September 25, 2006


On CNN's The Situation Room, aired 9/20/2006, Wolf Blitzer interviewed President George W. Bush:

BLITZER: We see these horrible...
BUSH: Of course you do.
BLITZER: ... bodies showing up, torture, mutilation.
BUSH: Yes.
BLITZER: The Shia and the Sunni, the Iranians apparently having a negative role. Of course, Al Qaeda in Iraq still operating.
BUSH: Yes, you see it on TV. And that's the -- that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there is also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people.
Twelve million people voted last December. 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 is a strong will for democracy.
[emphasis added]

In the comments at the Huffington Post, "zave" observed:

For more on commas, see: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves Iraq"

I was going to say that most of the people who get that joke are probably in favor of leaving, but on reflection, that's probably wrong. Neo-conservatives are just as likely to be interested in militant fussiness about punctuation as realists and isolationists are, I suppose. And the joke is equally good (or bad) from just about any political perspective.

Back in 2003, I heard an informal talk by a political scientist on the prospects for the American occupation of Iraq. His central point was that the rebuilding and transformation of Iraqi society was likely to take a long time, cost a lot of money, and go through some difficult stretches. Given that prospect, he expressed skepticism about whether the American public and the American government would be willing to stick it out, and suggested that the aftermath of American intervention could be pretty ugly if they weren't. I was more optimistic at the time, but (outside of Iraqi Kurdistan) it's certainly starting to look as though "eats, shoots and leaves" might be all too appropriate a context for that "comma".

[Hat tip: David Donnell]

Posted by Mark Liberman at September 25, 2006 07:23 AM