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Monday, May 24, 2004

Latest spin: Iraq is about terrorism

I caught a few minutes of today's press briefing with Scott McClellan. At one point, in response to a reporter's question about whether the administration was trying to point out the good news from Iraq, McClellan said about three times that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism.

To anyone watching the briefing, it was a pretty obvious talking point -- and I'm guessing the White House wants the press to pick up on it.

Indeed, I expect this to be a major point of tonight's address from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.

Then again, it was already the title of a presidential speech as recently as September 7, 2003: "A CENTRAL FRONT IN THE WAR ON TERROR." I wonder if the White House web site used all caps for emphasis?

It's not really true, so let's see if screaming helps emphasize the point.

Why isn't it true? Because most of the attackers in Iraq are insurgents or guerillas, not terrorists. They are primarily engaged in a war against an occupying army, not primarily targeting innocent civilians. Neighboring leaders and some US legal scholars say it is a perfectly legal resistance campaign.

I wish the US hadn't gone and I certainly don't want to see US soldiers die, but it is completely misleading to say that this is a central front in the war on terror. A few terrorists might have relocated to Iraq after the war started, and some innocent civilians have died, but the elephant in the room is the US Army.

In any event, the transcript of today's press briefing isn't yet available, but I did find a Bloomberg piece that shows how the administration is running with this idea today:
Bush wants to keep Americans informed about progress in Iraq, spokesman Scott McClellan said, calling the plan's success ``critical to winning the war on terrorism.''
Also, the Vice President used the phrase at a campaign event on Friday:
In Iraq, thugs and assassins are desperately trying to shake our will, and they have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror.
Cheney also used the phrase in a commencement address to the Coast Guard last week: "Iraq has become a central front in the war on terror."

Actually, using Google News, I found the Vice President using this phrase often recently -- at other campaign functions and other commencement addresses. And of course, at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Siemens Campus.

The neocons agree with this framing, since Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz used it May 6, 2004, in Philly before the World Affairs Council.

The target audiences are interesting too. Cheney used the phrase in front of fire and emergency services workers, May 5. Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed said it in April, in Nevada.

Swing voters and swing states, eh? That's really what tonight's presidential address is all about.

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