Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Juan Cole's takedown of Bush's infantile optimism
If nothing else, it's a welcome counterpoint to Rush Limbaugh's minimization of US military fatalities (Less than traffic accidents!). I mean, look, numbers and bodycounts never tell the entire story - they're shorthand to allow us to put things into perspective. Like so many other statistics, they can readily be used to serve many differing viewpoints. Moreover, the dire situation should be counterbalanced by the lack of a refugee or other humanitarian crisis, which demonstrates that things could be going far worse for the Iraqis (hey, look! damning with faint praise!!). But Cole does a masterful job of bringing immediacy to a situation for which distance and disassociation seems to be the preferred mode of understanding.
Bonus! In a previous post (you can scroll down) Cole speculates:
I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place.
I can't completely agree with Cole here. First, the American public has liked ALL presidents' cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism. Second, it's not the embarrassment of voting for him in the first place that Americans have to get over (quite a few have gotten over that shame) ... it's the shameful embarrassment of our reaction to the terrorist killings on September 11 that will drive far too many to vote for Bush in November. People who knew better decided to rally around Bush (and by extension, Rove, Cheney, and Ashcroft); people who knew better pretended that irony was dead; people who knew better decided to treat 9/11 as ahistorical, acontextual, and an excuse to buy horrific drawings of firemen raising a flag in an utterly self-conscious and therefore false photo-op; people who knew better stood silent when Bush and his minions decided to use general insecurity in order to consolidate his political power, particularly during the 2002 elections. It is these people, who may or may not have voted for Bush in 2000, who will be voting for him this time around in order to save face. It is these people who we need to be able to tell, "Say what you want in public, but in the privacy of the voting booth, do what you know in your heart of hearts is the right thing."