Monday, June 27, 2005

Language Creep

Does Vegas have an over/under on how many times we hear the word "terrorists" on Tuesday night?

If reliable tells like the weekly presidential radio address, Scott McClellan and Fox News are any indication, I'll take the over.

What Bush needs to do right now is an Oval Office, come-clean, look-right-into-the-camera speech about sacrifice, a hard slog ahead, and a concrete plan. A gentle admission of previous miscalculations would do wonders for his credibility, but of course that won't happen. What's not needed is mission accomplished-redux symbolism from a place like Fort Bragg with thousands of troops yelling in affirmation after every sentence. That the president is about to go the latter route indicates at best a continuing and dangerous unwillingness to leave his Rovian cocoon and face reality. And at worst, it indicates cowardice.

What's ironic is that those troops will be cheering even as their own mission continues to change and their exit strategy becomes less certain. The latest manifestation of this is the ongoing replacement of the word "insurgents" with "terrorists." This is a shameless Orwellian absurdity that any rational, clear-thinker must recognize and immediately reject regardless of political affiliation. Are there terrorists in Iraq? Yes. Are traditional, indigenous insurgents using terrorist tactics? Yes. But to make a blanket re-characterization of our enemy as "terrorists" is desperate and transparent mendacity, even without in-theater reports like this one from a senior U.S. military officer. It also distorts and diminishes what happened on 9/11, when civilians---not troops---were targeted.

Last week Karl Rove said, "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals." With records of military service like this, I wouldn't expect Rove or anyone else in the White House to understand the best way to actually "support the troops." But I have a friend who was yanked away from a family and a career and sent to Iraq, despite having already served in uniform for years, including in combat during the first Gulf War. The only support he wants from home is a concrete, achievable mission. That mission has comprised first defeating the Iraqi army, searching for WMD's, finding Saddam and his sons and other senior Baathist leaders, guarding physical infrastructure including oil, power and water plants, fighting insurgents, pacifying dozens of cities besides Baghdad, guarding the borders, trying to stop foreign fighters from entering the country, assisting in reconstruction, maintaining security for the election, securing the Green Zone, and training Iraqi forces.

And now, "fighting terrorists."

That is not a concrete mission that leads to a realistic exit strategy. That is a set of constantly moving goalposts that defines mission creep. And when the mission creeps, the language---preferably as open-ended and difficult to quantify as possible---must creep right along with it. Thus, the "terrorists" mantra. Does anyone think we're ever leaving Iraq as long as we're fighting terrorists?

As civilians, we have an implicit agreement with our troops: they agree to defend our right to criticize our leaders, and we agree to exercise that right when necessary to ensure our military has a defined mission and a viable exit strategy. Because I think supporting the troops is important, I'm not willing to abrogate my part of that agreement. But enablers of language and mission creep by definition cannot support our troops. And because of the desperate word games and constant moving of goalposts, our political leadership falls squarely into that category---ironic, considering its recent hyperbole about "the motives of liberals."

On Tuesday night we'll get more color on all this, won't we?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt."

Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

6/27/2005 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is a shameless Orwellian absurdity that any rational, clear-thinker must recognize and immediately reject regardless of political affiliation." (my emphasis)

"The only support he wants from home is a concrete, achievable mission."

Amen. Well said.

"defines mission creep", but that is how Karl Rove, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, work whether it is Social Security, Iraq, environment, soldier training, VA budget, energy policy, separation of church and state, ... They do what they want in any means possible, and aren't men enough to standup to the American people and tell the truth... they have to have Fox, Limbaugh, be bullies. Karl Rove is an ex-direct marketer; think boiler room ethics. I truly don't know what to make of people that blindly support an elected President of the people.

"Does anyone think we're ever leaving Iraq as long as we're fighting terrorists?", I don't think we plan on leaving Iraq period. We are building military bases and enlarging Abu Ghraib. Remember Cheney saying "We expect to be greeted with roses." In and out; Six months. But all they do is keep poking the fire embers to keep the public hanging on, and after each poke they run back to Karl Rove and ask, what do we do next. Now you have each person in the administration coming out and saying that it is a generational war; we'll be there for a decade. I have empathy for our soldiers who were lead on false pretenses, and that the administration keeps stringing them along. We have the human cost of war, but what about the financial cost. By the time Bush leaves office (unless they change the constitution), he will have more than doubled our debt. All the trillions that could have gone to our economy will have been lost; Not to mention that we are falling behind globally in education, manufacturing, engineering. I read a prediction for the next election that Bush will come out with a "major combat over" statement again and he say that troops will come home. But after the election he'll backtrack and say, but we have to stay a little bit longer for some cleanup.

I've lost respect for these Republicans. They griped about Clinton, and they are worse.

"they agree to defend our right to criticize our leaders, and we agree to exercise that right when necessary to ensure our military has a defined mission and a viable exit strategy.", God Bless you... but icks... tell that to Fox News, Limbaugh, and the evangelicals. They'll organize their clan to call you anti-patriotic, communist, traitor, ... all because you read and understand the Constitution.

On Tuesday night we'll get more color on all this, won't we? Gee, the war has only been going on for over 2 years, and in the plans for well over that. It would be nice if the President would finally be honest with the American people. You think he'll talk about our plans for increasing nuclear bombs and our resumption of Cold War plutonium 238. I'll catch my overview on Comedy Center where I know I'll get better media coverage.

Tucker Carlson and Britney Spears (this really happened):

CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?

SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

CARLSON: Do you trust this president?

SPEARS: Yes, I do.

CARLSON: Excellent.

Our constitutional framers are rolling over in their graves about now.

6/28/2005 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a hoot: During Vietnam, Rumsfeld Criticized Administration For “Credibility Gap”

So what went wrong with Iraq? Where did this Rumsfeld go?

6/28/2005 12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful post TCR thanks...

6/28/2005 2:27 AM  
Blogger DrDave said...

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”
-Governor (and now President) George W. Bush (R-TX), 1999.

“President Clinton is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”
-Senator Rick Santorum, 1999.

Peter Beinert had a good column in Sunday's WaPo in which he makes the case that not only does the President need to come clean about where we stand in Iraq and what it's going to take to get the job done, but he needs to hold some of the architects accountable. Beinert suggests that the Bolton nomination should be dropped and Rumsfeld fired. Neither will likely happen but if nothing else, these commentaries will serve as a journal of why this presidency ultimately failed.

6/28/2005 6:21 AM  
Blogger TravisG said...

Bush could earn the greatest credibility and actually do something to improve our chances of leaving Iraq in better shape than we found it, would be if he asked those who supported him and this war the most to enlist. Fat chance, huh?

6/28/2005 9:22 AM  
Blogger Spider said...

All this is sadly hilarious as Cheney says that the insurgency is in its "last throws" while days later Rumsfield says the insurgency could last 12 years!


No clear exit strategy? How about this Bush and everyone in your adminstration. . .I put my foot in your ass and won't have an exit strategy to take it out until you come up for one for the troops in Iraq!

P.S. Sorry for the anger. This all pisses me off to no end, especially since my sister is over there.

6/28/2005 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way we can "win" in Iraq is if we fund their "interm" government till it has solid footing, and stay out of their decisions and keep our soldiers out of their sight.

Now, that won't happen. Bushco talks that game but they really want a puppet government that they can pull all the strings, make all the importand decisions and keep all the oil contracts w/ US/bushco aligned companies (which is all the energy companies).

We have to be able to support decisions they make that are against our corporations interests. That won't happen w/ this administration and everyone, you, me, the Iraqis all know it.

So kick back, relax & expect Vietnam redeaux.

6/28/2005 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should be an interesting speech. I am not expecting much except more symbolism, as you wrote.

6/28/2005 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

megadittos! Good post.

6/28/2005 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lets be open about tonight. Bush wouldn't do this huge spectacle if he didn't expect this to turn everything around. If it doesnt, the Lame Duck label is in permanent ink. He and Rove know this.

6/28/2005 1:14 PM  
Blogger David the Gyromancer said...

I think anger is THE appropriate response of the people towards this administration. When you are lied to, manipulated, and your real interests ignored by the government that is supposed to represent them, if you're not angry, you're not paying attention.

Thanks to TCR for another good take on why this is the wrong war at the wrong time, and for reasons that are not only wrong, but fraudulent.

6/28/2005 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all propaganda: Fake government news videos that ended up on local stations, Armstrong Williams and other columnists being paid to promote the administration policies, Jeff Gannon the fake reporter for a fake news organization at the WH press meetings receiving prepared softball questions -- all are G.O.P. fanatics trying to subvert the real news the public needs to hear and replace it with government propaganda. How is this Democracy! What is really scary, they seem to be successful. Lying about the rescue of Jessica Lynch, the service of Pat Tillman. Why should we believe anything this President has to say. His past record on telling the truth, and that of this administration isn't exactly encouraging. It is all BS. How much more do they have to do before we say enough is enough already. Not only has the PBS CPB been secretly paying someone to monitor the program NOW, but they also have been spying on Tavis Smily! They are preparing to blacklist people that aren't pro-Bush. Is this the American our service people have been fighting for? I think not. Whether you are liberal, a true conservative, or other, this is really serious stuff going on in our government.

The Armstrong Williams NewsHour

6/28/2005 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, having seen Bush's speech tonight, this post was totally on the mark.

6/28/2005 11:19 PM  
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