The president was in Alabama the other day for a couple of events, including a fundraising reception for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who's up for re-election next year. Bush delivered a fairly predictable speech
on Sessions' behalf, but one comment stood out.
The president was explaining how his current war policy came together:
"I listened very carefully to senators like Jeff Sessions and senators who didn't agree with what Jeff and I believed was necessary. I listened to our military. That's what you want your President doing. [...]
"So I made the decision to name a new commander, as well as send troops into Baghdad, all aiming to give this young democracy a chance to survive the relentless attacks from extremists and radicals who want to prevent their emergence." (emphasis added)
This comes up from time to time, but the president is simply wrong. He makes this claim quite a bit, but Bush didn't
shape his policy on the advice of "our military." Remember this
When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against. [...]
It may also be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion.
In November, after the election, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid rejected the notion of a so-called surge, saying that he "met with every divisional commander, Gen. Casey, the core commander, Gen. Dempsey" and asked them if bringing "in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said, 'No.'"
Indeed, Bush fired Gen. Casey, in large part because he neglected to tell the president what he wanted to hear.
And yet, here we are, just a few months later, watching Bush brag about how his policy followed the advice of the generals -- which is "what you want your President doing." Please.
If Bush wants to reject the advice of top military leaders, that's his prerogative; he is regrettably the Commander in Chief. But he really needs to drop this I-listened-to-our-military schtick.