Monday, December 15, 2008

America the Jingo

Was President George W. Bush's address to the troops upon his arrival in Afghanistan just another one of his faith-based formulas or a citation from our national anthem, delivered with the same ideological intimidation with which fundamentalist preachers invoke Scripture? I am referring to the following quotation in this morning's Financial Times, taken from the Reuters' wire:

I am confident we will succeed in Afghanistan because our cause is just.

This is the sort of passage that rings true to those who know more of "The Star-Spangled Banner" than its first stanza. The more relevant passage is the following:

Then conquer we must
For our cause it is just
And this be our motto,
"In God is our trust!"

This is the sort of patriotism best captured by Ambrose Bierce in his Devil's Dictionary:

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

Facing the press, rather than the troops, Bush was a little less formulaic but no better informed:

But Bush said much progress had been made in Afghanistan since U.S. and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks and said dozens of roads, schools and hospitals had been built.

But an Afghan reporter challenged Bush, saying the United States had failed to make good on promises to bring security.

”I respectfully disagree with you,” Bush replied. ”I just cited the progress. It’s undeniable. I never said the Taliban was eliminated, I said they were removed from power. They are lethal and they are tough.”

Still, if Bush could not grasp the cultural significance of yesterday's episode in Iraq, one cannot expect him to engage in reality-based discourse over the current dire conditions in Afghanistan.

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