Thursday, May 30, 2013

When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said ...

Strap on those tinfoil thinking caps, discourse analysis fans: Taking together the hed and deck at right (the offlede in today's Washington Times), what can you conclude about "Obama's claim"?

If you worked backward to some sort of negation of the main hed -- Obama's claim has been refuted, Qaida remains a threat (particularly through its franchises), therefore Obama claimed that Qaida does not remain a threat to the U.S. -- congratulations! You read a lot of headlines and are fluent in American English. That's what the story expects you to think, even if it's a tad bit less categorical:

In the months before President Obama declared al Qaeda was “on a path to defeat,” his aides were telling Congress that the terrorist network was expanding and was capable of inflicting mass casualties in the U.S.

While perhaps not a direct contradiction of the president’s near-claim of victory last week, their testimony painted the picture of a robust collection of al Qaeda franchises causing death and destruction in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Somalia and Afghanistan.

That ought to put the Kenyan Muslim usurper in his place, huh? Except that -- funny -- it's almost exactly what he said in his "near-claim of victory":

Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat.  Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.  They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston.  They’ve not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.

Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates.  From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula -- AQAP -- the most active in plotting against our homeland.  And while none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.

It's hard to say whether the Times is deliberately lying here or just raising the telescope to the old blind eye, because this particular belief system (Obama wants us to think he's won the War on Terror singlehanded, and as a result we're all DOOMED) is mission-critical for the party press. Without it, for example, Benghazigate collapses into cynical farce. You can see the importance of the theme in this short-lived* Fox piece from two days ago:

President Obama is being accused of selectively** quoting Usama bin Laden, by using a snippet of an anti-America screed to make it sound like Al Qaeda was breaking under the weight of the U.S. drone program.

Don't you love the passive? In this case, "is being accused" means "by a blogger at the Weekly Standard," whose point -- surprise! -- is that Obama is baking the evidence:

It is true that the drone strikes have been effective in killing terrorists. So the president is right in that regard and deserves credit for the slaying of some senior al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated operatives. However, drone strikes are only an effective tactic, not a strategy, and the enemy has adapted to this tactic.

Which, again, is pretty much exactly what the choom-sucking Alinskyite called it:

To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.  

I can see how we missed the transition from Qaida's status to ius in bello (cunningly disguised by "So let me address these questions"), but apparently Fox and the Weekly Standard agree that he's at least half right in claiming that drone killings have been effective and legal. And even though the WashTimes is (ahem) just a little bit selective in framing Obama's assertion about al-Qaida, its source -- he's the "analysts" of the deck -- isn't:

Gen. Keane said that while al Qaeda’s core has been badly damaged by the loss of senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden, it has established itself in other countries where it did not exist on Sept. 11, 2001. He listed the countries — Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, Yemen — where al Qaeda spinoffs are growing.

Overall, we have a fairly impressive amount of bedwetting from the party press, considering that the experts brought in to contradict the perfidious Chicago thug all seem to end up agreeing with him. That's only a surprise if you don't pay attention. Obama generally expresses the same exceptionalist attitude toward terrorism and political violence that all successful American politicians draw on -- hence all the references to "acts of terror" and "our homeland." The difference here is what looks like an effort to pull terrorism back from the world of immediate, existential, beyond-debate threats to all we hold dear and into the realm where we can actually make political decisions about how to counter or mitigate its risks. That's a rough outline of a Copenhagen-type securitization-desecuritization case, and it's interesting enough in its own right, but it's not a sign of surrender in the War on Terror®. And, sadly, it's not a good excuse for running made-up stories at the top of the front page, either.

* On the homepage, at least.
** Not the same as "misquoting," which is the sort of distinction you should be probably by more aware of if your mission is distort other people's quotations.

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