Dear MP Network,
This post is in two parts: headlines with frames (no caps) followed by a rationale for the headlines. If you are in a hurry and you agree with my suggestions, you can skip the rationale, although it contains a few more ideas and frames (in caps) not included in the headlines. All of the suggestions below are designed for those who are trying to reach and move fence-sitting liberals and Democratic legislators, as well as the conflicted mainstream public (polls show the majority hating the war but still unwilling to leave Iraq).
PART 1: HEADLINES
Start talking using the following:
-We need a ‘course correction’ in Iraq.-We need to ‘set a new course’ in Iraq.-We need to ‘change course’ in Iraq.-We need a ‘course change’ in Iraq.
Then speak of the following:
-We have a new window of opportunity in Iraq right now. -There is a lot of change in the Iraqi political situation now.-We need to respond quickly to those changes. -We need to listen to what the Iraqi government and other powerful Iraqi groups are saying now.-They say they want the United States to help make a ‘handover plan.’ (Don’t call it an ‘exit’ plan.)-We should seize the opportunity to give democracy a big boost in Iraq right now.
Talk about using the ‘handover plan’ to:
-‘. . .help bring the American occupation (not ‘war’) in Iraq to a better conclusion (don’t use the phrase ‘to an end now’ for the audiences and purposes specified above), because right now the Iraqis really don’t trust us anymore to give their country or their oil back. Along with fighting each other, they are rebelling against us.’
See the PART 2: RATIONALE for further comments you could make about the recent bipartisan Congressional attempt to ban funding for permanent bases in Iraq.
PART 2: RATIONALE
The single most important disagreement we still have in the US about the Iraq issue grows out of the notorious but very deep-seated pottery barn analogy — if you break it, you pay or you fix it. Many Americans who have come to hate this war are reluctant to join calls to simply ‘bring the troops home now!’ because they fear the civil war in Iraq will just get worse. They believe we would be responsible for leaving a failed state there, permanently reduced to medieval squalor. Moreover, that ‘now’ plays right into the Republicans’ ‘cut and run’ definition of failure. As a people, Americans don’t like failure. When the Republicans talk about ‘staying the course,’ ‘success,’ and ‘victory,’ it resonates deeply with them. Unfortunately, it keeps hope alive that we can still pull victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq using the same old bankrupt methods.
So if we progressives really want to win over mainstream opinion on Iraq and build a truly effective, multifaceted push to conclude the failing occupation of Iraq, we are going to have to reframe our messages and downplay that scary ‘drop that hot potato NOW/EXIT/END’ failure frame. NOW/EXIT/END all suggest a hasty rush out the fire exit, leaving the rest behind to burn–the END. Moreover, when we talk about ‘ending the war now,’ at this point the public thinks we are talking about the high profile civil war in Iraq, and they don’t believe our just walking out will stop that.
But we know that the only way to pull any kind of ‘success’ from those genuinely looming failure jaws is to ‘set a new course,’ to make a big ‘course change,’ a major ‘course correction,’ because the situation on the ground in Iraq has really changed in big ways. These changes include more and more Iraqis themselves asking us to leave and proposing plans for how to do it. Moreover, reliable reporters say the Iraqis no longer trust us to leave and let them have their country and their oil back. Iraqis say they think American forces are now PLAYING FAVORITES IN THE CIVIL WAR, TAKING SIDES and BEING UNFAIR. The fact that American soldiers have been guilty of torture or shocking war crimes is only making matters worse. This means AMERICAN FORCES AREN’T SEEN AS PEACEKEEPERS BY IRAQIS NOW, because they are not seen as impartial. That’s why we need an internationally led peacemaking process that includes warring Iraqi factions. Iraqis need REAL PEACEKEEPERS IRAQIS CAN TRUST.
Moreover AN IMPORTANT CHANGE HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA. WE HAVE A NEW WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY TOO. BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS RECENTLY VOTED TO BAN FUNDING FOR PERMANENT BASES. Although our administration leaned on the conference committee to strip out the ban, the Senate immediately passed it again. The original bipartisan vote against permanent bases is a HUGE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. It SENDS A SIGNAL TO THE IRAQI PEOPLE that there is a BROAD CONSENSUS IN AMERICA ABOUT NOT STAYING FOREVER IN IRAQ. We need to publicize this bipartisan vote and what happened to it everywhere, at home and abroad.
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