What’s it all about?


President Bush at a press conference this morning, on the subject of Iraq:

I believe it’s a struggle between the forces of moderation and reasonableness and good and the forces of murder and intolerance.

 I see your point, Mr. President.  I just have one question: which side are we on?

 I don’t mean that to be as snide as it sounds.  It’s a serious question.

 When we cast our battle as one between Good and Evil, then adopt our enemy’s tactics — “go deep into the dark side,” as Vice President Cheney famously put it — which side are we, in fact, fighting on?  Do we even have a side anymore, other than our own naked self-interest?  Can a Good vs. Evil battle take place when both sides are using Evil tactics?

This is the problem with much of the rhetoric about Iraq.  It sounds Grand and even Ultimate — “the fight of our generation,” “our generation’s WWII,” “the battle of the 21st century,” “a war we can’t afford to lose” — but when you lay it down beside the facts about Iraq, the two just don’t match up.

 If it’s the fight of our generation and a battle for the 21st century and a war we can’t afford to lose, why aren’t we making a full, national commitment to it and fighting to win?  Why not commit the hundreds of thousands more troops we need to really make a difference?  Why not nationalize some industries to crank out body armor and Humvee armor and all the other equipment we’re alarmingly short of in the deserts of Iraq?

 If this is the cataclysmic confrontation the president and others keep saying it is, where’s the cataclysmic commitment of resources?

And if it’s a battle between Good and Evil, why aren’t we making sure we stay on the side of Good, and that our victory will truly mean the forces and methods of Good — “the forces of moderation and reasonableness,” as the president put it — have triumphed over the forces and methods of Evil?  Why are we intentionally adopting Evil’s methods?  (And bragging about it.) 

If the battle makes us Evil like our enemy, what’s the point of fighting it?  Even if we win, all we’ll have proved is that we’re better at Evil than they were.


4 Responses to “What’s it all about?”

  1. alsturgeon Says:

    I’d have to go find my Walter Wink book again, but I remember someone quoted in it saying how we often “become what we hate.”

    This may prove a memorable example.

    And as to the “good vs. evil” presentation, it does seem a hard sell while leading a country that doesn’t support the war anymore.

  2. unicorntx Says:

    For a while I thought the Administration, especially Bush, was just being manipulative and telling people what he thought they wanted to hear. That was scary.

    Now, I’m beginning to think they actally believe what they say, which is scarier yet.

  3. urbino Says:

    I’ve pretty much always believed Pres. Bush really believed what he was saying. I even think Vice Pres. Cheney believes what he’s doing is in the nation’s best interest.

    The problem is that they’re just wrong. Factually, demonstrably, spectacularly wrong.

    This is the problem with “true believers.” They’re so busy believing, they ignore the evidence (either willfully or simply as a by-product). No amount of empirical data of any kind — be it political data from Iraq, historical data about the Middle East or the American political system, textual data from the Constitution, etc. — can ever change their minds.

    Back when I was a nascent scientist, the saying always was, “If the data conflict with the theory, the theory has to go.” That’s not the way Bush, Cheney, neoconservatives, and the immovable 25% of American voters who support them think. When the data conflict with their theory, they throw away the data.

    It is, in the most literal possible sense, a pre-scientific mindset.

    That’s an entirely new thing in America — having the country run on a pre-scientific basis. At least, I can’t think of another time when it happened.

  4. urbino Says:

    There is an answer to my post’s question(s), for those who support the war in Iraq. I even alluded to it in my post. I was hoping maybe a reader would pick it up and join the discussion. But since it appears nobody’s going to…


    That’s the point of fighting a war we have to become like our enemy to win. And it’s not nothing. Far from it. If I have to live under the rule of people willing to use Evil to achieve their purposes, then the closer their purposes align with mine, the better. And as far as my purposes are from the Bush/Cheney faction’s — very far, indeed — I’m still much nearer to them than I am to any radical Muslim you care to name; and I’m willing to have a conversation on those terms with the American Right, about weighing the relative pros and cons, costs and benefits of the Iraq War.

    But a conversation in those terms is a kettle of fish of a whole different color than the conversation we’ve actually been having in this country about Iraq.

    The conversation we’ve actually been having — the conversation the president, vice president, and their supporters keep forcing on us — is one about Good vs. Evil. Those on the Right vociferously insist that this is the true reality of the situation: we’re Good*, they’re Evil.

    So long as they insist on talking in those terms, I have the questions outlined above, and until somebody can give a credible answer to them, they are an insuperable hurdle to my participating in a conversation with war supporters.

    * I use the word “we” advisedly in this context. The truth is, the Right doesn’t include me in the Good “we.” I’m a liberal, and we’re Evil; I’m part of the enemy, not part of “us.” Which, come to think of it, I guess makes it unsurprising that I don’t support “our” (“their”) war on Evil.

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