the archaeology of zombie talk

LI is fascinated by zombie talk. It is an idiolect of the hypnotized, a rare and precious thing.

Now, there are many patterns in zombie talk to choose from. We've written about the bogus analogies. We've written about the false claims. But --if we were to choose just one word to prospect out of the madness and moil of the last three years, the word would be “desperate.” This word pops up every time the weld between Iraq’s reality and the American description of it is jarred.

Here's a little travelogue for ya:

Back in June, 2003, when the first roadside bombs were killing American soldiers, Bremer said:

"Those who refuse to embrace the new Iraq are clearly panicking, they are turning their sights on Iraqis themselves," L. Paul Bremer said. "Today they have killed innocent Iraqis with the same disdain toward their own people they showed for 35 years."

Then, in August, as bombs hit Najaf, Rumsfeld, who back then was happy, as chief clown, to hog the spotlight on Iraq, said:

“As success during this period of transition continues to mount, the opponents of success and of a free Iraq may continue their desperate acts. But the outcome is not in doubt: Those who committed this act and who support violence in Iraq will fail.”

By October, 2003, Bush had, somehow, dropped the mission accomplished rhetoric. But mission was about to be accomplished soon, as in this description of those deadenders who by this time had mounted a quite extensive bombing campaign:

“Their desperate attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate us or the brave Iraqis and Afghans who are joining in their own defense and who are moving toward self-government. Coalition forces, aided by Afghan and Iraqi police and military, are striking the enemy with force and precision. Our coalition is growing in members and growing in strength. Our purpose is clear and certain. Iraq and Afghanistan will be stable, independent nations, and their people will live in freedom.”

By then, desperation had become a normal White House response to any attack. This is from the Christian Science Monitor, 29 October, 2003, reporting on car bombings in Fallujah and the killing of the deputy mayor of Baghdad:

“This week's string of deadly attacks in some areas of Iraq has rocked Washington policymakers back on their heels and led to calls for a reassessment of the US military effort.
On Tuesday unknown assailants struck again in Baghdad, assassinating a deputy mayor in a hit-and-run shooting. A car bomb exploded in the tense city of Fallujah, killing at least four.
White House officials said the attacks showed that anti-US elements were desperate to stop steady progress towards Iraqi normalization. But they also admitted that the ferocity of resistance to the US occupation has taken them by surprise.”

In the Weekly Standard, on 25 November 2003, a summary of after mission accomplished Iraq stated: “Over the summer, as we were continuously assured by the administration that the bad guys were desperate and on the run, we could not turn on our television sets without hearing that "the noose is tightening." (Whether around Saddam's neck, or ours--nobody seemed to specify).”
By 12 February, 2004 Tom Friedman, a columnist who absolutely loves desperate as the word to describe the “terrorists” in Iraq, wrote:
The situation in Iraq is fast approaching the tipping point. The terrorists know that if they can wreak enough havoc, kill enough Iraqis waiting in line to join their own police force, they can prevent the U.N. from coming up with a plan for elections and a stable transfer of U.S. authority to an Iraqi government. Once authority is in Iraqi hands, the Baathists and Islamists have a real problem: They can't even pretend to be fighting the U.S. anymore. It will be clear to all Arabs and Muslims that they are fighting against the freedom and independence of Iraq and for their own lunatic ideologies. Which is why they are desperate to prevent us from reaching that tipping point. Their strategy is to sow chaos, defeat President Bush and hope that his Democratic successor will pull out.”
That desperation. Those terrorists, always working on a deadline, as the calm but implacable American machine swept them out of Iraq, and put in their place the Iraqi entrepreneur!
Friedman’s column came after the capture of Saddam Hussein, which signaled the complete and final victory of the Americans in Iraq. The military was on board with the desperate meme, too. This is from January 22, 2004, a dispatch by Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division –

“Capturing Saddam was a major operational and psychological defeat for the enemy. But a more important result of his capture is the increase in accurate information brought forward by Iraqis allowing us to conduct numerous precise raids to kill or capture financiers, IED-makers, and mid-level leaders of the former regime. These groups are still a threat, but a fractured, sporadic threat with the leadership destabilized, finances interdicted and no hope of the Ba'athists' return to power.

The number of enemy attacks against our forces has been declining since a peak in November during Ramadan. And now their desperate attacks are targeting civilians; terrorist car bombs have killed innocent civilians and Iraqi police; ambushes attacked civilian supply convoys and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers, demonstrating the enemy's disdain for peace and prosperity in Iraq and for Iraqis. The enemy is focused solely on indiscriminate murder and promoting their own cause.”

You can tell – like a yoyo in a vacuum at the end of its string, Iraq was now calming down. Imagine, the enemy is focused on its own cause. No more ups and downs! As the AEI discovered a year later, we’d already won the war. Among the odd couplings in this war, none is odder than the embrace of the Baudrillardian view of reality by the hardcore right.

So time and our triumph marched on. Of course, people who are desperate are desperate for something. Fox news figured it out: the terrorists were desperate to derail democracy. The sabotage against the big democracy train has become very popular, and if a spokesman says desperate today, likely that derailing will occur in the next paragraph or so. In December, 2004, when the non-war, which we had won, seemed to be going on – like a play with no audience, really, except perhaps for the Iraqis, who persistently keep trying to edge into the American narrative, Scott McLellan put it best:
This [election] is an important first step in their future. And certainly, the security situation is an issue that we continue to address. There are challenges that remain, but the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists are being defeated and they will be defeated in the end. They're growing more desperate because we're getting closer and closer to a free and democratic Iraq.”
Desperation piled on desperation – obviously, those terrorists were not only using weapons obviously smuggled in from Iran, but prozac, probably from the same terrorist source. Bomb those prozac factories and the terrorists will have to face up to reality.

Desperation did take a curtain call for a while in 2005, while people in the know told us all about the amazing progress being made in Iraq. As for derailing democracy – keeping a majority who had voted in a free election from choosing their leader – why, that was now the job of our U.S. ambassador to Iraq. However, it wasn’t exactly “derailing” – call it more like jerking on a leash.

But the winds of freedom sweeping Iraq still hadn’t quite swept away the one or two terrorists left in the country yet. In a bold meeting of clichés, we have it on the word of
U.S Brigadier General Alston, (AP, 13 January 2006):

“He said the recent attacks, blamed mostly on extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq, were part of an "attempt to discredit and derail the progress of the Iraqi people."

Alston has discovered the definition war – he should definitely rush back to the Pentagon to announce the results of his startling research. The enemy, he could tell them, actually opposes us. Imagine that! They must be desperate.

All of which gets us to the best use of desperate yet – General Pace’s interview on Tim Russert’s show, yesterday.

LI simply can’t get over the abyss revealed in Pace’s remarks – the abyss, that is, of sheer mindlessness in the Pentagon. In Rumsfeld’s search for the perfect lackey, he should have included some other job qualifications – for instance, not being a total redneck:

“MR. RUSSERT: What’s going on in Iraq?
GEN. PACE: Well, what happened in Iraq was you have the extremists who see that the Iraqi people are going to the polls and voting for their own freely elected government. The terrorists are becoming more desperate—so desperate that they destroy one of their own most sacred shrines in an attempt to cause civil war and strife.”

So, the shrine in Samara was the terrorist’s own shrine. Hmm, could it be that the military sees every Iraqi as a terrorist? Perhaps that explains their ‘desperate” air strike policy, unquestioned by the U.S. press, and a sign of desperation by deadending Americans if I ever saw one.