OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - “Metaphors Are Sprouting Everywhere”

(06/03/2004)

By Tony Russell

The Bush administration’s propaganda curtain over Iraq is finally lifting. Colorful metaphors are sprouting everywhere, like blossoms of truth after a long winter of lies and deception.

Gen. Anthony Zinni said on “60 Minutes” that the problem with the administration’s “stay the course” plan for Iraq is that "the course is headed over Niagara Falls."

General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee, "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss.”

Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times, says, “…we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive.”

Byron Williams, a pastor in Oakland, California, uses a medical metaphor: “What the president now has is an obstinate policy that is allergic to self-reflection.”

This administration came into office as the self-proclaimed “grown ups,” the mature, competent managers who would give the rest of us a demonstration of how things are supposed to be done. Instead, their failures in Iraq exemplify their record across the board. In a mere three and a half years, they have managed to screw up so many things so badly that whoever follows them will have to work day and night just to clean up their mess.

Interestingly, the most withering criticism of the administration isn’t coming from Democrats. It’s coming from Republicans, from retired military officers now free to speak their minds, even from former Bush administration officials. Mark Helprin, for example, is a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, now a contributing editor to the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a bastion of liberalism). Helprin writes that Abu Ghraib is "a symbol of the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy, and thought." (Personally, I would add to that list “an apparently deliberate contempt” for justice, respect for other cultures and religions, and empathy for other human beings.)

Or take Gen. Zinni again, who collaborated with Tom Clancy, long a darling of the militarists in the administration, on a forthcoming book, Battle Ready. Zinni’s judgment on the administration’s handling of Iraq? "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption.”

Say ‘Amen!’ Who would have believed that in less than one term of office, ANY administration could: Inherit a balanced budget, and turn it into annual deficits approaching half a trillion dollars? Shed American jobs in the millions? Replace well-paying, secure, rewarding work with marginal, low-wage service jobs? Alienate traditional allies? Undermine the United Nations? Withdraw from vial international treaties? Sully America’s reputation? Give the green light to torture and abuse? Fuel a global religious conflict? Spur the growth of terrorism? Make the strategically vital Middle East dangerously unstable? Botch the aftermath of military conquest in Iraq? Assault basic American rights with the wildly-misnamed “Patriot Act”? Shift the tax burden more and more onto the shoulders of the middle class and the poor?

And on and on. The Bush administration record is so thoroughly dismal, its actions so offensive to America’s core beliefs and values, that supporting it takes denial to an extreme never seen before in our country. Over and over, the same words have been used by Republicans and Democrats alike to describe this crew—words like “arrogant,” “obstinate,” “stubborn,” and “deceptive.” Let’s close with one more metaphor, from a friend of mine, writing from Virginia: “Arrogance and secrecy have spread through this administration like a cancer, and it’s eating out America’s core.”


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