The fine art of the meaningless gesture and the empty symbol was honed to perfection with a combined “symbolic gesture” when the Bullshitter-in-Chief arrived in Pakistan the other day.
A front-page story in The New York Times on Saturday reported that he “flew directly to Islamabad aboard Air Force One,” as “a symbolic gesture that he considered the country safe enough for a presidential welcome on an open tarmac, and an overnight stay.”
How safe was it and how meaningful the symbolic gesture? You decide. Here was the very next paragraph:
The capital was virtually sealed for his arrival. Concrete barriers and police squads blocked off the main avenues running to Parliament, the presidential palace and the diplomatic enclave where the president stayed, leaving the streets from the airport dark and deserted.
Further down in the story (12th graf), the meaning of that symbolic gesture is more fully developed: “Air Force One approached Islamabad with its running lights off and interior shades drawn, a precaution that would make it harder for anyone trying to aim a missile at the plane.” Then:
After his airport arrival was covered by local television crews, [the Bullshitter] slipped away from public view, and reporters traveling with him could not tell whether he even rode with the presidential motorcade, or in an unmarked Black Hawk helicopter, to the heavily fortified residence of the American ambassador. …
Since everything is relative in the bizarro world of White House PR, you could call the arrival a “public landing,” because unlike Clinton’s flight into Islamabad six years ago, as also reported in the story, the Bullshitter was not delivered in an “unmarked military jet accompanied by a decoy plane with the familiar blue and white of Air Force One and ‘United States of America’ on its side.”
Meanwhile, over in Iraq …
It was reported today, also in The Times, that “units of the American-trained Iraqi Army stood aside,” according to U.S. commanders, “clearing the way” for the recent Shiite reprisals against Sunnis “carried out by the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr,” and other militia fighters (a k a death squads).
But y’know what?
Bayan Jabr, the interior minister, who has been accused by Sunnis of allowing Shiite death squads to operate within police ranks, said he had sent a letter to all militia groups asking them to disband, as required by the new Iraqi Constitution.
How nice of him. And better than that, according to the report,
Mr. Jabr said that he had allocated $10 million to a fund to help militia members find new jobs, including positions in the new army and police forces.
That way the army and police won’t even have to stand aside to carry out reprisals. They can do it themselves with their death squads fully authorized.
Need I remind you of “the Salvador option” hidden in plain sight? Or the American general leading the multibillion-dollar effort to train and equip Iraq’s police forces, who said he was heartened by Jabr’s pledge to fully investigate the death squads?
Nah. These are just niggles. Why bother? Let’s get to the really important stuff, like the countdown to the Oscars .