Doing It for the Soldiers

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, December 14, 2006; 11:32 AM

One of President Bush's most emotional arguments against cutting our losses in Iraq and coming home is that doing so would be a betrayal of those soldiers who have already made the ultimate sacrifice there.

For instance, at his October 25 press conference, Bush spoke of having met "too many wives and husbands who have lost their partners in life, too many children who won't ever see their mom and dad again. I owe it to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain."

Yesterday, after a meeting at the Pentagon, Bush again repeatedly invoked the troops and their sacrifices, even as he continued to drop clues that his much-anticipated "way forward" in Iraq will amount to little more than another tactical change in support of what many experts -- and most Americans -- now think is an unattainable goal.

Here's the text and video of his remarks.

"I do want to say something to those who wear our uniform," he said. "The men and women in uniform are always on my mind. I am proud of them. I appreciate their sacrifices. And I want them to know that I am focused on developing a strategy that will help them achieve their mission."

Pool reporter Finlay Lewis of the Copley News Service, who was watching from nearby, wrote to his colleagues that Bush "seemed to become particularly emotional in addressing the troops in Iraq -- his eyes seeming to redden somewhat as he spoke."

Bush is certainly far from alone in being moved by the sacrifices of those in uniform. And nobody wants to believe that soldiers have died in vain.

But if they have, sending more soldiers to die after them doesn't make it better -- it only makes it worse.

And according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, even this potent attempt to pull on American heartstrings isn't enough to overcome the public's profound distaste for the current effort.

The poll asked: "Do you think the United States has an obligation to American soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq to remain in Iraq until the mission there is completed, or not?"

A stunning 53 percent of respondents said the U.S. has no such obligation, compared to 39 percent who say it does.

Yesterday's Meeting

Bush is showing little change in his the-only-way-we-lose-is-if-we-leave rhetoric.

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