The First Punctuator defines Iraq's place in history

September 25, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

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I was an English major. I used to have (and may still have) a pretty good grip on punctuation. Even metaphorical punctuation.

So it caught my attention when The First Punctuator (FP) blew off his personal Iraq War as nothing more than a comma in historical narrative. A comma? A slight pause for breath, a clause pause? A wee historical hiccup? Tell that to Cindy Sheehan.

It seems that CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the FP whether recent setbacks in Iraq signal Civil War. Here's the exchange:

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public, a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war, if not already a civil war'. We see these horrible bodies showing up, tortured, mutilation. The Shia and the Sunni, the Iranians apparently having a negative role. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq is still operating.

BUSH: (smiling) Yes, you see '" you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people'. Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is '" my point is, there's a strong will for democracy. (emphasis added, mine)

Editor & Publisher's Greg Bennett reflects on Bush's weird comment:

A comma as a metaphor perhaps? If so, for what? All that bloodshed as merely a comma'"a pause in a long sentence'"leading to a hopeful phrase or conclusion? Comma, "and they all lived happily ever after"? Or maybe, comma, "and then we bombed Iran"?

Of course, one can think of other punctuation that might be apt, including "?" for the 140,000 Americans still deployed there, "!" for the cries of the gravely injured, and "$" for Haliburton and other contractors . . . .

But I'd like to offer one more, the simple period, to replace the hopeful comma. (So far, there 2,700 periods, each standing for an American life lost in Iraq. Space does not permit a full accounting of the Iraqis killed, or any of those damaged for life.

Wouldn't you think you'd want your own personal war to warrant more than a comma? George, make up your mind. Was it something urgent and essential, this Iraq thing? Or is it just dress-rehearsal for Iran? That's what we really want to know.

My choice for punctuation best suited to George's war in Iraq is the ellipsis. My Chicago Manual of Style (Fourteenth Edition), says that an ellipsis is "the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage . . . ."

It seems to me that George's war is a massive series of ellipses/omissions. Let's just skip right on by . . . and ignore . . . while pretending that . . . never happened and that . . . is not looming. That even as we speak, there are plans in motion to . . . Iran. That death is (parenthetical), as long as it's not in my back yard!

Had George not messed with America's national standing by becoming the Attack and Torture President, he'd probably have been nothing more than a historical footnote. But what George hath wrought will echo down history for all time. It feels like the passage into a new dark age . . . .

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