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War Is Peace

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, March 20, 2006; 1:21 PM

Yesterday marked three years of war in Iraq -- but not to President Bush. To Bush, it was "the third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq."

In fact, as Nedra Pickler noted for the Associated Press, Bush didn't use the word "war" at all in his brief remarks .

To hear Bush tell it, what's going on in Iraq -- whatever it is -- is fundamentally about progress, victory and peace. "We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq," he said. "And a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure, and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come."

Bush's avoidance of the word "war" in the context of Iraq is the rule, not the exception. In the carefully chosen lexicon of White House speeches, that particular word is almost exclusively reserved for the "global war on terror."

So there is no war, except for the war that never ends, and we're winning.

It's a little reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, where the three slogans of the ruling party were "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."

Since the disclosures about Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, Bush critics have been citing that other dominant slogan from Orwell's book: "Big Brother is Watching You."

But there are plenty of potential Orwell analogies in Bush's use of language, and his historical revisionism, as well.

Of Straw Men

Another aspect of 1984: the daily "Two Minutes Hate" aimed at Emmanuel Goldstein, the enemy of the people. Unlike the obvious contemporaneous analogue, Osama bin Laden, the Goldstein character was actually a straw man -- a made-up figure created by Big Brother just to be knocked down.

Jennifer Loven , in a bold departure for the Associated Press, wrote a whole story on Saturday about Bush's extensive and generally unchallenged use of straw-man arguments.

"When the president starts a sentence with 'some say' or offers up what 'some in Washington' believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

"The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.


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