Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It is about the words

Ever listen to George Bush's speeches, especially the words he has used since September 11, 2001? Did you pay attention to the sentences and phrases he used to describe terrorism and terrorists? Kinda' siimplistic? He makes everything a cowboy issue and policy and makes everything black and white. Strange for someone who isn't really a cowboy or even a Texan. Maybe in his own mind?

Anyway, maybe the President should actually listen to his own cabinet and read the document the Homeland Security Administration produces? In January 2008 the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties released an internal document, "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations From American Muslims." The document is almost contradictory in its message and its intent.

The introduction starts,

"Words matter. The terminology that senior government officials use must accurately identify the nature of the challenges that face our generation. It is critical that all Americans properly understand the gravity of the threats we face, and prepare themselves to take the steps necessary to build a secure future. We are facing an enemy that holds a totalitarian ideology, and seeks to Impose that ideology through force across the globe. We must resist complacency. The language that senior government officials use can help to rally Americans to vigilance."

And then says,

"Starting from the premise that words do indeed matter: three foundational assumptions inform this paper:

(1) We should not demonize all Muslim or Islam;

(2) Because the terrorists themselves use theology and religious terms to justify both theirmeans and ends, the terms we use must be accurate and descriptive; and

(3) Our words should be strategic; we must be conscious of history, culture, and context In an era where a statement can cross continents in a manner of seconds, it is essential that officials consider how terms translate: and how they will resonate with a variety of audiences."

In conclusion it says,

"Words matter. The terminology the USG uses should convey the magnitude of the threat we face, but also avoid inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of the extremists' ideolog. Instead, USG terminology should depict the terrorists as the dangerous cult leaders they are. They have no honor, they have no dignity, and they offer no answers. While acknowledging that they have the capacity to destroy. we should constantly emphasize that they cannot build societies, and do not provide solutions to the problems people across the globe face.

"Where our reach is limited , we should strongly encourage Muslim writers, commentators and scholars to use terminology that will drive the debate in a positive direction. While the USG may not be able to effectively use terms like takfirism. others certainly can.

"Finally, we should view our words as bricks used to build a coalition. The USG should draw the conflict lines not between Islam and the West; but between a dangerous. cult-like network of terrorists and everyone who is in support of global security and progress."

Seems George could use some lessons in political rhetoric, or is it the goal to disguise what they really mean in what they actually say? Maybe even better the media should, as it easily could being experts in words and language, actually start challenging Bush and others who don't follow these guidelines? Or maybe that's their agenda too, to be part of government to sell us Bush's rhetoric?

And even when I hear Bush apologize for his own stupid cowboy rhetoric, he always prefaces it with "Maybe I shouldn't have said..." So, why didn't you plug your brain in, after all you're the President, before you opened your mouth?

Somehow he thinks being President means he doesn't have to follow his own administration? Where have we heard that before?

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