Monday, December 12, 2005

As if it meant something

Various governments continue to treat Israel as some sort of model when it comes to riot-control, a paragon to be emulated. The latest worshippers at the feet of the masters: France, which, having dealt with many days of rioting recently with a deplorably low amount of bloodshed, will be visited by the Israeli public security minister and police commissioner, who will advise them on how to do better next time.

Though Bush’s speech on Iraq today was supposed to be the 3rd in a series of 4, it contained little if any new material. Speaking in Philadelphia, he quoted someone who said in 1776, when the Liberty Bell was sounded after the Declaration of Independence was signed, “It rang as if it meant something.” Like every other Bush speech on Iraq, his words were designed to sound as if they meant something, but they didn’t. He’s still, for example, talking about “marginalizing” the “rejectionists,” and I still don’t know what, if anything, that would entail. So nothing new in the prepared speech, but this time he took questions. In response to one, he gave an estimate of 30,000 Iraqi dead. I really thought he was going to dodge the question, and I salute his bravery in actually answering. OK, with an imaginary number, but still.

Challenged directly to justify the links he insists on drawing between Al Qaeda and Iraq, he did dodge. He went on at some length about how Saddam Hussein was a threat – evidently admitting that the intel about WMDs was all wrong makes no difference to how big a threat he was. And there was this weird passage in the speech: “In a 1998 fatwa, Osama bin Laden argued that the suffering of the Iraqi people was justification for his declaration of war on America. Now bin Laden and al-Qaeda are the direct cause of the Iraqi people’s suffering.” Fuck if I know what this means.

He took another swipe at Al-Jazeera:
Look, I recognize we got an image issue, particularly when you’ve got Arabic television stations -- that are constantly just pounding America, saying ‘America is fighting Islam,’ ‘Americans can’t stand Muslims,’ ‘This is a war against a religion.’
Notice how he denies – three times – that this is a religious crusade, without addressing charges of going to war for oil, or imperialism (by the by, at one point he casually suggested that several more governments were going to have to fall in the Middle East). On the religion thing, he went on, “ours is not a nation that rejects religion. Ours is a nation that accepts people of all faiths”. Unless they don’t say “Merry Christmas” on cue, of course, in which case we will annihilate them.

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