Trees for the Forest Thinking About Iraq

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President George Bush will address the United States and the world; in this address, there seems little doubt among the politicians or news media, President Bush will announce a portion of his new policy in Iraq. He is sending 20,000 more American troops to Iraq; we’ll find out for sure tonight what he thinks this will accomplish–at this point we have only speculation and educated guesses, fun stuff, but not worth getting upset about until we hear it from the man himself. I’ve written before about trooping up over there, and I stand by what I said: if we don’t do it right, don’t do it at all (though I didn’t put it in this bumper sticker format, of course). And my fear remains that our hands are tied and that these 20,000 American men and women will be going into an untenable situation without sufficient support from either the White House or the American public. That breaks my heart.

So why is George Bush plowing ahead with a very unpopular strategy? Why does he persist in a course of action that will likely lead to . . . more of the same? I caught a news snippet of an interview clip the other evening that may go a way toward explaining it (and no, it’s not a confession by Barbara Bush that she used to bounce little George on his thick head): George Bush when asked the same question (how can you go ahead with your vision for Iraq, when you know that the majority of the American public oppose the war in general?), Bush answered that in historical terms, when future generations study the history of our country, the war in Iraq will be “just a comma.”

Pause, let that digest a minute.

What the hell? What can this mean? And not in silly punctuational or grammatical terms or even in sweeping historical terms, what does it mean here and now for us? I think it reflects a side of George W. Bush that frightens me more than any other: he is a “trees for the forest” type thinker. We’ve all heard the saying, “he can’t see the forest for the trees,” and we know that is a disparaging view of someone so detail oriented, rooted in the here and now, that they can’t see the big picture, the vaster scheme of things. Well. Okay. But with this comma comment, I think Bush is thinking in reverse of this, and that it’s equally unuseful, damaging, and wrong headed: he’s thinking ONLY big picture, only vaster scheme of things. He’s thinking of his presidential legacy and his place in the scheme of history. The forest.

The trees he’s not seeing when he views the war in Iraq as future comma? The men and women fighting, the American public who want it over in Iraq, the global view of our country that deteriorates each day, the men and women dying as they fight for a country that doesn’t want them there, the families who suffer, the Iraqis themselves . . . the list goes on because it seems to entail all that is here and now. If the war is so insignificant as to rank as a comma, what on earth does that make one dead soldier? Or three thousand, as we’ve lost now?

There is some merit in big picture thinking, no doubt about it, and sticking to one’s convictions is admirable as long as there is no evidence to show that one’s original conviction was faulty. Sticking to a conviction once it’s been proven shaky or plain wrong is not admirable. Quite the opposite.

He wants to make things right over there, and he needs us as a nation to do so; WE need us as a nation to do so. He just doesn’t have the power (even though people seem to think him God-like in blaming him for everything from the genocide in Darfur to the hurricane in New Orleans and on to the instability in the Middle East), again, he just doesn’t have the power to do what he wants the way he wants (decisively and completely), and because he can’t see that because it’s too close, too now, too tree-like, he’ll send more troops and then more and then more without changing the things that need changing to make the progress we need in Iraq.



Googling this “just a comma” comment, looking for the original source, I found a zillion (okay, a lot, and no, I didn’t go and look at any of them) blogs on this comment; I also found John Stewart doing what John Stewart does best, and I found a couple of op-eds in decent newspapers (The Washington Post and The Times (UK)), but I did not find a clip of the interview I saw on television, nor did I find a “real” write up on it (by a newspaper or news broadcast). It’s old news, so that may explain it, but I do find it interesting that such a controversial comment has disappeared (well, from the first three pages of search on google; I didn’t go beyond that, not getting paid and all that).

I could have given a good grammar and punctuation lesson here, but Lynn Truss (who herself says she’s not a “grammarian” but wrote a book on it) did a funny bit about the comma thing–funny in terms of both odd (er, incorrect a lot) and amusing, though more fun to read in my opinion is the fabulous Louis Menand’s review of her book.

The picture was taken by Rick Wilking. You can interpret my inclusion of it any way you see fit; you can’t be wrong.



Having just heard the President’s speech, I wanted to add a quick addendum:

He’s taken responsibility, admitted mistakes, and remains dignified. He’s right that we can’t just leave over there; it would be bedlam and worse would tell our enemies (and don’t doubt for a moment that we have them) that we can be bullied and (quite easily) beaten. We would be leaving behind more violence and bloodshed than we can really imagine; we would be directly responsible for who knows how many deaths. What about Iraqi wives and mothers? What about Iraqi sons and fathers and husbands? Or are only ours worth our interest and attention? Leaving would doom so many, and there seems little doubt that the resultant chaos would only foster terrorism and embolden the nut cases (such as the lovely leader of North Korea). Can we really take that chance? Is it worth it? I don’t know the answer, but I know what I think and how I feel about it.

He’s right that we, the people, need to commit; he’s right about changing strategy; and he’s right about putting more onus on the Iraqi government. In short, I support this new plan. I see no other (realistic) plans put forward by anyone else of any political inclination: nuking ’em and/or pulling all our troops out (not real plans, let’s face it) would be completely unrealistic and pure folly. That’s my two cents.

And as an aside: It was very jaw dropping, from my perspective, to hear Joe Lieberman’s name dropped like that and in that context . . . wow! A very real and very pointed and very public grab for that still-smarting, newly Independent swing vote. Good move.


28 thoughts on “Trees for the Forest Thinking About Iraq

  1. Hei Fuzz.

    Well, looking at the pic, yer man seems to be totally entangled between the saw and the trees!! I presume that his axe/chainsaw is on the ground, perhaps attacking his footsies.

    Excellent blog, Fuzz. I followed the links, bookmarking them as there is so much to chew. Will have to see/read the broadcast before I will add more in here, so I will be back… HuGGiz Rii xx

  2. this is very tough for me. On one hand, I so want our troops home. We ahve been there too long, and with too much cost in the lives lost and maimed. We can never be repaid this debt. that is a hurt that will never go away. I sometimes wonder why we had to go there, but I know if we didnt go there, they would have come here.
    I also beleive that if we leave without making sure the country has control of itself, and can manage all te different tribes, thay will fall right back into the same hole they were in. I dont know this for sure, I am not an expert, and will nevder claim to be. If we go by waht has happened in the past, if we fail to fiht back or show our strength, the mentality with extremest seems to say we are weak, and they attack us again.
    I dont remember the Just a comma comment. I dont know waht I would ahve felt if i had heard it. I dont know how you can go into war and say it will be viewed as just a comma in time. When our sons and daughters are in line of danger, it is never a comma.
    Like I said, this is a tough decision to make, but in the end, I would rather have our troops come home. No matter what we do, that country will continue to kill each other and no amount of our power is going to stop that.

  3. Great one Fuzzy, sadly it is such a mess only God can untangle it. This comma comment just shows how insensitive he is to the 3000 Soldiers dead, and 100,000 Iraqis dead, tell their families it is just a comma, how much outrage they must feel. Read this blog here: it talks about why Bush is insisting on the extra troops, is not to bring democracy but rather to protect big oil companies interest. Already the soldiers are used to help Haliburton, who are getting 100 times more than the soldiers. All the Oil Companies, friends of his oil connections in the past, are gaining a big foothold because of the new Hydrocarbon law in Iraq. UN and Arab countries should send more troops to quell the violence, but US won’t allow it, so US has to go it all alone.

  4. I have thought Bush had more going for quite awhile than what is being said. He spends way too much time on vacation instead of working to ease this situation. Its pretty scary though thinking about how much control he does have on our lives. Will be interesting to see what he comes out with tonight, but I don’t anticipate the truth coming out for a number of years.

  5. Thanks, Rii, as always your praise means a great deal as I have a lot of respect for your blogs and enjoy them immensely. LOL on the chainsaw attacking his footsies! But he is in some ways entangled between the saw and the trees, or put another way, a rock and a hard place. I don’t envy him his position; whatever he does will be wrong, really. Honest huggs to your dignified self. xx

    Oh, Spartonmom, I know just how you feel; I think our views are closest to one another’s of anyone’s, and it’s such a difficult thing. Someone said on (I think it was Amber’s blog) that in order to “win” we need to bring our troops home and nuke the place. That’s super extreme and not something I would support (obviously!), but it is indicative of a lot of people’s basic thoughts on the matter. I would like to see it decisively acted out, not wishy washed half assed to death like it has been since the outset. Once we saw we weren’t going to be greeted with glee and gratitude (on day one of the war), we should have changed our tactics hugely. I honestly don’t think they (in Washington) could wrap their minds around the fact that we are NOT beloved and NOT welcome there; maybe they can’t get that even now. Democracy is OUR ideal. If we’d have seen that, changed our approach, we would have been out of there by now, well, except the troops who will be there for decades to come as is standard). But no, that didn’t happen, and it can’t happen now; without support, this will fail, too, and no one wants to support it (except me and maybe you), and that’s not going to win any wars. Huggs, TME

    Hey Chris and thanks for the compliment and for the link. I’ve of course heard this oil thing before, and some of it may play a part in it, but if you listen to George W. Bush (and not even closely, it’s all over his rhetoric), he’s not about oil in this, despite the VP’s and his own previous lives as oil barrons. This man, whatever we might think about him, seems to be acting on his deep held beliefs in freedom, democracy, America (and yes, part of that is wealth). He’s not interested in keeping the oil flowing, that won’t make any history books, and it won’t win any praise. He’s not exactly selfless in this, but he’s far from the greedy warmonger he’s often portrayed as. I believe his faith is genuine (if rigid) and that his intentions are for the greater good (if misguided). I* haven’t heard this about countries volunteering to help the U. S. and us saying no; do you have a link on that?? Is it discussed in the blog? I’ll have to check that out; it would definitely change things for me. Until then I don’t see it. Maybe I’m a sucker and have bought into the greatest Academy Award caliber performance, but I really don’t think so. Just my opinion, and you know what they say about those! (hehe, stole that from Pris, but I like it!). Anyway, that and a dollar fifty will get you a cup of coffee. LOL Huggs Cris.

  6. Sorry for the new comment, but all that skippy jumping makes me dizzy when the comments get too long!! :)) Anyway, Pris, I’m with you, there is definitely more than we know (God, I sure HOPE so!!), and it will be a long time, maybe not even in our lifetimes, before it’s all known. And that’s an interesting point, too, about his vacations; they do seem rather lengthy and frequent. Hmmmm . . . have to give that some thought. Huggs Pris!!

  7. There is a difference in being committed and just plain bull headed.
    I admire people who stick to their convictions but the truly admirable people will admit when they are wrong and do something about it.
    I didn’t feel good about this war from the very beginning and still do not support it. I have never trusted the motives behind this war. I do however support our troops. They are innocent men and women doing what they feel they have to.
    It is too bad that our President and his administration doesn’t have the same passion for the big picture when it comes to ecology and our environment. :0(

  8. Everyone has there opinions on this one…and for what its worth, I have one too. While I don’t agree with the war in Iraq, I don’t have the bigger picture that the president does. I however, must trust my government to get on with things with the nations best interests at heart. I still believe strongly in our government, even with all of its faults. If the country doesn’t want to be at war in Iraq we have, as American Citizens, processes in our government to stop things. We are not rising up, we are not taking the president out of office, we are not electing a house and senate that is against the war. Pardon me, but if people feel so strong, rise the hell up and do something about it instead of sitting here whining about it. I have my feelings about war of any sort, but at some point, I have to recognise my limited knowledge and understanding of what the war is really about and trust the government and our president to lead us.

    There is a real argument for the war in Iraq being over oil. I for one believe this. The dollar has been sliding in value against the Euro for since it’s conception. If the dollar keeps sliding, OPEC may change its currency to Euros instead of the American Dollar. That would be catastrophic for the US economy. We all like our creature comforts and I feel they are coming at a severe price…The war in Iraq. I think the president, this president, any president, now or in future will be under pressure to secure the US economy at any price. No wonder Blair is so close with Bush. The British stirling is so strong to the dollar but sliding against the Euro. If OPEC switched to Euro currency, where would that leave the UK economy against the strong OPEC backed Euro…suddenly the UK would be thrust into obscurity in the European Union.

    I think the war in Iraq is another just another clog in the perpetual wheel of economic dominance, fueled by our never ending thrist to have it all! Unfortunately, oil is the pulse of our country and with a predicted “oil peak” in 2010, (Iraq and Saudi are the last two countries whose oil production is expected to peak in 2010)oil is the very hottest commodity in todays world. Who is going to have control of it as the world oil guage moves ever faster to EMPTY! I think the USA intends of securing that oil for themselves and the UK want a top up. Hence the bogus reasons for the war in Iraq, the length of time we have been there, the big deal about the “war on terror”! Sadam is dead because he was a huge threat to the the USA gettings its hands on the oil. Oh, I must digress! So from all I have just written you can clearly see what I leave the president in the driving seat and trust our elected president to do what is best for our country.

  9. Good point about the environment and ecology, Nancy!! It’s a hard thing to support the troops but not the war, but it’s far better that we do that than what we did in Vietnam to our soldiers. What a travesty THAT was. Huggs.

    Wow, that oil comment thing got you all riled up, huh, BBB? I knew how you felt about this (of course!) and have the utmost respect for your view. You’re certainly not alone in holding it!! The web is covered with blogs, sites, newsclips, youtube vids, etc. & etc. saying the same thing. Our Mavis may come in and say it, too. I may not agree, but I definitely understand how and why you and others feel this way. Huggs and love to you! :))

  10. Guess I glossed over your first paragraph when I read this yesterday, Amber. I’m sorry I did. Are you saying that you think that I am “whining”? Come again? And frankly, people did “rise up” in the last election; that is why we now have a Democratically controlled Congress. We “rise up” in this country vocally and by voting. I suppose I could get a sign and walk up and down the sidewalk, but the six people who’ve read this are six more than would pay ANY attention to my marching on the street with a sign on a stick. Or by “rise up” do you mean we should rush the Capital with blazing torches and physically unseat the President?

  11. Excuse me while I go beat my head against the wall of disinformation BS and other things that blind us all and then too I can come back and comment. But first let me correct a slight mistaement or oopps youmade by mistake I think. The Congress is not DEmocrtically controlled. They were members of the “Democrat” party. That does not make them politically democratic which by fact they are not any more than those in the “Republican” party follow a politics of a the republic state. Mis nomers like this are used by the power hungryfor their own self promotion. FUUUUZZZZZYYYYY !!! Don’t you reallze that your blog is going to generate a huge clog in the system!!! That there will not be enough room left for all the responses of the sane and insane. Fo r sure I will be lost in this mad list of commenters never to be heard from again, never to be noticed by you as you popularity throws you to great political heights. You’ll be the Queen of Blogdom. Future Presidents will seek your commas in time. Who else cane possibly exist in the time line of humanity that can become greater than the comma itself!!! Let me bow down to you now while I am still on your friends list and kiss your feet, I am without doubt that they are the sweetest part of you (maybe not but I jest) and free of jam.

  12. I believe my statement was as follows….”We are not rising up, we are not taking the president out of office, we are not electing a house and senate that is against the war. Pardon me, but if people feel so strong, rise the hell up and do something about it instead of sitting here whining about it”. I referred to “we” and “people” throughout that statement of my opinion. I never once referenced “you”. I feel people rose up and protested the vietnam war more then the Iraq war. In future I will much more careful with my opinions. Opinions are not meant personally, just a reflectiono of my thoughts. I will bow out gracefully.

  13. How weird! I just responded to the last two comments, and now my response is gone. Hmmmmm. Anyway, I’ll try to recreate them, though they won’t be quite as they first were:

    Heyman, no idea what you are babbling about. Okay, Congress is not “democratically controlled” it is just made up of a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are registered as or at least ran as democrats. That’s a point of some sort you’re making, just can’t work out what it is. If you are strictly defining “democratic” wouldn’t that cover most of us who embrace our democracy? No matter. As to your sarcastic foray at the end there . . . no idea what to make of it, though I do feel vaguely insulted. Not enough that I care to respond, however. Thanks for your comment.

    Amber. I read “sitting here whining about it” as sitting HERE whining about it; you say you didn’t mean it that way, that’s good enough for me. If you think that my misunderstanding means you should be “much more careful with [your] opinions,” okay. That’s one way to take it and run with it, I guess. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  14. Ooohhh….I think I get your point now! Geezish…that did sound bad but really, really, really not meant that way. Amber shakes head at herself! Are you done scolding me yet? Amber goes to courner and puts dunce cap on! Fuzzy starts English language teaching starting with the defination of the word “here”.

  15. Ooohhh….I think I get your point now! Geezish…that did sound bad but really, really, really not meant that way. Amber shakes head at herself! Are you done scolding me yet? Amber goes to courner and puts dunce cap on! Fuzzy starts English language teaching starting with the defination of the word “here”.

  16. Ooohhh….I think I get your point now! Geezish…that did sound bad but really, really, really not meant that way. Amber shakes head at herself! Are you done scolding me yet? Amber goes to courner and puts dunce cap on! Fuzzy starts English language teaching starting with the defination of the word “here”.

  17. yay!! I see your posts here. This is GREAT. I’ve not seen any, even my own post.

    No dunce cap for you; I should know better. I DO know better. You and I are golden, always have been, always will be.

    Bottom line: you are SUPER important to me in my REAL life, so this nonsense is done. You are you and that means I am me and that means that WE are good. Love you, BBB/RLF/BFF

  18. War: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

    War: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

    Bush: what is he good for? approx 3000 dead troops.

  19. ok, i thnk yuour comments works, i just cant get to your other blog comments.. i dont know why, bu tist not availabel to me.

  20. Mitch, now that song will be stuck in my head all night! Thanks. :)) Huggs.

    Thanks, Spartonmom, I can see these comments now, but I had to refresh the page four or five times before they appeared. Something is off with yahoo. I’m going to have to take the night off blogging, though, or I’ll end up bald (from pulling my hair out) and crazy (well, crazier). Huggs.

  21. Dear FUZZYYYY, I am not insulting you, please forgive my poor irrate self. I was trying to lighten the load a bit… Too far sorry. But back to the issue. Rather than risk offending you or your friends which I really don’t want to do I’ll just blog my own blather on this one and reference back here. I hope I don’t cause you any ebarrasement.

  22. Thanks, Heyman, we’re good. No worries, k?

    And just as an aside on the topic and to everyone: Issues are issues, and it’s great to opine about them. I just get defensive (and / or confused) when things turn or seem to turn personal.

    I don’t mind if you don’t like my politics, but if you use that to attack, dismiss, or even raise me up and like me more then I just think that’s wrong. That’s all.

    Stick to the ideas, the issues, the big thing OUT THERE, and it’s all fair. Turn it on me, and I will respond to that. Note, there is no place here that I ruffle about someone’s politics, I don’t choose friends based on whether or not they support anyone, and I don’t care if you are for, against, or sitting on the fence about Bush. Doesn’t phase me in the least, never has.

    Just stick to issues and NOT ME, and we’ll all be fine always. It’s not much to ask; attack my ideas, that’s one thing; attack me, that’s another. Ad hominem “arguments” *(can’t really call ’em that, though) are nothing but empty and hurtful.

    I know what you mean, Sir, so many feel JUST as you do. Thank you so much for your comment.

  23. btw, I’m just saying that middle part generally; Amber and I are GOLDEN. And Heyman and I are swell. It was me over reacting here, I just wanted to explain the distinction since everyone seemed to incorrectly assume that I don’t like dissenting opinions. That’s bullshit. Plain and simple.

  24. Fuzz…you have a few newbies around and I love it. I know you know my feeling on this, and his latest move to make it right just just more blindness leading us into a mindfield.

    I would like to think that his only motive is to fix what he broke, but I just don’t trust him enough. I beleive that when the men and women of our armed forces return home and there is no business of war to stimulate our economy, it is going to take a real downturn. He certainly doesn’t want that during his Presidency.

    For the rest of you that have never heard my opinions before. We never belonged there to begin with. Even the Crusaders go their ass kicked in the long run.

  25. It also make me sick that the man has a National Park Service fleece on in that photo. My god, has anyone noticed what is happening in the National Parks these days?

  26. Huggs to you, Fab Gregg; yes, isn’t it fun to have some new friends to meet and learn about!! And good to hear your opinions, always.

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