President Bush held a press conference today. One reporter asked him the following question:
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I could turn to Iraq for a moment, when you and Prime Minister Blair met at the White House a few months ago, you were asked about mistakes and missteps. And he said the one mistake he made was miscalculating and thinking that a young democracy, as you put it, would be born very quickly after the fall of Saddam.
Are you prepared today to agree with him and acknowledge that you had the same expectations which were wrong?
Mr. Bush’ response (partial answer):
Actually, I think – I can’t remember his answer. I’m sure you’ve characterized it perfectly.
My attitude is that a young democracy has been born quite quickly. And I think the Iraqi government has shown remarkable progress on the political front. And that is that they developed a modern constitution that was ratified by the people and then 12 million people voted for a government.
Which gives me confidence about the future in Iraq, by the way. You know, I hear people say, Well, civil war this, civil war that. The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box. And a unity government is working to respond to the will of the people. And, frankly, it’s quite a remarkable achievement on the political front. (emphasis mine)
Now, that sounds like there is a conflict of opinion with the president and Generals Abizaid and Pace. According to their testimony last week:
“The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it,” Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.”
Both U.S. generals said they think Iraq will be successful in maintaining a stable government in the near future, but their assessment about the possible slide into civil war is something the administration had avoided acknowledging before. (emphasis mine)
Hmmm, maybe someone didn’t take the time to brief the president regarding last week’s hearing…