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R&PA :: Special Issue on Iraq

Michigan State University’s Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Issue 10:2, offers a unique scholarly analysis of the rhetoric that led to U.S. engagement in Iraq and then influenced perceptions as the conflict progressed from occupation to all-out war.

From the Introduction (full-text of which is available online) by Herbert W. Simons:

“It’s no longer terribly controversial that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a mistake of monumental proportions.(1) Even the war’s continuing defenders acknowledge that it has adversely affected America’s standing in the world and capacity to meet other global threats while also devastating Iraq. Declines in public support for the war leading to Democratic takeovers of both houses of Congress in 2006 evidence the disaster it has been for the Bush administration.(2)

“This special issue takes up the role of rhetoric in the Iraq debacle, beginning with the once ballyhooed crisis rhetoric of the Bush administration in response to the 9/11 attacks.(3) All but one of the essays scrutinize the rhetoric that brought America into war; the lone exception deals with presidential signing statements. The authors’ critical perspectives are reflected in the questions they pose: Why did we Americans enthusiastically support a preemptive invasion of Iraq when the people and governments of most nations did not? What does this support tell us about ourselves as a people? How did the Bush administration make its case? What fig leafs hid its real motives for war as it put forward its since-discredited weapons of mass destruction (WMD) arguments and its spurious hints of linkage between Saddam and Osama bin Laden? How different was the Bush administration’s war hype from that of past administrations? Why did so many leading Democrats go along? Why did the news media, including the opinion columnists and editorialists, lend their support? Should press, politicians, and even the general public have been able to see through the administration’s slipshod case for war? Most intriguing for me: did the initial success of the Bush administration’s hyperbolic crisis rhetoric in response to the 9/11 attacks prefigure its subsequent failures over Iraq? I address this question, among others, in the issue’s context-setting lead essay. This introduction provides a preview of the other essays.”

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