War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength.

by Kieran Healy on October 28, 2003

Bush Says Attacks Are A Sign of U.S. Progress.

Criteria for identifying a lack of progress to follow. Presumably will not include “fewer attacks.” (Via Billmon.)



phil 10.28.03 at 7:21 am

Getting Creationism into those Iraqi textbooks would be a real mark of progress.


Sander 10.28.03 at 10:47 am

yeah.. probably, next week, when (if?) things have calmed down a bit, Bush will triumphantly proclaim “Decrease In Attacks Are Signs of Progress”


David W. 10.28.03 at 2:29 pm

A few years ago, I felt pretty strongly that the adjective “Orwellian” was overused in describing political discourse. I miss those days.


Jean Pierre Bonin 10.28.03 at 2:39 pm

Solid State Logic!

(1) A terrorist is someone whose main occupation is to sit home designing conspiracies.
(2) As long as the terrorist’s situation is bearable, conspiracy designs are not meant to be implemented.
(Cn) The moment a terrorist perpetrates a terrorist attack, he is no longer a terrorist.


Thorley Winston 10.28.03 at 2:40 pm

From the Washington Post article:

“The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react,” Bush said as he sat in the Oval Office with L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq. He added: “The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can’t stand the thought of a free society.”

The snide little Orwellian comments aside, the President seems to be saying that the attacks are happening to detract from the progress being made in Iraq – whether to get the folks back home to focus on the casualties or to make the Iraqis uncertain about their future.

As more and more progress is being made, it becomes increasingly less likely that a Saddam Hussein-style government could return to power which understandably would make the old guard and/or the proponents of an Islamacist-style theocracy more desperate. Since they cannot win by actually defeating the coalition forces in combat, they have to resort to nuisance ambushes and attacking softer targets in the hopes of winning through attrition. The more success the coalition has in rebuilding, the more the attackers have to step up the violence to counteract from it. In which case its going to come down to the political will and resolve to finish the job in order to send the message that the real purpose of the attacks (to get the coalition to fold and go home) will not succeed.

It actually makes sense when you try to honestly understand what is being said rather than setting up strawman arguments about Orwell.


dsquared 10.28.03 at 3:06 pm

batting .000 so far today, Thorley.


Zizka 10.28.03 at 3:35 pm

Coming, guys, haven’t you seen any of the White Man’s Burden movies?

“It’s quiet tonight, Captain.”

“Yes, sir — **too quiet**”

When things quiet down, then we’ll know we’re in trouble.


Dantheman 10.28.03 at 5:00 pm

“Since they cannot win by actually defeating the coalition forces in combat, they have to resort to nuisance ambushes and attacking softer targets in the hopes of winning through attrition.”

In a week that has included rocket attacks on the Assistant Secretary of Defense in a highly fortfied hotel and numerous suicide bombings of police stations, this statement does not come close to passing the laugh test. Try again.


William 10.28.03 at 5:06 pm

What I don’t understand is how some people are able to view terrorism as a finite resource.

Like the rationale floated by Sullivan and others when the attacks first fell into a regular pace: “The Bush administration planned it this way. They want to deal with the terrorists when they attack our troops in Iraq rather than U.S. citizens in the streets of our cities.” As if, at some point in the future, there will be no more terrorists to deal with (i.e., we’ll kill or arrest them all).

It just seems to me that “terrorism” isn’t something that can used up, destroyed or controlled. At least not without addressing some underlying issues that lead to the creation of fundamentalist ideologues and those they use as their tools.

So, what? When Iraq becomes fully modernized and stable the terrorists will just give up and disappear? We’ll kill them all? They’ll be good losers and shake hands with the troops on their way to another third-world country?


Dr. Weevil 10.28.03 at 6:57 pm

What I don’t understand is how some people can treat terrorists as an infinite resource. Of course the supply is finite. I don’t know anyone who says it cannot be expanded, but ‘william’ seems to think that recruiting suicide bombers is as easy as generating internet spam and that the struggle against them is somehow hopeless by definition.

Should we go ahead and surrender now to those who practice terrorism, on the grounds that they cannot possibly be defeated? What if different groups of terrorists with irreconcilable aims threaten us? We can’t surrender to them all.


Tripp 10.28.03 at 8:25 pm

You are one wacky kind of guy. Did Japan know it was making great progress in WWII when we dropped the big one at Hiroshima? After all, we were demonstrating a desperate attack against a soft target.


Dan S 10.28.03 at 8:26 pm

Thorley provides a good explanation of what Bush must have meant. The problem is that Bush was wrong. The occupation isn’t winning, and the terrorism is in fact due to an impossible security situation and policies that have put terrorist recruiting through the roof.

So Bush should give it a rest with his Orwellian-sounding rhetoric, but even with a sympathetic interpretation of his comment he was still wrong.


nate-dogg 10.28.03 at 8:29 pm

What I don’t understand is how some people can treat terrorism as a finite resource. Of course it is a tactic, not a nation or group of dead-enders.

Should we continue killing and humilating people in other countries and unequivocally supporting governments that do the same and even worse, thereby creating more terrorists?

What if we turn more and more of the world against us? We can’t kill them all.


UncleBob 10.28.03 at 8:45 pm

Dr. Weevil: Your line of thinking is what kept the U.S. in Vietnam year after year after year, the better to achieve “Peace with honor.”

Remaining hunkered down in Iraq helplessly waiting for the next bomb to go off might possibly not be the best strategy for defeating terrorism, do you think?

And then what happens the next time there’s a military emergency in another part of the world? Shall we reinstate the draft? Hopefully not until after the elections, eh?


Gil 10.28.03 at 10:08 pm

I think Bush is right that these attacks indicate progress on our part and desperation on the attackers’ part, and these Orwellian references are silly.

When they attack the Red Cross (Crescent), the average Iraqi knows that these people are not on his side. It’s clear that they are attacking people who are there to help Iraqis, not oppress them. It seems that they have given up on trying to rally popular support and are pinning their hopes on driving away helpers before the imminent political changes can become irreversible.

That seems like desperation to me.


infamouse 10.28.03 at 10:18 pm

You are one wacky kind of guy. Did Japan know it was making great progress in WWII when we dropped the big one at Hiroshima? After all, we were demonstrating a desperate attack against a soft target.

On what planet does this make sense?


Charlie B 10.28.03 at 10:26 pm

Now I know what I haven’t been missing these past few months. And I know why the Cold War has passed into another and sickening phase. How galling – to have defeated Communism in the Soviet Union while it triumphed among the state-paid university elite at home. But they’ll soon be terrorist targets, just like the Red Cross. THEN we will get a real intellectual treat.


Sparta 10.29.03 at 2:39 am

Bush’s comments on terrorism should be taken in the context of his other remarks. In the alternative Bush universe it was the sailors aboard the US Lincoln’s idea to put up the now infamous and inconvenient ‘mission acomplished’ banner.

I guess it must also have been their idea to get an expensive banner made onshore and flown to the ship rather than use a traditional home made one. It must also have been their idea and not the Whitehouse to position it exactly so that it would appear in the same shot as Bush while he gave his speech.

As the war in Iraq continues to drag on the polls we can no doubt look forward to new Bush type revisionism, next we will be told that Bush did not even know he was going to the carrier, he was just minding his business in the cockpit of a fighter jet when a pilot happened to hop in and fly it to the Lincoln.

One always has to be suspicious of cant-lose logic and that is what Bush is practicing. If things are quiet in Iraq the occupation is a success, if things get hot then it demonstrates that the occupation is a success. heads I win, tails you loose.

The question that should be asked is would the country have supported the decision to invade if they had known beforehand what the definition of success was going to be?


nick 10.29.03 at 2:40 am

I don’t know anyone who says it cannot be expanded

I think you do, dear Weevil: they’re the advocates of the ‘flypaper’ strategy (or was that last season’s Bush justification?). The point is not that terrorists are an ‘infinite’ resource, but that they are a non-discrete resource. Meaning that the ‘one terrorist in Iraq = one less terrorist in the US’ line of reasoning doesn’t come close to being justified.

Nice strawman, though.

Also: call me a snob, but I’ll only consider arguments that the attacks signify ‘desparation’ when those making them spell the word correctly. And will then point out that the IRA must have been pretty bloody desparate to keep sending ‘dead-enders’ out for 20 years or so.


Gil 10.29.03 at 4:59 am


Who misspelled desperation besides you?


Dr. Weevil 10.29.03 at 5:29 am


I’ve been wondering that myself. He seems to imply that I did: at least he shifted from criticizing me by name (or pseudonym) for something else to criticizing some unnamed person’s bad spelling. A self-described snob who makes a point of correcting other people’s spelling might want to be more careful about clarifying his references. Bad spelling isn’t the only kind of bad writing.

As for the more substantial argument, no one has said that the total number of terrorists is absolutely fixed, and I find it odd that Nate should insist that I am the one making a straw man argument. Both william and nate-dogg insist that the number is not “finite”. Either they don’t know the meaning of the word ‘finite’ or they think there could be an infinite number of terrorists, which is absurd.

Here’s an analogy:
I’ve lived in a new apartment for five weeks now. In the first two weeks, I caught 21 mice. Those captured in the second week were generally smaller and (I assume) younger than those captured in the first. Mice reproduce quite rapidly, and it’s not hard to show that two mice could theoretically produce millions in very few years. Is the struggle to keep my apartment rodent-free therefore doomed? A pedant could argue that it is: there’s obviously nothing I can do (on my finite salary) that would make it ABSOLUTELY impossible for any mouse ever to get in. But in the more important sense, it is not doomed. An aggressive mouse-trapping policy has in fact led to the capture of only two mice in the last 3 weeks, and the food in the traps has been undisturbed for several days now. Though I plan to keep the traps baited and cocked, I think the tide has turned.

The idea that guerrillas or terrorists inevitably win is just as absurd as the idea that I shouldn’t have bothered trying to keep the mice out because failure was inevitable.


Dr. Weevil 10.29.03 at 5:30 am

Sorry: make that “Nick”, not “Nate”, in the second paragraph.


Russell L. Carter 10.29.03 at 6:12 am

Woa! The wingnuts are beseiged by mice. Surely that should make the rest of us think twice about associating with them. Is that fellow piggybacking on my healthplan? He’s unclean!


Dr. Weevil 10.29.03 at 11:59 am

Learn to read: I am no longer besieged by mice. (And note the spelling of ‘besiege’: we wouldn’t want you to upset Nick.)

It’s a good general rule that those who refer to others as “wingnuts” are pretty far out on the extremes themselves. All I did was object to the idea that there is an infinite supply of terrorists and the struggle against them is therefore hopeless. That hardly makes me an extremist, and if you think it does you are likely to be some kind of extremist yourself.


Paul 10.29.03 at 2:12 pm

How galling – to have defeated Communism in the Soviet Union while it triumphed among the state-paid university elite at home.

As a member of the state-paid, left-wing elite, I just want to say, “Hi, Charlie!”

But they’ll soon be terrorist targets, just like the Red Cross. THEN we will get a real intellectual treat.

Wouldn’t you rather have ice cream?


a different chris 10.29.03 at 10:31 pm

I’ve heard about the famous Dr. Weevil, but have never seen him in action before. I wasn’t disappointed.

I hereby nominate his “mice trapping strategy” as most bizarre comment ever. I mean, who the heck tries to work out a major bloody conflict involving almost uncountable viewpoints and individual histories (real and imagined) using the example of trapping mice in an apartment?

Um, besides the PNAC crowd, that is.

Gil gets honorable mention for claiming to know the thoughts of the Iraqi people. I’m guessing that he is right to believe they don’t think much of the Red Cross/Crescent bombings, but an old civilization knows that “the enemy of my enemy is NOT necessarily my friend” and the US has given them at least as much reason, both bloody (lots of pictures of dismembered children from US “precision weapons” if you go look for them) and political (Chalabi is the first to come to mind.)

Think about why the Iraqis aren’t turning any of these “desparate people” in, gil.

Bush is an blithering, cowardly idiot. And empty flight suit. Stop trying to defend him.

PS: Nick, desparate/desperate has different spellings in different countries. I know Dr. Weevil to be clueless about anything outside the US borders, but I expect better from you. ;>


Gil 10.29.03 at 10:55 pm

A Different Chris,

You suggest that I should:

Think about why the Iraqis aren’t turning any of these “desparate people” in, gil.

Ok. Think about why they are.

From here, according to General Richard Myers:

In terms of intelligence or valuable tips, Iraqi citizens are turning in former regime loyalists who are working against the future of Iraq. And there is a definite rise in those willing to come forward with information on subversive activities.


David W. 10.30.03 at 4:48 am

Dr. Weevil, your analogy would work better if your solution to your mouse problem was to attack your neighbor on the mistaken assumption that he was harboring mice.


Dr. Weevil 10.30.03 at 5:12 am

I don’t believe that “desperate”, meaning “hopeless”, has “different spellings in different countries”. Perhaps ‘a different chris’ could name the countries in which “desparate” is considered correct, and quote a dictionary or two to prove it? No need to check http://www.dictionary.com: a search on ‘desparate’ gives this result: “No entry found for desparate. / Did you mean desperate?”.

Perhaps he is thinking of “disparate”, an unrelated word that means something like “different, various”.

Of course, PNAC has never offered a mouse trapping strategy for Iraq, nor have I. I was only trying to offer a very simple analogy to make a single point: just because a hostile group (terrorists or mice) can expand in numbers doesn’t mean it will inevitably win. Apparently my analogy was not quite simple enough for ‘a disparate chris’ to grasp.

He might also wonder how Bush can be a coward if he has voluntarily chosen a career in which roughly 9% of the previous incumbents (4/42) were murdered on the job. Just in the last 40 years, we’ve had one successful assassination (Kennedy), one that came within an inch or so of succeeding(Reagan), and at least three more that were way too close for comfort (two different women shot at Ford and the Iraqis attempted to blow up Bush I in Kuwait). Have I forgotten any? The job of president of the U.S. is certainly more dangerous than being a policeman, fireman, cab driver, night clerk at the 7-11, or most kinds of soldiers. Special forces and bomb-disposal experts may be more dangerous. Of course, I am not saying it’s the most dangerous job in the world, just that a coward would not have taken it. Nor would an ordinary coward have flown jets in the Air National Guard when he could have gotten a crooked doctor to write him a fake medical excuse to avoid service entirely, like some other politicians we know.


Nabakov 10.30.03 at 5:40 am

“just because a hostile group (terrorists or mice) can expand in numbers doesn’t mean it will inevitably win.”

So how do you define terrorists “winning”.

The only clear goals they seem have articulated so far are to get US Forces out of Saudi Arabia (they went) and to turn the Islamic world against the west and things do appear to be a hell of a lot more polarised than they were two years ago.

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