Selected comments from Tony Snow’s conference call with bloggers, just completed:
“We pursued the surge to create enough security and stability in order to create maneuvering room for the Iraqi government to deal with sectarian and regional tensions…
The military part comes first… The political progress comes after that has created the maneuvering room. Political progress is not the leading indicator, it is the lagging indicator… If you take a look, we’ve seen a significant decrease in violence, IEDs and sectarian tensions in Baghdad… There has been considerable turnaround in Anbar. You now have the real prospect of a civil society and blooming economy in Anbar.”
“The purpose of benchmarks is not to find excuses to leave, it is to measure progress… “On the economic side the Iraqis are stepping up… It’s a mixed bag, but progress there as well.”
“We need a surge of facts. We’re going to be working on. I’m going to be doing it from the podium. Only images they have are carnage and death.
There have been very few visuals to confirm what Americans want to believe. We have an amazing and heroic American military. Only way to change public opinion [on Iraq] is to present a fuller, more nuanced and more accurate picture.”
“We’re gonna present bad news too. You have to… It’s a miracle anyone supports the war, based on the characterizations that have been painted.”
“I was saying last week, that no matter what happens in Iraq, we’re gonna plant a seed. It’s either going to be a seed of democracy, or a seed of tyranny.”
Snow laid out how leaving Iraq to al-Qaeda empowers them, affects the region, which then spreads out there through Europe and elsewhere. Nations and groups hedge their bets, grow closer to Iran or al-Qaeda and shift their policies and allegiances further away from us.
“The idea that just leaving creates peace is just wrong.”
“As people who have looked at Michael Yon’s reporting, there’s some real evil going on here… I don’t know if the White House is the proper conduit for those kinds of images, in fact it probably isn’t, but Americans need to get a sense of the kind of evil that we’re dealing with. Al-Qaeda is not a liberating force, they’re an invading force.”
Q: Rasmussen has a poll out today saying only 19 percent of Americans “believe the American surge was a success – like it’s over!”
Snow: That’s just an irresponsible and sloppy poll question. Sorry Rasmussen, but it is.
Mirengoff of Powerline: You had an e-mail blitz, two three, four times a day during immigration.
Snow: We’re going to retool what we’re doing here and be a lot more aggressive. Also, check the web site…
“These guys [lawmakers] are responding to what they’re hearing at home (in their home states and districts) and what they’re hearing at home is based on what they see on their television screens.”
“Americans don’t want failure in Iraq. They want reassurance that the mission is constructed in a manner that can lead to success.”
“Sunni parties are now talking about everybody working together. Iraqi government understands the importance of American public support. They realize a certain amount of urgency in making progress.”
On explaining the surge is not just more troops doing the same thing but a different, more aggressive, and so-far, more effective way of engaging and defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq: This is one we’re gonna have to pound and pound and pound and pound… You need not merely some facts, but some images that make people say, “ah-ha, so that’s what we’ve been doing.” … You can’t be timid, but you hav eto be careful. You put out one piece of bogus information, and you get killed… We’re going to defend the facts and be vigorous. I would rather have us out there and telling the story as opposed to a reactive component.”
“The only way you’re going to change Congressional opinion is to change public opinion.”
Asked for victory in a phrase, Snow tried, “Iraqis able to control the basics of their state, and to provide for their own security and freedoms.” One caller wanted “defeat al-Qaeda” in there, prompting Snow to give a much longer one.
This is not a typical war. Al-Qaeda is not going to come to the table and sign a document of surrender.
Q: Why is al-Sadr still alive?
Snow: (chuckles) Because he is… We’re not doing assassinations, but according to the press reports I’ve read, he’s not in Iraq.