Monday, December 04, 2006

Civil War? Abuse? Manipulation? Really?

Frank Rich says in the New York Times (payment required - I do, so I'll share a bit) (emphasis mine):
When news organizations, politicians and bloggers had their own civil war about the proper usage of that designation last week, it was highly instructive -- but about America, not Iraq. The intensity of the squabble showed the corrosive effect the president's subversion of language has had on our larger culture. Iraq arguably passed beyond civil war months ago into what might more accurately be termed ethnic cleansing or chaos. That we were fighting over 'civil war' at this late date was a reminder that wittingly or not, we have all taken to following Mr. Bush's lead in retreating from English as we once knew it.

It's been a familiar pattern for the news media, politicians and the public alike in the Bush era. It took us far too long to acknowledge that the 'abuses' at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere might be more accurately called torture. And that the 'manipulation' of prewar intelligence might be more accurately called lying.
Yes. Let's call things by their proper names. Rich has more to say about the current president's problem with names - including his problem with actually identifying things:

As Mr. Bush has ricocheted from Vietnam to Latvia to Jordan in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed the troubling behavior of a president who isn’t merely in a state of denial but is completely untethered from reality. It’s not that he can’t handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn’t know what the truth is.

Some examples:

The most startling example was his insistence that Al Qaeda is primarily responsible for the country’s spiraling violence. ... Military intelligence estimates that Al Qaeda makes up only 2 percent to 3 percent of the enemy forces in Iraq... The bottom line: America has a commander in chief who can’t even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in a war that has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II.

But that’s not the half of it. Mr. Bush relentlessly refers to Iraq’s “unity government” though it is not unified and can only nominally govern.
And he traces it to something very serious:

I have not been one to buy into the arguments that Mr. Bush is stupid or is the sum of his “Bushisms” or is, as feverish Internet speculation periodically has it, secretly drinking again. I still don’t. But I have believed he is a cynic — that he could always distinguish between truth and fiction even as he and Karl Rove sold us their fictions. That’s why, when the president said that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq before the midterms, I just figured it was more of the same: another expedient lie to further his partisan political ends.

But that election has come and gone, and Mr. Bush is more isolated from the real world than ever. That’s scary. Neither he nor his party has anything to gain politically by pretending that Iraq is not in crisis. Yet Mr. Bush clings to his delusions with a near-rage — watch him seethe in his press conference with Mr. Maliki — that can’t be explained away by sheer stubbornness or misguided principles or a pat psychological theory. Whatever the reason, he is slipping into the same zone as Woodrow Wilson did when refusing to face the rejection of the League of Nations, as a sleepless L.B.J. did when micromanaging bombing missions in Vietnam, as Ronald Reagan did when checking out during Iran-Contra.
And he points out the scary fact that
The illusion that America can control events on the ground is just that: an illusion. As the list of theoretical silver bullets for Iraq grows longer (and more theoretical) by the day — special envoy, embedded military advisers, partition, outreach to Iran and Syria, Holbrooke, international conference, NATO — urgent decisions have to be made by a chief executive who is in touch with reality (or such is the minimal job description). Otherwise the events in Iraq will make the Decider’s decisions for him, as indeed they are doing already.
He then concludes with this about names:
Civil war? Sectarian violence? A phase? This much is certain: The dead in Iraq don’t give a damn what we call it.

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1 Comments:

At 11:48 PM, December 04, 2006 Anonymous jc had this to say...

The double-speak of this administration is galling. They operate under the premise that repetition makes things true and have no shame at changing positions and pretending previous positions never existed. The most jaw-dropping example I think was that "on Iraq, we've never been 'stay the course'". The level of discourse, as Rich points out, has been so diminished that this barely caused a stir in the media instead of laughing him out of the room.

 

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