Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In Bush's Address, It's All About The Mysterious "They" and "Them"

All you need to know about President Bush's address to the nation yesterday is that its goal was to reassure his fellow conservatives that the U.S. will continue to fight "terrorists" -- a.k.a. "they" and "them."

Bush's speech made one reference to Al Qaeda, and two to Osama Bin Laden. But any Bush supporter listening to the speech would have probably thought that much of the speech was regarding one or the other. To make sure, Bush frequently mixed and matched which terrorists he was talking about, blending them as "they" or "them," discussing "their objectives," as if Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency thought as one.

By my count, the president used the mysterious "they" or "them" 39 times to describe the blended "terrorists." Did he mean Al Qaeda? Did he mean the insurgency? It probably didn't matter to conservative listeners, to whom this pep rally speech was red meat for continued unequivocal support of the Bush agenda.

The president was long on platitudes, but short on specifics, which is a key to Bushspeak. Details are for wimps, or worse, liberals.

Let's review:

BUSH: "The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent."

But wait -- those are two groups of terrorists. The terrorists who attacked us are Al Qaeda, predominantly of Saudi descent, possibly financed by Iran and led by a Saudi hiding out in either Afghanistan or Pakistan or possbily Iran -- we have a "pretty good idea" of where he is, we're told.

"The terrorists who we face?" That's the insurgency. Could that group include Al Qaeda? Yes, although the conservatives have been long on talk and short on evidence in proving that point. Given this administration's track record, if it could prove the insurgents included Al Qaeda, it would have trumpeted that point again and again. In his speech yesterday, Bush mentions 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." I don't doubt that's true -- but again, if it could be proven that these "foreign fighters" were Al Qaeda, the administration would have trumpeted that upon each killing or capture.

But in Bushspeak, it's important to mix and match terrorists.

In paragraph four, we are introduced to the mysterious "they."

BUSH: "To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy."

But who is this mysterious "they"? Why, it's Al Qaeda, or groups the Bush Administration has suggested have ties to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and its allies attacked Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere -- including New York and Washington. "They" are Al Qaeda. "They" are not the insurgents.

After introducing us to the mysterious "they," Bush repeats an argument he's been making since the insurgency sprang up:

BUSH: "Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home."

So, the "they" in Iraq are similar to the "they" that we know as Al Qaeda, in that they are willing to kill Americans. That's the rationale for the war -- or at least it is now. The original rationale was quite different, if you remember. Something about weapons of mass destruction that could be delivered to the U.S. or its allies in 45 minutes. Something about being satisfied with the evidence at hand, lest we wait for "the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."


Bush made one reference to Al Qaeda and two to its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Of Al Qaeda, he re-affirmed the idea that Al Qaeda was somehow responsible, along with the aforementioned "foreign terrorists," for the insurgency.

BUSH: "To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents. To complete the mission, we will prevent al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

What is Bush's evidence for this belief? What details can he provide? Let's look at what Bush says about Osama:

BUSH: "Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: 'This Third World War is raging' in Iraq. 'The whole world is watching this war.' He says it will end in 'victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.'"

Two things to note. One is the fact that "in Iraq" is not in quotation marks in the president's address. Did Osama ever say "This Third World War is raging in Iraq"? Apprarently not. Assuming the president's speechwriters know basic rules of punctuation, we don't have a quote from Osama that includes both "This Third World War is raging" and "in Iraq," or else the speechwriters would have put them together in one quote, using elipsis.

But even beyond that, Osama rooting for the insurgency is not akin to Osama backing the insurgency, financially or by providing manpower.

Bush's other mention of Osama is pure platitude:

BUSH: "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden."

Fighting (and ultimately defeating) the insurgency certainly hurts Osama's desire for a "Third World War," but it doesn't mean Osama can't strike elsewhere, including the U.S. "They" the insurgents might be stopped, but that has little effect on "they" Al Qaeda.


I'll give credit to Bush for one thing: He didn't repeat the flawed intelligence that Zarqawi had traveled to Syria to plan bombings in Iraq -- intelligence that was used initially to support possible future action against Syria, before it was retracted.

Clearly, that means that Bush's speech was written in the last month. It would have been hard to tell otherwise -- so much of it seemed to repeat things Bush has been trying to convince Americans of since the insurgency began.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Insurgent? Freedom fighter? Why don't we call them what they are - cowardly terrorists that kill civilians and are too spineless to don a uniform.

They and them are terrorists, but apparently you can only differentiate between being either an Iraqi terrorist or a card carrying member of Al Qaeda. I thought the liberal position was all about nuance?!

9:39 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

I don't think you read the article closely enough, above commenter. Try again.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny. I keep hearing Bushspeak about the "terrorists" hating freedom." Pshaw! I've read many accounts of people who've actually surveyed the insurgents and Al Quada who insist it is U.S. policies in the Middle East they are rallying against. They could care less about our freedoms.
My other comment about the Bushspeak speech: Bush is quoted as saying back in Sept. 2002 we must not sit still for Sadaam because he threatened to turn Iraq into a training ground for terrorists against Americans.
Bush acknowledged that Iraq has indeed become just that under his Iraq policies, although he spun this dubious achievement as a reason we must continue fighting the "terrorists" in Iraq.
I'm sure the Iraq people love us for turning their country into a magnet for terrorism. The extent of foreign involvement in the insurgency may be open to debate. But as the recent CIA report on Iraq found, it clearly exists and is strengthening.
Of course, Bush's speech/ propaganda reaps front page coverage in every newspaper in America. Yet, the recent CIA report finding Iraq is breeding terrorists similiar to those created in Afghanistan that attacked us on 9-11, was sparsely covered.
This is why Bush is allowed to spew his words to the average American lazy news reader outside of any historical context.
Of course, our news is more interested in representing both Republican and Democratic views equally than ever arriving to the truth. Any reference to the CIA findings is always attributed to the Democrats, thereby opening up what should be reported as an objective piece of evidence open to partison debate.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take heart first commentator, your not alone. I agree with your view. A subhuman is a subhuman whether they fight against our brave boys in Iraq or, like our big-mouth friends at the "American Dissident," attempt to degrade our President by spewing treasonous rhetoric. They're all the enemy and should be vaporized in short order. God Bless America!!!

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so tell me again whats your plan to keep us safe?

2:23 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

That question is irrelevant.

The question at hand is whether our president is capable of having an honest discussion with the American people about the "war on terror." The speech he gave Tuesday shows that he's rather treat us like idiots, unable to understand the complexities of terror. It's easier to say US GOOD, THEM EVIL -- especially if you can lump together every enemy into one generic "them."

Like JABBS said, Bush's speech is red meat for the faithful, but not a serious attempt at explaining our policy.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So anyone who questions the president's policies is a tyrant and treasonous.
Any ignoramus who makes such a statement deserves to live under a Stalin or Hitler-like regime.
This is exactly what our country would become without the ability to question our government.
And who are you calling a subhuman? I suppose you consider those thousands of children being detained in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraid and Bagram Air Base being held for years without being charged or allowed to visit their parents subhuman.
In my mind, all those people crying for those three New Jersey kids who recently locked themselves in a car trunk in and suffocated to death, but who fail to feel the same pain for an innocent kid in Iraq blown to pieces by a U.S. bomb are, mildly put, hypocrites and "subhuman."

3:40 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime."
Jacob Bronowski
1908-1974 British Scientist & Author

Saddam Hussein thought dissent was "treasonous" too. I think he was afraid of the truth being revealed. What are you afraid of, anonymous?

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You needed to write such a lengthy piece to show Bush lumping all terrorists together in a not so subtle attempt to link iraq and 911? Duh....he has been doing this for years now and it ahs been stated in media outlets all over the place. The bush followers are going to believe his spin no matter what. everyone else is skeptical at best. So i dont see why anyone would be surprised by Bush trumpeting what he did in his speech. Did you expect him to get up there and discuss tons of facts, specifics...or admit iraq could be a mistake. wake up.

Even taking for granted that going into iraq may have been a mistake, or premised on false intelligence, and given the fact that hussein may have had no or little connection with osama....lets deal with the present. It is pretty clear by all accounts that we are at war in iraq with a number of groups, some of whom are alquaeda, some other isalmic fundemental groups, along with antiamerican fighters from other countries, and baathistt.....there is a whole mix of groups fighting us there. I think there has been a ton of al quaeda connections in iraq these days and dont know why you think otherwise. but that isnt even that important now. the point is what are we to do now? leave iraq? continue to fight? put a timetable on it? threaten other neighboring coutnries who are helping the insurgents? where is the plan? all i ever hear these days are complaints about the past (which may be legitimate), complaints about the present (also may be legitimate), and defense of the current action. where is the plan???? from either side. more money? less money? more troops, less troops, timetable, no timetable.

This is war and true discussion at home is democracy at its best. partisan bickering for the sake of making the other side look bad is democracy at its worst. where are we ? we got kids fighting out there. we are wasting our energy on the wrong things at home.

we are now at war with they and them....and the two are sometimes difficult to distinguish. the way i see it is the republicans are too busy giving rah rah speeches with no detailed planning and the dems are too busy ripping the republicans rah rah speeches, again with no planning. very sad.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All men are timid on entering any fight. Whether it is the first or the last fight, all of us are timid. Cowards are those who let their timidity get the better of their manhood."- General George Patton Jr.
The question is "Dissident," what are you afraid of? Leave it to the "American Dissident" to quote some British Scientist in an attempt to rebut a U.S. Nationalist: An ideal the "Dissident" clearly doesn't grasp. Nothing wrong with the Brits, mind you. They just have no balls.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Republicans saying they are more "American" than liberals who, to listen to the likes of Rove, are barely better than the terrorists themselves.

However, since the Republicans are in control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate, and (according to poll last week) 80% of Republican voters approve of Bush's performance in Iraq, I think it's fair and proper that they should take responsibility for the mistakes in judgement they have, and are still making.

There is nothing wrong with Democrats holding them to account for that. As an example: Bush said we needed to invade Iraq because under Saddam it was a "haven for terrorists", yet everday we here that inspite of the increases expenditure of life and tax dollars we have only suceeded in creating an Iraq that is, according to Bush himself, a "haven for terrorists".

Every day we Dems let this continue unquestioned we are complicit in the deaths of Iraqis and American who deserve better from our Government.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous above, if you find you are being ignored it's because you are obviously nothing more than a troll who can offer nothing more than time-wasting insults. Why don't you head back to Free Republic?

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ignored? On the contrary. It seems I've got a lot of attention. Patriotism often has that kind of impact on spineless Liberals. They try to ignore it, but try as they might they're hatred for it always drives them to issue some pathetic rebuttal: "troll." Now go a be a good Liberal and hug a tree or take a conflict resolution class or something. Leave the real battles to the Nationalists.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this issue really burns me up too. That this administration is not being clear about the differences in operation and objectives between Al Qaeda and the insurgency is so upsetting. There has been a total lack of cultural sensitivity or even consideration for cultural relativity in approaching the Middle East. Reconstruction was undoubtedly going to be messy under Bush. This administration seems to treat the region as though its one culture, frozen in time, which I find offensive actually. The "they" and "them" are a reflection of Bush's own lack of ability to decipher nuances within cultures and systems other than his own (...not that he really understands or can be sensitive to the nuances that exist here). His representation ("they" and "them"), I would say, is a function of his own ethnocentrism. It is so frustrating to know that this administration is not capable of making a more intelligent, sensitive and insightful assessment of the challenges that exist in Iraq.

Just had to get that off my chest... Thanks.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right above commentator.
The way to defeat the enemy is to understand them. That's not being wimpy or "advocating therapy," rather following a basic truth of human nature understood by most everyone -- except Bush and his hawkish ignorant ilk.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aside from the obvious efforts to conflate Iraq and Afganistan/Pakistan as part of a political shell-game, there is an excellent discussion of the interplay of racism and wars-of-liberation on dissident voice.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot! » »

9:21 PM  

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