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Rhetorical fallacies in George W. Bush Speech dated 19 March 2003

Hussain Alwan Hussain
2020 / 12 / 19

Introduction
This paper analysis the presidential speech of G. W. Bush above which deal with the US bombing, invasion, and occupation of Iraq by identifying the type of rhetorical fallacies used in the text and describing them, using Pirie s (2006) model of (78) argument fallacies, taking into account Aristotle s taxonomy of (13) rhetorical fallacies.
Speech Text
George W. Bush
Operation Iraqi Freedom Address to the Nation
delivered 19 March 2003, Oval Office of the White House, Washington, D.C.
"My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.
On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support -- from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.
To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. That trust is well placed.
The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military. In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war´-or-rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military -- a final atrocity against his people.
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable, and free country will require our sustained commitment.
We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization, and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and -restore- control of that country to its own people.
I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
Now that conflict has come, the only way to-limit- its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.
My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.
May God bless our country and all who defend her."
Speech Text Formation
This text - entitled "Operation Iraqi Freedom Address to the Nation" - is comprised of (11) short paragraphs, (28) sentences, with a total of (581) spoken words.
Analysis
The first sentence in this speech (which is also its first paragraph) combines both the act of waging of war (without formal war declaration) against a sovereign country, and the statement of the war s rationale:
(1)
"My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger. "
In this sentence, the President starts with a -dir-ect emotional appeal by addressing his American audience as his "fellow citizens" to win their support to the aggression against Iraq. According to the internet Cambridge Dictionary, the word "fellow" is usually used to "to refer to someone who has the same job´-or-interests as you,´-or-is in the same situation as you". Given the obvious fact that the President of the United States wields unique political, administrative, and military powers that are unshared by any of his American addressees, the use of this particular addressing term also serves the purpose of implicating his addressees with his personal decision to wage war on a sovereign state in blatant violation of the International Law by implying that they share with him in this action. This means that the term "my fellow citizens" underlies two fallacies: emotional appeal for support in war-waging, plus equivocation in this act, which shows that these two types of rhetorical fallacies are not textually mutually exclusive.
Equivocation, which involves the use of deceptive ambiguity, is also present in the NP "military operations" in stead of the actual action of "aggression". Then the aim of this aggression is designated as: " to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger". These three "rationales" are mere "lies" formulated as "Thatcher s blames" since the Iraqi army in 2003 had only decades-old conventional weapons, no -function-al air-force´-or-air-defense systems, and no weapons of mass destruction, whatsoever. In other words, the arms possessed by the Iraqi military forces were virtually dys-function-al in any defensive action against the formidable, hi-tech US war machine, and cannot credibly be considered as posing any "serious danger" to the United States of America , let alone the entire world. Besides, at that time, the people of Iraq were not under any foreign occupation, and could not be possibly "freed" by any foreign aggressors" of any sort. In other words, the speaker here argues from the "straw man" realpolitik by blatantly misrepresenting the alleged opponent s position for the express purpose of justifying his war of aggression. The ultimate aim is to frame such an aggression as an act of liberation and danger-elimination, i.e. good causes. However, a foreign, far-off mega-power cannot possibly liberate the people of any other small sovereign country by waging war against them-;- nor the dangers of obsolete defensive arms can be eliminated through the actual use of the latest means of warfare available in the world. These are contradictory arguments in that both premises cannot be logically true.
In short, this one key sentence makes use of at least five rhetorical fallacies: emotional appeal, equivocation, the straw man, Thatcher s blames, contradictory premises.
While the first sentence announces the Presidents orders to start the war and states its alleged purposes, the second sentence specifies the which targets are to be struck:
(2)
"On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein s ability to wage war." (selection)
The American President makes use the ambiguous phrase: "of military importance" as being targeted by the strikes. These strikes are conducted according to "shock and awe" strategy of Ullman and Wade (1996) - developed specifically for application by the US military by the National Defense University of the United States against Iraq - which renders an adversary unwilling to resist through overwhelming displays of power. These well include the heavy bombing of highways, bridges, telecommunication centers, all other crucial infrastructures, production facilities of electricity, fuel , clean water and food that are crucial for the lives of all the population. Several months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, in an interview with CBS News, Ullman stated, "You re sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you re the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2, 3, 4, 5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."
The question is how could the destruction of all these crucial infrastructures possibly help to fulfill the previously stated objectives of disarming Iraq, freeing its people, and defending the world from grave danger? These are both logically and practically contradictory premises.
(3)
"Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense. To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. "
The President resorts in the two sentences above to both emotional appeal ("bearing the duty and sharing the honor"-;- "hopes of an oppressed people") and straw man s ("our common defense" -;- "the peace of troubled world") fallacies.
(4)
"The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military."
Again, the speaker resorts to stark lies in (4) since a foreign mega-power aggression and invasion of a helpless small country cannot and does not "liberate". Likewise, "honorable and decent spirit" is the opposite of the crime of "foreign aggression and invasion of a helpless, largely disarmed country", the two cannot go together. Contradiction and emotional appeal are used again here.
(5)
"Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military -- a final atrocity against his people.
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. "
Here, there is an attempt to shift the blame for the inevitable civilian casualties due to aggression from its American perpetrators – the aggressor s nation – onto the straw man: Saddam Hussein, the President of the victim country through ad hominem. According to the UK non-governmental non-violent and disarmament organization, Oxford Research Group (2005), approximately 6,616 civilian deaths were attributed to the actions of US-led forces during the "invasion phase", including the shock-and-awe bombing campaign on Baghdad that launched approximately 1,700 air sorties (504 using cruise missiles) (USCENTAF: 2003). It is a well-known fact that rockets and bombs are blind lethal weapons, specifically designed and geared to cause death and destruction, and, as such, cannot be rendered "sensitive" to avoiding civilian casualties at their targets, which included virtually all the basic infrastructure facilities -function-ing at the time in Iraq.
(6)
"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure."
With the phrase, "our nation" the speakers tries to picture his personal pre-meditated and pre-determined desire to invade Iraq as that of the whole American people, some of whom took to the streets to demonstrate against it before its start. In addition, he describes what he called the "Coalition of the Willing" as being "reluctant", and calls the aggression a "conflict". Of course, the act of aggression requires willingness of necessity, and mere "conflict" is not synonymous with "waging a bloody war of aggression" without instigation in stead of resorting to diplomacy in accordance with the principles of the international law. Thus, in just one sentence, the speaker deploys four rhetorical fallacies: concealed quantification, contradictory premises, rejecting the alternative, and equivocation.
(7)
" The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities."
In the two sentences above, the will of the President of the United States of America is equated to that of all the US people and the peoples of its friends and allies (concealed quantification). These peoples are unsubstantially deemed as i.)"living at the mercy of an outlaw regime" that ii) threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder". Both of these two arguments are false, posited from the beginning to reject all counter evidence (apriorism) through ad hominem demonization of an "an outlaw regime". Moreover, the rhetorical strategy of slippery slope ("so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities") is resorted to as a justification for apriorism. The underlying strategy here is the arguer s attempt to accuse the opponent s regime with the very follies that characterize the arguer s own regime and the regimes of its allies, which were the first to manufacture, use, and sell weapons of mass murder, and which invaded a small, weak country in violation of the international law. In an interview with the BBC in September 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view [the war] was illegal". Baculum, argumentum ad (argument to the cudgel´-or-stick) is quite obvious in "our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines".
(8)
" My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail."
In (8) above, the arguer reuses the rhetorical fallacies of appealing to the emotion and equivocation with the phrase "my fellow citizens", reiterates his "apriorism" of manufacturing ghost dangers, and calls the waging of war: "working for peace" and bringing freedom to others". In the sentence: "we will prevail", he argues baculum, argumentum ad, carried forward from the previous example. However, a country prevails through peaceful coexistence and cooperation with the other countries, through creation, leaps in science, arts, high production levels, education .. not by taking one s country and the countries of his allies to waging a criminal war against the weakest. This is a crime, and crimes never prevail-;- for history has a tongue.
(9)
"May God bless our country and all who defend her."
This last sentence in the speech, formulated as a religious "collect", again invokes emotional appeal, marked by the prejudice of "monopolizing God s blessing to America and all who defend her", which is ridiculous, since, to the best of my knowledge, God is certainly not particularly pro-American, nor the American people are His "chosen people" in any theological creed. Even in dealing with God, President G. W. Bush resorts to rhetorical fallacies: black and white bifurcation, in this case.



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