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January 18, 2008

New Tomdispatch


The Corpse on the Gurney
The "Success" Mantra in Iraq

By Tom Engelhardt

The other day, as we reached the first anniversary of the President's announcement of his "surge" strategy, his "new way forward" in Iraq, I found myself thinking about the earliest paid book-editing work I ever did. An editor at a San Francisco textbook publisher hired me to "doctor" god-awful texts designed for audiences of captive kids. Each of these "books" was not only in a woeful state of disrepair, but essentially D.O.A. I was nonetheless supposed to do a lively rewrite of the mess and add seductive "sidebars"; another technician then simplified the language to "grade level" and a designer provided a flashy layout and look. Zap! Pow! Kebang!...

The little group of us -- rewriter, grade-level reducer, designer -- would be summoned to the publisher's office. There, our brave band of technicians would be ushered into a room in which there would be nothing but a gurney with a corpse on it in a state of advanced decomposition. The publisher's representative would then issue a simple request: Make it look like it can get up and walk away.

And the truth was: that corpse of a book would be almost lifelike when we were done with it, but one thing was guaranteed -- it would never actually get up and walk away.

That was in another century and a minor matter of bad books that no one wanted to call by their rightful name. But that image came to mind again more than three decades later because it's hard not to think of America's Iraq in similar terms.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at January 18, 2008 03:44 PM

I MUST agree, AMERICA needs a new hobby.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 18, 2008 08:09 PM

Boy, that quote from Calgacus is sooooo good, surprised there ain't a movie made about his life yet.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at January 18, 2008 08:49 PM

The war against Iraq is only going badly if was really about searching for weapons of mass destruction or "freeing" the Iraqi people. If, on the other hand, it was about destroying Iraq as a viable nation in order to please our friends in Israel, to secure control over some of the largest oil reserves in the world and to establish a chain of permanent U.S. military bases "protecting" those oil reserves until they run dry, then the war against Iraq has been a huge success and is going exactly according to plan.

Posted by: Joe Perez at January 19, 2008 02:44 AM