In the past few months, against all odds, Bush has scored two incredible victories in Iraq.
They are, of course, over his favorite enemies, the media and the American public.
Now, at last, the enemy in Iraq is being called Al Qaeda!
It doesn't matter who they are, if we're fighting them, they're called Al Qaeda on CNN, NPR, NBC, Fox News, everywhere! Why, it's as if we're actually fighting the people who attacked us on 9/11! Instead of a wide variety of groups and gangs and who knows what.
The victory runs deep. It not only transforms the present, it rewrites history.
This morning, NPR did a report on Fallujah. In it, they said, at least four times, that back in 2004 we were fighting Al Qaeda there. We weren't. A look back at contemporary accounts shows that at the time the 'enemy' there was referred to as "insurgents," "Sunni fighters," "Saddam supporters," and "Sunni extremists." Not a word about being Al Qaeda.
One has to assume that some intelligent PR person in the administration, or in the Pentagon, has given orders that in all military press releases and in all military press conferences, the people we are fighting are to be referred to as "Al Qaeda!" No evidence required.
After all, the American media needs no evidence. They simply quote. Then the quotes enter their own language, mind set, and reference systems. They become an echo chamber, working relentlessly, though often unconsciously, to conquer the minds of the American people for Bushionics, the transformation of reality through re-labeling.
The second victory is the new certainty that "The Surge is Working."
We saw it in the Democratic presidential debates. The moderator asked the candidates the question this way: "Now that everyone agrees that the surge has worked, how do you evaluate your opposition to it?" (I don't have the transcript. That may not be the exact words, but to the degree it is a paraphrase, it is an accurate one.)
It is now a matter of accepted fact, in the media, that the surge has worked.
It may be acknowledged that the goals of the surge, a set of achievements by the Iraqi government, have not been met at all. It is occasionally pointed out, by nay sayers, that the decrease in violence has been achieved through ethnic cleansing, mass forced migrations, and by making common cause with exactly those people whom we were fighting in Fallujah and renaming them as 'enemies of Al Qaeda.' It may be acknowledged that in order to maintain conditions in Iraq, even at the level of relentless disaster that exists now, will require the presence of U.S. forces for 10 or 20 or 50 years. (It is never mentioned that one of the real goals in Iraq was precisely that, to establish a permanent military presence, exactly like those we have in Germany, Japan and Korea).
But in the minds of the primary audience, the media, and the minds of the ultimate audience, the American public, those are but footnotes, arcane trivialities, lost beneath that definitive headline: The Surge Has Worked.
With that established, and the enemy renamed, Bush has won his victory -- the Iraq War is off the table as a campaign issue and the political conventional wisdom is massive drift toward accepting a permanent U.S. military presence there.
This is an astounding triumph. It should be recognized as such. Recognition must go, also, to those members of the news media who made it possible, by mindlessly inserting administration PR claims into their 'news' reporting as fact.
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," is a colloquialism, a line in a blues song (BB King), and occasionally misspoken by George Bush. But what are we to say about America's media, including such "reputable" members as NPR, CNN and the NY Times? "Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me again and again, I'll always be a fool for you." What does that make them? Fools for Bush. Agents of delusion. Conduits for PR offensives. Enemies of reality.
Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at nationbooks.org.