Marketing the War on Iraq

The American people have endured a massive marketing campaign this fall. But this campaign isn’t trying to get us to switch to a different long distance company or a new brand of laundry soap. This marketing campaign is designed to prepare us to attack, invade, occupy, and administer (for how many years?) yet another Middle Eastern country; in this case, it’s Iraq. We have been presented with a deluge of reasons for doing so. But are these reasons compelling? Like most effective marketers, the organization selling this “product” has presented all the reasons that it believes will influence us to buy.

Consequently, there are three important questions for us as consumers to consider before making this decision. Will this product really benefit us, can we afford it, and is there any meaningful synchronicity between the sellers’ true motivations and our own?

First, let’s look at the last of these questions. We know that marketers don’t tell us their true motivations–“Look, what we really want is to turn you into a lifetime customer and make maximum profits off of you, but don’t worry there’s something in it for you too.” We know that they have their own agenda which may not be in synch with our needs, so the rule of the marketplace is caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.

There are many theories about these sellers’ true motives. Control of the world’s 2nd largest oilfields is one theory. But it is possible that the true motivations of the seller would probably not be sufficient to motivate consumers to buy this product. They would consider the price/benefit ratio to be way too high. If it’s laundry soap or a long distance company, consumers can always switch back when they realize they have yielded to the excitement of the pitchman and made a bad decision. Attacking Iraq is different. None of us will be able to say, “Oops. There I go again letting a pitchman get me all worked up. I think I’ll change it back.” We won’t be able to unkill the thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of innocent Iraqi civilians–women, children, and men who most certainly will die from bombs, tanks, land mines, and other unseen ordnance. We won’t be able to undo the death and disabilities that will be suffered by some of our faithful servicemen and women in combat.

Secondly, does this product meet our need for security from terrorism? Terrorism does not mysteriously appear out of thin air. It is born of grudge and perceived grievance. Terrorism is wrong and it is an evil response to grudge and grievance. But unfortunately the fact that it is wrong and evil will not stop it. Will a military invasion of Iraq stop terrorism or will such an act vastly increase feelings of indignation, grudge and grievance against the invaders throughout the Middle East and other parts of the world? When people feel a desperate need to respond to their grudges and perceived grievances, but have virtually no way to do so, what means are they likely to turn to? Terrorism, perhaps? Will making war on Iraq only increase the danger of terrorism born of grudge and perceived grievance? Oh, and what about terrorism from Saddam? CIA Director George Tenet sent a letter to lawmakers last week saying Saddam was unlikely to attempt to strike the United States unless provoked. Will this invasion be viewed as provocative and increase the dangers of terrorism by Saddam as well as terrorism by Al Qaeda and others?

Thirdly, this is likely to be a very expensive product. The war to liberate Kuwait was a multinational undertaking, and the financial cost was largely paid by other countries including Japan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. It only cost the US $13 billion. A real bargain compared to the proposed new Iraq war which could cost more than $272 billion–that’s greater than 20 times more expensive. (Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. said it was important to keep in mind that three months of combat with a heavy ground force and a five-year occupation by a large U.S. force could cost more than $272 billion.)

With a serious and long-lasting recession, with increasing unemployment, with our return to budget deficits, with states and local municipalities laying off staff, closing parks, and generally cutting back on services, is this proposed war something that we can afford? Will this enormous additional debt make us more secure?

We may suffer some serious financial pain as a result of this war, but will the heavy-hitting marketers of this war–Bush and his war promoters and advisors, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith experience more financial pain or more financial gain as a result of this war? Many of them have worked in the oil industry as CEOs or as directors of oil companies (one was even honored with having an oil tanker named after her–the Condoleeza Rice). And many of them will probably work in the oil industry again in the future. Is it likely that their personal financial situations will in the long run only get better and better when (and if), the United States takes control of the Iraqi oil fields?

Unfortunately, the selling of war with Iraq is a difficult sales pitch to resist. With the telemarketers, we can just say no–“I don’t want to switch long distance companies. Goodbye.” But, to say no to this war pitch requires more effort. Many thousands of citizens encouraged their congress people via phone calls, letters, and emails to just say no to Bush’s war resolution. Many congress people reported that these communications from their constituents were overwhelmingly against passage. In our state, Sen. Patty Murray and Reps. Jim McDermott of Seattle, Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island, Ric Larsen of Lake Stevens, and Brian Baird of Vancouver had the courage and conviction to say no.

Now that Congress has failed to protect us from the march of the Bush administration to war (in spite of determined resistance by Sen. Byrd of West Virginia and other resistors to this madness), it is time for us to keep on saying no. Just sitting at home and thinking to yourself that this Iraq war thing is crazy, but I can’t do anything about it will not help to stop this catastrophe from happening.

Rallies and protests are being organized in many locations throughout the country, including the National March to Stop the War Against Iraq this Saturday, October 26th. These rallies will present an opportunity for all of us–young, old, middle-aged, parents, children, Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Independents, gays, straights, activists, consumers, and even couch potatoes–to get together and unite around one simple idea that we can all agree on–that this proposed war in Iraq is wrong and we must say, “NO. Not in our name.” The Bush administration’s marketing campaign is a deceitful one, designed to sell us something that will not meet our need to be safe from terrorism, that we cannot afford, and that only meets the hidden agenda of its marketers without any respect for our well-being. And, it will most certainly kill many thousands of innocent victims.

Will the thousands of civilian victims who die feel better about it because they are just “regrettable collateral damage?” Would you?

Will our servicemen and women feel better about it when some of them return disabled or dead and the leaders of this madness are rewarded with post-government careers in the oil and defense industries and even greater wealth and privilege?

Please join your neighbors this Saturday, October 26th, to be a part of the National March to Stop the War Against Iraq. Bring your friends or come alone. Your presence will be welcomed and greatly appreciated by everyone who is willing to say, “Not In Our Name”, and by everyone who is working to stop this madness.

For information regarding peace actions at locations all over the country visit www.unitedforpeace.org.

ROGER PEACOCK lives in Seattle, WA and is a contract writer specializing in marketing writing and technical writing. He can be reached at rogerpeacock@juno.com.


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