Why is the war called "Operation Iraqi Freedom?" Because the administration wants to emphasize the political point that it has no territorial ambitions in Iraq. Surely President Bush and his advisors wish to see the Iraqi people liberated from oppression. But that has never been the prime justification for this war. Many other countries suffer under equal or greater oppresison. During the Presidential campaign, George Bush criticized the Clinton/Gore administration for "nation building" and intervening for humanitarian reasons in areas such as the former Yugoslavia.

President Bush and his spin doctors believe they can convince listeners through rote repetition of a theme, no matter how transparently false. It’s 1984 Newspeak, plain and simple. That’s why, in his speech the other night, the President said, "my fellow citizens," and "God bless our country" rather than referring to America. He wants counter the widespread view that this is America’s war, against the will of the world. Instead of engaging the opposition directly, he pretends there is none.

In the end, substance matters more than message. This administration has aliented the world by its actions, not its words. Better messaging isn’t the answer. Yet that’s where the administration puts its energy. It’s why they sacked Paul O’Neill for not talking up the tax cut enough, and Larry Lindsey for giving what turned out to be accurate predictions about the cost of war in Iraq. In these and other cases, what they should have focused on is the product, not the sales pitch.