Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Parsing the Bush Message and a Note on Bravery

Rami G. Khouri reports on Bush's Terror Tales at Tom Paine.

There is something sad about a grown man playing children's make-believe war games in a tree-house in grandpa's back yard--which is how George W. Bush came across Thursday night in his speech on the importance of winning the war in Iraq in the global battle against terrorism. Rarely does a leader of a great country like the United States malign history, his people's intelligence and the dignity of over a billion Muslims in one speech. But Bush did that Thursday night and will probably keep doing it for a while.

[. . .]

The president's speech Thursday night was most compelling for its capacity to say nothing new--nothing that he has not said repeatedly in the past three years‚--while adding new layers of misinterpretation and diversionary confusion that he sells to the American public on the basis of emotionalism, patriotism and nostalgia. His main thesis sums up his shameful misanalysis: "The war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.''

Really? The decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century is launched by a small band of criminal deviants like Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri from caves in Afghanistan, who play on the lost minds and restless psyches of young, mainly Arab and Pakistani men already angered by conditions in their societies? The terror problem is one that some good quality American high school guidance counselors could probably diagnose accurately, if given a chance to do so without the distorting dictates of domestic politics.

I can think of a lot more credible candidates for this century's decisive ideological struggle, including fighting poverty, expanding equitable global trading patterns, promoting good governance and the rule of law around the world, giving ordinary people everywhere a sense of being treated with dignity and justice, safeguarding the global environment and a few others.

[. . .]

Bush also does a disservice to the world and insults his own people's intelligence by mixing together into one ideological movement what is in reality a range of very different movements, inspired by different local and global causes. By linking Iraq, the recent Israel-Hezbollah war, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Syrian policies as elements in a single threat that must be fought by America's freedom agenda, he generates a common threat that does not exist as a single, coordinated adversary. This is one reason why Bush is having such a hard time with his foreign policies achieving any goals in the Middle East, or reducing the threat of terror attacks.

[. . .]

George W. Bush is responding to the terror of what started as a small band of miscreants with a shameful form of intellectual terror that has empowered them to recruit and expand. It is tragically sad when a man who should know better behaves like an adolescent and fights make-believe enemies in tree-house environments.

That pretty much encapsulates what leaves me cold when contemplating the pronouncements of President Bush. It is the extreme conflation of history, international political reality, the nature of terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, the confusion of cause with effect, and the scrunching of complex matters into one one or two political sound bites. It insults my intellect. All nuance and complexity have been whitewashed away.

I no longer care to meditate on his motives. He might be, as some claim, a true believer of what he says. He might not possess the intellectual requirements to lead the US. He might be a tool of ideologues. He might be the rankest of political opportunists and cynics. He might be a man mesmerized by the prospect of obtaining absolute power.

Whatever his motivations might be, he is totally and irretrievably wrong. Too many very smart people still buy into the sort of political speachifying we hear from President Bush. As to their motivations for believing him I write it off to wish fulfillment on my more charitable days.

Simplistic messages such as "the global war on terror", "cut and run", etc., create their own corollary messages; those who parse the Bush Message and find it lacking in all degrees and dimensions are cowards, traitors, or fools. As the ranks of the true believers shrinks, the epithets encompass more people. The political pundits and journalists on the extreme right don't understand that calling someone skeptical of the Bush Message a coward and traitor might anger the skeptic to the point where they might care as little about logic or reason as the worst of the radical right. Now that they have made it personal, it changes everything.

Who are these political pundits who so bravely talk about blind maniacal war as the answer to every political dispute? What are their military and war records? Look it up and you will find that almost to a person they have no credentials to call into question another person's bravery. We have a league of well protected armchair generals inciting others to carry the fight to the enemy.

There are folks on the right who make an heroic effort to add nuance, meaning, and perspective to the Bush Message. What they fail to see is that once they have completed the exercise, it is no longer the Bush message. There are folks on the right who do not participate in the personal attacks that some on the radical right make, yet they are blind as to how insulting those attacks are to folks who actually had the guts to join and fight in a war, regardless of how misguided they now feel their actions were.

I look at various episodes involving the radical right such as the attacks on John Murtha as a "cut and run" coward. The irony is that Murtha is a veteran with an impeccable and unimpeachable military record and whose physical bravery is unquestioned. He's done as much as anyone to create the current US military machine. He's the guy who has fought the hardest in Congress to see that veterans and military personnel aren't forgotten and treated like shit. Who are these people calling Murtha a yellowbelly? It ain't the generals or any veteran who knows his track record.

I've said all the nicest things I can say. Time to crank up the volume and remove the muffler. Here's what you might hear some veterans say regarding that special class of folks on the radical right who think everyone who disagrees with them is a coward and a traitor.

Now that you've made it personal, shut the fuck up, motherfucker, because you haven't been there and you don't fucking know. When you grow the balls to walk the walk come talk to me. And when you call me a coward you better fucking smile, you slimy piece of fucking shit.

Despite those harsh and crude words, there is a sort of logic operating there--a logic that some on the radical right don't know and don't have the inclination to learn. Time to take them to school.

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