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Bush: you won’t get me, I’m part of the Union

President Bush’s State of the Union address last night contained much crucial information, particularly the climactic assurance that:

The State of our Union is strong.

– which will have reassured the millions worrying that California was planning to secede. Perhaps the high point was the new term for the troop increase in Iraq, which in retrospect is so perfect it’s a wonder the government didn’t settle on it months ago:

So we’re deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq.

“Reinforcements” – of course! It’s brilliant. Emotionally, “reinforcements” easily trumps the now-obsolete controversy over “escalation” vs “surge” (and wasn’t one big problem with the word “surge”, by the way, the fact that it is already contained in the word “insurgents”?). “Reinforcements” focuses on the alleged needs of the soldiers, both US and Iraqi, already in Iraq: they are, so we suppose, radioing for backup in the face of an enemy onslaught, so who could deny them the help they need? “Reinforcements” is the cavalry coming over the hill, the thrilling turning point in a battle scene from a western or a second-world-war epic. It is Gandalf arriving with the dawn at Helm’s Deep. Frank Luntz, with your “reassessments” and “realignments”, eat your heart out. “Reinforcements” is where it’s at.

Mr Bush also announced:

We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin.

Other “large endeavours” that are “ours to begin”? Does that sound like a threat to you? Does its insistence on the choice being “ours” to start when “we” decide remind you of Bush’s threat to attack “at a time of our choosing” just before the invasion of Iraq? By coincidence, Bush also called for a doubling in size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and made five mentions of the iniquity of Iran.

Bush closed with an oddly attenuated version of the usual benediction:

God bless.

Perhaps that stands as a recognition that it’s not only America that God needs to bless. In a way, it is generous. God help everyone.

  1. 1  C. Reaves  January 24, 2007, 1:50 pm 

    I would like to point out a subtle and dangerous piece of unspeak in President Bush’s State of the Union address that the press has ignored… the call for the formation of a so-called Civilian Reserve Corp. I loosely quote from the SOTU address:

    A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps…function[ing] much like our military reserve… hir[ed] civilians with critical skills who do not wear the uniform, to serve on missions abroad.

    Critical skills? Does he mean “experts” as in “questioned by experts”? Bush apparently has just proposed the creation of private armies of para-military mercenaries who would be unbound by the U.S. Code of Military Conduct or U.S. law (they serve abroad).

    In my worst nightmare these para-military “experts” would be paid for and directed by the executive branch or the military. Either course being dangerous and against the principles the United States has championed since its creation. The executive branch simply cannot be allowed to have its own private military. Bush may be proposing the U.S. version of the Mahdi Army, perhaps with himself cast as the American analog of the politician-warlord al-Sadr, with anonymous troops at his personal direction unbound by law or convention.

    My other, less paranoid interpretation is that these expert questioners’ fear of future prosecution in U.S. or International courts has left the Bush/Cheney administration unable to recruit enough torturers for its secret prisons…so he wants to make it legal. At least Bush’s version of legal, which is not everyone else’s version of legal.

    The President’s presentation of this new proposal in the SOTU address was unspeak of the first order – subtle, not hair-raising, good sounding and not at all scary or alarming – almost an aside – but he has turned the first shovel of dirt on his latest attempt to undermine the Constitution and grant himself extraordinary power. Make no mistake – this man is as dangerous as he ever was.

  2. 2  Alex Higgins  January 24, 2007, 2:07 pm 

    “The State of our Union is strong.”

    This is a noticeably weak echo of Clinton’s statement in his final State of the Union address: “My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.”

    I think quite a few people will be reminded of that.

    Not even Bush could pull that line off any more – the Congress would greet it with an awkward silence.

  3. 3  sw  January 24, 2007, 2:26 pm 

    I liked “global climate change” – he teases you with that global : will he finally admit that this is a problem of global warming? Is this the moment when Bush rejects Luntzian unspeak and identifies the problem, siding with the environmentalists? No! It’s still climate change! Not warming: climate change.

    It sums up Bush’s 6 years of bait-and-switch on the issue of “dependence on furrun oil”.

  4. 4  Richard  January 24, 2007, 2:34 pm 

    I’m guessing his civilians with critical skills are actually Arabic speakers – curiously, despite 3 years in Iraq, the army at large doesn’t seem to be developing much conversational Arabic.

    Still, it’s at least suggestive that they “don’t wear the uniform.” For some reason I immediately picture them wearing long black leather coats and fedoras instead.

  5. 5  C Reaves  January 24, 2007, 4:41 pm 

    I suppose it is possible he was speaking of interpreters, but what would be the necessity of creating a Civilian Reserve Corp to do that? If you speak Arabic and want to interpret in Iraq you’re pretty much guaranteed a job. Unfortunately, interpreters have turned out to be one of the prime targets of snipers in Iraq.

    No, I’m pretty sure hiring interpreters, cooks, typists, cryptographers or other support personnel would not require the creation of a Civilian Reserve Corp. Nothing goes into that speech without a reason and I suspect the mention of a Civilian Reserve Corp is just the first step in inoculating the population to the idea of a pseudo-military organization not constrained by military rules of conduct.

    Don’t forget that 2003 and 2004 the administration asked hundreds of Special Forces non-coms to resign from the military and join civilian organizations to conduct interrogations of Afghan and Iraqi suspects. Now that the Democrats are scheduling hearings on this kind of conduct by the administration I suspect a lot of those interrogators are feeling very nervous.

  6. 6  Graham Giblin  January 24, 2007, 5:02 pm 

    Bush SOTU has been “strong” and getting “stronger” every year since at least 2002. Jon Stewart cleverly pre-empted this year’s traditional “strongalicious” reference in The Daily Show a couple of days ago, as seen at onegoodmove.

  7. 7  lamentreat  January 24, 2007, 6:48 pm 

    My father’s favorite joke used to be about a garbled military communication which turned “Send reinforcements, we are going to advance!” into “Send three-and-fourpence, we are going to a dance..”

  8. 8  Steven  January 25, 2007, 12:48 am 

    Surely the civilians with “critical skills” will be, you know, critics – literary critics, theatre critics, and so on. No doubt they could offer constructive suggestions of ways to increase the pity and terror wrought by various government initiatives.

  9. 9  Richard  January 25, 2007, 4:01 am 

    ways to increase the pity and terror wrought by various government initiatives

    I dunno, that sounds like a tall order when you consider the current administration’s main efforts.

    Maybe Bush has heard that the ranks of his critics are growing daily – even that they are ‘legion’ – and, given the trouble he has finding people to go to Iraq, he’s decided to try to tap this apparently inexhaustible resource…?

  10. 10  Gus Abraham  January 25, 2007, 2:21 pm 

    While we’re on the subject of military Unspeak, Des Browne is doing a great job on Trident. setting aside the notion of an ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent or the idea that the this is ‘upgrading’ I love his idea that Britain would never use its nuclear arsenal as a means of “provoking or coercing” other countries. He said Trident was not intended for use during a military conflict. Eh?,,1998472,00.html

  11. 11  C. Reaves  January 27, 2007, 2:45 pm 

    You are right – I was thinking too conventionally about the critical-skills issue. We cannot have too many critical care physicians in Iraq, for example.

    I can also see a need for volunteer movie critics to rate the growing number of sniper, IED and execution videos on YouTube. This is a major Bush success story that needs to get out – he has single-handedly created a burgeoning independent film industry in Iraq.

    Now that the Iraqi museums have been looted, there is a desperate need for more art critics in the war on terror. We need to decide soon what new art should replace all that stolen 5,000 year-old stuff so we can put The Arts in the Iraqi win column (as an aside, I suggest we send all of Jeff Koons’ work to Baghdad as soon as possible).

  12. 12  mat  February 4, 2007, 7:56 pm 

    This is a great blog. I want to make all of you aware of my new political ‘social web’ site, called I’d love it if you folks would post a few rebuttals to the SOTU there! Or upload new speeches that need some critical thinking!

    I just discovered Steven’s book and I’m going to buy a copy.

  13. 13  Steven  February 5, 2007, 11:39 am 

    Interesting idea! From the url my first thought was that it was going to be a site that told us everything we ever wanted to know about butter, but obviously that’s not the case. Glad you like the blog, thank you.

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