Monday, March 20, 2006

They wonder what I see that they don’t

Bush gave another of those “Crapfest? What crapfest?” speeches, at the Cleveland City Club. AP headline: “Bush Explains Confidence in Iraq Progress.” (Update: which they later changed to “Bush Asks U.S. to Look Past Iraq Bloodshed.” Jesus, when have Americans not looked past Iraq bloodshed?). Lots of sound-bites channeling Ronald Reagan channeling John Wayne: “America has never retreated in the face of thugs and assassins, and we will not begin now.” Actually, this contradicts the Cheney line, which is that the US did retreat after the Lebanon Marines bombing, the USS Cole etc etc, and that was responsible for letting Al Qaeda think it could get away with 9/11.

He’s beginning to have a rhetoric problem, because the usual “bring it on” stance doesn’t fit well with his new emphasis on the “long war.” Patience and deferred gratification aren’t exactly Bush traits.

Speaking of which, I must interrupt became I am impatient to mention comments on Americans’ lack of patience by one Brig. Gen. Robert Caslen, the Deputy Director for the War on Terrorism. Caslen says that it takes 9 years to beat insurrections, but Americans get bored after 3, for which he cites the dubious historical precedents of a rise in anti-war sentiments 3 years into Korea, the Civil War, and Vietnam. Which, he says, leaves a 6-year gap. So if there’s been a recent uptick in opposition to the Iraqi war, I guess he’s saying, it’s not because of any objective analysis of the situation but because it’s just that time of the month phase in the historical cycle.

Back to Chimpy. He allows as how “in the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken. Others look at the violence they see each night on their television screens, and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq. They wonder what I see that they don’t.” Notice how he tries to make the violence more distant and abstract: our confidence is shaken not by killings and reprisals, but by reports about killings and reprisals, not by violence, but by violence seen on tv. Notice also how he suggests that our natural, normal state is one of confidence, which has been shaken. He makes it sound like a slight head-cold, from which we will soon recover. That’s not confidence, that’s complacence. And yes, we do wonder how you remain so optimistic, but assume it’s some combination of profound ignorance and strong medication. And we have a pretty good idea of what you see that we don’t, too.

To explain his seemingly unwarranted optimism, “I’m going to tell you the story of a northern Iraqi city called Tal Afar”. It isn’t as riveting as My Pet Goat....

but then, what is?

Anyhoo, terrorists moved into Tal Afar, used propaganda (the bounders!) to foment hostility towards the occupying troops, exploited the weak economy to recruit (just like Wal-Mart), and took over the city. So we invaded and drove them out. “Our strategy at the time was to stay after the terrorists and keep them on the run. So coalition forces kept moving, kept pursuing the enemy... Unfortunately, in 2004 the local security forces there in Tal Afar weren’t able to maintain order, and so the terrorists and the insurgents eventually moved back into the town.” In other words, we chased them in a big ole circle. They then took over the mosques and schools to spread “the terrorist message of hatred and intolerance”. Oh, and they behead the guys who interpreted for the coalition troops. “In Tal Afar, the terrorists had schools for kidnapping and beheading and laying IEDs.” And interpretive dance.

So this time, we wouldn’t just kick the terrorists out, but practice “clear, hold and build,” which I think has something to do with the neutron bomb. They built a wall around the city, Iraqi troops controlled their own battle-space (a phrase everyone is suddenly using; I assume it has something to do with “marking” their territory), and yadda yadda. And we know we’ve won their trust (and this is something else I’ve heard a lot lately) because they started phoning in tips. We’ll have succeeded in Iraq when every last Iraqi is a nark and/or tattle-tale. Anyway, Tal Afar is now a paradise on earth, with purple-fingered voters and not so much violence after the Samarra mosque de-domeification, and it all shows how Bush’s strategy is working. But it doesn’t show up on tv:

The kind of progress that we and the Iraqi people are making in places like Tal Afar is not easy to capture in a short clip on the evening news. Footage of children playing, or shops opening, and people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an IED explosion, or the destruction of a mosque, or soldiers and civilians being killed or injured.

Dude, you should totally start a cable channel. I’m sure “Shops Opening” could beat anything on CBS.

And then, the questions:
Q: Do you believe... that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is -- I haven’t really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here’s how I think of it. The first I’ve heard of that, by the way. I guess I’m more of a practical fellow.
He seems to be having some age issues. Two quotes: “The people of [Tal Afar] still have many challenges to overcome, including old-age [sic] resentments”. “We need to apply the same rigor of No Child Left Behind, particularly in middle age [sic] for math and science”.

Asked how Iran today differs from Iraq three years ago in terms of the preemption policy, he says that there had been a bunch of Security Council resolutions against Iraq, while “the Iranian issue is just beginning to play out... The issues are different stages of diplomacy.” Cuz Bush is all about the diplomacy. In other words, we will invade, but not quite yet. Maybe he has learned something about deferred gratification after all.

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