Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memo to DKos: Jim Webb Can Call It An Occupation--Why Can't You?

As Markos pointed out yesterday, Jim Webb's blistering statement against the Capitulation Bill in the Congress was like a breath of fresh air in a Democratic Party apparently too afraid to stand up for public opinion in the face of a President with a 28% approval rating. Even more interesting to me, however, was the fact that Mr. Webb, a military man throughout his career considered too hawkish and too conservative by many progressives to gain their support, consistently referred to the disaster ongoing in Iraq as an occupation (with only one exception when referring to Joe Lieberman's stance). Let's look at his statements again:

On the one hand, I find myself unable to vote against a measure that is necessary to fund our troops who are now in harm's way. On the other, I will not relent from my continuing efforts to bring this occupation to an end.

"I will continue to press for a strategy of strong diplomatic engagement, which will enable us to end the occupation of Iraq, to increase regional stability, to fight international terrorism more effectively, and to address our broad strategic interests around the world. emphasis added

Jim Webb knows to use the word "occupation", I must believe, largely because his military experience leads him to understand the difference on a gut level between the sort of fighting he was engaged in in the jungles of Vietnam, and the long slow bleed of our troops in Iraq who are being used as sitting ducks and targets of an angry home-grown resistance.

I have made clear again and again and again the reasons why we should be using the language of "occupation" to describe the conflict in Iraq rather than the language of "war": wars can end only in victory or defeat, while occupations end only in annexation or withdrawal. The business of war is killing enemies and seizing territory; the business of occupation is pacifying areas you already control and exploiting their resources. In all respects, our involvement Iraq is an occupation rather than a war--which doesn't preclude the idea of a civil war going on between indigenous parties in Iraq. Most importantly, if we are truly fighting a "war" in Iraq, then calling for withdrawal does indeed equal a call for "defeat"; but if we are instead engaged in the "occupation" of a hostile country, withdrawal is simply inevitable and must happen sooner rather than later, given the hostility of the populus. In the context of the congressional funding battles, calling our presence an "occupation" makes defunding seem less like denying troops bullets in the middle of a firefight (a lie), and more like packing up our occupational operations and leaving the Iraqi people alone to manage their futures as they see fit (far closer to the truth).

And yet, in spite of the apparent obviousness of these facts, it often seems to me that this simple linguistic framing gets more traction in the halls of Congress than it does even on Daily Kos. With the Capitulation Bill at the forefront of most bloggers' minds, the topic of Iraq has been a central issue. And in most cases, those who speak for Dailykos have been consistently using the "war" frame over the last three days--a frame that has in many ways been one of the key sources of our inability to fight back against the immoral policies of the Bush administration.

First and foremost, we have Markos himself:

I've never been under any illusion that this war would end before the next Democratic president took charge. But when a party wins control of Congress on ending the war, I thought they would at least work to make that happen.

and here:
Thus far, Hillary has somehow managed to deceive voters into thinking that she's against against this war, despite having promised to keep troops in Iraq if elected president

Then there's BarbinMD:
"We're into the fifth year of George Bush's war

And DarkSyde:
The only reason I became involved beyond the casual level is because I don't like being lied to -- about a lot of stuff, but mostly about a pointless, devastating war

Or mcjoan, right in the headline:
Senate votes on ending the War Tomorrow

And Meteor Blades:
Marching Toward an Iraq War Moratorium

And last year's highest-impact diarist bonddad:
We Can't Afford The Iraq War

Of those who are said to speak for the site, only Kagro X has been valiantly and consistently using the "occupation" meme with effective and crystal clarity. It is possible to talk about Iraq only with the frames of "occupation" and "withdrawal", and Kagro has done it beautifully. For example, see here:

But the strangeness doesn't end there. Somewhere along the line, the preferred argument against actually de-funding the Iraq occupation -- that it would amount to an "abandonment" of the troops -- became the argument against timelines.

and here:

From all indications, today is going to be a lousy day. We are going to see another blank check issued on the Iraq occupation, and everybody is going to scratch their heads and wonder how it happened -- and that's only if you're still willing to give Congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt.

I don't wish to seem to be misdirecting my anger with congressional Democrats against my fellow bloggers and staunch progressives here, nor is my intent to call out any particular individual writers. It just so happens that these particular individuals are among those who own, operate or speak for DailyKos, so their visibility and importance provide worthy exemplars.

All I'm saying is that if Jim Webb can do it, surely we can as well. It is not difficult to change one's language regarding this Occupation, and it can do everyone a world of good. Pretty please, with sugar on top?

UPDATE: I do, of course, agree with the many kossack commenters who have pointed out that Webb's speech means little without a "no" vote to back it up. All too true, and Virginia voters should hold him to account for it. Regardless of bluster or hypocrisy, however, his choice is language is still quite instructive.

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Blogger thereisnospoon said...

hooray for comment spam...

2:58 PM  

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