Semantics Can't Mask Bush's Chicanery
Fisk, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
After his latest shenanigans, I've come to the conclusion that George Bush is the first US president to march backwards. First we had weapons of mass destruction. Then, when they proved to be a myth, Bush told us we had stopped Saddam's "programmes" for weapons of mass destruction (which happened to be another lie).
Now he's gone a stage further. After announcing victory in Iraq in 2003 and "mission accomplished" and telling us how this enormous achievement would lead the 21st century into a "shining age of human liberty", George Bush told us this week that "thanks to the surge, we've renewed and revived the prospect of success".
Now let's take a look at this piece of chicanery and subject it to a little linguistic analysis. Five years ago, it was victory - ie success - but this has now been transmogrified into a mere "prospect" of success. And not a "prospect", mark you, that has even been glimpsed. No, we have "renewed" and "revived" this prospect. "Revived", as in "brought back from the dead". Am I the only one to be sickened by this obscene semantics? How on earth can you "renew" a "prospect", let alone a prospect that continues to be bathed in Iraqi blood, a subject Bush wisely chose to avoid?
Note, too, the constant use of words that begin with "re -". Renew. Revive. And - incredibly - Bush also told us that "we actually re-liberated certain communities". This, folks, goes beyond hollow laughter. Since when did armies go around "re-liberating" anything? And what does that credibility-sapping "actually" mean? I suspect it was an attempt by the White House speech writer to suggest - by sleight of hand, of course - that Bush was really - really - telling the truth this time. But by putting "actually" in front of "re-liberate" - as opposed to just "liberate" - the whole grammatical construction falls apart. Rather like Iraq.
For by my reckoning, we have now "re-liberated" Fallujah twice. We have "re-liberated" Mosul three times and "re-liberated" Ramadi four times. The scorecard goes on. My files show that Sadr City may have been "re-liberated" five times, while Baghdad is "re- liberated" on an almost daily basis. General David Petraeus, in his pitiful appearance before the US Senate armed services committee, was bound to admit his disappointment at the military failure of the equally pitiful Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Basra. He had not followed Petraeus' advice; which was presumably to "re- liberate" the city (for the fourth time, by my calculation but with a bit more planning).
Indeed, Petraeus told senators that after his beloved "surge" goes home, the US will need a period of "consolidation and evaluation" - which is suspiciously close to saying that the US military will be, as the old adage goes, "redeployed to prepared positions". Ye gods! Where will this tomfoolery end?
In statistics, perhaps. By chance, as Bush was speaking this week, my mail bag flopped open to reveal a letter from my old American military analyst friend, George W Appenzeller. He gently (and rightly) corrects some recent comparative figures I used on US casualties in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. "In previous wars," he writes, "the US army has not reported to the public the number of wounded who are treated and immediately released back to duty. …