2 Comments on Rhetoric

Your Humble Blogger needn’t add to the blogosphere’s cacophony on the News of the Day. I won’t speculate, publicly anyway, about the effect of the capture of Saddam Hussein on either the Ba’athist resistance or the Shi’ite resistance, on domestic politics or on the international diplomatic scene.

I will, however, take a cheap shot at Our Only President by comparing his statement on the event to that of Tony Blair. To recap my own history on this war issue, every time the Prime Minister nearly succeeded in convincing me to support the invasion, the President nearly succeeded in convincing me to oppose it. Bush won, in the end, and I have been appalled at the conduct of this administration in the rebuilding. So don’t look here for unbiased reporting.

OK, before I begin to look at the two texts in any detail, may I start by pointing out that Tony Blair made his available in Arabic? Not that George W. Bush won’t have his translated and transmitted, but the placement of that link on the number-10 site says, at the get-go, this message is for the world and his wife, not just for John Bull. That idea, in fact, is the nut of the whole difference between the two speeches.

The PM’s speech begins with a general ‘give thanks’ (to the Lord?), and then goes to the note of reconciliation. He speaks first to the Sunnis and the Ba’athists, and calls for putting ‘the past behind us’. He then, in the best passage says:

Let us lay one myth to rest today. We have a common interest, coalition forces and Iraqi people. Our purpose is a shared purpose, our victory is a shared victory.
Then the obligatory Saddam-was-bad bit, and then “ ...let us give thanks to those brave Iraqis who helped in his capture, who in the new Iraqi administration, police and defence forces, risk their lives daily for the good of their people”. He never explicitly turns from addressing the Iraqi people to the British people, although it is clear when he is through addressing the Sunnis and Ba’athists specifically.

He uses the word ‘peace’ twice, ‘reconcile’ (or reconciliation) three times, ‘Iraq’ (or Iraqi) twenty-three times, ‘coalition’ four times, and never uses US or Britain (or their equivalents). The themes are (subdued) celebration, reconciliation, and unification. The overall impression is of somebody who is a trifle smug in his own success, but who is desperately trying to share the credit for that success, to make it easier to work with his colleagues in the future.

Our Only President handled things a little differently. First of all, where the PM started and ended with thanks, the President puts one paragraph of thanks in the middle. Where the PM thanks everybody in sight, and that broadly, the President thanks only the members of our armed forces; presumably that includes not only US but coalition forces, but that’s to be inferred. He emphasizes the finality of it: “the end of the road”, “no return”, “gone forever”, “ever again”. He follows that with his best bit, assuring the Iraqis that “[t]he goals of our coalition are the same as your goals—sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life.” He explicitly divides his statement into “a message for the Iraqi people” and “a message for all Americans”.

He doesn’t use the words ‘peace’ or ‘reconciliation’ at all (tho’ he uses ‘war’ three times), Iraq (or Iraqi) thirteen times, ‘coalition’ three times, and ‘United States’ twice. The themes are triumph, hope, and resolve. The overall impression is of a resolute leader, laying down the way things will be.

The PM uses ‘us’ or ‘we’ thirteen times. Six of those clearly include the citizens of Iraq, and another three are in the phrase “Let us...” The President uses the term ‘we’ twice, both times in the portion specifically denoted as being in his message for Americans. That’s not totally fair, but that’s my impression of the two messages. One is inclusive, one is simply not. These speeches are trifles, they aren’t policy speeches and they aren’t vision speeches. I’m just looking at the rhetoric because I like rhetoric, and I saw what I expected to see, so likely what I saw wasn’t all that was there. For what it’s worth, though, there it is.

Redintegro Iraq,

2 thoughts on “Rhetoric

  1. Rick Heller

    I was in England on 9/11, and Blair’s speech in reaction to the attack was magnificent. Bush’s didn’t compare. And it’s not just the difference in rhetoric. There’s a difference in meaning. Blair framed it as an attack on civilization, while Bush as an attack on “us.”


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