If you thought the speech Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave to Congress the other day sounded awfully familiar, you’re not the only one. The speech hit upon all of the Bush Administration’s favorite talking points about Iraq like how it’s the front line in the War!On!Terror!, how the Iraqi people were now free, along with plenty of attempts to tie it all into 9/11 and—the Republicans’ all time favorite bogeyman—al-Qaida. It made for a lot of deja vu moments listening to it and Fred Kaplan of Slate appears to have had a similar reaction:
He expressed gratitude to Congress for standing with the Iraqi people—a line that drew the loudest and longest of several standing ovations (self-righteousness being the favorite sentiment on Capitol Hill). He described Iraq as a country where people “rely on dialogue to resolve their differences,” where “women are equal to men” (in the constitution anyway), and where he plans very soon to establish a free-market economy and to loosen restrictions on foreign investment. These fairy tales, too, triggered what the transcripts of speeches before the Soviet Union’s Central Committee used to call “stormy applause.”
Maliki gave not a hint that most of the violence gripping Iraq these days has nothing to do with al-Qaida-type terrorism—and everything to do with sectarian conflicts, if not outright civil war, between and among the native Sunni and Shiite Arabs.
Did Bush aides write the speech? White House spokesman Tony Snow said at his daily press conference that there had been “conversations about the speech” ahead of time—from which one could reasonably infer that they engaged, at least, in heavy editing.
It’s not like the move would be unprecedented as Kaplan points out that White House handlers did the honors for al-Maliki’s predecessor, Iyad Allawi, two years earlier. It’s just a further example of how this Administration tries desperately to control the information it gives out to, not only the public, but Congress in hopes of keeping people from realizing what a bunch of fuck ups they are.
Which is why it’s ironic that the Administration then turned around and announced that they were going to be sending more troops into Iraq because Baghdad has become one of the inner-most rings of Hell in terms of the violence and bloodshed taking place. It was particularly telling listening to Bush make the announcement as he struggled (and failed) to find a way to break the news without it sounding like an admission that things weren’t going swimmingly in Iraq.