Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Morale 2

I just reread my previous post. It occurred to me that there are probably people who--if they were on those e-mail lists--would read about the generals serving chow and would scoff "Oh, that's nothing. One night! That's no big deal."

They are right. It is no big deal. But can you think of any general in history (maybe U.S. Grant) who realized it is "nothing". Those senior officers and NCOs are just in their forties. They have children the ages of their young troops. [When I was in 8th grade, the father of one of the kids in my Scout patrol was an admiral.) They probably really enjoyed relaxing and joshing around like the guys on the barbecue line at the Knights of Columbus picnic, seeing young people tuck in with a hearty appetite. It really is nothing.

Here is the big deal: Can you think of any army in history where the generals could do that?


The media made a big fuss about SP4 Jery Wilson's asking Donald Rumsfeld why his Guard unit had to scrounge armor for their Humvees. "Speaking truth to power" was the immediate reporter's cliché. They seemed to think he had gotten away with something, and were also surprised that he had gotten away with it.

I wasn't surprised on either count. MSM journalists and the class-conscious liberal crowd they run with know nothing about the military. Their ideas are formed from Saturday Night Live sketches and reruns of Dr. Strangelove and Patton.

We had SOB, career-polishing officers in the Army back in the '60s, but most were good, and the better ones would have appreciated the question. Today's officers are children of the '60s and '70s, and in the volunteer military, the dynamic is even closer to the official definition of discipline: "the condition of good order and respect that exists between soldiers and superiors".

Now an ex-Marine of more recent vintage than mine writes that Marines are not only allowed to ask the tough questions that challenge superiors' assumptions, they are required to do so.
I soon discovered that this command to think and to ask questions wasn't mere rhetoric. I was serving with the First Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment at an abandoned pistol factory in Al Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Every three weeks or so, we were visited by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who was then commanding the First Marine Division in Iraq.

Gen. Mattis is a Marine's Marine, a true warrior who speaks bluntly and candidly, without being bound by the constraints of political correctness. For well over an hour, on a routine and regular basis, the general would gather together his Marines and field questions. Nothing was out of bounds. The event was entirely democratic and thoroughly American--though marked by standard military etiquette and respect for rank. Thus, newsmen and commentators who fear "retribution" against Spc. Wilson haven't a clue as to what the U.S. military is all about. Spc. Wilson asked a tough but fair question; however, for any U.S. serviceman who's ever been to war, this was hardly surprising.
Finally, the Adventures of Chester shows how the Marines build morale. He posts something I got in an e-mail a while back: a Marine's account from near Baghdad of how the officers and senior NCOs of her unit took over all the ordinary duties--including the mess hall serving line--so the low ranking enlisted swine could have the night off to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. If you can read this without getting a bit choked up, then you probably voted for Kerry and have already moved to Canada.
As we came to the first gate to the camp, I was in shock because a Marine Corps Major was standing at the post. Along with the Major was a 1stSgt. . . He told me to proceed and have a Happy Thanksgiving. As we came to the second gate, a Marine Capt and a SgtMaj were standing the post. There was not a PFC or LCpl to be found. None of the posts had young Marines at them; Officers and Staff NCOs manned them all.

The command decided that the young Marines were going to have the night off to get some good chow. It was unbelievable, and a wonderful sight. The leadership took charge and took care of the younger Marines. This filled me with a pride indescribable with words. I am so honored to be a part of an organization like this. Marines taking care of Marines with such unselfishness.

As I went to Thanksgiving chow with my brothers and sisters, the IMEF Commanding General LtGen Saddler and the IMEF SgtMaj, SgtMaj Kent were serving chow. The amazing part was that they were so enthusiastic about it. Everyone was in a great mood, and ready to take on anything. It makes you think that if a 3 star general in the United States Marine Corps can serve turkey to a bunch of 18-20 year old Lance Corporals, then you can suck up whatever you have to do and stop complaining.


I dibs that usage

Elizabeth came home from college for Thanksgiving using "shotgun" as a transitive verb: "I shotgun the last piece of cake". I'd like to shotgun that usage. “Dibs” was good enough for us in our day; kids got no respect.

She and her friends do use "shotgun" in the standard slang way as a noun for the front passenger seat and as an--I don't know what, exclaimation?--to claim the seat: "SHOTGUN!". She and some others try to flout the unwritten rules that that one cannot call shotgun out of sight of the car or the day before the proposed trip, but the majority won’t let them. At least all is not chaos, revolution, and wild-fire individualism among the young.

I mentioned the generalized shotgun=claim usage to other adults (30+), They immediately got the usage but said they hadn't heard it before.

Elizabeth was also saying "I nose" to dibs something. This is her own variant, which she admits is non-standard. The standard is to use "nose" as a shunning spell, the inverse of "dibs".

She works in the dining hall at a retirement home (DRO for those with military experience). When someone points out a chore that needs to be done, he says "I nose that" to get out of doing it. After that, the last person to put his finger beside his nose must do the chore. I guess it came from playful use of "no" as a verb to mean "refuse/decline/exempt myself".

Is this usage wider than the staff of the retirement home?


Common-Weality-based community

The left’s LOL practice of referring to itself as a “reality-based community” went to ROFL after the election as it complained that a close (2.98%) loss was one more heartless abusive blow to their self-esteem and oh-by-the-way the end of the world.

The Democrats think Kerry lost because they just somehow didn’t quite understand red states. But they are wrong. It isn't just one thing. If the Democrats were any more disconnected from reality, they would be trying to fly out of windows and shaking hands with lampposts en masse.

A lovely example of how pathetically unable they are to imagine a world in which 51% of the people might vote Republican is a review of “Team America: World Police” in the 3 December issue of the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal. As you probably know, “Team America” is by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park” fame. Team America, a co-ed A-Team with cooler toys, fights terrorists, who turn out to be underwritten by Kim Jong Il and backed by a gang of Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Sean Penn.

[This isn’t a review, but if reviews have made you think you want to see it or rent it, my advice is forget about it. It is awful, and doubly so for being disappointing. It’s great that it “puts the ‘F’ back in Freedom”, and a treat to see Hans Blix fed to sharks and Susan Sarandon hurled 6 stories to splat like a ripe tomato, but when my wife said I owed her big time for dragging her to it, I didn’t argue. Save $20 and two hours: find somebody who really liked it and have him describe the good bits to you.]

Here is how Richard Alleva sees the movie.
Team America: World Police is the all-marionette satire of our current administration’s penchant for unprovoked invasion. Its creators . . . had the brilliant idea of debunking the mindset that brought about the invasion of Iraq without ever mentioning Bush, Cheney, et al., . . . and without overtly referring to the invasion. [Ed. emphasis added.]
That’s clever. Bush and Iraq aren’t mentioned, so the movie must be a satire of Bush’s Iraq adventure. Just the way Moby Dick, which never mentions Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller, is about the titanic struggle to build Standard Oil into an industrial behemoth. Oil is black, and Standard Oil is big, and, being a corporation, is ipso facto evil, while Moby Dick is white, and big, and being a whale, is good. Kerosene comes from oil and replaced whale oil as lamp fuel. It all makes sense! because I hate Big Oil and John D. Rockefeller.

Alleva’s enjoyment of the movie is not unsullied, though.
Parker and Stone don’t sustain the political satire of the initial scenes. Instead, they unintentionally turn their movie into a different, smaller kind of satire, a lampooning of Hollywood lefty celebrities. Because Parker and Stone wanted to satirize the mindset of George W. and Co. by getting inside it, they picture Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, all the usual suspects, not only as war protestors but as gun-toting, karate-chopping champions of the North Korean dictator. On paper, that’s a valid way of satirizing right-wing paranoia. [Ed. emphasis added.]
And that’s a problem because
the more we laugh at the Hollywood stars, the more “Team America” looks like direct satire of Hollywood and less and less like an attack on politicians. And that’s a very odd thing for a political satire to do.
Despite the evidence and lack of evidence in front of him, Alleva remains convinced that the movie is mocking the politics that he wants mocked. He knows this because he wields that sovereign tool of liberal analysis: He knows what Stone and Parker’s thoughts and intentions are. Just as he knows without evidence what the intentions and motives of Bush and Cheney are.

In point of fact, “Team America” does fall flat, because it faithfully follows the plot arc of the team-with-a-mission films it is satirizing while failing to subvert the conventions of the individual scenes. The first scenes have some loopily over-the-top wish-fulfillment for the Baghdad Lutetiaque delendi sunt crowd, such as yours truly, but most of the rest is uninspired. While I’m sure Stone and Parker didn’t mean to be boring, Alleva believes the lampooning of Hollywood stars is “unintentional”. His case, to use his phrase, does all work on paper, especially inside the Democrat mutual affirmation society.

Unfortunately for his case, it doesn’t work if Stone and Parker’s intended targets actually are Islamic terrorists and pompous, hate-America liberals. If he had looked, well, almost anywhere, he’d know that out in the real world, Parker and Stone went from “right-leaning” non-voters in 2000 to being self-declared, Bush/Cheney tee-shirt wearing Republicans in 2004.



Cleansing Sword of Allah returns

On 15 November I wrote
The Iraqi attitudes that Americans find most incomprehensible--not to say idiotic--are the anger and blame that Iraqis direct against the US for invading their country. They're glad Saddam is gone. They acknowledge that his henchmen, or worse, will prevail if we leave. As though to confirm every suspicion we have had about Muslims' tenuous connection to reality, they say the invasion and occupation have shamed them, because they overthrew Saddam, or were about to, or would have. And what had Iraq ever done to us, anyway?
Now National Review On Line is beginning a series by Stephen Vincent on "The Power of Shame--Why so many Americans don't get the Sunni opposition". [Ed. You tawkin' abou' me? You tawkin' abou' ME?] The writer describes an encounter shortly after the liberation with a "Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam....
"I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. . .

-- "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets."

The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead."

Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied.

"I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel."
I don't think he is talking about me. I got the nature of Iraqi anger at the US; I just won't accept it:
Instead of treating Saddam as a fugitive from blind Western justice, US propaganda should have emphasized that he had humiliated the entire Iraqi population. Instead of reprimanding the soldier who threw Old Glory over the face of Saddam's statue as US soldiers pulled it down, we should have built on that image. We should have publicized the myriad ways that Saddam humiliated the people, how he robbed, raped, tortured, and mutilated them. They should have been shown that Saddam had shamed them before all the world. Iraqis should have had months of a steady diet of posters and videos showing how Saddam had ground them into the mud, and we had saved them. We should have rubbed their faces in it . . .
and called the operation Cleansing Sword of Allah.

I don't buy the idea that the Iraqi resistance owes much to some mad fanatic spasm of patriotic bloodlust--though I suppose that if Arabs were ever motivated by patriotism, a spasm of bloodlust is as likely an expression as any other. For the Ba'athists, the resistance is part of a quagmire strategy. For the NGO jihadists, it is a tactical opportunity and a strategic challenge.

I don't know where Vincent is going to go with this. He says "The Kurds and the Shia have shown a willingness to negotiate over the future of Iraq--why not the Sunnis?", but then he talks as though this circumscribed resistance speaks for all Iraqis. A completely armchair suggestion is that Sunnis--Saddam's favored tribes--are the only people who feel that their Iraq has been humiliated.


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