Thursday, June 01, 2006

Immoral Equivalencies: A Massacre. A President "Troubled"

President Bush, then, is “troubled” by the Marines’ massacre at Haditha. He is “troubled.” That’s how he summed up his reaction to the massacre while he was welcoming the president of Rwanda, no stranger to massacres, to the White House just before lunch this morning. A reporter asked him what he’d been told about the killings, and whether he was worried about the impact it could have in Iraq. “I am troubled by the initial news stories,” the president replied. “I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the laws were broken, there will be punishment.” He then went on to chatter tamely and predictably about the Marine Corps without answering a pointed part of the question. Why should he be worried about the effects the massacre could have on Iraq, if he’s not worried about what he’s unleashed there himself for the last three years? But his use of the word troubled, as his choice of describing what he knows of the Haditha massacre, is itself troubling, and revealing: “Troubled” is an all-purpose word for Bush, a throw-away adjective that he’s used in any and every circumstance for lack of an original response that actually connects with the reality he’s asked to describe. His use of the word in so many instances—grave, not so grave, general, vague—renders it meaningless, as if it weren;t so from the start. What, exactly, does being “troubled” mean, other than to suggest non-committal concern designed to seem weighty without having to be meaningful? Don’t take my word for it. Here’s just a quick sampling, with links back to the original documents, of Bush’s uses of the word since he came to office (keeping in mind that it’s a very quick and cursory sampling: the uses go on and on and on in the same vein). What this means is that in Bush’s eyes, the massacre at Haditha is on par with “troubling” job numbers, with reading gaps for white and black children, with gay marriage, with bankrupt pensions, and so on:

A couple of weeks back, on May 18, the White House called itself, “deeply troubled by the continued prosecution and imprisonment of Egyptian politician Ayman Nour.”
On March 23, 2004, he was asked about the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassim: “As far as the Middle East , it’s a troubled region, and the attacks were troubling.” Read the rest...