The worst possible news for the proponents of the Iraq war has now come to pass – for the next two weeks President Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld will be criscrossing the nation, explaining why we’re there. This is a bad idea because they can never keep their explanations straight. Sure, it wasn’t about the first few reasons, they’ll admit – awfully smug of you to bring it up, by the way – but really, is the reason important? The real reason is that we’re there to honor our war dead. No wait – the real reason is that we’re there to transform the Middle East. But the best reason so far is that Iraq is part of the decisive struggle of the 21st century.
You get the idea. And you’ll notice that as the explanations grow increasingly desperate they become increasingly abstract. The facts, having become impediments to the general progress, are tossed aside, much the way a lost navigator might hurl his sextant into the ocean and start cutting up bird entrails. It might not help any, but you’ll have certainly shut up those traitors who said you didn’t know how to use the damn thing.
And also – you might not be the best person to explain something if you resent the idea that you’ve been asked to explain it in the first place. It looks a little testy when the first argument for the war out of your mouth is that anyone who demands an argument is a traitor or an appeaser. Maybe this sort of strategem worked for the tobacco lobby, or maybe it’s something you learn in CEO school – when you’ve got nothing, accuse your accusers. By the time the ink clears, you and your tentacles have squirted under the nearest rock.
But now we’re coming into the home stretch and the old BS just isn’t working anymore. I’m not sure our leaders have faced that, though. When the Middle East stubbornly refused to magically transform into DemocroExxonDisneyland, Rummy, Bush and Cheney insisted that magical, sudden transformations take time. And warrantless wiretapping. Now even after all that, the traitors are still coming out of the woodwork – the Pentagon, of all people, recently released an assessment of Iraq that says the country is sliding into civil war. If the military brass doesn’t have the will to ignore reality, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
But don’t be afraid, voters. It’s natural for the reasons we’re in the Middle East to be a little confusing sometimes. Hell, even the people who make this stuff up can’t keep it all straight. Right now, in fact, the big reason – the overarching theme – the leitmotif – as it were – is the battle against Islamofascism. Islamofascism is one of those axis-of-evil kinda terms that means the most when you define it the least. Like pornography and weapons of mass destruction, we won’t wait till we see it, but we’ll know what it is anyway.
It’s only too bad that Iraq – a Stalinist state, if the giant bronze artwork is any indication – had nothing to do with Islamofascism before it suddenly became a seething hotbed of the stuff. It’s not like we used that as an excuse to go in before, and even when we did, it was wrong (damn that faulty intelligence). But now the real reason has suddenly become clear, and while Iraq is the definitive battlefield, its neighbor is the center of the evil. So does this mean we’re in the wrong country? Oh, shut up.
See – if you take all the explanations as though they were supposed to fit together into a coherent whole, it makes no sense whatsoever. That’s how clever our enemy is. The trick is to take a particular idea that you like and repeat it over and over again. And when that fails, pick another one, and so on as needed. This is called “staying the course.”
And if the people don’t understand that, be patient with them. They just need one more whirlwind speaking tour to convince them that their only options are following the president into a world of moral clarity and factual pandemonium, or joining the silent majority of vicious traitors and misguided cowards.
But the person who put the choice in its starkest terms this past week was President Bush, who said, “If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.” See – our borders are so porous that 20 million armed Iraqis trying to sneak into the country wouldn’t raise an alarm at all. So if that doesn’t prove we got into that country just in time, nothing will. Just imagine what could’ve hapened if all those people had the bomb.
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