Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Straight to the Good Part

I think this AP story serves as a good follow-up to the "The" vs "A" post from a few days ago. That earlier post dealt with the use of language to control the terms of a debate, focusing on the use of indefinite article "the" to reinforce false assumptions (e.g., "What are we to do about the WMD in Iraq"). The following excerpt is an example of same technique applied this time by the use of the adjective "its"...

U.S. Warns Iran to Back Down

By Jim Krane, Associated Press Writer | January 23, 2007

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --A second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington's way of
warning Iran to back down in its attempts to dominate the region, a top U.S. diplomat said here Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, ruled out direct negotiations with Iran and said a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was "not possible" until Iran halts uranium enrichment.

"The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region," Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank...

So what has happened here? It seems that we have completely skipped over the most important part of the debate, the part where we actually establish as a fact the idea that Iran is attempting to dominate the region or that it's nuclear program is for anything other than energy production. We haven't bothered with that at all. Instead we've gone straight to the good part, the fun part, the part where we decide what to do about this unconfirmed threat.

This is how simple, subtle choices of words can change the entire dynamic of the debate. The US official quoted here could have warned Iran to not attempt to dominate the region. He could have made reference to Iran's suspected desire to dominate the region. He could have used any number formulations that more accurately portrayed state of knowledge on Iran's intentions, characterizing them as uncertain or unclear. But, alas, that doesn't the serve the purpose of justifying the war that's already been decided upon. So he chose not to use any of those. Instead he baselessly gave us a definitive reference to "it's attempts" to dominate the region as if they were already documented and agreed upon.

That possessive adjective, "it's", carries with it the implicit assumption that thing that is possessed actually exists. How can it be possessed if it doesn't exist, right? Good, no need to prove it then.

Naturally, it follows that the only question that remains now is what to do about "it's attempts" and it follows very nicely from there that we have our warships in place.

So, as you can see, if we accept this spokesman's framing of the issue we have unwittingly conceded the point completely. The decision to take some action against Iran has already been made for us before a single countering argument can even been made because the issue has come to us pre-packaged with a ready-made concession to the warmongers. If we accept it as-is then, just as was with Iraq, they may fire when ready.

"Can't get fooled again!"