Friday, April 27, 2007

Trapped By Language

Read Josh Marshall's slightly different and more expansive take on the politics of war versus occupation that I've been posting about recently. Again, I'm seeing "occupation" appear with increasing frequency in places that attract a lot more eyeballs than this space; Josh uses it five times in one post. This is a good thing.

Harry Reid's remark that "the war is lost" was a terrible (and easily avoidable) mistake. He should have said that the war was won four years ago. But by continuing to play by Bush's rhetorical ground rules, he got burned. If the Democrats and others trying to effect change keep using words like "war" and "front lines," they'll keep stumbling into the same trap that snared Harry Reid.

Message to Dems: redefine the basic terms of the debate. It's easier than it sounds. And opinion polls show not only is the public receptive, it's done most of the work for you already.


Anonymous wtf said...

Won the war; lost the peace.

4/27/2007 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Davebo said...

I don't see how Reid's statement was such a mistake.

It does represent the opinion of a majority of Americans after all.

4/27/2007 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

This is an astute analysis. 'Losing the peace' leaves Bush exposed and nobody likes an occupying force.

4/27/2007 1:45 PM  
Anonymous mary said...

I agree with davebo, but I also agree with CR about the necessity of reframing the way we talk about the Iraq disaster. It's hard for me to hear anything anyone says right now because they all seem to be detached from reality. For example, all the talk about how the Iraqis need to start taking responsibility for their own security strikes me as bizarre and reprehensible -- it's preferable to the rhetoric being used to support indefinite occupation but only because it seems directed toward getting the US out of Iraq.

The thing about Reid is that I think people see that he's come closer to telling the truth than pretty much any other Beltway politician -- including the increasingly desperate usual suspects, who attacked him in their usual way. But I don't think those attacks have much resonance in most of the country.

4/27/2007 1:49 PM  
Anonymous ashiratoo said...


how do you "lose" an illegal war?

4/27/2007 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"End the occupation."

As advantageous as it sounds, slanting the rhetoric in such a way requires a cognitive leap that many Americans simply aren't ready to make. It implies an expansionist United States. It characterizes us as the aggressor, as the "occupier," and flies in the face of what most Americans are willing to accept about their homeland.

I sadly agree with the characterization. I just don't think the rhetorical gymnastics are as easy as you suggest, CR.

To do this, you need the right messenger. And, at the moment, I don’t see that messenger among the field of Democratic candidates. As impressive as they might have appeared the other night during the debate, I’m not sure any of them could get away with “End the occupation.”

4/28/2007 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been thinking a lot about our military leadership, especially after listening to the hearing last week on Tillman and the answers of the military and have come to a painful conclusion.

We have a military leadership without honor.
The occupant of the White House has not only destroyed our governmental agencies such as FEMA, Justice Department, OSHA, FDA and so on, but has done the same thing to our armed forces. Now we have generals that are willing to carry out any command just so they can advance to to another grade so they can end up with a better pension.
A willingness to stand up and say that this order is unethical or demeaning to our country does not seem to exsist for them.

They seem to have a big mouth saying this country or that country is guilty of war crimes or unethical behavior, but they cannot look in the mirror and see that they are just as guilty, even more so.

For the last 4 years we have contaminated Iraq with depleted uranium ammunition, and they have looked the other way. They have used chemical weapons on civilians and have denied it. They have developed a callousness toward civilians casulties on the level of the Soviets and then wonder why the Arabs hate us, AND WITH RIGHT.

The few times a soldier gets convicted, the punishment is an insult to the victim, showing clearly that we view the Iraqis as less than human.

And naturally a superior officer is NEVER guilty of anything, at the most he get a letter in his file that he was naughty.

I wonder what our response would have been if a country would have invaded us and behaved the same way as we have in Iraq?

I do not feel very proud of our military, of their behavior and the brutality they have shown since "Mission Accomplished". But than what else can I expect from a pentagon run by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Oh God, help us all!!!

4/28/2007 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not an 'error', it's an epithet. I hope that Reid's "The war is lost" comment will someday appear at the top of the history-book chapter entitled "The Grownups Take Over Again". -- Anne Laurie

4/29/2007 7:31 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/30/2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous CMike said...

Not that he shouldn't choose his sentence fragments more carefully, what Sen. Reid said was:

"As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course -- and we must change course."

4/30/2007 8:03 PM  
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