Growing numb to numbers

If the last month was anything in Iraq, then it was “tough”according to the President of the United States. I share thissentiment. During this election year, political pundits of allstripes have been warning that an “upsurge in the insurgency,” a”downturn in the situation,” and a “turn-around in the commitment”from the coalition forces, would diminish the President’sprobability of re-election.

According to the new ABC / Washington Post poll releasedTuesday, April 20 this is not the correct political case tomake.

As soldiers and Iraqi civilians die is ever-increasing numbers(one hundred U.S. soldiers in April, so far, and an indeterminablenumber of civilians) the poll numbers for George W. Bush also goup. The less and less this military operation is successful, themore the President indicates that this due to our courage andsteadfastness.

As diplomatic relations congeal with distrust in the MiddleEast, President Bush argues that this results from our commitmentto freedom. And as Iraqis grow to fear al-Qaida, as the UnitedStates has for the last three years, the President reminds us thaton June 30 (the ostensible end to occupation), Iraqis willrejoice.

It is obvious that we are at war. It is not obvious that thereis any other way to be an American at this moment. People in theUnited States seem to have grown comfortably numb with this newreality and are growing numb to the distressing numbers of war:billions of dollars, thousands of lives, seven months to ElectionDay.

At first, the killing of a few soldiers was a national tragedy.Then, the killing of five troops killed over a weekend wasrattling, then harshly sorrowful. Two weekends ago, when more thanten soldiers were killed in the Fallujah uprising, there werealarmed headlines and whispers of Vietnam. Now, this too, is thenew reality-the new standard for dissent and grief.

U.S. citizens are realizing that loyalty to this Presidentrequires blood both in defeat and in success. The sentimentrevealed by the new poll numbers is that more and more there isnowhere else to turn.

John Kerry’s promise of a different nation means very little inthe middle of this expanding war. The ABC/Washington Post pollillustrates that voters are increasingly hesitant to turn overleadership to Kerry, or anyone, during Bush and Co.’s cacophonouswar in Iraq. War remains, even with nebulous, hydra-headed enemiesand distorted media coverage, a paradoxically great unifier and, asBush asserts, we will be perpetually at war with terrorism.

The terrible truth is that the administration’s rhetoricalsolutions are hauntingly reminiscent of other eras of militarymight that no longer apply, and their diplomacy is woefully chaoticand inept. Conservatives and liberals know that this war isterribly unfamiliar, but like good soldiers we want to win now thatwere in. We now understand our president will never believe that hewas unjustified in invading another country, and that he has nevermade any mistakes as president. We now understand that Bush has noother vision. We now understand that the fight on terror has beenre-negotiated within a war that Bush’s administration actuallywanted to fight. Now we can only do what we now know best: grieveand hope. There is no other way, the president assures us, and thishas to be the most un-reassuring thing of all.