Monday, September 11, 2006

Image is Everything

We live in a culture that mocks the notion of objective truth. We have an administration that sneers at the "reality-based community" and sells its own "virtual reality" as fact. Image is everything, truth is nothing. Nowhere is this clearer than with the myth surrounding Bush's performance after 9/11. Luckily, as the X-Files used to tell us, the truth is out there. One truth-bearer is TNR's Jonathan Chait, who wrote an excellent column in the LA Times, pondering the fact that Bush intends to fight the upcoming elections (yet again) on his performance in the war on terror. But there's only one problem-- he let the architect of 9/11 slip away. Chait:

"It's worth briefly refreshing our memories as to why Bin Laden and his closest friends are hiding out in Pakistan. In 2002, we had them surrounded near Tora Bora in Afghanistan, but Gen. Tommy Franks, the former head of U.S. Central Command, persuaded our commander-in-chief to rely on poorly equipped, ill-trained Afghan mercenaries of dubious loyalty, rather than U.S. soldiers, to finish the job (Apparently the operating theory was, if you can't trust mercenaries, who can you trust?). Shockingly, as Peter Bergen reported in 2004 in the Atlantic Monthly, Bin Laden paid off the mercenaries, who let him escape to Pakistan. And now the Pakistanis, who were at least nominally trying to hunt him down, have thrown in the towel."
A recent Washington Post article paints an even more damning picture. Noting that the Bin Laden trail has been cold for at least two years now, the authors (Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson) discuss the events following the Tora Bora blunder:

"Only two months later [March 2002] , Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.
"I was appalled when I learned about it," said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. "I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that.""
This shouldn't really be a surprise, given that Bush claimed he didn't really care about Bin Laden, and anyway, was itching to kick Saddam Hussein's ass all over the Middle East. Presidential attention deficit disorder guides foriegn policy. But Chait ponders the idea of Bush running on one of his biggest failures:

"In related news, the Bush administration has decided to stake the 2006 elections on Bush's record of fighting terrorism. It sounds like a joke, but it isn't. He let our worst enemies escape; he is on the verge of creating a terrorist haven in Iraq where none existed before; and this is the issue he picks to highlight. Why not run on his record of evacuating New Orleans? Maybe Bill Clinton can run on his record of chastity!"
The explanation, of course, lies not so much in reality, as in image. And the media is all too happy to play along with this carefully-scripted (and false) storyline: Showtime runs a fawning tribute showing Bush ordering Cheney around and issuing challenges to terrorists (in real life, he was too caught up in reading My Pet Goat and flying from one air force base to another like a headless chicken-- or goat-- to do such a thing). And more recently, ABC-Disney broadcast a "crapumentary" blaming everything on the Clinton administration (going against experts like Richard Clarke and the 9/11 Commission).

For in the moral relativistic universe of the GOP and the Bushites, there is no objective truth. Bush is the great leader because they say he is, and because the media confirms it. Image is everything.


shadhu said...

I wonder how much of a mid-term bounce Bush would get if Bin Laden was "conveniently" killed or captured in the next month or so...

Morning's Minion said...

Well, in the summer of 2004, they did put pressure on Pakistan to delriver a "high value target" during the Democratic convention. Unfortunately, they had run out of "Al Qaeda number 3s".

Jimmy Mac said...

Shadu ... today's alleged death of OBL will give your premise a chance to be played out.

Jimmy Mac said...


Today's (9/23) news about the death of OBL ... albeit not being killed by the Forces of Truth, Freedom and The American Way of Life ... may give your thesis a chance to be played out soon.