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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I'm just saying

Bush reveals exit strategy for Iraq: Magic.

Now, I'm not really going to comment on the "five steps to a happy, democratic Iraq" portion of his speech. I was going to, but then I realized that mocking such clearly vapid, unsubstantiated rhetoric would be pointless. There was something else that was baffling to me, however:
"In his prime-time speech to the Army War College in Pennsylvania, Mr Bush also announced the US would seek to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of US torture of Iraqi detainees. The US will fund the construction of a new maximum security prison and, when that is completed and with the approval of the Iraqi government, 'we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning,' Mr Bush said, stumbling over the pronunciation of the prison's name."

Now, maybe it's just me, but it's not as if Abu Ghraib is a relic of the autocratic tradition that Iraq has enjoyed for the past few decades. It's not a new beginning. If anything, this is a perfect symbol for the whole damn endevor - we'll forgo the actual issue of prisoner abuse, and instead focus on the prison itself. As if the disappearence of the building is going to erase from the collective memory of Iraq the humiliation that those prisoners suffered at the hands of the "liberating" Americans. We tear down a statue of Saddam Hussein, but we do it instead of toppling the tradition of remote, iron fisted rulers with no common ground shared with the people. If we actually do withdraw on June 30th, there will be a lot of fanfare, and a lot of speeches declaring the end of an era of tyranny, and in the end, nothing will change.

This administration has been the masters of empty, symbolic gestures. Bush champions "No Child Left Behind," then leaves behind approximately two million children behind in the wake of tax cuts for a segment of society, and on a type of income, which affects about seven people. Our president lands on an aircraft carrier with a huge banner, which reads, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" in big, blocky letters. And then we experience hundreds of casualties. Oops.

That's going to be a real problem for Bush, at some point. People will ride empty symbolism only so far... and from the latest polling numbers, it looks like "November" is out of Bush's range. He's going to need something substantive before the elections, and it doesn't look like he's got anything. He's presided over a war where the US committed war crimes, racked up massive debt, and lost pretty much total credibility within the international community. He handed massive contracts, with no bidding, to companies which have suspect ties to his Vice President. And as a special bonus, he lied about it.

So I hope they do knock down the prison. I hope they build a new one. It will be a fitting symbol for an empty-gesture obsessed presidency.

cranked out at 1:06 AM | |

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