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Selling the War in Iraq: The Use of Principled Language in Political Communications Open Access

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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush's administration engaged in a concerted communications effort intended to highlight the necessity of aggressive diplomatic and military action against the nation's enemies. Iraq was identified as a key threat; the Iraqi government was reportedly manufacturing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and supporting terrorist groups. From August of 2002 to March of 2003, administration officials described the nature of the Iraqi government and its leader, Saddam Hussein, as inherently evil and fated to a course of action that could only be stopped by force. Using language that cloaked the issue in ideological, abstract, and grand terms, the issue was depicted as a conflict between righteous good and sinister evil.This narrative powerfully influenced the way the public, the media, and politicians discussed and perceived the conflict. This thesis argues that the use of grand ideals and principles such as freedom, peace, security were an integral part of the administration's frame, and that these ideals were a part of what enabled the frame to successfully affect the political debate. The administration was able to influence the perception of Iraq as a political issue, fermenting beliefs and opinions that supported the administration's proposed diplomatic and military actions. Through an interpretive content analysis of all of President Bush's Iraq-related speeches in the run-up to the war, the research will determine the manner in which these grand ideals are infused in the projected frame. Relevant actors are categorized into groups and these groups are examined for the consistent themes in which ideals affect the frame's description of anticipated and explained past, present, and future behaviors. By explaining the behaviors of all actors according to the consistent explanatory base of these ideals, the frame creates a simplistic narrative that is powerful in its ability to provide a narrow but compelling interpretation of a complex reality. In doing this, the administration was able to effectively influence the discussion and the direction and outcome of events.

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