the domestic front, as well.

And so Bush, facing these challenges, is left with no recourse but to fight to salvage this war and the prestige and security of the country he committed to it. The odds against success remain great, and continue to grow, but it is a fight the President cannot afford to lose.

Dr. James J. Zogby©

For comments or information, contact


Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

Rare moments of joy at Arabs’ unprecedented World Cup qualifications

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Egypt’s Sisi to meet Lebanon’s Hariri

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat

Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador to Berlin over Gabriel Lebanon comments

Russia again vetoes renewal of Syria gas attacks probe

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days