December 16, 2007
Losing the War of Words

Way back when (in April, actually) I posted this:

Bush’s Iraq “war,” in the sense that most of us understand the word, ended in a few weeks. Our “enemy” didn’t fight, it is true, but our victory was beyond question.

The next step in many wars — as in this one — is an occupation. Virtually all of our casualties in Iraq have thus been the result not of a war, but of an occupation. Our enemies are not soldiers fighting on behalf of a state, but what we called, in Hitler’s Europe, maquisards or resistance fighters or guerrillas or partisans.

Failure to call the occupation of Iraq by its proper name has been a powerful part of why Bush has been able to continue occupying that unhappy nation. If we can be deceived into believing that it is still a “war,” then we can be made to feel that pulling out would somehow “lose” it.

But occupations are not lost. They are simply ended, and by the victor at a time and place of his choice. It is beyond me why the Democrats do not grasp this simple point, and hammer on it every day. Reframe, idiots. Read Lakoff.

When Bush sets out to leave our public schools behind, he calls it Leaving No Child Behind. When the Democrats want to leave Bush’s Folly behind, they call it H.R. 1234 or some damned thing and stand by like fearful little children when Daddy Bush and Uncle McConnell call it defunding the troops.

How about the Stand Up Iraq Act? The Full Freedom Act? The Iraq Independence Act? The Democracy Restoration Act? The Iraq Sovereignty Act? The Iraq Liberation Bill? Iraq Stands Tall? Setting Iraq Free? The Iraq Self-defense Act? The One Last Chance Act?

But first of all the Democratic leadership, and I use the term loosely, must stop calling an occupation a war. For more on this, see the interview with Thom Hartmann from which the following comes:

If Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi were to stand up and say, “OK, everybody, we’re all going to use the same language. From now on, we’re all going to refer to what’s going on in Iraq as an occupation. We’re never going to use the word ‘war’ again.” It would be the smartest thing they could do, and probably 70 percent of their party would call a press conference and trash them for trying to put words in their mouths…

I actually wrote an op-ed about war and occupation a couple years ago, suggesting this, and for a brief period, for two or three months afterward, one of the liberal think tanks came up with the same idea and suggested this. Between the two of us out there beating that drum, there were a number of Democrats in the media who I noticed started to use the word “occupation” instead of the word “war.”

But the media was so in love with the word “war” because war is a powerful thing. It’s legalized mass murder. It is the most horrific thing that as a society we can sanction. So, the media just kept referring to it as a war no matter what …

Ultimately, the Democrats gave up and went back to using the word “war.” In fact, many of them found that using the word “war” over the short term was useful because it scares people. I think it’s bad policy and bad politics. But some Democrats are Republican lite, and some Democrats are worried about survival, and some Democrats are not thinking about this all that deeply.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 16, 2007 05:55 PM
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"But occupations are not lost. They are simply ended...It is beyond me why the Democrats do not grasp this simple point, and hammer on it every day."

I believe it is because they DO NOT want it to end.

The Dems are just as much a part of the Military Industrial Complex as the Republicans, which as some of us realize is part of a corporatocracy that runs the show.

Fucking nuts, but that's how it is.

Gives me the opportunity to recommend this guy:

Posted by: lefty27 on December 16, 2007 7:49 PM

What if we simply abolish the word "war" from our vocabulary altogether, in the spirit of E-prime (which abolishes forms of the word "to be")?

Posted by: Michael on December 16, 2007 11:57 PM

I think this idea has merit, honestly. How much worse a profanity to declare the W-word than to use the F-word or even the N-word?

Posted by: Michael on December 17, 2007 12:01 AM

I'd also add that we also need to point out the "war on terror" is another one of their phrases that doesn't pass the smell test. We know who the real Benedict Arnolds who are creating terror for political gain rather than seeking to insure that Americans understand that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Although I must admit that, except for a few exceptions, the current crop of Democrats make me jittery and put my nerves on end.

Posted by: on December 17, 2007 9:21 AM

You state the obvious so well! I've often wondered at the seeming childlike thinking of the Democrats. They don't appear to have any idea as to what it takes to frame the contest in their best interest; who can rally around an "I'm pro abortion" sign. But one could support a "What every child needs...a loving home" poster! And obviously the "War on Terror" will never end, thus playing to the Republican best side.

Posted by: Frana Dupree on December 17, 2007 11:32 AM

I've never seen an "I'm pro abortion" sign, actually.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on December 18, 2007 11:27 PM
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