WAR QUOTES

Deborama takes exception to the exultant “We got ‘im!” of Paul Bremer’s announcement yesterday, noting that it compares poorly with great war quotes of the past:

Elizabeth I (1588)
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too. And take foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm.

Abraham Lincoln (1863)
. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government, of the people, for the people and by the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Winston Churchill (1940)
. . . we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . .

Paul Bremer (2003)
Ladies and gentlemen, [dramatic? pause] we got ‘im!

In case this is too subtle on its own, I was not impressed with Mr. Bremer’s hip and happening 21st century vernacular. My English husband was frankly disgusted by it. This, from Outside the Beltway, and other posts on a mix of liberal and libertarian/conservative American blogs, makes me wonder about Americans’ general reaction to such boorish triumphalism.

Certainly, the language has changed over time. Political leaders are simply more informal–as is the language generally.

But the quotations Deb adduces reflect very different circumstances. All but Bremer’s are by leaders, in the midst of a war on their own soil, trying to rally public resolve. Bremer is triumphal because it’s a triumphal moment. The war isn’t over, but the tyrant who made it necessary has now been captured. That’s a rather joyous moment. And, of course, Bremer isn’t the head of state.

President Bush’s speech later in the day was much more evocative of the historical ones Deb cites.

For the Baathist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held. For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and secret police are gone forever.

And this afternoon I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again. All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals: sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life.

In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steven says:

    It was one of my favorite quotes of the day…

  2. Fred Boness says:

    “We got ‘im” works for me. Short and to the point, like General McCaullife’s reply to the Germans, “Nuts” which is one of the better examples of the style of short and to the point. It’s an American thing.

  3. jen says:

    It’s definitely an American thing – I didn’t hear any complaints on the vernacular from the jubilant Iraqis at that press conference, did you?

  4. Jim says:

    “Hip and happening 21st century vernacular”? I’m approximately the same age as Deborama, and I see nothing hip, happening, nor 21st century in this, nor any attempt to be any of those things.

    As for “Americans’ general reaction to such boorish triumphalism”, here’s one American who’s far more concerned with the fact that “we got ‘im” than with how we announce it.

  5. Ian S. says:

    “We got ’em” invokes Annie Potts’ classic “We got one!” from Ghostbusters, and anything that invokes that movie is A-OK with me.