I began noticing the incidence of the word “frustration” in Mr. Bush’s war lexicon some time ago. I’m not sure, but I think he actually began using it in about the same timeframe that the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group issued their report, and that he threw Mr. Rumsfeld overboard.
In our War-Without-A-Plan (–No, No: that is NOT FAIR: I should rather say, our War-Without-a-post-Chocolates-and-Bouquets-Plan–) it took a long long time, but, under the pressure of a lost election, “stay the course” began apparently morphing into “change the course”. Suddenly there came a point when things apparently were’nt “going swimmingly” anymore.
To be precise, there came a point when it seemed that Mr. Bush began to feel the need to throw a public bone of implied ownership and acknowledgment that things were not “going swimmingly” in Iraq.
“Insurgency” had been a word never to be uttered within earshot of The Great Decider, because it carried with it the twin suggestion of “dangerous non-Al Qaeda activity” and “unanticipated, unplanned-for (and very fierce and determined) opposition” in the whole vague, criminally unplanned-for, enterprise. (For almost identical reasons, the terms “civil war”, “Vietnam” “quagmire” had also been outlawed in the presence of TGD’s.)
Here is where the genius of Mr. Bush’s profound urge for self-exculpation in all things, came into play.
Remember when I told you about my nephew Ronan blaming his hand-puppet when he himself had bopped a guest on the nose with it? [If you need to refresh your memory, you can find my description of the extraordinary incident in recent archive.]
Mr. Bush found his hand-puppet: It was the Destruction of the Golden Mosque at Samara, done by Al Qaeda!
Things had been going, well, perhaps not “swimmingly”, but we were “making progress”.
And then came the evil Al Qaeda and the blowing-up of the Mosque.
(Here permit me a minor diversionary conceit: in the western press one or other Mosque is routinely described as “one of Islam’s holiest shrines”. Have you noticed how widespread the use of this sloppy PC-aresque phrase of the faux-sincerely-respectful secular media has become? For example, such and such a holiday or feastday or pilgrimage will be Christianity’s or Judaism’s or Hinduism’s holiest this-or-that. Could there not be some sort of Holiness Inspector who regularly checks a list of holiest shrines with his holiness meter, so that a once-holiest site is shown to retain its HS status? A little like a restaurant holding on to its Michelin’s five-star rating?)
But –back to “frustration”
I think it took a little time for it to sink in to The Great Decider head that he had been handed a Gift Hand Puppet. But in the penumbra of that vast slough of desperation –ever in danger of gelling into a quagmire– it was the only light in the distance, and he began to swim towards it. And eventually reach and embrace it.
And –by all that’s good and holy– he has been hitting us all on the nose with it ever since.
And this, I believe, is where and when the word “frustration” was taken up.
In the middle of that “stay-the-course, Americans-are-not-quitters, we-fight-them-there-so…” speech which has long since begun to sound like so much boiler-plate, Mr. Bush began inserting some new words: “of course, there have been frustrations…”
It as quickly become standard in his war-talk. Others began using it, most notably Senator McCain who always seems to inject it with a certain note of pre-election of fervor. (Which in his flagging cause may or may not be entirely genuine.)
In any event, we have been hearing about the “frustrations” of the Iraq War ever since.
One clue as to what might be going on here is the fact that only the pro-War people use it.
* * * * * * * *
First, it developed, over time, as a faint hollow sound in my head. What was that hollowness? Now, IT was beginning to frustrate me!
Ah! Go to the dictionary! Finally, a clarity:
“FRUSTRATE”: a. “to prevent from accomplishing a purpose, or fulfilling a desire; thwart. b. “to cause feelings of discouragement or bafflement in.”
The whole definiton is revealing, but my eye goes especially to the word “purpose”. THAT’S what had been the hollow sound. “Of course there have been frustrations,” said Mr. Bush, implying that there had all the time been a purpose in his decision to go to war.
That’s what is hollow about the use of the word “frustrated” –you can’t, it seems to me, be frustrated IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PURPOSE OR A PLAN!
Or start out with an army big enough to secure a victory. (Not a Mini-Shinsecki-Four Years Too Late Surge(ette), one tenth the size of General Shinsecki’s stipulation in 2003.)
Or an Iraqi populace eager and willing to seize the moment and exert its power and authority over its destiny.
If you have no plan –should I say, “no realistic plan”?– don’t talk to me of of your frustration.
Unless it is your own frustration with yourself. Not to mention our frustration with you.
And that, of course, is OUR frustration: our failure to articulate a PERSUASIVE counter-position.
So far. (I haven’t given up hope. But –my God– it’s frustrating.)
What do you think?