Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why Presidents should be precise

(Cross-posted at Ezra's)

Bush on Tuesday, about the Iranian menace:

Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah -- a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

Well, my first question is "what's a group?" Because I'm pretty sure Nazi Germany took more American lives than al-Qaeda or Hezbollah. The Viet Cong were regularly called terrorists for their tactics, and the Tet Offensive alone killed more US soldiers than Hezbollah ever has. Are we talking about Lebanese Hezbollah (believed responsible for the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing,) Saudi Hezbollah (responsible for Khobar Towers) or are we conflating the two?

Then of course there's the issue that the majority of the casualties from Hezbollah's two major attacks were uniformed personnel stationed overseas (the US Marines in Lebanon were in a war zone, no less) while the majority of the dead from al-Qaeda's attacks have been US civilians.

You may or may not think one or any of those details is relevant, much less important. But in one hyphenated sentence, Bush managed to gloss over more than two decades of history and deliberately obscured the reality of US and Middle East relations. To me, this particular case is more annoying than alarming, but the intent is clear -- to try and lasso Hezbollah, Iran and al-Qaeda together and pave the rhetorical way forward for attacks on Iran.

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