FRAMESHOP:FRAMESHOP: IRAQ WAR

ALERT - In an effort to deceive the American public about the realities we face as a nation, the following phrase is not being used by the Bush White House to describe or foreign policy: Iraq War Please use this...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 01/19/2005

ALERT - In an effort to deceive the American public about the realities we face as a nation, the following phrase is not being used by the Bush White House to describe or foreign policy:

Iraq War

Please use this phrase that the Bush White House is trying to silence.

Americans believe that the world is at peace and secure when all people in all nations stand together, and it is threatened by war and dangerous when nations and citizens are forced to stand alone. America leads the world by example--at home and abroad--by extending a hand to those who stand and strive for liberty, because we believe that liberty is the foundation of democracy. Unfortunately, there are forces in the world today, both religious and secular, who use violence to divide the world and to advance a corrosive vision of a world without liberty. Rather than making the world more secure in the face of these threats, the Bush White House has made the world more dangerous by denying civil liberties at home and abroad, by standing alone rather than bringing our allies into the room, and by using our military to force other nations to accept America's will.

Frameshop is open...

Step 1: Stop Using Their Words
The Republican frame that defines what's happening in Iraq was stated clearly, yesterday, in Condoleezza Rice's statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

One of history’s clearest lessons is that America is safer, and the world is more secure, whenever and wherever freedom prevails. It is neither an accident nor a coincidence that the greatest threats of the last century emerged from totalitarian movements. Fascism and Communism differed in many ways, but they shared an implacable hatred of freedom, a fanatical assurance that their way was the only way, and a supreme confidence that history was on their side.

At certain moments, it almost seemed to be so. During the first half of the 20th century much of the democratic and economic progress of earlier decades looked to be swept away by the march of ruthless ideologies armed with terrible military and technological power. Even after the allied victory in World War Two, many feared that Europe, and perhaps the world, would be forced to permanently endure half enslaved and half free. The cause of freedom suffered a series of major strategic setbacks: Communism imposed in Eastern Europe … Soviet power dominant in East Germany … the coup in Czechoslovakia ... the victory of the Chinese Communists ... the Soviet nuclear test five years before we predicted ... to name just a few. In those early years, the prospect of a united democratic Germany and a democratic Japan seemed far-fetched.

Yet America and our allies were blessed with visionary leaders who did not lose their way. They created the great NATO alliance to contain and eventually erode Soviet power. They helped to establish the United Nations and created the international legal framework for this and other institutions that have served the world well for more than 50 years. They provided billions in aid to rebuild Europe and much of Asia. They built an international economic system based on free trade and free markets to spread prosperity to every corner of the globe. And they confronted the ideology and propaganda of our enemies with a message of hope, and with the truth. And in the end – though the end was long in coming – their vision prevailed.

The first thing to notice in this quote is the word "freedom." I found the word "freedom" 38 times in Rice's statement, and since Rice is little more than a ventriloquist's doll for Bush, we can assume that Rice's statement was a pre-amble to Bush's inaugural speech. I've got $10 that says "freedom" is the big theme that we hear from Bush on Thursday.

But what does "freedom" mean, here? Or more specifically: How is Rice's abuse of the word "freedom" reinforcing a particular Neo-Con logic?

The key is in the metaphors that Rice uses. With few exceptions, here is her logic: [freedom] is [a child]. Freedom "does" the following things in Rice's logic: it prevails, it is threatened, it suffers, it blesses, it gets favored, it is cherished, it has a cause, it is strong, it marches, it succeeds, it wins. 38 times she mentions freedom, and most of those mentions involved personifying it.

It would be too much of a contradiction to suggest that Progressives should hold off on using "freedom" for a while as a word in political debate. But it is a good idea for us to listen to Rice's use of it and to be prepared for how the President is going to use the inauguration to repeat, repeat, and repeat this idea. And that will leave Progressives in a very difficult spot. For we are either helping "freedom" in this Republican frame, or we are hurting it.

Second, in the larger statement, Rice does not call the war in Iraq a "war." Instead, she refers to the World War II and the Cold War. In the Bush White House frame, there is no "war" in Iraq. Instead, there is a massive war against tyranny and terror. Let me repeat that: For the Bush administration THERE IS NO WAR IN IRAQ. That's not the reality they construct. That is why they call they do not use the word "soldiers" to describe the people fighting our troops. Whenever the Bush White House talks about "the war," they are referring to the "Wa- -- -----r" and not the "war in Iraq." So, when Barbara Boxer accused Rice of not mentioning the war in Iraq, I am sorry to say that she missed the point. As much as I admire Barbara Boxer, her accusation hurt Rice about as much as a snowball against the Pentagon.

Rice unfolded a massive frame of the world that is not about a war "here," or a war "there." The Bush White House frame that defines Iraq is about a struggle of Biblical proportions wherein Bush the visionary protects the blessed child freedom. In the face of a world that does not understand his vision, the leader makes sure that freedom marches onward. Talking about the war seems small in Rice's vision.

To the extent that it is possible, we need to stop using as the words and logic that define this frame. We need our own big vision. We need to push above and beyond the War in Iraq to advance a huge and fundamental vision of what the world is about. That way, when we mention the Iraq War it will stick.

Step 2: Go To Another Frame
There are many great speeches from history that could get us to a different frame, but one that I found useful was delivered by Eleanor Roosevelt to the Chicago ACLU (Marcy 14, 1940):

All through the years we have had to fight for civil liberty, and we know that there are times when the light grows rather dim, and every time that happens democracy is in danger.  Now, largely because of the troubled state of the world as a whole, civil liberties have disappeared in many other countries.  It is impossible, of course, to be at war and to keep freedom of the press and freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  They disappear automatically.  And so in many countries where ordinarily they were safe, today they have gone.  In other countries, even before war came, not only freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech disappeared, but freedom of religion disappeared.  And so we know that here in this country, we have a grave responsibility.  We are at peace.  We have no reason for the fears which govern so many other peoples throughout the world; therefore, we have to guard the freedoms of democracy. 

"Civil Liberties" emphasizes the liberty of the individual.  In many other forms of governments the importance of the individual has disappeared.  The individual lives for the state.  Here in a democracy, the government still exists for the individual, but that does not mean that we do not have to watch and that we do not have to examine ourselves to be sure that we preserve the civil liberties for all our people, which are the basis of our democracy. 

Now, you know if we are honest with ourselves, in spite of all we have said, in spite of our Constitution, many of us in this country do not enjoy real liberty.  For that reason we know that everywhere in this country every person who believes in democracy has come to feel a real responsibility to work in his community and to know the people of his community, and to take the trouble to try to bring about the full observance for all our people of their civil liberties.

Perhaps the broadest Progressive ideal is the belief in civil liberty for everyone. We believe in the Constitution, but we also understand that the Constitution's insistence on civil liberty is an ideal to be achieved. Progressives believe that the Constitution is a daily to-do-list, not a receipt for something already purchased.

ER brings us back into an important frame: a nation that enjoys civil liberties is a group of people standing together, and it is only by working in our communities that we can find the people who are being denied civil liberties and give them a hand so they might stand with us.

Civil liberties are denied and democracy is weakened not just when people are denied those rights by the state. Democracy is weakened also when people are denied the rights and abilities to extend a hand to people or when people ignore those who need a hand. Denial of civil liberties to some by Americans, threatens the civil liberties of all Americans.

This is a good place to stand while we take a first attempt at rebuilding a frame for the Iraq War.

Step 3: Rebuild Our Frame
The core belief we begin with is: unity. Unity is made tangible through the metaphor of standing together. The idea of reaching out to those who are struggling because they have been denied their civil liberties fits within this broad logical frame: American is strongest when we all stand together. Here, we begin to define one of the factors that weaken America and then build on that as a vision for foreign policy.

For foreign policy, the idea of standing together is extended to the world at large and the notion of strength gives way to the idea of of security. Still, the vision is an American vision, and so the structure of the statement remains consistent:

Americans believe that the world is at peace and secure when all people in all nations stand together, and it is threatened by war and dangerous when nations and citizens are forced to stand alone. America leads the world by example--at home and abroad--by extending a hand to those who stand and strive for liberty, because we believe that liberty is the foundation of democracy. Unfortunately, there are forces in the world today, both religious and secular, who use violence to divide the world and to advance a corrosive vision of a world without liberty. Rather than making the world more secure in the face of these threats, the Bush White House has made the world more dangerous by denying civil liberties at home and abroad, by choosing to stand alone rather than bringing our allies into the room, and by using our military to threaten and to force other nations into accepting America's will.

In this vision, the problem with the Iraq War is that runs counter to our vision of what makes the world safe. We can now talk about our mistakes in Iraq not at the level of policy, but at the level of ideals and vision.

The Iraq War was the logical outcome of a Bush White House foreign policy that used the excuse of September 11 to make the world less safe.

The first thing we should have done after September 11 was to accept the hand of the world's nations that was being extended to us. Our national spirit had fallen, but not our image as the nation that stands for the struggle for liberty. Right then and there after George W. Bush stood with the firefighters at Ground Zero in New York City, he should have stood with the leaders of the world in a great show of strength.

The strength of a Post-September 11 America should have been build on the strengths of a Pre-September 11 America: our role as symbolic leader of the democratic nations of the world, and as the inspiration for those nations and individuals seeking to stand with us.

Instead, the Bush White House chose the weakest possible path. Walking down from the rubble at Ground Zero, George W. Bush drove back to the White House, locked the door, closed the shades, and shut himself off from his own citizens and from the world. Afraid and alone, the Bush White House allowed the terrorist attacks against this country on September 11 to force our national leaders into hiding, to isolate this country from its friends, and to usher in a new era of fear and uncertainty. Americans in the wake of September 11 felt strong and unified to work together. National crime rates plummeted as ordinary citizens seized the opportunity to reach out to others.

But the Bush White House did not recognize the importance of standing together. Instead, they locked themselves in a room, stopped listening to the voices of their citizens or their allies, and they embarked on a plan to impose America's will on the world through denial of civil liberties at home and military force abroad. American cannot lead the world while hiding in the White House. But the Bush White House does not believe that Americans conquer fear by reaching out to each other and standing together. The Bush White House that fear is only conquered by annihilating those who have harmed America, by threatening those seek to harm America, and by turning our backs on anyone who questions us.

Step 4: Break It Down
Finding the phrases to build messages is, as always, very difficult.

American leads by example.
Americans believe the world is safe and secure when all nations stand together.
Americans believe we lead the world in broad daylight, not by hiding behind locked doors.
Americans extend a hand to those stand and strive for liberty.
Liberty cannot be forced onto someone at the barrel of a gun.

The basic metaphors that will help to generate new phrases are: [strength] is [standing together], [leadership] is [being seen], [foreign policy] is [extending a hand].

Step 5: Repeat Our Words
Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work! And remember, this is only a start...

© Jeffrey Feldman 2005, Frameshop

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