The Plastic Turkey President

Last year President Bush made a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq, put on an Army jacket and served the troops a turkey. The photograph and video of a smiling president serving the loyal troops was played throughout the country — over and over. Only later did we discover that the service was a staged event and the turkey was plastic.

This year there is no plastic turkey. President Bush is in Crawford, TX where the day before Thanksgiving demonstrators were arrested and on Thanksgiving Day Cindy Sheehan arrived saying: "I’m heartbroken that we have to be here again." She expressed disappointment that the troops were not able to spend Thanksgiving at home.

Inside the ranch, the President enjoyed his Thanksgiving meal. The menu: roasted free-range turkey, fresh-milled cornbread dressing, pan gravy, chipotle maple whipped sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and red peppers, green beans supreme, fruit ambrosia, fresh yeast rolls and orange cranberry relish. Dessert was two kinds of pie — Texas pecan and pumpkin.

The plastic turkey president was the same president who warned Americans of a potential Saddam-sent mushroom cloud over the United States — at a time when U.S. intelligence said Saddam had no nuclear weapons; the president who warned of an Iraq attack that could come within 48 hours, when Saddam’s airspace was controlled by the U.S. Air Force and he had no long range bombers; the same president who linked Saddam and Osama — when in fact they were enemies; and the same president who recently proclaimed "The United States does not torture" when the world has seen photographs of U.S. soldiers engaged in prisoner abuse and while his Vice President was lobbying Congress to make sure the CIA was not prevented from using torture.

Thankfully the U.S. public seems to have caught on. A November 11 AP-Ipos Poll found that almost six in 10 — 57 percent — said they do not think the Bush administration has high ethical standards and the same portion says President Bush is not honest. Has the American public — and Congress — had enough experience with the plastic turkey president to withstand the likely next deception?

The pressure to bring the troops home now has built dramatically since Cindy Sheehan was last in Crawford, TX this summer. Since then polling shows the public no longer supports the war, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the war on September 24 and elected officials and mainstream military/foreign service officials of have been constantly criticizing the war. Then the week before Thanksgiving recess the Senate voted "no confidence" in the Iraq War and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) — a Democrat who always supports the military and was the most supportive Democrat in favor the war — urged an immediate redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq to be completed in six months. And, perhaps the most important pressure — the calendar continues to count the days — every day the November 2006 elections get closer and the incumbents sense a ‘throw the bums out’ election year.

President Bush, well aware of this mounting pressure and his mounting unpopularity, is planning an offensive. The Washington Post reported on November 25 that he has a speech planned at the Annapolis Naval Academy next Wednesday and a series of speeches to follow — all defending the Iraq War and proclaiming progress. His speeches are likely to continue the downward spiral toward total distrust as they will be competing with daily news of suicide bombs, IED explosions, deaths of soldiers and deaths of civilians in Iraq. His upbeat picture will strike a discordant note with reality — just as "we don’t torture" contrasts with photos of prisoner abuse.

The Administration is going to have to do something to confuse the debate in Congress in order to relieve the pressure. The only strategy that has a chance of success is to begin withdrawing troops. The Pentagon could bring home 50,000 troops and still leave more than 100,000 troops in Iraq. But that might be enough to quiet Congress. Taking the position of many leading Democrats, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) criticized the President’s Iraq policy — but said U.S. forces remain "part of a solution" in Iraq and should not be withdrawn immediately. Thus, a partial withdrawal may be sufficient to calm Congress — or at least divide Bush’s opposition.

But, the key is the American people — will we be fooled? Or will we recognize that a partial withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops, while a good thing, is really being done to confuse the Iraq War debate. The people must keep demanding — ‘Bring the troops home now!’ — and not be fooled by a partial withdrawal. The Nation magazine recently editorialized: "We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign." They are right to recognize the power of the ballot box in an election year. But they and others who oppose the war must remain clear and steadfast — a partial withdrawal is not enough. Do not be fooled by this mirage — demand an end to the Iraq War and the return of all U.S. soldiers, U.S. corporate interests and stopping the building of 14 permanent military bases.

Remember, we are dealing with a plastic turkey president.