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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2005
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EDITORIAL

President Bush neglected to 'Plan for Victory' in Iraq

President Bush on Wednesday laid out his plan for ending a war many believe we waged on a false premise.

In a nationally televised speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Mr. Bush — flanked by placards with the words "Plan for Victory" — told the American people his objective in the war in Iraq.

"When our mission of training the Iraqi security forces is complete, our troops will return to a proud nation," the president said. "We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission."

This comes more than two years after Mr. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."

He said a timetable to withdraw American troops would be "set by conditions on the ground, not by politicians in Washington," and he condemned those who would set an "artificial timeline."

Mr. Bush began his address by stating the war began Sept. 11, 2001. Talk about artificial timelines. The war on terror began long before 9/11. Suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000, and terrorists tried to take down the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993.

But Mr. Bush's rhetoric has always depended on his ability to interchange references to the war in Iraq with the war on terror.

The war in Iraq was not initially about international terrorism. The March 2003 invasion was about regime change and toppling a corrupt tyrant. There has been no proof offered of a connection between the Iraqi regime and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Iraq war has become a part of the larger war on terror only because the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq provides a rallying place for international terrorists. It gives their wrath a focus and continues to feed their ability to recruit.

In spite of the political rhetoric, the debate about the war in Iraq has never been about Americans' support of our troops. We are firmly behind them and proud of their brave accomplishments.

Nor has the debate been about setting an artificial date for withdrawal, although an estimated date for success is an essential element.

Setting aside the rhetoric and the political posturing, Mr. Bush's speech did provide the American people and our troops with a stated goal in Iraq, the ability of Iraqi security forces to defend their new democracy.

The reality is that we are there and regime change is under way. What we need now is fewer slogans and more specifics about our progress toward that goal.

Mr. Bush needs to realize that a strategy for exit is part of the strategy for success.

It is part of planning for victory.

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