'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush's Speech 

The purpose of Bush's speech was to blur in the minds of gullible Americans two historical events and to conflate two groups of actors in Iraq. Needless to say the two events that I have in mind are the American invasion of Iraq and the 9/11 terrorist atrocity. Bush would like very much for the former to be viewed as intimately connected to the latter. Mainstream commentators have discussed this rhetorical strategy to death, so I need not go into it here.

The other related misrepresentation was not adequately dealt with in the corporate media's post-speech spin sessions. Bush implied that the primary agents that US troops are fighting in Iraq are the guys that either get called "terrorists" or "foreign fighters". The number of foreign fighters in Iraq has been the subject of debate for two years now and is still essentially unknown. However, one can make a pretty persuasive case that the number of these Jihadists and their significance has been consistently exaggerated.

You only need to look at specific examples. The purpose of the second Fallujah campaign last November, we were told, was to root out hordes of foreign fighters. After the campaign, the city reduced to smoldering rubble, the hordes never materialized. Commenting on the lack of foreign fighters John Hendren of the LA Times noted that the Fallujah campaign gave military commanders some insight into the demographics of the Iraqi insurgency: it"paint[ed] a portrait of a home-grown uprising dominated by Iraqis, not foreign fighters."

In a similar vein, last February Walter Pincus wrote in the Post about a CIA report that described Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda affiliated associates as "lesser elements" in an insurgency largely made up of "newly radicalized Sunni Iraqis, nationalists offended by the occupying force, and others disenchanted by the economic turmoil and destruction caused by the fighting."

Bush's implication that Jihadists are a major factor in the Iraqi insurgency is a willful act of deception. We know that it is willful deception because the Bush administration's policy, as well as its rhetoric (in, for instance, the speech I'm discussing), has recently begun to distinguish between insurgents and terrorists; take, for example, the old Time Magazine story that has recently been resurrected about the US opening a dialog with leaders of the insurgency. The administration defends this policy by explicitly stating it is negotiating with insurgents not terrorists. The reason why it makes sense to negotiate with insurgents is because the insurgency is mostly comprised of, go figure, insurgents.

It was all there in the speech if one cared to listen closely ... the most darkly humorous bit for me was this:

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others.

In a speech promoting the idea that the Iraq War is about fighting terrorists on their home turf and that it's going swimmingly, the guy says that after two years, almost two thousand Americans dead, over ten thousand Americans wounded, perhaps one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dead, hundreds of billions spent, we only got hundreds of these boogey-men? How many hundreds is that, George -- two, three. Hell, maybe a gross. Look given that the implication had been that hundreds were going to turn up in Fallujah, the guy just basically admitted that the whole foreign fighters line is a load of bullshit.

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