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Some more punctuation marks for Bush

December 30, 2006|by ALLAN R. POWELL

On Oct. 4, at several campaign stops and during an interview with Wolf Blitzer, President Bush made the following statement. "I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is, there's a strong will for a democracy!"

Needless to say, those who are mindful of proper logic and punctuation were left scratching their heads. Many more were "just" angry. The president had used the comma as a metaphor to indicate a short span of time.

The dictionary defines a comma as "a mark of punctuation used to indicate the smallest interruptions in continuity of thought or grammatical construction." All of the forgoing makes it clear that the president was asking the American people to view the war in Iraq in terms of short years set against the long stretch of historical perspective. "This too shall pass away!" was the intended meaning.

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It takes a generous interpretation of Bush's statement to keep from being deeply irritated at his cavalier handling of a war with so much destruction, carnage, mutilated limbs, misguided aims, failed strategies and generated hatreds. Note how many commas were "just" used to fill in the space left in this inept metaphor. A short war is, nevertheless, an eternity for those who endure its barbarities on a day-by-day basis.

Structurally, the sentence was an awkward compound which can be viewed logically as a non sequitur. That is, the second half is not a logical inference or predicate set up by the first part. In addition, we would be well advised to assess the truth-value of both parts.

Perhaps this president should be thinking about other punctuation marks, some that others might be contemplating. First is a "." (period) to acknowledge an end to an incomparably disastrous presidency.

Others will prefer a "?" (question mark) to express doubt over the wisdom of giving a monolithic Republican party the mandate to exercise such an insufferable power over all branches of our government. Even the press, the vaunted "fourth estate," was weak in calling attention to their misdeeds.

For my part, the "!" (explanation mark) is very applicable. For example, "Never start vast projects with half-vast ideas!" Another might be "tekel!" from "Mene, Mene tekel Parsin", Daniel 5:25, RSV. "You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting!" Finally, a little-known writer, A.W. Hare (1792-1834) offers a gem. "Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one's horse as he is leaping!"

We, as citizens, must not, however, get sidetracked by the verbal infraction of a "C" student who failed at business enterprises and is way over his head in the job he now holds. We must keep our eyes on the horrendous mistakes in judgment he has made. He will return to Crawford, Texas, unscathed and possibly enriched by the damage he has created. The mutilated veterans and the remaining survivors in Iraq, however, will live out their lives in quiet desperation and suffering.

Thank goodness he is "just" a comma in history.

Allan Powell is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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