Insurgency Insipience

Until recently, the official talk about Iraq and its insurgency was all about phrases like “faltering,” “losing ground” and “in its last throes.” As that insurgency seems ever more aggressive, both Democrats and Republicans have started questioning that rhetoric’s distance from reality. In response, administration officials got semantic, backtracking, parsing words, as when Dick Cheney tried to tell Wolf Blitzer that by “throes” he actually meant a surge in violence. He didn’t explain what he meant by “last.” Similarly, during last week’s House and Senate committee meeting, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denied that the administration had painted an overly rosy picture of the counterinsurgency. Driving that last point home, he added: “[The] insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.” This from the man who, on February 7, 2003, told American troops, “It is not knowable how long that conflict could last. It could last six days, six weeks — I doubt six months.” Confused? It’s because Bush and company want to have it both ways. Here’s a quick guide, starting with what officials were saying a few months ago: “Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said yesterday that the strength of the Iraqi insurgency is waning as a result of momentum from elections, and he predicted Iraqi security forces would be leading the fight against insurgents in most of Iraq by the end of 2005.”

—Ann Scott Tyson, “Iraqi Insurgency Is Weakening, Abizaid Says,” The Washington Post, March 2, 2005

“I’d say the insurgents’ future is absolutely bleak.”

—Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Reuters, February 16, 2005

“Terrorists still want to attack our people. But they’re losing. These terrorists are losing the struggle because they’re under constant pressure from our Armed Forces, and they will remain under constant pressure from our Armed Forces. (Hoo-ah!)”

—George Bush, “President Discusses War on Terror,” White House transcript, Fort Hood, Texas, April 12, 2005

And here’s the same three men’s more recent comments: “I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago. There’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.”

—Gen. John Abizaid, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 23, 2005

“This is not the kind of business that can be done in one year, two years. I think their [the insurgency’s] capacity stays about the same, and where they are right now is where they were almost a year ago.”

—Gen. Richard Myers, ABC News, April 27, 2005

“Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard, and rebuilding while at war is even harder. Our progress has been uneven . . . We’ve made progress, but we have a lot of — a lot more work to do.”

—George Bush, “President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror,” White House transcript, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 28, 2005

Not Such a Minor Threat Nike felt the full force of the punk universe when it appropriated Minor Threat’s logo and 1984 album art for a new ad campaign it calls Major Threat.

“Nike Skateboarding sincerely apologizes . . . Minor Threat’s music and iconographic album cover have been an inspiration to countless skateboarders . . . And for the members of the Nike Skateboarding staff that is no different . . . This was a poor judgement call.”

—Letter to “Minor Threat, Dischord Records and fans of both,” June 27

“Fuse-addled teens are going to see this and assume Minor Threat is back together and will be throwing Nikes into the audience on the next Warped Tour or something. Then again, this is probably meant to be viral so people like me will talk about Nike for a day. Fuck.”

—Posted by glenwood at 1:56 p.m. PST, June 23

“Get ’em, Ian. Sue ’em to pieces and donate the money to some good causes.”

—Posted by keswick at 2:19 p.m. PST, June 23

“Merchandise keeps us in line/Common sense says it’s by design/What could a businessman ever want more/than to have us sucking in his store/We owe you nothing/You have no control/You are not what you own”

—“Merchandise” by Fugazi, posted by basicchannel at 2:21 p.m. PST, June 23


—E-mail from Minor Threat and Fugazi front man Ian MacKaye to MTV News, June 27

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