It seems to be an overwhelming tactic of the reactionary right – to structure all issues as an “either/or” choice.
This means that any challenge to their position “x” is taken as proof that the challenger supports position “y”. Instead of defending “x”, they attack “y”.
It is an old, old, old rhetorical trick.
Most recently it has been used, in a bunch of forms, by those who sought to garner support for the war in Iraq. Any challenge to the invasion of Iraq is instantly met with “but the Iraqis are better off!”, as if the choice was between “x” an invasion where lots of innocents died and “y” Saddam Hussein running his totalitarian state unchecked.
The whole point of opposition to the war was that there was *another way*. There were many, many other courses of action that were vastly preferable and at least worthy of exploration but which were completely ignored. They continue to be ignored, because it suits those who went to war to use that simple rhetorical device of “either/or”.
The media do not make this clear. The media, print media especially, seek balance through “quote/counterquote”. So someone says the war was unjust; the counterquote is “but the Iraqis are free”. Nowhere in the mainstream media is the illegitimacy of this argument made clear – it is left to the columns of left-wing pundits, if it is even mentioned there.
Yet this is the most important thing we need to know about the debate over the rightness of the war – the proper parameters of the discussion.
It is not an “either/or”, but the media portrays it as such. Recognise this, and you have a disconnect. A step along the road.
And while I’m thinking about the war, and disconnects associated with it, how come no-one has pointed out the most damning fact to come to light in the whole Hutton inquiry, namely this: Downing Street sought to make the dossier as strong as possible in order to garner support for the war.
The only conclusion one can reach from this is that they had already decided to go to war on grounds other than WMDs.
If they already had enough evidence of WMDs to go to war, they would not have needed to strengthen the dossier.
(There is another possible conclusion, namely that the PM had been convinced but didn’t think his backbenchers would be. This is hardly any more flattering for those involved.)
It’s a logical puzzle and there’s no way out of it that doesn’t make the government look bad. However, the mainstream media has done nothing to point it out. That’s why you’re reading it here in a blog by a New Zealander instead of somewhere more reputable. But hey, don’t take my word for it – do the sums yourself. If they were trying to strengthen the dossier, then they’d already decided to go to war based on reasons other than WMDs.
Maybe this just proves that the real reason they went to war was to liberate the Iraqis, after all. Silly me.
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