Argumentation and Fallacy in the Justification of the 2003 War on Iraq

Argumentation 26 (4):459-488 (2012)

The present study examined how the pre-war debate of the US decision to invade Iraq (in March 2003) was discursively constructed in the US/British mainstream newspaper opinion/editorial (op/ed) argumentation. Drawing on theoretical insights from critical discourse analysis and argumentation theory, I problematised the fallacious discussion used in the pro-war op/eds to build up a ‘moral/legal case’ for war on Iraq based on adversarial (rather than dialogical) argumentation. The proponents of war deployed ‘instrumental rationality’ (ends-justify-means reasoning), ‘ethical necessity’ (Bush’s ‘Preemption Doctrine’) and ‘humanitarian virtue’ (the bombing of Iraq to ‘save’ Iraqis from Saddam’s pestilent tyranny) to justify the pending invasion of Iraq. Their arguments intertextually resonated with Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ rhetoric in a way that created a form of indexical association through ‘recontextualisation’. The type of arguments marshalled by the pro-war op/ed commentators uncritically bolstered the set of US official ‘truth claims’ and ‘presuppositions’
Keywords Argumentation  Critical discourse analysis  Iraq war  Pragma-dialectics  Rhetoric  Media
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DOI 10.1007/s10503-012-9265-8
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