USA sounds the retreat

OK… so today was the day the USA decided to pull out of Iraq.

Just check out the language used by the White House and Republicans in a test-the-waters kind of way in the last 7 days. Seeing no great enthusiasm for keeping its troops in Iraq, the soundbites have now been stage-managed into unanimity: “Stay the course” is now an un-policy, and everything coming across the Reuters wire is sung from the same hymn sheet.

The words used – about Iraq “accepting it must do more for itself”, being “nearly ready”, “wanting to take the reins sooner rather than later” – is terrific copywriting: persuasive with the ring of truth, while gently manipulating its audience into believing it’s based on an actual assessment of Iraqi readiness.

(Instead of – as will be the case – a list of approved stances and phraseology guidance written in the west wing.)

“Iraq Agrees to new Security Timetable” (New York Times) – as if they had a choice.
“US could hand over Iraq security in 18 months” (M & C) – meaning it will.
“US promises significant progress in Iraq” (FT) – not any kind of result, just progress towards it.
“Success in Iraq still possible” – subtext: if the Iraqis continue what we’ve started and the insurgency magically fizzles out!

It’s a use of language that tugs at the one thread of American opinion that lets the country kid itself it did the best it could. A position that we’re decent folks doing the decent thing by letting the country take back its own responsibilities, and a presupposition that the decision has already been made by the White House. It’ll play great in the red states, and okay in the blue ones.

Nothing like elections coming up to focus the governing party’s minds on perceived opinions of its biggest problems. Pure brilliance, and it can only be ‘Bush’s Brain’ Karl Rove (undoubtedly the most brilliant copywriter never to have held an advertising job) behind it all.

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