Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The devil's dictionary of war in Iraq

The Bush administration's war vocabulary and imagery of the past four years is missing in action. The "turned corners", "tipping points" and "milestones" on the way to "victory" have disappeared. A new set of words and images is being implanted, which mine a deep vein in the US national psyche: the belief in an all-American right to a second chance.

By Tom Engelhardt
Asia Times

"......All of this, of course, is an extraordinary language in which to frame events in Iraq so many disastrous years after the invasion, with history's judgment already weighing so heavily on our president's plan to take down Saddam and recreate "the Greater Middle East" in an American image. All of this is no less extraordinary - verging on obscenity - as a collective description of a world of death, destruction, and mayhem in which, in a completely unremarkable Iraqi day - this Monday - the "early" tallies showed six GIs and 69 Iraqis killed and 39 wounded (and we're only talking about immediately reported bodies here); while on the previous day, five GIs, two Britons, and 109 Iraqis died (with 173 were wounded), and on the day before that, 164 Iraqis were killed, 345 injured, and 26 kidnapped. In terms only of the recorded dead of those three "normal" days of "stability and security" under the president's "surge" plan, we're talking, in terms of the dead, about the equivalent of more than 12 Virginia-Tech-style massacres..........

Among the stranger aspects of the war is this: at least three foundational pieces of the American occupation of Iraq have essentially gone nameless. Yet, without them, the last years can make little sense. Amid the endless interviews, news conferences, press briefings, radio addresses, speeches, and talk radio and television interviews that come out of this administration in weekly, if not daily, surges - the tens upon tens of thousands of words that pour from Washington and the Green Zone of Baghdad - these three subjects remain largely unmentioned, largely uncovered in a media that has relied so heavily on the administration's framing of the issues. Where there is no language, of course, things exist in consciousness in, at best, the most shadowy of forms, leaving Americans tongue-tied on matters of genuine import.

Here they are in brief order......

But make no mistake, whatever words may be wielded, that "clock" of General Petraeus's is indeed ticking - loudly enough to be a bomb. Sooner or later, it will go off and whether it proves to be an alarm, waking Congress and the American people, or an explosion demolishing some aspect of our world remains unknown. In June or August or October, when horrific reality in Iraq outpaces whatever the Bush administration tries to call it, we may have our answer and perhaps then reality will name us."

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