Saturday, February 03, 2007

The risks of trying to "spin" the properties of the world

Human beings have come to dominate the earth through their distinctive gift, articulate speech. It is through articulate speech that we engage with the world and each other. But when we use speech in order to conceal the properties of the world we live in, we court disaster because the world is less tractable than the conceptions we have of it. Ships can run aground. Empires can fail.

Here is how people have used articulate speech to describe Iraq in the last few days:
Dick Chaney: We have had "enormous successes" in Iraq.
Gen. William Casey: We are making "slow progress". . . . "Today Iraqis are poised to assume responsiblity for their own security by the end of 2007, still with some level of support from us." [Wasn't it only a few days ago that he said it would be this summer?]
Robert Gates: There are essentially four wars going on in Iraq. One is Shia on Shia, principally in the south. The second is sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad but not solely. Third is the insurgency, and fourth is Al Qaeda."
2007 National Intelligence Estimate: "the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensvie Shia-on-Sunni violence, Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forcdes, and widespread criminally motivated violence."

Of these, which is engaging with the world?

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