Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Idle words

Atrios, via the courageous folks at ThinkProgress, gives us the text of today's State of the Union before it has even been given. This affords us two advantages: being able to provide preemptive rebuttals, and more importantly for the sake of my fragile sanity, being able to avoid having to listen to Bush's whiny voice or see his insufferable smirk.

As is to be expected, the speech is a total mess: full of lies, totally substance-free promises and disingenuous displays of "bipartisanship". Bush is a genius in very few ways, but he does possess a genius for peddling dishonest and manipulative horseshit. Just about every single sentence in the speech is objectionable in some way, when considered closely. The sheer density of the horseshit is astonishing.

To demonstrate this, I'm going to talk about a passage taken almost at random. In doing so, I'll barely be scratching the surface, but I just don't have the energy to do more right now.

The following passage comes from Bush's obligatory description of the Dire Terrorist Threat To Our Very Existence:

Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: “We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse.” And Osama bin Laden declared: “Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us.”

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah — a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans … kill democracy in the Middle East … and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

In the 6th year since our Nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not.
Even in this tiny passage, there are at least three major objectionable elements:

--"These men are not given to idle words." Wait just a second. These are terrorist leaders. Bush expects us to take the word of terrorist leaders about the extent of the threat they pose? I have to wonder sometimes whether Bush himself doesn't understand terrorism or whether he expects that the rest of us don't. I feel almost like a preschool teacher explaining this, but apparently it's necessary: terrorism is about inspiring terror. One of the best ways to inspire terror is to make your enemies think that you are more powerful than you really are, and that your capacity to cause them harm is greater than it really is. Zarqawi and bin Laden not only are given to idle words, but have an indisputable incentive to dole them out; it's part of their strategy, and part of the strategy of all terrorists as such. This is not, of course, to say that al Qaeda's leaders don't want to be a genuine existential threat to America (and all non-Sunnis worldwide), but what they want is irrelevant: what matters is what they can actually do, which is very limited.

--The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. This is just absurd. I suppose you could say, bending language a bit, that the extremists of both sects are "totalitarians", in the sense that any theocrats are totalitarians--although by that standard you'd have to include the American religious right as well. It's just ridiculous to say that they constitute one threat, however. The warring sects in Iraq have utterly unrelated motives and goals. To suppose that they are somehow the same simply because they sometimes use similar tactics and "slaughter the innocent" is absurd unless you believe, as I suppose Bush probably does, in some Unified Evil Field Theory, according to which all evil everywhere is really just a single phenomenon (Satan?). Even as theology, this has some pretty serious problems. As foreign policy, it's childish at best. This sort of attitude, and the resulting near-total ignorance of the deep, abiding and ancient sectarian conflict in Islam that pervades our political and military classes, has led to some of our worst mistakes in Iraq, and will surely lead to more and worse if Bush has his way.

(I'm not even going to go into the implied Iran warmongering embedded here. It's too big of a subject, and too well discussed elsewhere already.)

--I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. No, really, you don't, and we've all (well, all of us who aren't comatose) figured this game out by now. You wish you had more concrete dangers to report that would scare us back into your arms. Your administration has relentlessly hyped even the most unlikely terrorist threat for the past several years, and we're all sick of it. It's gone past even calling "wolf!" It's turned into a bad joke. Please stop.

The whole speech is like this. In fact, much of it is worse. I feel tainted just reading it.

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