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Iraq Language

This piece in yesterday's Washington Post got less attention than it deserves: GOP uber-pollster has a new set of linguistic tools for framing the Iraq debacle.

With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year's campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language.

Luntz, according to a strategy paper that fell into the hands of Democrats, says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions -- turning a potential liability into an asset.

Among his suggested talking points, in the nine-page section on Iraq and terrorism:

* It's not the war in Iraq -- it's the war on terror. "You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word 'preemption' or the phrase 'the War in Iraq' to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start," it said. "Your efforts are about 'the principles of prevention and protection' in the greater 'War on Terror.' "

* Remember: better there than here. " 'Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad' is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration," it said. " 'It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.' "

* Don't forget the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. " '9/11 changed everything' is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11."

* Don't forget Saddam Hussein. " 'The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.' Enough said."

* And don't forget the troops. "Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire," it said. "Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops."

In an e-mailed response, phrasemaker Luntz declined to comment on his paper.
Frank Lutz has one purpose: getting Republicans elected, and making sure they stay that way. He has no interest in truth, and his talking points prove it.

This document should give a shock to the media system. We are struggling now with the spectacle of Bush parsing his words, attempting to claim the benefit of the ambiguity produced by his inability or unwillingness to use the English language. This memo is an instruction sheet to Republicans that want to perpetuate the revisionist stories of the lead up to war. We can't let them:
  1. We should fight terrorists that threaten us, not anyone that has ever communicated with terrorists.
  2. Iraq did not threaten us. Our invasion of Iraq was not part of any war on terrorism. By putting the country at risk of becoming a failed state, the White House has created a new front in the war. The more failed states, the more breeding ground for terrorism, the less safe we are.
  3. 9-11 did not change everything. Things like our respect for human rights and our treatment of detainees were the strengths al Qaeda despised us for before 9-11. They should have been our strengths after 9-11.
  4. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, but America is not a safer country.
  5. Troops are humans, not toys to be played with. They deserve as much protection as we can give them, especially when it is as easy as armored humvees and working body armor. They deserve good medical treatment, adequate pay, and reliable benefits. Above all, they deserve competent leadership.


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