Hey, I’m back from a blogging hiatus to witness President Bush’s renewed push for public support for the War in Iraq. Essentially, we’re witnessing samurai level rhetorical Jujutsu. To me, rhetorical Jujutsu is the art of quickly and subtly shifting your rhetoric in response to recent events in a way that’s politically advantageous and seemingly authentic.
Remember, before the invasion of Iraq, Bush/Cheney/assorted henchmen/henchwoman had two main arguments supporting war. The WMD argument and the Al Qaeda argument. The WMD argument was
1) Saddam hates the US, b/c we beat him in 91 and he tried to kill HW. Bush.
2) He is really dangerous with chemical, biological and nuclear weapon capability/possession.
3) Therefore, in the name of national security we must invade Iraq.
The al Qaeda argument was
1) Bin Laden and Al Qaeda must be destroyed.
2) Saddam is in bed with Bin Laden. (So they’re gay and anti-American, double the trouble?)
3) Therefore, we must destroy Saddam.
The second syllogism(Al Qaeda argument) bolsters the first one by making the case for why Iraq is uniquely dangerous since North Korea and Iran, other members of the Axis of Evil, aren’t affiliated with Al Qaeda. However, when we found out that there were no WMD in Iraq, courtesy of David Kay, the White House had a problem. Its main justification for the war collapsed. In the immediate months after the invasion, even hawks such as former World Bank President/Undersecretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, began to emphasize democracy and stable governance as the justification for invasion. In his 2005 state of the union address, President Bush mentioned “freedom” 21 times, “democracy” 9 times, and “weapons” in relation to Iraq, 0 times…Clearly, the rhetorical shift was in full swing. Therefore, in the years after the rhetorical shift, the White House’s democracy argument is
1) Democratic governance is good because it protects human rights/fosters peace and etc, essentially a laundry list of benefits for the world especially America.
2) Making Iraq a stable democracy means Iraq would have all the great benefits of peace, friendliness to America, good oil exports, and literally a beacon of hope for the Middle East
3) Therefore, our troops need to stay in Iraq and fight the insurgency so that Iraq’s people can govern themselves in a stable democratic manner, ie, voting, ratifying a constitution, etc etc.
However, the American public is clearly skeptical of any more “corner turning” in Iraq as a measure of substantive progress. In fact, democracy promotion has been inextricably tied with the war in Iraq, and is actually “engendering a backlash against the idea of democracy promotion and the NGOs engaged in it” according to the Realist international relations journal The National Interest.
So, President Bush, being the savvy politician he is, (with the complete approval of his svengali, Karl Rove) displays his rhetorical jujutsu skills again in a speech 2 days ago outlining the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq that coincides with the release of the National Intelligence Estimate(NIE). In the speech, he explicitly links Al Qaeda with the secretarian/insurgency violence in Iraq arguing that Al Qaeda IS essentially fighting US troops in the streets of Baghdad. From that premise, Bush asserts that Al Qaeda intends to strike at the US from Iraq if we withdraw (a variation of the oft repeated right wing justification for staying in Iraq, “we’re fighting them in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them at home”). However, the Washington Post back in March, did an in-depth news story featuring many counter terrorism analysts who concluded that Al Qaeda Insurgency(AQI) doesn’t have the same operational goals as Al Qaeda under the Taliban pre-afghan invastion
AQI’s new membership and the allied insurgents care far more about what happens within Iraq than they do about bin Laden’s plans for an Islamic empire, government and outside experts said. That is likely to remain the case whether U.S. forces stay or leave, they added.
The Sunni extremist movement in Iraq owes its existence to the U.S. invasion, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor. “There were no domestic jihadis in Iraq before we came there. Now there are. . . . “
So, not only is President Bush conflating all the Islamic extremists who hate America as the monolithic Al Qaeda, he’s being brazenly obvious about the rhetorical shifts.
In the speech’s transcript, Bush mentions “democracy” ONE TIME, that’s right, ONE time. However, he mentions “Al Qaeda” 8 times, and “Al Qaida” 88 times. According to wikipedia, Al Qaeda is “also al-Qaida or al-Qa’ida or al-Qa’idah” so I have NO idea why the White House provided transcript of his speech spells the terrorist organization in two completely different ways but doesn’t that suggest the White House needs better speech writers?or at least proofreaders? Perhaps Karl Rove was being politically savvy to release the transcript with two different spellings to thwart any attempt at analyzing the speech’s emphasis on certain themes using “ctrl F”?
Whatever the reason, the 96 times President Bush mentioned Al Qaeda underscore the White House’s strategy at rallying political support for continuing US involvement in Iraq. So, this blog post/essay length rant, ends with a plea to the media:
PLEASE CALL PRESIDENT BUSH ON HIS RHETORICAL SHIFTS!!!
paging John Stewart and Stephen Colbert…