Iraq and the Aftermath: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up

The death toll in Iraq to date for the month of July: 500

A sectarian war is raging in Iraq in the aftermath of “Shock and Awe” and the utter folly of the invasion of Iraq by the so-called “Coalition of the Willing”.  Meanwhile, all eyes are deflected towards Syria,  in case anyone might finally see how mad, foolish, imprudent, and aberrant the entire policy on Iraq actually was — a prime example of the decadence of the Modern Era that Gebser saw as “deficient rationality”.

Iraq has become a case of “shoot, shovel, and shut up” as far as “the international community” and its ideological backers in the media and its court intellectuals are concerned.  Barely any attention is paid to the agony of Iraq these days except to report the ever escalating body count from sectarian violence. Syria is now sexier. But Iraq? — a case of bad conscience and a reminder of idiocy and impotence, and of greed, lies and foul play.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell had his trepidations about Shock and Awe, despite his infamous sorry act and performance at the United Nations when he histrionically presented the “solid evidence” of Hussein’s non-existent WMD to the Security Council — always a pretext in any case. In private, Powell worried about the neo-con “crazies” in the Bush Administration — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Fromm, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, etc.  “You break it, you own it”, he is recorded as saying in anticipation of the problem.  But “you break it you own it” has now become, instead, “shoot, shovel, and shut up”.

A policy of “you break it, you own it” means a policy of assuming responsibility — moral, political, social — for the mess one has created. Ironically, it’s an old shopkeeper’s warning to a customer who fumbles, bungles, or mishandles the wares and goods. “You break it, you buy it”.

But “shoot, shovel, and shut up” is the motto of the fumbler and bungler, the excuse of the incompetent hunter who has mistakenly shot the farmer’s prized cow because he thought it was a moose, and then tries to hide the evidence of his bungling incompetence and idiocy by burying it.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, and that’s certainly what the heroic Coalition of the Willing did. They bolted the premisses when it became obvious they had manhandled and broken the goods and would be liable morally, politically, and economically for the costs. “We don’t cut and run,” boasted the proud fools. But that’s exactly what the proud fools in politics, media punditry, academia, and the military have done.

Bradley Manning has become the scapegoat for the bungle of the politicians, the brass, the media, and the court intellectuals because he dug up the farmer’s dead cow and showed the evidence of the hunter’s bungling incompetence to the farmer.

It has become embarrassing to the architects of the Oil for Food programme and the Iraq War to be reminded of the empty slogans, the cant, the lies, the delusions, the deceptions and self-deceptions. Some, like Michael Ignatieff, have publicly apologised for their naivete and their complicity in helping to promote Shock and Awe. They thought they could achieve the good by embracing evil means.  Others in the military, in politics, in academia, in the media — the more irresponsible ones — have chosen instead denialism and cowardice as the better course of valour — “shoot, shovel, and shut up”.

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4 responses to “Iraq and the Aftermath: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up”

  1. abdul monem says :

    Hi Scott
    I hope you do not mind if I translate the article and posted on one of the Arabic sites

    • Scott Preston says :

      I don’t mind. Thanks for informing me.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I imagine, Abdulmonem, that this would be hard to translate into Arabic, particularly the alliteration and the undertones of dark humour in the phrase “shoot, shovel, and shut up”. But, maybe there is an equivalent in Arabic about someone who makes a big mistake and then tries to bury or hide the evidence.

      There’s another idiomatic expression that is somewhat parallel. “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.” Usually it’s because there is something to see that we’re told not to see it.

  2. abdul monem says :

    I know the meaning not the words, that is why it want be difficult because I am translating meaning not words. Thank you for your concern

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