By my count, the Commander-in-Chief used the phrase ‘al Qaida‘ a total of 87 different times yesterday during his speech at the U.S. Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. (Others have come up with even higher estimates: At one point yesterday, CNN estimated 93 times.) Since the White House’s transcript of the speech totals approx. 3,600 words, this means that the American President uttered the phrase ‘al Qaida’ (which counts as two words, incidentally) once every 41 words (roughly). Insofar as the so-called War on Terror and Defense of the Homeland go, this might be the all-time record. (Though I admit to not having checked very many of the speeches delivered by Dick Cheney over the past six years or so. Or everything associated with the Department of Homeland Security. Or the news reports and commentaries that stream across the FOX News Channel, the Weekly Standard, and similar venues.)
As David Keen pointed out in CounterPunch the other day, the propagandist’s Number One weapon is repetition: "repeat your message often enough and people will believe it." No less an expert in the craft than the Fuhrer himself once counseled: "The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. [Propaganda] must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." Indeed.
Given such profligate word-usage among the White House speechwriters responsible for drafting the July 24 beauty, it’s difficult to decide which single passage out of the whole deserves to be highlighted the most. So you’ll have to forgive me for my choices. (Both of which came near the end of the speech.)
At this stage, I guess we can dispense with wondering whether or not any of it is true. These days — and perhaps just about forever — whatever is true around official Washington is true by some freakish accident — the purely contingent correspondence between whatever the regime asserts for the sake of power, and whatever happens to be the case in the world on any particular occasion.
Truth-as-usefulness is another matter. And, therefore, a more practical question comes to mind: Whether or not all of the regime’s efforts, taken as a whole, will by the waning months of 2008 prove sufficiently frightening to convince Americans to stand up and, in a single voice, to chant: Enough with democracy and the November 2008 elections already! It’s Bush-Cheney for as long as the Homeland is threatened and the War on Terror lasts.
We will see.
(Two brief excerpts follow from "President Bush Discusses War on Terror in South Carolina," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 24, 2007. – Feel free to nominate your own personal favorite. It’d be awfully hard to miss the side of this barn.)
And most important for the people who wonder if the fight in Iraq is worth it, al Qaida in Iraq shares Osama bin Laden’s goal of making Iraq a base for its radical Islamic empire, and using it as a safe haven for attacks on America. That is why our intelligence community reports — and I quote — "compared with [other leading Sunni jihadist groups], al Qaida in Iraq stands out for its extremism, unmatched operational strength, foreign leadership, and determination to take the jihad beyond Iraq’s borders."
Our top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said that al Qaida is "public enemy number one" in Iraq. Fellow citizens, these people have sworn allegiance to the man who ordered the death of nearly 3,000 people on our soil. Al Qaida is public enemy number one for the Iraqi people; al Qaida is public enemy number one for the American people. And that is why, for the security of our country, we will stay on the hunt, we’ll deny them safe haven, and we will defeat them where they have made their stand.
I’ve explained the connection between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate. I presented intelligence that clearly establishes this connection. The facts are that al Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they’re fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat. If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world — and disastrous for America. We will defeat al Qaida in Iraq.
Update (Tom Toles, Washington Post, July 26):
Update (August 22): Get a load of this image (as shot by Jim Young of Reuters today in Kansas City, MO):
"The greatest weapon in the arsenal
of democracy is the desire for liberty
written into the human heart by our
Creator. So long as we remain true
to our ideals, we will defeat the ex-
tremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We
will help those countries’ peoples stand
up functioning democracies in the heart
of the broader Middle East. And when
that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer. Thank you, and God bless. (Applause.)" ("President Bush Attends Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, Discusses War on Terror," White House Office of the Press Secretary, August 22, 2007.)
Looking over this image, I can’t make up my mind whether the photographer worships his subject matter, or holds him in contempt? Based on the image alone, one can make both cases. – What do you think?
"Don’t know much about history," Matthew Yglesias, The Guardian, August 22, 2007
"Will U.S. be final victim of its global dance macabre?" Gul Jammas Hussain, Mehr News Agency, August 22, 2007
"Bush accused of twisting history over Iraq, Asia war links," P. Parameswaran, Agence France Presse, August 23, 2007
"The big muddy," Editorial, Baltimore Sun, August 23, 2007
"President Compares Vietnam, Iraq Wars," Farah Sotckman, Boston Globe, August 23, 2007
"Bush cites past wars for lessons on Iraq," Michael Tackett, Chicago Tribune, August 23, 2007
"Bush draws parallels between Iran and Vietnam," Richard Alleyne, Daily Telegraph, August 23, 2007
"George Bush: Iraq must not become Vietnam," Alex Spillius, Daily Telegraph, August 23, 2007
"Bush warns of Iraqi ‘killing fields’," Edward Luce, Financial Times, August 23, 2007
"This is a war for credibility," Martin Woolacott, The Guardian, August 23, 2007
"How can this bloody failure be regarded as a good war?" Seumas Milne, The Guardian, August 23, 2007
"Iraq: The vanishing coalition," Leonard Boyle and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, August 23, 2007
"The Iraqis don’t deserve us. So we betray them…," Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 23, 2007
"The retreat from Iraq," Adrian Hamilton, The Independent, August 23, 2007
"The Asian Example," Editorial, New York Sun, August 23, 2007
"Bush Declares That ‘Free Iraq’ Is within Reach," Jim Rutenberg et al., New York Times-IHT, August 23, 2007
"Historians Question Bush’s Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq," Thom Shanker, New York Times, August 23, 2007
"British forces’ effort in Iraq criticised by US general," Hamish Macdonell, The Scotsman, August 23, 2007
"Bush invokes Vietnam to justify Iraq commitment," Tm Reid, The Times, August 23, 2007
"Iraq and Vietnam," Editorial, The Times, August 23, 2007
"Spectre of Vietnam looms large over the killing fields of Iraq," Gerard Baker, The Times, August 23, 2007
"An imprudent comparison that undermines the American case," Bronwen Maddox, The Times, August 23, 2007
"Quitting Iraq would have dire results, Bush warns," Paul Koring, Toronto Globe and Mail, August 23, 2007
"Bush: Remember Vietnam," Tim Harper, Toronto Star, August 23, 2007
"Discarded Troop Plan Gets a Second Look," Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2007 [$$$$$]
"Bush Ties Iraq Effort To Vietnam Lessons," John D. McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2007 [$$$$$]
"Bush Compares Iraq to Vietnam," Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post, August 23, 2007
Update (September 15): Yet another example of defending the Homeland:
"Erwin Chemerinsky and the Post-9/11 Attack on Academic Freedom," Marjorie Cohn, The Jurist, September 15, 2007