Almost every time I've heard President Bush talk over most of the last six years, I felt like the guy was speaking to me from a parallel dimension. A Disneyland, happy-face universe, where freedom was always on the march, and terrorists were just about to be smoked out of their holes. No matter how bad Iraq got, the good guys were winning. No matter how many people got blown up, everything was just fine.Tonight was different. A visibly nervous President Bush stepped out of the Magic Kingdom, and spoke to us, for once, from the White House. He described an Iraq that matched up to the one my friends serving there describe - the one I've seen myself. He was honest about the challenges ahead. And he was straight-up about how his plan to settle Iraq down hadn't worked.
When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation... We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq particularly in Baghdad overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraqs elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam the Golden Mosque of Samarra in a calculated effort to provoke Iraqs Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people and it is unacceptable to me.Now, I'm pretty damn skeptical that Bush's solution for Iraq -- 21,500 more U.S. troops -- is really going to turn things around. There are some intriguing elements, yeah. And there are some good, new commanders to carry the strategy out -- ones who seem ready to commit to counterinsurgency's most basic tenets. But it all seems like too little, too late.The only way this plan even has the smallest scrap of hope of working is if it's governed by cold-eyed reality, not fuzzy-headed wishes. So give the President credit, at least, for driving out of Disneyland.