William Shawcross is the prominent British author whose father, Sir Hartley Shawcross, was a Labour MP, attorney for Winston Churchill, and lead Nuremberg prosecutor (as well as prosecutor of Lord Haw-Haw). We have had the great good fortune of striking up a transatlatic friendship with Mr. Shawcross and would like to bring to your attention his current Spectator column on Iraq: “To abandon Iraq would be to court disaster.” Caroline Glick’s column powerfully addresses related issues: “Postcards from Saigon.” And Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal column reports on his visit with President Bush in the Oval Office earlier this week touching on the themes of both columns:
What struck me Wednesday was how Mr. Bush’s public news conference was almost wholly about the Iraqis and their government, and how his private conversation with us was mostly about the stakes for the American people. Over these war years, there should have been more of the latter. Admittedly, it is difficult to convey in public the urgency about the war on terror that Mr. Bush conveys in private. But it is obvious that he regards the threat to the American people as palpable.
“My biggest issue that I think about all the time,” Mr. Bush says, “is the next attack on America, because I am fully aware that there are people out there that would like nothing more than to have another spectacular moment by killing American people. And they’re coming. And we’ve got to do everything we can to stop them. That’s why we need to be on offense all the time.” This, he insists, is the justification for the terrorist wiretaps, the Patriot Act, the interrogations and the Iraq war.
Mr. Bush goes on offense himself in the kind of plain speech that maddens his detractors but may endear him in the heartland: “Maybe it’s not nuanced enough for some of the thinkers and all that stuff–that’s fine. But that’s exactly what a lot of people like me think.”
On the nation’s sense of frustration: “You don’t have to tell me people are out there looking for something. I’m from Texas. My buddies are saying, ‘Are you doing enough?’–not, ‘Are you doing too little?’ They want to know, ‘Are we winning?’ They want to know, this mighty country, are we doing what it takes to win?”
The burden of war, however, has not sapped Mr. Bush physically as it did Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Recalling the deep toll that war and partisanship imposed on their presidencies, I looked closely at Mr. Bush for similar evidence: none. The hair’s gone gray, but there is little sign of fatigue in his face or demeanor. I asked how he stays normal: “Prayer and exercise.”
He dismisses the notion that Iraq is a mistake or a distraction: “This stuff about how Iraq is causing the enemy . . . whatever excuse they need, they have made up their mind to attack and they grab onto things to justify. If it’s not Iraq, it’s Israel. If it’s not Israel, it’s the Crusades. If it’s not the Crusades, it is the cartoon.”