The Escargot Stratagem

Responding to the American public's mounting suspicion that the White House is either lying to us about the Iraqi War going according to plan, or the plan really really sucks...the Administration has decided the source of the problem is not their doomed policy but rather the slogan they are using to sell it. So "the war on terrorism," has officially been replaced with "the struggle against violent extremism." Which clears things up like a double hulled oil tanker spill in a 9-inch kiddie wading pool.

Like a floundering hurricane losing wind speed over a land mass, the war has been downgraded to a struggle. I don't know about you, but I feel much better already. Hey, is that the cool refreshing breeze of a scheduled steady troop withdrawal? Alas, no, its Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being propelled across another verbal skating rink by igniting his own flatulence. Again. Does the term "band-aid on a sucking chest wound" have any meaning here?

This particular scheme is something I like to call the Escargot Stratagem. Imagine being a charter member of the Snail Wranglers Anti Defamation League back in the 50s. Tough gig, right? When most Americans would rather chew on pork lips and linoleum than consider sliding the paradigm of slime down their gullet. It wasn't until the slugs with shells were marketed as a delicacy under their French moniker that people worked up the nerve to stab them with a fork much less dangle them within spitting distance of their mouths. Of course, if you ask me, the guy from the Garlic Butter Advisory Board is the real genius here. Throw in "squid" and "calamari" and "Rick Santorum" and "distinguished gentleman" and you see where I'm going with this.

It's all about reframing, such as the word "bribe" being replaced with "campaign contribution," when we all know the major difference between the two is five syllables. The Nixon Years were the Golden Era of reframing, most notably for Reframing Hall of Famer Ron Ziegler informing the press that his previous statements on behalf of the Nixon White House were "inoperative." Which, to this day, remains the best euphemism for "lied like a thieving corn weasel," ever.

The problem here is the word "war." Unfortunate term. Unduly contentious. Steeped with insinuations of antagonism. Indicative of an enterprise to be either won or lost. And having yet to exhibit any of the signs normally associated with winning, like a lack of dead people, its obviously time for a change. "Struggle," conveys more of the murky lifelong commitment that fighting terrorism, excuse me, violent extremism, will require. Like a voluntary congenital condition. Nobody expects to win the war against genital herpes. You simply strive to co- exist. And eventually become a better person because of it. Blah blah blah.

If this were 20 years ago, I would expect the "war on poverty" to morph into the "tussle against insufficient funds," but that war ended. And the poor lost. Or more accurately, extremely rich politicians surrendered on their behalf. One thing you can be sure of, this nomenclatural de-evolution will be shoved down our throats as long as we continue to swallow it, right up to the point that they try to call the President: Beloved Leader. I'm not sure there's enough garlic butter in the world to facilitate that. Like a lot of Americans, Political comic Will Durst prefers both squid and snails to Rick Santorum.

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