Date: Tue 14 Oct 2003 - 20:10:16 GMT
For students of the psychology of public opinion formation, the most
interesting competition now taking place is not in major league baseball.
It's between the two “narratives” being presented to Americans
regarding Saddam Hussein, WMD and the war in Iraq.
Narrative #1: An Illegitimate War Weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
have not been found in Iraq. For critics of the war in Iraq, that's all that
has to be said. No weapons caches – no justification for war; as simple
as that. The day that weapons inspector David Kay's preliminary report
was released, a BBC interviewer didn't ask me what was the report said
or what the report revealed. He asked me how big an embarrassment
the report was to those who had advocated toppling Saddam.
Narrative #2: Self-defense and Liberation As Dr. Kay reported, Saddam
had a highly advanced WMD program – including a network of secret
laboratories, sophisticated equipment, trained scientists, and detailed
plans. Saddam was conducting research on agents that could be used
to make biological weapons, e.g. Brucella and Congo Crimean
Hemorrhagic Fever. Also, as columnist Charles Krauthammer has
pointed out, Saddam left behind “130 known ammunition caches, many
of which are more than twice the size of Manhattan,” and only ten of
which have so far been carefully inspected. All this violated
international law, UN Security Council Resolutions and the ceasefire
agreement of 1991. What's more, we know Saddam committed
genocide and ethnic cleansing. For all these reasons, the war to topple
Iraq was not just justified – it was long overdue.
So which of these narratives will most people find persuasive? It would
be nice to say the public will embrace the more truthful narrative – but
experience teaches that, at least in the short run, the narrative that
prevails will be the narrative that is most skillfully and energetically
advocated in the stadiums of ideas (television, radio, newspapers,
The proponents of Narrative #1 are determined, energetic, and
supported by much of the Establishment media.
By contrast, the primary advocate for Narrative #2 is the Bush
administration – which has so far not played the communications game
very skillfully. But it appears that many in the administration at least
recognize that fact and are trying to do better. For these reasons, this
competition is shaping up to be as suspenseful as any that may involve
the Chicago Cubs.
In Their Own Words
"Iraq has not provided an accurate, full, final and complete disclosure … of all its programs to
develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles."
(11/08/2003) UN Security Council, Passed 15-0, Resolution 1441
"We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of
equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late
2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the
admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and
through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have
been declared to the UN."
(10/02/2003) David Kay, Former Chief UN Nuclear Weapons Inspector
"Much as a democratic Germany became a linchpin of a new Europe that is today whole, free
and at peace, so a transformed Iraq can become a key element of a very different Middle East in
which the ideologies of hate will not flourish."
(08/17/2003) Condoleeza Rice, Ph D., Bush Administration, National Security Advisor
"America has not yet awakened to war. Our enemies are waging war in the service of a
conception far more coherent than the somnolent Western nations seem to comprehend. They
are waging the ‘thousand-year war' between Islamic civilization and the West. They understand
themselves to be waging a ‘war of Islamic destiny'...at this moment in the Philippines, Indonesia,
Sinkiang, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Macedonia, Algeria, the
Sudan, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout the world in the form of terrorism without limitation
or humanitarian nuance."
(09/17/2003) Mark Helprin, Author
"The Palestinian strategy is terror, pure and simple, like the terror of al Qaeda. … George W.
Bush has not quite admitted this, but he has come close. Still, his diplomats behave as if there
are two different categories of terror; one with which we can never compromise and another that
we will reward with a state."
(09/03/2003) Martin Peretz, The New Republic, Editor-in-chief
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