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Bush on the "Jihadist equivalent" of the Tet Offensive

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Tony Snow this morning said, "He may be right." Do you agree?

BUSH: He could be right. There's certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we're heading into an election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what's your gut tell you?

BUSH: George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave. And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw

Unbelievable. Where do I start?

First of all, this isn't what Republican candidates want to hear on the eve of a hard-fought, high-stakes election. Iraq is like Vietnam? You mean we're losing in Iraq? D'oh!

Second, the comparison is not apt. Tet was a military loss for the NVA and the Viet Cong but a propaganda victory that was meant to sap the will of American policy-makers and the American public. The current horror in Iraq is the result of a civil war with the Americans caught in the middle. Unless the insurgents, God forbid, break through the perimeter of the Green Zone and started killing the inhabitants, we're not nearly looking at the same thing now as then.

Third, the Iraq war is far more unpopular now than the Vietnam war was in January of 1968 (which was a presidential election year, not a midterm election year).

Finally, the invocation of al-Qaeda's name is a transparent attempt to conflate the Iraq war with the war on terror. Nice try, but no cigar.

So here's the question: How long before the White House Communications Office issues a "clarification" of Bush's remarks?


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