Monday, April 30, 2007

May 1

Four years ago today, in separate incidents, United States President George W. Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that "major combat" operations had concluded in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

Speaking in Kabul with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Rumsfeld cheerfully declared that
we're at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities. The bulk of this country today is permissive, it's secure. . .

I should underline, however, that there are still dangers, there are still pockets of resistance in certain parts of the country. And General McNeill and General Franks and the cooperation they have with President Karzai's government and leadership and Marshal Fahim's assistance we will be continuing as a country to work with the Afghan government and the new Afghan national army to see that any areas where there is resistance to this government and to the coalition forces will be dealt with promptly and efficiently.
Over the summer of 2003, as Rumsfeld's words drifted into the background, Taliban forces regathered themselves, replenishing their forces from the madrassas in Pakistan from which their movement originally sprung. By 2006, the promised "stability" in Afghanistan had unraveled. In that year, more that 5000 attacks -- especially suicide bombings, IED's and direct-fire incidents -- were launched against Afghan and coalition forces. Meantime, reconstruction efforts lagged badly, with much needed resources and attention diverted to the abattoir in Iraq. By 2007, Afghanistan had reclaimed its position as the world's largest opium producer, with 6100 tons of "God's own medicine" having entered the global market over the previous year.

Less than an hour before Rumsfeld's historic overstatement, George W. Bush took a 30 mile ride on a Navy jet -- a distance easily spanned by the president's less cinematic helicopter -- and enjoyed a tailhook landing aboard the USS Lincoln, which floated off the coast of Southern California. There, after strutting across the deck of the aricraft carrier in his flight suit, got a head start on the 2004 re-election campaign by delivering a speech beneath an enormous banner that declared "Mission Accomplished." As Bush explained,
major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty and for the peace of the world . . . .

This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all of the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country.

And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General Franks and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done.

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