Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Iraqi insurgency

Andrew Sullivan prints an "oopsie" quote from Dick Cheney aka Nostradamus:

They will do everything they can to disrupt the process up to those elections in January because they know that once you've got a democratically elected government in place that has legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq, they're out of business. That will be the end of the insurgency." - vice president Dick Cheney, October 28, 2004.

One of the more bizarre, and frustrating, characteristics of this administration is this practice of confidently asserting as fact something that is, on the face of it, either unknowable or patently false. Of course, almost all politicians do this to varying degrees, but the Bush Administration is remarkable for having made this one of its main strategies for addressing unpleasant issues with the American public, particularly the Iraq war. And I do think that clearly false "spinning" with regard to something as serious as war is rather different than doing it over, say, tax cuts. It strikes me that there ought to be a higher standard for dealing with the public when the country is at war -- in part because the executive branch is almost exclusively responsible for conducting foreign policy, and so its spin cannot be as easily countered by Congress or opposition parties.

But what's more disturbing than the Administration's dissembling on Iraq is that it seems to be working. Partisan conservatives, except for a minority of independent-minded, conscience-driven ones, just don't care; they're commited to backing the party on the Iraq war no matter what. This forum discussion of the Iraqi and Afghan prisoner torture allegations is truly dispiriting if it represents what the more politically-aware conservative public thinks. And much of the rest of the American public, who are not especially political or partisan, seemingly just can't be bothered with the whole thing. So Dick Cheney claims we'll definitely find WMD, and then we don't. So he claims the insurgency will end following the January elections, and then it doesn't. What's next? We seem to be lacking an effective "negative feedback mechanism" here.

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