Monday, September 25, 2006

Just A Comma

President Bush said to Wolf Blitzer:

"Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that’s the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there’s also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people…. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy."

We are told that the President likes to read history these days, and is concerned about his legacy. His comment about the present moment being just a comma in the long history of Iraq indicates that he has succumbed to the grandiosity of the historical perspective: the ability to see place the present moment into such a long view of history that it loses its moral significence.

The President, with his Iraqi invasion spiraling into greater and greater failure and calamity, is retreating out of the present moment into a fantasy of a future history.

What on earth does he mean by the phrase "when the final history is written on Iraq"? He talks as though history will produce a final consensus about what is happening. But, a serious reader of history knows that there is no final history ever written on anything. The writing of history opens more and more up to scrutiny as time goes by. All of the stories about Iraq that are now being suppressed and ignored will someday be opened up by historians. The US military will write their histories of this war. Iraqi historians will catalog every encounter between civilians and the US military. Political and diplomatic historians will write the history of everything that Bush and his administration have tried to hide.

The process of writing history does not reduce anything to commas; it eventually reveals everything that is hidden in the commas of the speeches of Presidents, and the columns of pundits, and the glib utterances of the foolish.

"You cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs." Mao Zedong. "History will absolve me." Fidel Castro.

Thus, always, of tyrants. The appeal beyond the present moment to some Olympian heights, where the lives of individuals no longer matter.

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