Operation Iraqi Freedom: Selling the war at home

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This article is part of SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage of the
Bush administration's war in Iraq
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'Victory' for the White House

In early December 2005 George W. Bush announced to cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy the latest repackaging of the bloody mess in Iraq - the pollster-vetted "Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Using the now-familiar White House rhetorical technique of simple repetition to get its message across, The New York Times reported Bush "used the word victory 15 times in the address; 'Plan for Victory' signs crowded the podium he spoke on; and the word heavily peppered the accompanying 35-page National Security Council document titled, 'Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.'" According to the Times, the speech's "relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war."

But unlike earlier media campaigns, the attempt to spin away Americans' sinking feelings towards the President and the war may not bear fruit. White House propagandists appear increasingly blinded by their own delusions, so out of touch with the grim realities in Iraq and Afghanistan - not to mention U.S. communities - that their ability to construct new propaganda is weakened.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan appeared uncomfortable when presented with a description of the Iraq situation that fell outside his own well-rehearsed spin, even though it was written into the President's "Victory" address.

Q -- when you guys frame this, as you just did, it's always about the war on terror. But by the President's own account in his speech on Wednesday, the jihadists are the smallest of the three elements which are fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: What did he say about the jihadists?

Q You know what he said about the jihadists.

MR. McCLELLAN: He said, the smallest, but most lethal.

Q Well, yes, but you frame it as a war on terror, and it's about much more than that, as he, himself, said.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is about the war on terrorism. It's about much more than Iraq.

Q It's about the rejection of the power that was held by the Sunni minority, it's about rejection of foreign presence in the country. It's about a lot of things in addition to the jihadists.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's about the broader war on terrorism, is what it's about, Bill. And maybe you have a different understanding about it, but the President understands clearly the stakes that are involved in this broader war on terrorism. That's why he takes a comprehensive view of how we succeed in this war on terrorism. And that's why he's taken the fight to the enemy. That's why he's supporting efforts to expand freedom and democracy in the heart of a dangerous region of the world. And we will continue to act. We will continue to support those who want to live in freedom. And Iraq will inspire the rest of the Middle East and help us lay the foundations of peace that I've been talking about.

"After the White House's aggressive response to [Iraq] war critics led to higher poll numbers for the president, congressional Republicans ... are looking to fight their own aggressive campaign," reports The Hill. After returning from recess, Republicans plan "to amplify the stories of individual soldiers who still believe in their mission." (A recent survey of active-duty troops by the Military Times found decreasing support for both President Bush and the Iraq war, though military approval ratings for both remain higher than the general U.S. population's.) Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum is heading the PR push. Santorum said "letters from U.S. soldiers and their families" prompted him to launch the campaign. One such letter, from Sgt. Michael Sarro of the Pennsylvania National Guard, offered help for "the senator and the fight against anti-war activists."

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