Bush Demonstrates Misunderstanding of Terrorist Threat

In his radio address today, President Bush once again demonstrated he does not have an understanding of the threat we face:

Bush: “[The terrorists] believe that with a few hard blows, and the televised repetition of horrific images of violence, they can force us to retreat.” [Radio address, 7/9/05]

That’s not in fact what Bin Laden and company believe, and that is not their modus operandi. The terrorists are willing to fight over the long-term and have repeatedly demonstrated their patience. As Michael Scheuer, former chief bin Laden tracker at the CIA, said, “[B]in Laden has been at this now for the better part of 20 years; he’s a patient man.” [Newshour, 12/16/04]

Bush quoted bin Laden in his June 28th speech on Iraq. Had he read the rest of bin Laden’s message to the Iraqi people, he would have come across this statement:

Bin Laden: “No doubt, you recall the words of the conceited one who said ‘I will settle the battle in six days or seven weeks.’ You recall Bush’s words, when he said ‘the major operations are over,’ just a few weeks after the beginning of the war. They think that the people in front of them are sheep and that the whole thing is a picnic in Panama. They did not know that the lions of Al-Shara and Khiffan [locations in Arabic literature] are in the field, carrying their souls on the palms of their hands. They are trained on patience and endurance. Their victory is joy and their death is martyrdom.”

Bush’s prescription for winning remains the same:

Bush: “In the face of such adversaries, there is only one course of action: We will continue to take the fight to the enemy, and we will fight until the enemy is defeated.” [Radio address, 7/9/05]

If Bush is operating under the mistaken impression that the terrorists just want to strike “a few hard blows” and that we must simply “stay the course,” then clearly the violence will only intensify over time. When’s the last time you heard Bush talk about winning “hearts and minds”? And where’s the strategy for that?