Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday 22 December 2006

We’re not winning

Writing in today’s NY Times, Jim Rutenberg reports,

Now that President Bush is seeking “a new way forward” in Iraq, he is embracing a new verbal construction to describe progress there: “We’re not winning. We’re not losing.”

The latest shift in the official language of the war is begging the question: Well, which is it? A tie? A draw? Something else?

Well might he ask. But more to the point, in the entire 630 word article, he never gets to the real point – who are ‘we’ and what would it mean to win?

Of course it goes without saying that ‘we’ are the US government. No newspaper anywhere would so much as raise an eyebrow before identifying itself 100% with the rulers of whatever country it happens to be. This is ultimately one of the reasons I always insist that nationalism is the most insidious divisive ideology around. Nationalist assumptions – identification of the people with the state and the elision of class interests – are so ubiquitous they just pass under the radar without anyone even noticing most of the time. Now if Rutenberg had written ‘we white folks’, or ‘we blokes’, it probably would have raised an uproar. But we American imperialists – no problem.

It doesn’t really matter that he doesn’t tell us what winning would entail, because his colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg quotes the decider on exactly this in another article.

“Victory in Iraq is achievable,” Mr. Bush said, addressing reporters in the ornate Indian Treaty Room across the street from the White House, in a historic office building once used by the Navy. He added, “Our goal remains a free and democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror.”

A free and democratic Iraq that can govern itself will become a real possibility just as soon as the invaders leave. It might even be able to sustain itself if the bastards who wrecked all the infrastructure give them a chance to fix it. Reparations might just be in order, if he were serious about this. But clearly, until Iraq has its own nuclear arsenal, it will never be able to defend itself from threats like the US, Israel, or the ‘Coalition of the willing’, maybe not even then. Naturally it must be an ally in the war against terror, but on the face of it, you’d think that actually contradicted the first two of the Decider’s goals. If Iraq is free and democratic in any meaningful sense, then I guess Iraqis will decide who to ally themselves with in which military adventures.

So if ‘victory in Iraq’ means achieving all of those goals, some of which are patently unachievable, then Mr Bush is lying about its achievability. Either that or he’s lying about the goals. Or both. Now it transpires that nobody knows how the Indian Treaty Room got its name, according to the White House website, but anyway, can you imagine a more appropriate place to be talking out the wrong orifice?

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