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Monday, January 22, 2007

Senator Kyl and the lies that keep us in Iraq

A few days ago I heard an interview on NPR with Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona. This interview made an impression that so deeply disturbed me that I made a promise to myself to look it up and write a response.

So, with that in mind, today I've gone back and typed out a transcript of a portion of Senator Kyl's interview with Renee Montagne so that a broader readership might be able to parse the import of the Senator's words. These are no small rhetorical flourishes...

These are the lies that keep us in Iraq.


First, a bit of context to this interview.

This January 10th, President Bush, in a major address to the nation announced the framework of his new strategy in Iraq. This strategy was in fact under way even as he spoke.

Whatever one thinks of the concept that an escalation of our troop levels in Iraq will achieve peace and stability where we haven't achieved that objective in the entire three years and nine months of our occupation, one statistic stands out. Even as President Bush actively rolls out his surge plan: 68% of the American public opposes it.

Now, Senator Jon Kyl, the third ranking Republican in the Senate, is a significant voice in the Senate. With Republican opposition to George Bush's surge plan growing every day, it is worth paying attention to the rhetoric this Senator uses to justify an open-ended escalation of our commitment of troops to Iraq.

Let's take a look at what Senator Kyl has to say:

Renee Montagne: What are you hearing from the White House that makes you confident about the President's plan for Iraq?

Senator Jon Kyl: First, the President's critics have no alternative plan except to leave...on different kinds of timetables and that is not a strategy to succeed. So...and I also think that most people do agree that if you left Iraq a failed state the consequences for the United States, not to mention the Iraqis, would be disastrous.

First off, Senator Kyl simply doesn't anwer the question. Renee Montagne is asking the Senator what, specifically, about the White House plan inspires his confidence. Senator Kyl has no response to that basic question.

Second, instead of explaining substantively what aspect of the President's "surge" plan is a good idea, Senator Kyl shifts the subject and lies about the "President's critics" saying that they have no "alternative plan except to leave." That is a lie. From day one there have been viable alternative plans regarding Bush's war in Iraq. Whether it was working with United Nations weapons inspectors before the war, going in with twice the number of troops as numerous generals suggested at the time of our invasion, Congressman Jack Murtha's more recent sponsership of a plan for "strategic redeployment," or the Iraq Study Group's emphasis on a renewed diplomatic push coupled with a draw down of our forces, or, as Meteor Blades points out, the McGovern/Polk plan...there have always been substantive alternative plans in opposition to this President's policies in Iraq. To say otherwise is a bald-faced lie. The only reason to deny the existence of alternative plans is so that Senator Kyl can dodge the obligation of comparing the substance and merit of those competing plans with George Bush's own failed policies in Iraq.

Finally, when Senator Kyl says that we can't leave Iraq "a failed state" what he fails to mention is that Iraq has become a failed state under the watch of this president. The "failed state" we see in Iraq today is the direct result of this president's policies. In that light, Renee Montagne's question is germane. What has this administration said that inspires confidence in their surge plan? Senator Kyl doesn't answer this question because the answer is obvious: there is nothing George W. Bush can say that inspires confidence in his stewardship of U.S. policy in Iraq. The disaster that is Iraq today has one name and one author: George W. Bush. His speech was nothing more than the author of that failed policy asking for "one more chance."

Why should this nation give it to him? It's a valid question.

In a follow-up, Ms. Montagne suggests that there are, in fact, substantive, bi-partisan alternative plans for Iraq.

Renee Montagne: Well, though, with all due respect there was an alternative proposed by the Iraq study group...that was a slow, steady withdrawal.

Senator Jon Kyl
: (pauses awkwardly) Exactly, a slow, steady withdrawal.

If your idea is that we can't win, or that we already have lost then there are all kinds of withdrawal plans. My own favorite plan would be get out today, but the President has a different idea, namely that we can still succeed there.

Let's call this strategic lie and rhetorical gimme "the Colin Powell."

The Senator turns face and abruptly acknowledges the existence of substantive, alternative plans for Iraq that have some appeal. In fact, Senator Kyl acknowledges that his "favorite plan" would be to "get out today." But, alas, like Colin Powell before him, Senator Kyl feels that because George W. Bush holds the office of President of the United States it is necessary to suspend his critical thinking faculties (and, we might add, his obligation to represent the people of Arizona), and tow the current presidential lie: Bush's "surge" will allow the United States to "succeed" in Iraq.

This is breathtaking. Jon Kyl has no problem leaving us with the distinct impression that if HE were president, he would pull our troops out of Iraq tommorrow. He says it outright.

That's not just hypocrisy of the highest order; that is a gross dereliction of duty. If Senator Kyl supports the Bush plan, he should step up to the plate and tell us exactly why he does so. If he thinks the surge plan can succeed where Bush has failed for four years running, he should spell out why. Telling us, with a wink, that, dagnabbit, he'd have us out of there in a New York minute if he were president is simply base hypocrisy from a man who is, in fact, carrying water for this president. Senator Kyl wants to have it both ways. That's hypocrisy for those that have eyes to see it.

When we read further, however, that flippant aside becomes stomach turning...

Renee Montagne: Have you spoken with the President or the Vice President directly about this?

Senator Jon Kyl: With both of them, yes.

Renee Montagne: And they have your confidence in this?

Senator Jon Kyl: Well, I must say the President and the Vice President have spoken with a lot of us. It isn't just the President's plan, as you know, of course, there was a lot of consultation both with members of the Congress as well as outside experts. The President had a very large menu to choose from, of different options, and ultimately after hearing all the advice, he settled on the plan that he has.

Now, would I do it exactly the same? Not necessarily, but I am sure not privy to all of the counsel that the president has gotten.

Do I believe that this will succeed? I think there is a good chance that it can succeed. But there are no guarantees and the President has made it clear that there are no guarantees.

One final point. There is no question there will be an increase in violence. And we should not come to believe that that increase in violence is a signal that this is not working. In fact it's probably a signal that this is working in two ways.

We have to inflict a lot more punishment on the enemy. We have to defeat the enemy there. And that's going to mean more violence.

And second, they get a vote in this too. And they are probably going to react very strongly with everything they have.

That is stunning. And dangerous. It is also a textbook example of the political rhetoric that allowed this nation to enter into and now remain mired in the disaster that is Iraq.

First, once again Senator Kyl punts and fails to answer a question. Renee Montagne asks the Senator if the President and Vice President have his confidence. Senator Kyl ducks that question. If anything, his non-response..."would I do it exactly the same? Not necessarily.." implies that the President and Vice President do NOT have the Senator's confidence. Think about that.

Given that implication, what follows is striking. Senator Kyl voices the two big lies that keep us in Iraq.

The first lie runs like this, Jon Kyl says: "it isn't just the President's plan."

Remember all those meeting with Congresspeople and generals? Senator Kyl is implying that because the President met with these folks that he actually listened to them and incorporated their views into his surge plan instead of doing what he was going to do anyway. That is a bald-faced lie. The surge has NOTHING to do with the advice this President has received from Congress, the consensus of this nation's generals or the hard work of the Iraq Study Group. We all know that.

For the entire length and breadth of the war in Iraq, the President's enablers have made it seem like broad swaths of our nation's leaders were not simply in agreement with the president on Iraq but actively supported his policies there. That is simply not true. It's the "everybody's on board" lie.

That's the lie that kept us in Viet Nam and it is the lie that is keeping us in Iraq.

Remember "the Colin Powell?" Even those who carry water for this President disagree with him privately. The "surge," like every other policy in Iraq, is, at the end of the day, the sole responsibility of Commander in Chief, George W. Bush. To state otherwise is to lie. When has this President worked with those who disagree with him? Never.

I know that some will argue that, for political reasons, some politicians have found it advantageous to appear to side with this President. That is true. I don't contest it. It is why I find the "cuddling" with this President engaged in by Congresswoman Tauscher and Senators Lieberman and McCain, among others, to be so foul. Bush and his enablers USE that cuddling to make it seem like there is consensus for the president's policies in Iraq. Politicking, however, has nothing to do with authorship. George Bush owns "the surge" just like George Bush owns Iraq. It is that simple, in principle and reality.

Second, Senator Kyl gives voice to the second big lie that keeps us in Iraq when he says: "I am sure not privy to all of the counsel that the president has gotten."

No. Senator Kyl, that is a lie. You are the third-ranking Republican in the United States Senate. If you do not know something essential to deciding about the commitment of our nation's armed forces to Iraq then the voters of Arizona should kick your ass out of office. There's a reason for this "big lie"...the "I'm not privy" lie...and it's this: if even United States Senators are not privy to the information needed to judge whether to commit our forces to an escalation in Iraq it means two things:

1. only the President knows, hence, only the President can decide, hence, our nation will only do what this President wants.

2. if the third-ranking Republican Senator in the U.S. Senate doesn't have all the information needed to judge Bush's policy in Iraq, than John Q. Public sure as HELL doesn't. The clear implication here is this: Who the hell are you to question this president, Jane Q. Public, if I, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, won't?

Whether it was "trust us" on WMD. Or "trust us" on reduced troop levels for the invasion. Or "trust us" that "peace is around the corner" the consistent bludgeon to stifle the inevitable questions about Iraq has always been this lie: "even our elected representatives don't have all the information", so take your questions and shove it!! It's that simple. That's the real meaning of "I haven't seen the intelligence about WMD, or Abu Ghraib, or body armor" lie.

They know. They all know. And if they don't, why don't they know?

So, after dishing out two bald-faced lies in service of George Bush's war in Iraq, Senator Kyl tells the stomach-turning truth:

"There is no question there will be an increase in violence."

Of course, Senator Kyl needs to coat the truth with a lie. According to the Senator, that increase in violence will mean we are succeeding in Iraq. More violence equals victory.

You see, according to Senator Kyl, we can't leave Iraq because it would become a violent "failed state." So, instead of looking at the numerous, comprehensive, bipartisan plans for getting out of Iraq, Senator Kyl tells us that we must escalate the war there. That escalation will mean violence.

To stop the bloodshed, we are going to have to shed more blood. To save Iraq, we will burn it to the ground.

Just like we did with Fallujah.


If there's one thing that characterizes the "lies that keep us in Iraq" according to Senator Jon Kyl it's this: they are the same lies that got us there in the first place.

Why is anyone buying them in 2007? When will our leaders in Congress have the guts to stand up to this President and his enablers and say: enough is enough?

I don't know. But if that interview and those equivocations don't make your blood boil like its 2002 all over again, then George Bush and his enablers have won a significant battle here at home.

Enough IS enough. It's that simple.

It's time for Congress to say no to Bush's surge.


  • Once upon a time in this country, there was news analysis during evening news broadcasts that would have dissected Senator Kyle's lies (as well as other congress critters) as you have done here. Now it seems to be limited to the KOs -- Keith Olbermann and Kid Oakland.

    By Blogger Disgusted in St. Louis, at 2:19 AM  

  • "One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one." --Agatha Christie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:25 PM  

  • Kid, That was awesome! I have no idea why Kyl and the rest of them keep floundering in support of this president - what are they getting return? Not the American people's vote, that's for sure. This escalation is just another example of how power corrupts those in high positions to keep hanging on for more "insider" status.

    By Anonymous Archana, at 6:35 AM  

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