Skip to comments.CASE CLOSED: The President's Closing Argument
Posted on 10/08/2002 9:27:54 AM PDT by Sabertooth
October 8, 2002, 9:00 a.m.
The presidents closing argument.
he president stood before 500 civic leaders in Cincinnati's historic Union Terminal like an attorney addressing the jury at the end of a difficult trial. The preliminaries had taken place long ago. The facts? Still in dispute, some say, but they frequently are in cases of this nature. He made the opening statement before the United Nations on September 12, only blocks from the site of one of the attacks that had helped bring the case to trial. A month of debate followed, at times rancorous, other times staid, but rarely reaching the tone set at the beginning. Now, the closing argument, to frame the deliberations before the vote. The president spoke deliberately, in a conversational, almost subdued tone, which underscored the seriousness of the moment. His attitude was relaxed, but earnest. He did not play for laughs, did not exaggerate, or employ devices for their own sake. He laid out the argument with Euclidean precision, proceeding from postulate to conclusion, tracing the history of the threat, its development, its current urgency, and the means necessary to deal with it.
His speech was an extended ratiocination, a series of questions and detailed answers ordered to reflect the reasoning process by which he and his advisors had arrived at their policy. Why is Iraq a unique threat? How urgent is this danger? How is this threat related to the war on terror? Why must we act now? How have prior actions failed to produce results? What can we do differently? What will be the outcome? In his answers, there was nothing new, as critics said; surely nothing new to regular readers of NRO. However, in its exactitude, its completeness, its wholeness, the president's 3,300-word speech encapsulated a complex situation decades in the making. For those who had argued that the president has not yet made his case, this address was the definitive response.
President Bush's opponents have been pressed to find solid ground of their own. They agree with him on many of the premises. The weapons? Probably there. The regime? Undeniably venal. For many observers, including yours truly, this simple combination of capacity and intent is sufficient to constitute a national-security threat. The conundrum now faced by the president's critics is explaining why to them it does not. Backed into this logical corner, they have ventured out in other directions. Some attack the means of responding to the threat, accusing the president of "unilateralism" in his unwillingness to allow other states to have veto power over actions taken to secure vital U.S. national interests. In this they mistake a diplomatic posture for an extant reality, and as country after country signs on to the effort to disarm Iraq, the argument assumes increasingly strained forms (e.g., Bush is unilateralist because Britain may hypothetically decide not to continue its strong support, but he will forge ahead anyway).
Others maintain there has been insufficient deliberation, which is by itself the sum of their argument. The president has made his case as clearly as he possibly can, the peace faction will never be convinced no matter what, which leaves only those who keep repeating that more discussions must be held, but who have no particular points to make beyond that. It is a safe position, it risks nothing, but it also says as much. It generates respect for the Left by comparison regardless of one's opinion of the substance of Congressman McDermott's position, one can give him credit for having a position.
The soft opposition has also fallen back on non-arguments such as "we can't know for sure what will happen under a given scenario" which of course states but a truism. One can never know the future; but that fact ought not to induce paralysis. The essence of leadership is not only being able to balance the risks inherent in any complex decision, but also to choose between them, to take action. One may not know the future, but a leader is not willing to allow it to emerge without his imprint. This is what separates a president from a placeholder.
President Bush's partisan opponents are trapped. An election looms which will determine the control of Congress. If they acquiesce to the president, they will alienate the members of their liberal activist base, who may then sit out the election and cost them the Senate. But if they oppose the president too strenuously, the middle, swayed by the simple necessity to respond in some fashion to the Iraqi threat, will desert them. Thus, they seek an argument which will allow them to balance these forces, to obfuscate, to deflect. These same people, who only weeks ago were demanding a full and thorough discussion, an extended national debate, now complain that the president is using the controversy to divert attention from other matters - a clear sign that they are losing the argument. But in the end it comes down to a vote, something objective and unambiguous, an either-or (less abstaining). The pre-vote speeches will be filled with hedging rhetoric, but few will remember the justifications, only the outcome. Then it will be up to the president to use his grant of power to bring about the objectives he has so clearly defined.
Saddam Hussein, in a speech to his military leaders, also laid out a case, the argument for defending his regime. He cast Iraq in the role of the small, proud country being set upon by the rapacious global hegemon. He explained, using appeals that the Melians would find familiar, why capitulation was not an option, even in the face of overwhelming force. "Iraq was not born to do this," he stated, thrice. God and right are on their side. The enemy will be defeated, his objectives frustrated, and the Iraqis will live as free men. In the last, at least, we have a common goal.
James S. Robbins is a national-security analyst & NRO contributor.
I happen to believe that there is an even stronger case than the one the President has made, but that many of those details won't be revealed for some time, if ever.
In any event, President Bush has more than answered the "concerns" of his critics, who'd prefer to sit on their hands while Iraq races to a position from where they can blackmail nations with their WMDs.
It's time for Congress and the UN to get on the record as being on the right side of the coming Iraq War.
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I'm still hopeful that all this saber rattling (no pun intended) will result in Iraq changing its own regime. Not very hopeful, but hopeful.
Think for a moment, about how regime change in the Soviet Union led to a decentralization of control over their WMDs which exists to this day. Subsequent proliferation of these technologies is a great worry. Even some of Saddam's WMD programs can be traced to this.
Any simple "regime change" in Iraq would be no better, and in some ways, it would be worse. No new regime could be certain it had all of the WMDs or the scientists with the know-how to produce them completely under wraps.
All of that would fall into the hands of the highest Islamist bidder. The threat would remain, and in some ways, would worsen.
Internal Iraqi "regime change" is a phantom solution.
The best solution is a devastating war that persuades all other would-be megalomaniacs of the folly of Saddam's path.
I'm down with that, but screw the UN. It's an irrelevant organization.
Put another way, W has made a sufficient case for war, though his actual reasons may be different (and presumably even more compelling).
A fair question.
The basic structure of the speech -- the various questions asked -- were probably compiled by Bush and by advisors over the course of many months. IMHO, these questions have been on the table for a long time, and have guided American strategy.
Bush's answers likewise represent partial answers to those questions, and are probably distilled from many discussions, debates, studies, and analyses by military, intel, and national security people -- and finally discussed and decided upon at the Cabinet level.
The speech itself represents Bush's own take on the conclusions -- again probably carefully vetted among his national security staff.
I believe one key point that has yet to be made is the link between Iraq, the anthrax letters, and 9/11. I believe such a smoking gun link is likely to exist.
Where's the smoke?
I believe it's here:White House Mail Machine Has Anthrax
...Asked if he was tested for the germ that has killed three people already this month, or if he was taking precautionary antibiotics, Bush replied simply: "I don't have anthrax."
At least some White House personnel were given Cipro six weeks ago. White House officials won't discuss who might be receiving the anthrax-treating antibiotic now.
On the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House Medical Office dispensed Cipro to staff accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney as he was secreted off to the safety of Camp David, and told them it was "a precaution," according to one person directly involved.
LINK, October 23rd, 2001
I believe there was a thus far unpublicized credible threat of an anthrax attack on White House personnel on September 11th, 2001. Why else administer Cipro?
Remember, this was days before the first known attack in Florida, which wasn't even considered an attack initially. That links anthrax to 9/11, not domestic terrorists.
And anthrax means Saddam. So anthrax on 9/11 means Saddam on 9/11.
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