McNally: Arguing semantics

We can pretty much assume that no matter what happens at this point, President Bush is not going to acknowledge the impending reality of a civil war in Iraq. He is a man who is repeatedly described as being surrounded by those who vigilantly labor to keep his ideological drive unthreatened so that he may rally his base with same bravado and pomp that has been the Republican meal ticket since 2000. No matter how much testimony to the inadequacy of these policies crashes against the doors of the White House, the porch will be swept by the time he opens the door for his morning walk.

He ran on being resolute, he was elected for his decisiveness, and now that's exactly who the people have in office. In the words of Steven Colbert, he's "A man who will say the same thing on Wednesday that he said on Monday no matter what happened on Tuesday." In this sense he has delivered the value to the White House that he promised. The anti-flip-flop campaign only promises decisiveness. It entails nothing about the quality of the decisions. The largest bombs are exploding and the longest death counts ever are coming back from Iraq, and on Tuesday Bush spoke still spoke of outside terrorist forces subverting the naturally democratic peace process. Hundreds upon hundreds die violently each month and still he sees no inherent miscalculations in his scheme.

This is a situation most Americans came together on election-day to collective say they can't afford. Luckily for us we don't really have to. We should let this self- styled savior of democracy close the book on himself. He can make this a fight over acknowledging whether there is a serious conflict on our hands while others fight over a solution to this mess. He stands obdurately, his voice fading further into the distance every time he claims this is not an indigenous civil war, while U.S. military representatives, world leaders, political scientists and prominent figures in the news media accept the term and the policy debate moves on to a solution. Every time Bush rejects the term "civil war," he separates himself from the camp that sees this as a struggle for human lives abroad and aligns himself with those who see it as a struggle for political prominence at home. This is not only diversionary, it is deceitful. But that doesn't change the numbers of civilian dead, the increasing complexities between anti-Western sentiment, militias and ethnic relations.

Per chance our refusal to accurately title the situation we're in is tied to our confusion about the nature of our mission and our inability to achieve it. Maybe if we thought in terms of unleashing the latent civil war that lingered in the region rather than establishing a new government, we would have realized that Shiites weren't an accountable replacement for Sunnis, just a different political force. We would have asked ourselves what democratically committed group we intended to put in power, and have seen that there wasn't a superior alternative the Baathist regime, just a new internal power struggle with a different outcome. We would see that it wasn't about these groups' relationship to the West but to each other, and that all we could do was break the tenuous peace that existed between them. If we are looking for answers to why we are struggling so hard in Iraq to no avail we may ask ourselves, if you have to fight a war without calling it a war does it even really have the commitment of a democratic public?