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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 07:09 AM
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Bush's war of the words
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 07:46 AM by bigtree
Oct 13, 2006


By Tom Engelhardt

For Homer, those epithets attached to his heroes and gods were undoubtedly mnemonic devices - the fleet-footed Achilles, Poseidon the Earth-shaker, the wily Odysseus, the ox-eyed Hera. But isn't it strange how many similar, if somewhat less heroic, catch words and phrases have adhered to key officials of the Bush administration these last years? Here's my own partial list:

President George ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job") Bush, Vice President Dick ("last throes") Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald ("stuff happens") Rumsfeld, then-national security adviser, now Secretary of State Condoleezza ("mushroom cloud") Rice, Central Intelligence Agency director George ("slam dunk") Tenet, then-deputy secretary of defense Paul (" floats on a sea of oil") Wolfowitz, Centcom Commander General Tommy ("We don't do body counts") Franks, then-White House counsel, now-Attorney General Alberto ("quaint") Gonzales, withdrawn Supreme Court nominee and White House counsel Harriet ("You are the best governor ever") Miers, and most recently House Speaker Dennis ("The buck stops here") Hastert.

You know a person by the company he or she keeps - so the saying goes. You could also say that you know an administration by the linguistic company it keeps; and though George W Bush is usually presented as an inarticulate stumbler of a speech and news-conference giver, it's nothing short of remarkable how many new words and phrases (or redefined old ones) this president and his administration have managed to lodge in our lives and our heads.

And of all the words that came to their minds post-September 11, the first and fastest was an old one - "war". Within hours of the September 11 attacks, it was already on the scene and being redefined by administration officials and supporters. The US would not, for instance, actually declare war. After all, whom was war to be declared on? We were simply "at war", and that was that. Since then, according to George Bush and his associates, the US has either been fighting "the global war on terror" (aka GWOT), "the long war", "the millennium war", "World War III", or "World War IV". We Americans not only entered an immediate state of war, but one meant to last generations, and with it we got a commander-in-chief presidency secretly redefined in such a way as to place it outside any legal boundaries.

We were, then, at war. But the first war we were "at" was a war of the words, and at its heart from the beginning was the status of the people we were capturing on or near various battlefields, or even kidnapping off the streets of European cities, and exactly what we could do to them. If John F Kennedy is remembered for saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner," perhaps when history shrinks George W Bush to a soundbite, it will be, "We abide by the law of the United States; we do not torture." To say those words - repeatedly - he has had to mount not a soapbox, nor even the TV or radio version of a bully pulpit, but a pile of torn, trampled dictionaries . . .


my 2 cents: All You Got To Do Is Listen To What Osama Bin Laden Says (10-12-2006)
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