That was a tremendous speech. It wasn’t a tremendous piece of rhetoric, but this grave moment doesn’t call for it. The president was plainspoken, stern and unrelenting. He laid the case out for the war as cleanly as he could. Here are the notes I took:
1) “Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again, because we are not dealing with peaceful men.” Time for the illusions about human evil to end.
2) “Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course for safety. … This danger will be removed.” America is not going to sit around waiting to be hit again; we’re going to do something about it.
3) “This is not a question of authority. This is a question of will.” This is not an illegal war. The two UN Security Council resolutions authorizing the Gulf War are still in effect, and Saddam Hussein has clearly violated Resolution 1441.
4) France, Germany, Russia and others (he named none of these countries) are cowards. America and her allies are not. “These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it. … The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.”
5) America is coming not as the conqueror of the Iraqi people, but as their liberator.
6) The American homeland may face terrorist attacks because of the coming conflict. Be prepared.
7) Given the realities of the world we live in today, there is more risk in not acting against tyrants like Saddam than in acting. The president recalled the 9/11 surprise attacks, and said that given the existence of WMDs, “a policy of appeasement can bring forth a destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.” America’s enemies today don’t play by the old rules. “Responding to those enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense; it is suicide.” (I hope the Pope was listening to that.)
It can’t be clearer than that. Resolved: this is a just war, a necessary war, and a war that will be led by a commander-in-chief we can believe in.