Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mission Accomplished vs. Mission Changed (or Turn the Page): An open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

I am cynical-maybe more than most.  But while watching the speech, I began to chuckle.  A few times, I outright roared with laughter.  Admittedly the laughter was caused by disbelief at the transparency of why you felt the need to take up 20 minutes of Primetime television.  If I were an east coaster, I would be ticked --- I would rather watch a rerun of NCIS then the rerun of this speech – I can imagine, if we were in your room kicking back with a beer, you would ask: Well Lisa, what do you mean?  What I mean is that we have seen this exact speech before, and I for one remember it.

First, I do not want to diminish the fact that our boys are coming home.  I fully support the military and the families of the military men that serve.  What gets me going is the political rhetoric you used tonight in your speech that I have entitled:  Mission Accomplished” vs. “Mission changed (or turn the page)”

President Obama, you said:  “So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”  Unless anyone has forgotten, on May 1, 2003, President Bush said, “Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”  Like I said, Mr. Obama, I have heard this speech before.

Why not be truthful with the American people.  We aren’t stupid; in fact we are pretty bright.  President Obama, you said in your speech tonight, “This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.”  And the truth is your party is some major, major trouble if the polls are to be believed.  You are scrambling. People are mad at you, something that the polls support -- you know the same polls you used to point out American's disssatisfcation with the last guy that had your job. (I would now strategically pause for a cool sip of my beer). Why not tell the American people that the pull out of the Stryker unit was wholly symbolic?  And that our troops remain there, doing what they have since President Bush made his declaration……largely backing up Iraqi troops.  Mr. President, do not patronize me and please, please, please --- stop the rhetoric.

I have to tell you, that as I continued to listen to your speech, Mission Accomplished filled my mind.  You said, Mr. President, “From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.”  Oh Mr. President, you chose your words very carefully. You said “fight” instead of “war.”  This plants the illusion that major combat has been going on all this time.  That your administration is responsible for some mighty change (which by the way you promised us all).  While it is true that you have reduced troop levels in Iraq, it’s also true that troop levels are increasing in Afghan.  By using the word “fight” – you didn’t outright lie to us, but creates a fallacy and an illusion that does not exist.

Furthermore, Mr. President, you said:  “The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.”  That’s right they did.  God Bless them --- but wow,Once again you repeated the words of mission accomplished.  You also said that combat has shifted to security, that elections had been accomplished – well, so did President Bush….again, nothing new there.

Okay, now for the part that made me laugh until I nearly peed myself.  I mean, my sides still hurt (again, I take a cool sip of beer because by now I am really worked up and hoping that I don't get arrested for not kissing butt) Mr.  President, you also said, “Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.”  Can you imagine my mirth when I heard this one?  Oh it’s the double whammy!  It’s the rhetoric galore.  It is so transparent as to almost make someone choke.  And so patronizing that honestly, I am aghast. Where do I begin to explain to you just how insulting it really was?

First of all – you have spent the last several years avoiding President Bush.  Blaming and demonizing him.  “Time to turn the page.”  On what?  There are two messages embedded in this message – each means something very, very different.  One is to the President Bush supporters who might still exist and the subtext of it reads a little something like this, “Hey, I talked to your buddy.  We made friends.  I might not have always agreed with what he did, but he is a great patriot and we are united.”  Sounds good, right? You, the nice guy image that you have carefully cultivated, making peace and acknowledging President Bush for his vision and commitment to our country.  Until you read the more cynical message and subtext.  This one goes to the rest of America and goes something like this.  “So yeah, it’s President Bush’s fault for this war.  Remember that.  I am cleaning up his mess.  I mean, I know he really said he supported the troops, but I am the one that got them out finally.  But I have to play nice now.  And we are united” Gosh, I am still laughing at this line……….You Mr. President, have steel cahonas.

Both speeches, Mission Accomplished and Mission Changed, scorned terrorism and named Al Qaeda as enemy numero uno.  So, rerun.
President Obama:  “Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.”  President Bush said something very similar in Mission Accomplished, “The Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on.”  Same sentiment, so in essence, a rerun.

President Obama: “Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government.”  Did you catch that one ladies and gentlemen?  More mission accomplished speech while claiming we are turning the page.  Our troops remain, just as they have since 2003.

Here was my next big chuckle and laugh out loud moment (really you should have polled me before giving this speech because I am quite sure you didn't mean to make me laugh).  President Obama:  “Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners. New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.”  Immediately what came to mind was, do you mean America and Iraq – or President Bush and President you?  Hum………. Depends on who you are I guess---giving you the benefit of the doubt, I shall believe you meant both.....generous aren't I?  Oh, and this beer is really good.

Now next in the speech is where you backhandedly blame our economic hardships on the cost of war, and the old administration (i.e. Bush).  (I guess we are no longer united).  What you did not acknowledge is that several Billion was spent by your administration in failed bailout attempts.  So the financial point of this speech was really to blame the Bush and Republican Congress theme we have been hearing for the last three years.  And even more implicit in this part of the speech is it’s all the war, we spent too much on that, instead of blaming the Congress for gorging at the table of the taxpayers.  And now that their bellies are full and they are uncomfortable, and the rest of us are starving and starting to wake up – you have to do something to protect your party.  You might actually just try to distance yourself.

Another thing, “ Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security.”  President Bush, “Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition.”  A little more concise, but Mission Accomplished again!  Mr. Obama, this is nothing new.  Same old, same old.

And there are a few, well let’s just say, little stretches of the truth or imagination:  “We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.”  Unfortunately this is not happening Mr. Obama, and I for one am outraged.  The help is coming from the private sector with the help of Veteran’s Associations like the one a friend of mine Greg Warnock runs, there are some legislation moving to help and protect servicemen and women who suffer from these issues.  The military is still turning a blind eye to it…..but you want us to believe that you are doing all you can to help?  Talk to someone who does not know the truth on this issue.  And stop invoking powerful imagery of soldier’s being kissed by their mothers and hugged by their spouses to sell us this piece of misinformation.  I am insulted....and here is your beer back!

Mr. Obama when you said, “And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hope,”  it was a well crafted sentence, but we have heard this one from you before.  Change we can believe in.  I find it simply ironic that “change we can believe in so we don’t get more of the same” is in fact, shoveling us more of the same.

Rhetoric is defined as the art of speaking or writing effectively.  As always, your delivery was beautiful.  Your speech was even powerful, I mean, I even wanted to believe you……but was it effective? Maybe.  But for me, I think your speech writer should be fired for plagiarism (I am a recent law school graduate and could have done better.  You talked about wanting to put people to work, how about a job?)  We have heard this all before seven years ago from a different president. A president you made fun of.  A presidnet that you called a liar for Mission Accomplishent.  But here you are selling the same line of malarkey.  This mission has not been accomplished; it’s been shifted to a different country.  Let’s look at the death toll numbers for proof.  The last three months have seen our troops have the HIGHEST LEVEL of casualties in seven years…………ALL TROOPS.

I for one am not stupid Mr. Obama…..and I am watching and listening to you. And I, for one, am not sold.

The cynical Me.

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