PRESIDENT Bush's speech Tuesday night on the war in Iraq broke no new ground. In fact, with many references to Sept. 11, Mr. Bush appeared to be trying once again, through repetition, to establish a false link in Americans' minds between the 2001 attack on the United States and America's attack on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
The speech, before a military audience at Fort Bragg, N.C., came in the midst of a flurry of questioning in the Congress, including within Mr. Bush's own Republican Party, of the rationale for continuing what has turned out to be a long and bloody war, with no apparent end in sight. In particular, calls have been growing for Mr. Bush to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the 140,000 U.S. forces there.
The President made it clear Tuesday that there would be no such timetable. Nor did he announce any other substantive change in the administration's plan. He continued to insist that Iraqi forces would be able to pick up the job of assuring security.
Recent polls indicate that most Americans continue to have faith in Mr. Bush's approach to terrorism. Yet support of his Iraq war policy has now dropped well below 50 percent, which could explain his new attempt to somehow link the two.
The situation in Iraq at this point promises virtually no hope. Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on occasion radiantly optimistic on such subjects, said Sunday the Iraqi insurgency could go on for another 12 years. The Sunnis and Shiites both have now mounted substantial militias and are increasingly targeting each other, approaching a situation tantamount to civil war.
Mr. Bush had an opportunity Tuesday to adjust his administration's course on Iraq, adapting policy to changing circumstances.
He didn't take it, and chose instead to try again to sell the disproved Sept. 11-Saddam Hussein link as justification of the disastrous war he has foisted upon America.