Perhaps you remember the language. I’ll be darned if I can find anyone supporting the Iraq War who remembers it. But, then, maybe they don’t want to remember it.
The language went like this: “Weapons of mass destruction,” “vital national security interests,” “gathering threat.”
In heavy rotation, especially, was the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.”
I mean… it wasn’t like we heard this for a couple of months until we got sick of it.
We heard this crappola for well over a year until we heard it in our sleep and every time we turned on the news channel or when we tried to watch local newscasts for the weather report.
“Slight chance of snow showers over the weekend with an increasing chance of WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.”
On and on it went, day after day, week after week, month after month, from one administration official to the other, from one news show and from one pundit to the next, through public debate, through the House of Representatives, to the Senate, then through the UN.
Leading the way in this “Mass Destruction of the English Language” was the “president of mass destruction”… George W. Bush. He said “weapons of mass destruction” so much it almost detracted from his other favorite utterance, “Iraq.”
But then Dubya did something brilliant… he put “weapons of mass destruction” and “Iraq” together. He started doing this with such regularity that, at times, it seemed more like a contest…
“Gee, how many times can I say each of these in every speech I make?”
After a few months of repeatedly hearing the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” everywhere I turned I mentioned to my wife that no matter how he played at posturing — or even whether any of his demands would be met or not — it seemed to me that Bush had made his mind up to invade Iraq. What I saw him doing then was attempting to persuade the rest of us (or lull us to sleep).
“weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction weaponsofmassdestruction”
Bush kept at it. On and on he went with “weapons of mass destruction” day after endless day until, ultimately, Congress, the pundits and a majority of those polled in the United States said, “Okay, okay, Dubya… you win! Invade the sucker!”
So… he did.
After the looting… um, er… “liberation” of Baghdad, mysteriously, we started to hear less about “weapons of mass destruction.” Everyone was so tired of hearing it being said (and thoroughly convinced Saddam was the one who attacked us on 911) nobody really noticed the gradual retirement of the phrase.
For the most part the public was already convinced (i.e. “brainwashed”) that the weapons were there. Even upon our troops’ approach to Baghdad Dick Cheney had said, “It’s only a matter of time. We know where they are.”
But the big moment never came. We started to hear a new phrase from the administration, “freedom for the Iraqi people.” Only that phrase didn’t really catch on with the same effect as “weapons of mass destruction.” It didn't even catch on with the Iraqi people themselves.
As the months passed and we began losing troops every day — and as the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons went undiscovered — it was almost like the administration had run out of steam in its rhetoric. They needed something fresh. Since no such weapons were being found they then needed people to forget about “weapons of mass destruction.”
Some genius in the administration (possibly Bush himself) came up with, “democracy in Iraq.”
That did the trick!
So, as the months have passed and two years have turned, while the daily death toll has mounted, with triple the number in injuries, the administration has been saying this new phrase over and over and… over again.
The new phrase and focus has worked so effectively that hardly anyone noticed when the administration officially concluded (unsuccessfully) its search for “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.
My theory is that — even though it was Bush’s reason for invading Iraq — people don’t care because they are simply sick of the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.” Either that or Bush said the phrase so many times together with the word “Iraq” that they are now synonymous in the public’s mind and, therefore, it is conclusive.
The Bush team has been using the newer phrase “democracy in Iraq” for about a year now. We’ve lost many troops in the interim. An “insurgency” has grown. Both the installed Prime Minister and President of Iraq have expressed fears and doubts publicly about the upcoming elections. Bush himself has declared that “14 out of 18 provinces are safe” (Weeeee!)
My guess is that if things continue to go badly in Iraq the Bush Administration might need a new phrase soon.
I wonder what the life of a high-profile political phrase really is… one, maybe two years? Maybe it depends on how well the action the phrase is associated with is going.
“Paging the president’s catch-phrase meister!”