Counting Paragraphs?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It appears that Doug Feith believes he can quantify the "shift" in Bush's rhetoric by counting paragraphs in speeches.
This change can be quantified: In the year beginning with his first major speech about Iraq – the Sept. 12, 2002 address to the U.N. General Assembly – Mr. Bush delivered nine major talks about Iraq. There were, on average, approximately 14 paragraphs per speech on Saddam's record as an enemy, aggressor, tyrant and danger, with only three paragraphs on promoting democracy. In the next year – from September 2003 to September 2004 – Mr. Bush delivered 15 major talks about Iraq. The average number of paragraphs devoted to the record of threats from Saddam was one, and the number devoted to democracy promotion was approximately 11.
Unfortunately, he appears to have forgotten to read the NY Times editorial page. It is understandable considering the treatment he has gotten and how his words have been twisted at times. One would think he would know better than to get into that game. From the NY Times of February 27, 2003:
President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a ''free and peaceful Iraq'' that would serve as a ''dramatic and inspiring example'' to the entire Arab and Muslim world, provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East and even help end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

More to the point Feith acts as if the situation in Iraq is something relatively static, like a mountain, rather than something dynamic and changing. Bush has not communicated well, but Feith, of all people, ought to know what bad press is. Maybe Feith didn't communicate well or everyone would understand his position instead of the caricature he is made out to be. Isn't he writing a book to set the record straight?


MeaninglessHotAir said...

I think this is a good point. I read Feith's column today and was swayed by it, but you are right, half the battle is in the twist at the end.

Skookumchuk said...

Feith's book came from Amazon two days ago along with several others. Now I suppose I have to read the thing...though my enthusiasm has diminished somewhat as a result of this post. But. I must have discipline. First, I'll keep plowing through that biography of Sir Edward Elgar that was reviewed in the "Weekly Standard." From there, we go to "A Vertical Empire" which is a history of the short-lived British space program. Then and only then do we read Feith. Unless I regress to my horrible habit of reading them all at once and never finishing any of them. Which I probably will.

Barry Dauphin said...

I'm sure Feith's book is important for lots of reasons. He has been maligned and should try to set the record "straight" or at least get his views out in a more extended form.

I think Feith never liked the democracy stuff and downplayed that in his own mind. But he makes it sound as if we would be viewed positively if we had simply kicked down the door, shot Saddam and left. Even if Saddam had ordered 9/11, we wouldn't have done that (see for example Germany and Japan). I wonder what an interesting panel Feith and Scott ("I still like and admire President Bush") McClellan would make. It would be the Republican version of Chimpy McBushhitlerburton. (No, he's a moron. No he's an evil genius. Well at least we can agree we hate him)

vnjagvet said...

I have the impression that the source documents in Feith's book will indicate that there were many good reasons for invading Iraq.

One such source document, of course, is the Congressional Resolution authorizing the invasion. In it are 23 Whereas clauses specifying 23 reasons for the Resolution.

Here are three of them:

Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use
weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi
regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise
attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide
them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme
magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and
its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by
the United States to defend itself;


Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105–338)
expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy
of the United States to support efforts to remove from power
the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic
government to replace that regime;


Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the
United States to ‘‘work with the United Nations Security Council
to meet our common challenge’’ posed by Iraq and to ‘‘work
for the necessary resolutions,’’ while also making clear that ‘‘the
Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just
demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be

I submit that, at worst, critics of the Iraq war cannot refute any of these three reasons. I would also argue that if any one of those 23 reasons is valid, the Resolution was validly passed.

Whether one or another of the 23 was emphasized over the ebb and flow of the war seems a petty side issue to me.