Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, May 24, 2004  

The Bush Army War Speech

I wondered if this might not be a surprising speech. It was. Some of the content was surprising, and some of the context was, too. The surprising content can be summed up in two words (and will be, in story after story, over the next five weeks): full sovereignty.

On June 30, full sovereignty will be transferred to a government of Iraqi citizens.

At that time, the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Ambassador Paul Bremer, will cease to exist and will not be replaced.

Iraqis will govern their own affairs.

I suspect we'll be hearing more about what this actually means, but the White House hasn't left itself much room: it's getting the hell out.

The context of the speech was also fascinating (to me, at least). Bush gave a familiar speech, replete with descriptions of a reality to which few others have access (the transcript's not available yet, so I can't quote text). It was his somber mode, punctuated occasionally by his strange blinking, wherein his delivery was that of a daddy trying to explain death to his four-year-old.

But then, with about 20% of the speech left, he switched gears. He shifted to Preacher George, messianic George, absolutely certain of his goodness. It was actually quite moving, in a sort of twisted way. He contrasted the horrors of wahabism fundamentalist Islam (using "Taliban" as shorthand) with the purity of American democracy. Where before the words tangled his tongue with their foreigness, now he seemed to be speaking from the heart. It seemed clear that this is a guy who is, at the end of the day, pleased with how things have gone. There was a bad guy there who oppressed his people; we took him out and offered up our perfected ways like a toe-headed boy offering up a golden ring. All is well. God bless America.

To watch the speech, it was hard not to take away the message that this is pretty much how Bush saw it playing out. There wasn't confusion or lack of planning. This is a guy, remember, who exists only in the black-and-white mode. So Iraq is either a success or a failure. Today Bush declared it a success. If the lesson of Iraq seems more nuanced to the majority of Americans, that's their failure. They elected a guy of moral clarity. Now they see what that means.

[Correction. A commenter noted that the Taliban aren't practitioners of Wahabism. As I'm a little dim on my strains of fundamentalist Islam, I've made the correction.]

[Update: link to the speech is here.]

posted by Jeff | 5:37 PM |
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