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Teach The Controversy

By The Reverend Published: August 23, 2007

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I wanted to say something about president Bush's Vietnam/Iraq comparisons from his speech in front of the VFW National Convention in Kansas City.(Transcript found here)

The Reverend is not an expert, nor do I claim to be. I simply do what many Americans do, pay attention to what's going on, and then make observations. This post is one of those observations.

It seems to me that one of the tactics of right-leaning politicans and spokespeople in the past number of years has been a kind of expansion on one theme. That theme, I suggest, is something along the lines of "teach the controversy".

We've seen this already in two specific arguments, Intelligent Design and Global Warming. Now please....these are not the topics I want to argue here.

We hear from proponents of Intelligent Design and opponents of Global Warming Science that what needs to be done, to be fair and all, is "teach the controversy". In both of these areas PEOPLE do disagree, but not scientists, not really. So the "controversy" is not really one at all, but it's repetitively stated as such, anyway.

The right's "solution" to what they call a "controversy" is simply, "Why not just tell both sides of the argument and let people decide for themselves?", or something along those lines. It's subtle. It all sounds fair and reasonable, but is it really? Not if scientists are those who we look to for expertise in these things. According to scientists, there really is no "controversy" about Intelligent Design or Global Warming Science.

What I've learned, however, is that this "teach the controversy" ploy is being used to, I believe, muddy up public discourse concerning a variety of political issues and stories America has been confronted with in the last 6 years.

It's dueling narratives. A version of revisionism.... only in real time. 9-11, Iraq, Libby/Plame case, Gonzales and so many more examples have become just "teach the controversy" stories. As if empirical evidence, facts, testimony, consensus can't determine what is real and what is just something we really can't make conclusions about. They're just controversies that America must agree to disagree about.

Which brings me full circle around to Bush's Vietnam comments. The "lesson" of Vietnam, according to consensus of the actual facts, is that America should not invade and occupy another country that poses no threat to our nation. Vietnam posed no threat to the U.S. The "lesson" of Vietnam, according to military consensus mentioned by people like Colin Powell, is that when a country DOES pose a threat to the U.S.(not Vietnam), overwhelming force should be used with a DEFINITIVE exit strategy in hand before invasion.

But now Bush wants to "teach the controversy" when it comes to Vietnam. Despite the fact that he had said previously there was no comparison with Iraq and Vietnam, now, (I suspect because he desires to skirt responsibility for the mess in Iraq), the Vietnam war argument must be argued all over again. Some see it one way, others don't. You know, it's still not decided, so "teach the controversy".

Teevee people sell millions of dollars worth of commercial time because they "teach the controversy". "We report, you decide". You know the drill. One pundit says one thing, the other says the opposite. Nothing's ever agreed to, ever. And that, of course, is the whole point. To me, it is the oddest thing. I believe it could be called 'fact paralysis'.

All this stuff may be nothing new....maybe I'm just hyper-ventilating about nothing of substance or meaning. Maybe not. I'm not sure Americans can know what to do next if we can't agree on what we've just done.

George W. Bush rejected entirely the "lessons" of Vietnam as he led Americans (deceitfully, I suggest) to invade and occupy Iraq. He ordered the invasion of a country which posed no threat to the U.S. And even if HE thought Iraq posed a threat, he didn't use overwhelmingly force, and he damn sure had NO definitive exit strategy. He dismissed, out of hand, the objective lessons from Vietnam.

But you see? Because he says everything has changed now, even though it hasn't, even the "lessons" of Vietnam haven't been decided at all. We have to "teach the controversy" and re-argue the whole thing again, argue the "controversy" in real time again today as if a "controversy" even exists, as if the "lessons" about Vietnam are still up in the air.

Because Bush CAN'T be shown, in any measurable way, to be completely wrong about Iraq, it's still a "controversy".

It has to be.

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