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February 18, 2005

Comments

"The point that I fear is being missed in all this, however, is whether democratization alone was sufficient as a casus belli in Iraq."

I don't think it was ever missed by people on the anti-war side. I have heard these arguments made, and largely ignored by the pro-war side, for literally months and months. Thanks for coming onto our side.

I opposed the war even though I thought there might be WMD because I don't believe a possible threat justifies what war always brings...death of civilians. But having said that, there's a much, much bigger mistake the administration made here than WMD that is not being seriously enough discussed to my mind. The fact that after Vietnam, when we supposed learned our lesson, we would still send our troops into battle without a plan for winning the peace. It's so inexcusable it borders on criminal.

Thanks for coming onto our side.

To clarify: I don't think I'm "on your side," in the sense that I supported the Iraq war and stand by that support as the most reasonable course given the knowledge we had at the time.

von,

If you think that only WMDs justified the Iraq war I don't see how you can say you stand by thaat support given what we knew then. The inspectors on the ground were clear that they were not finding WMDs. Surely if that's the reason to attack we should have waited for them to finish the job?

Excellently reasonable post -- you're right, all too many people conflate "We always hoped for a democratic Iraq as a result of the war" with "Creating a democratic Iraq was either a sufficient reason or our actual reason for going to war."

Why not fight until the world is united and exploring the galaxy in peace beneath a benevolent Picard?

You know, if I thought this had a viable shot of working, and that the negative side-effects were acceptably small, I'd be all for it -- I'm not fundamentally opposed to the idea of forcibly democratizing unpleasant countries, I'm just convinced that in practice it is unfeasible and counterproductive.

Great post Von but i heartily disagree with your comment above. Only someone who believed the pro-war PR could say that. There were hundreds of thousands of us marching against the war whose bullshit detectors were going off loudly at all the machinations. I never believed for a minute that this war was about WMD's and my friends didn't either. Starting September 12th the Press stopped doing their job out of a totally misplaced sense of Patriotism and a decent level of scrutiny would have showed the holes in all of this.

I did get a good chuckle though, only an Anglo sci-fi series would have a character named Jean-Luc Picard speak with an accent straight out of the Royal Shakespeare Company!

Oh, when I said the post was reasonable I didn't mean to imply that I thought it was reasonable to have considered Iraq a threat to us before the war -- anyone who bought the "WMD threat" argument before the war was simply not thinking critically about the evidence presented.

Von: stand by that support as the most reasonable course given the knowledge we had at the time.

Even knowing, now, that Bush & Co lied about Iraq having stockpiled WMD?

I mean, I think this is important: it wasn't that Bush & Co sincerely believed that Iraq was a threat and the US must invade - they didn't, and we now know that (where some of us suspected it long before).

Further, it was clear even when it was arguable that Bush & Co might believe what they were saying about WMD, that their evidence for what they were saying was shaky. (The aluminium tubes, for example: the forged Niger documents: their inability to back up their claims that they knew were these stockpiled WMD were.)

These were outright lies. They also used considerable obfustication to give the strong impression that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda/911*, while (never? Did Dick Cheney directly claim it?) outright saying so. This kind of shady argument, falsely linking the invasion of Iraq with Bush's much-touted "war on terror", ought to have got people thinking hard about Bush's claims that Iraq represented a threat to the US - since the evidence for WMD that could threaten the US was always shaky, even if you wanted to believe that Bush & Co sincerely believed it.

I guess my point is that those of us who never supported the invasion of Iraq generally did so for reasons which have since been proved to be sound - while those who did support the invasion have found their reasons for doing so all proven wrong. It would be nice to have people who have since come round to our side ;-) acknowledge that we were right: our reasons for opposing it were sound, and really, you should have listened to us.

I don't insist on it. But it's a little annoying, I admit, to be consistently proven right... and yet have the people who have been proven wrong fail to acknowledge that they were wrong. Don't think of this as a personal attack - there are so many people I'm so much more annoyed at on this topic, and even the highest levels of annoyance are tempered by relief that they are coming round to our side... :-) But I have a renewed sympathy for Cassandra.

Very good Jes!

The reason we haven't received those statements is that those people just moved the goalposts. The Emperor basically walked faster and said 'No questions today about my clothes', and the lackeys obeyed.

We can also add that after many, many years of sanctions against his country and 'no-fly' zones for years and a good deal of spying by drones and satellites and at least a little on the ground intelligence, we knew Saddam had been cut off at the knees for quite a long time. To believe otherwise required giving this sad little despot powers only available in comic books.

The Bush administration is never ever honest about their longterm intentions. Current policies and proposals are always sold by decepetive salepitches in order to move us incrementally along toward their unstated and unexplained goals. You can kind of figure out their long term goals by researching the backgrounds, off the MSM statements etc. but as a deliberate policy the Bush administration has relied on decieving and misinforming to get support. This pattern is now being played out in regard to Social Security. The Big Lie is that SS is in crisis and Bush wants to reform it. The truth is in the leaked memo; the long term goal is to destroy SS. There is no crisis and the inner circle knows it.
So why does anyone think the Bush administration wanted to create a democracy in iraq? As von points out the war was sold as defensive--that was the Big Lie. Even among the war's supporters creating democracy was an afterthought or a meaningless slogan. Sure some of them might have been sincere about democracy-creation just as many people were sincere in their misconception that Iraq was behind 911. But was the Bush inner circle sincere?
I don't think so.
1. The Bush administration consistantly shows disrespect for democratic values here. The use of the deceptive salepitches instead of an honest debate in the market place of ideas is just one of many many examples of the triumph of "the end justifies the means " over democratic values.
2. "Fighting for democracy" is what Republicans always say we are doing. It has never been true before. We have fought against Communists in support of not-Communists, or fought for an increase in our own influence or defended ourselves against the Japanesse and Germans with the unforeseen outcome of new democracies, but I cannot think of a single time a Republican administration has used military force specifically to create a democratic government anywhere. It is just a slogan.
3. The way the Bush admiistration approached the "rebuilding" of Iraq showed more concern for manipulating the outcome to result in a pro-American client state than the development of a genuine democracy. Al-Sistani and other Iraqi leaders are responisble for pushing Chalabi out of the leadership position where Bush tried to place him, opposing the staked-deck caucus system, and persisting in their demands for a election in face of initial Adminisration opposition. The behavior of this administration indicates the pursuit of a democratic-in -appearance-only client state. They got out-manuevered by the Iraqis.
I am very very glad the Iraqis appear to be on the road to a real democracy. In order to protect our democracy here at home we need to keep focused on exposing and opposing the Administration's deceptions.

"The inspectors on the ground were clear that they were not finding WMDs."

Also true when the NPT enforcers missed Saddam's nuclear program in in the 1980s only to get a nasty surprise in 1991. Also true in 1994 when inspectors were seeing large pieces of nuclear equipment (name I can't remember this second, magnet similar to cyclotron, what the hell is that word?) which have never been accounted for but which they were not empowered to chase down. The problem with verifiable inspections and Saddam had been around for a while. Actually the problem with the international community getting behind verifiable inspections in any of the problem states has been huge for decades. They only got behind inspections in Iraq after Bush had the armies on the doorstep, as late as mid-2002 France, Germany and Russia were pushing an end to sanctions without resuming inspections. The NPT has been routinely ignored in North Korea with very little discernable waves made by the usual suspects. The Iran nuclear program is going along swimmingly with 'assurances' every three or four months that keep needing to be updated to make up for the previous quarter's broken assurances.

So speaking of being proven right, welcome to the utility of international community on security issues.

The truth is in the leaked memo; the long term goal is to destroy SS.

Lily, what memo? Got a cite?

"To clarify: I don't think I'm "on your side," in the sense that I supported the Iraq war and stand by that support as the most reasonable course given the knowledge we had at the time."

Whether you change the way you feel about the invasion is not my point. I strongly doubt you will be as creduluous to the Bush Administration's pronouncements, whether on foreign or domestic affairs, again. By being willing to go deeper than the rhetoric and seek out the reality, you have changed sides.

I don't want this thread to descend into the Bush lied/people died meme, so I'll answer this once: The Bush administration did not "lie" in the build up to the war. The nature of intelligence is that it is imperfect; acting on intelligence is, to a degree, placing a bet. Some bets have better odds than others, but every bet has the potential to be a loser.

It seemed to me (and still seems to me now) that, pre-war, the smart money was on Iraq having WMDs -- and significant quantities of them. Our intelligence, our prior knowledge of Saddam's stockpiles, Saddam's beahvior, etc. generally indicated as much. I (and Bush) placed our money on the smart bet. I'm comfortable with both my and President Bush's call.*

IOW, the fact that a good bet turned out to be a loser does not mean that it wasn't a good bet.

von

*I'm more amendable to the claim that certain Bush administration folks exaggerated the threat -- portrarying an educated guess as a certainty. Indeed, I criticized them for such behavor at the time.

The Bush administration did not "lie" in the build up to the war.

Do lies of omission count? Does lying about the degree of certainty with which knowledge is possessed count? If so, they lied; if not, the descriptors "deceptive" and "mendacious" must suffice.

von: I've said this before, but for what it's worth: I did not support the war, for various reasons, one of which was that I did not think that Iraq was a direct threat to our security even if (as I believed) he had chemical and/or biological weapons, since everything I knew about him suggested that he had no natural affinity with al Qaeda, and that he was moreover likely to want to maintain control over everything in Iraq, WMD included.

However, I stopped believing he had WMD sometime around Jan. or Feb. before the war. I thought: it would be so clearly in our interests for the inspectors to find WMD that we were, in all likelihood, doing our best to tell them where to look. Moreover, telling them where to look would be a good idea on other grounds: it would allow us to test our intelligence before going to war. (An especially good idea since we seem to have been relying a lot on the likes of Ahmed Chalabi, whose credibility was open to very obvious and serious questions.) And since the inspectors were not finding anything, I thought that in all likelihood we didn't know anything about WMD, whatever the administration might say. (The alternative explanation would have been that we did know but weren't telling the inspectors, which would have been (a) nuts, (b) a sign that we were hell bent on going to war no matter what, which would have made me very unwilling to play along, and (c) a stupid missed opportunity to test our intelligence.)

So I really wondered about this at the time, and it made me even more dubious about the whole idea than I had been all along, especially since, according to me, our real enemy was al Qaeda and similar groups, which Saddam had nothing to do with. (I did not count retired terrorists who had not been a threat to us for over a decade, or think they were worth going to war over.)

Ages ago, even before the invasion, a wise person suggested the real motive for the invasion was to get troops into the middle of the Middle East in a fashion that scared the bejesus out of those supporting terrorists. All the rest of it, WMD, human rights abuses, democracy, etc. was window dressing.

That theory still holds up and explains why we're not so concerned about a smooth path to democracy in Iraq, a bit of tension allows us to continually remind the neighbors we got the bombs and are willing to use them.

It makes sense. It's simple and it answers all the unanswered questions.

The only remaining issue, for me at least, is whether it's legal. I don't think it is.

Von: The Bush administration did not "lie" in the build up to the war.

They claimed they knew there were stockpiled WMD in Iraq, and that the existence of these stockpiles made it necessary to invade to stop Saddam Hussein from using them. (As an added intensifier, they claimed they knew he had proven links with terrorists, and omitted to mention that the only proven links consisted of giving money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers: and then would move smoothly on to refer to 911/Al-Qaeda, as if the "proven links" they had just referred to meant links with al-Qaeda.)

Since, as we now know, they knew there were no stockpiled WMD in Iraq (as there was no preparation made to secure/destroy the stockpiles by the invasion force), yes, they lied.

This was their central lie. There were other smaller lies. To argue that their only fault lay in seriously misinterpreting the intelligence they received... well, I guess it's good enough for government work that you accept they were completely incompetent. But they also lied.

Hilzoy, Terry Karney (Pecunium on livejournal) says that the point at which he knew the administration had been lying about WMD was when he was being briefed in Kuwait "that no expectation of WMD being used was the order of the day" cite: third comment.

Edward,

see this.

Edward, I think Lily is referring to the "Wehner memo" that got a fair bit of coverage a little while back (try this link, for example, http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2005_01_02.php#004348).

Here's a quote from the memo--

"For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."


"The nature of intelligence is that it is imperfect"

I don't recall Secretary Powell saying that before the UN.

I don't think any of us can really know whether or not the Bush Administration "lied" -- if by that you mean an intentional misprepresentation of facts-- but there are some things where they seemed at least willfully blind, e.g., (IIRC) in describing the aluminum tubes as only having potential use for WMD, when it seems they only had civilian use.

If you have a broader view of "lie" (e.g., failing to present an honest picture by cherrypicking from the analysts' debate, failing to correct the record or misunderstandings, intentionally conflating 9/11 and Iraq) then I think it's pretty clear they did lie.

Thanks Dantheman...how'd I miss that?

This is not the thread for it, but I remained convinced Bush wants to totally dismantle SS, and nothing anyone on any blog has written has even come close to disuading me from that belief. Like the theory I note above about US troops in Iraq, this theory answers all the questions simply and consistently. Other theories don't. I'm a slave to Occam's razor.

It seemed to me (and still seems to me now) that, pre-war, the smart money was on Iraq having WMDs -- and significant quantities of them.

This really isn't a relevant argument any more, so if you don't want to go over ground that's been covered before I'll drop it. That said, what convinced me that the WMD argument was crap was that there were no credible specifics supporting it. There were accusations based on insufficient record-keeping (all the stuff that Iraq said had been destroyed but where there weren't proper records of the destruction). Outside of that we had the aluminum tubes, which the IAEA said was nonsense when it was brought up, the crudely forged Niger/yellowcake documents, and Colin Powell pointing to satellite pictures of rectangular structures. Nothing else.

Now, a nuclear program is a major industrial project, as is a chemical weapons program, and biological weapons still seem to be impractical for military use. If there was anything sufficient to constitute a threat to the US, it simply made no sense that the administration would not be able to produce any specific evidence to support it -- we have satellites, we have (under the sanctions regime) oversight over goods flowing into and out of the country. It just didn't make sense that Iraq could conduct a major industrial project without our being able to come up with any solid evidence of it.

Furthermore, the fact that at least two pieces of evidence brought forth by the administration were patently crap (tubes, forged Niger documents) suggested that they really didn't have anything better -- they were handing out nonsense because they had no evidence.

What you could defensibly mean by "the smart money was on Iraq having WMDs" would be that the smart money was refusing to commit to a position of believing that Iraq had absolutely nothing that could be characterized as a chemical or biological weapon, or as a nuclear program, essentially because of the difficulty of proving a negative. I was certain based on the argument above that Iraq wasn't a threat, but I wasn't certain that there wasn't a warehouse somewhere with a couple of rusting drums of decaying Sarin. War advocates have seized on pre-war statements of the form "They probably have something," as support for the posiiton that everyone believed Iraq was a threat. In fact, the two statements are far from equivalent.


Bush lied when he claimed Saddam was trying to get nuclear weapons. He lied to all of us in a State of the Union Address. He had been told by both Tenet and Rice to remove the statement, but chose to retain it. He lied to us. It matters. It's a moral issue.
He also deliberately decieved the public about the relationship between Saddam and the 911 terrorists. He did it through guilt by association and by linking the two over and over and over in his speeches. As a result of his deceptiveness opinion polls show that the majority of his voters thought we attacked Iraq because they had attacked us. I have a Fox-watching, Rush fan co-worker who still believes this lie.
I'm sorry, von, if I am causing a degeneration of the thread by insisting on this point. But I think it is important. If a reporter can lose his job for a remark which he immediately retracted, why is deliberate deceptiveness being minimized or rationalized away when it comes from a President? He betrayed his responisbility to his office and to us. It matters a hell of a lot more than the remarks of an obscure professor, especially in a political atmosphere that allows a Repubican Congressman to impune Kennedy's patriotism for the "crime" of suggesting a planned withdrawal. Why shouldn't we hold the President to a standard at least as high as the one Republicans apply to reporters and professors?

Von: I (and Bush) placed our money on the smart bet. I'm comfortable with both my and President Bush's call.*

But since you know now that Bush knew there were no WMD in Iraq justifying invasion, isn't it kinda like Bush let you see him placing his money on that square of the table, to convince you that this was the "smart bet" - and then palmed his bet, leaving your money there? Are you still comfortable with that bet?

"Any person, organization or government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes." - George W. Bush

9/11 was just another in a string of successful attacks, growing in boldness and scope. As a direct result of our immediate, strong, unrelenting response, the relatively few Islamic extremists that threaten the very existence of our children are cowering in caves coercing there own kind to kill there own kind in the name of their God.

Saddaam wanted the world to think he had WMD and no one knew for sure whether he did or not. He had teased and taunted the UN and now we know he'd bribed trusted allies to 'secure' his longivity. A longivity that was sure to support, harbor and protect terrorists along the way.

It was time to attack, it was right to attack, it was good to attack.

It was time to attack, it was right to attack, it was good to attack.

Why?

Explosions are pretty?

In any case, glad to know there are still war advocates out there clinging to the idea that 9-11 justified the Iraq war.

Blogbudsman: As a direct result of our immediate, strong, unrelenting response, the relatively few Islamic extremists that threaten the very existence of our children are cowering in caves coercing there own kind to kill there own kind in the name of their God.

Apart from the ones who attacked in Madrid in March last year, do you mean?

Jes,

Spain is safe now, though. They pulled the troops out...

"In any case, glad to know there are still war advocates out there clinging to the idea that 9-11 justified the Iraq war."

I'm taking a deep breath and not being snarky.

9-11 justified the idea that we can't just sit around and wait 100 years for the Middle East to get its act together. That concept certainly played into the invasion of Iraq. 9-11 doesn't 'justify' the Iraq war. But it certainly did influence the idea that the US can't just sit around and let our enemies do what they want and build up capabilities against us. Saddam had been our enemy for quite some time.

"Why not fight until the world is united and exploring the galaxy in peace beneath a benevolent Picard?"

We hawks of course prefer James T. Kirk.

For the record, my primary and original argument for the war was democracy promotion. I remain a Thomas Barnett kinda guy, in that I believe democracy promotion and economic development in the Middle East to be the second most important goal of American foreign policy. I consider this to be urgent enough to put all possible means on the table, the question being what are the most efficient methods of achieving this goal.

Stephen">http://bostonreview.net/BR30.1/walt.html">Stephen Walt ...via Yglesias

I am not yet ready to say the Iraq adventure is a failure, or not worth the cost. I do wish Americans had sacrificed more so that Iraqis had sacrificed less, both for moral reasons and because I think a more competent, efficient reconstruction and post-war would have made the goal closer to realization.

Porter Goss

I do not believe that what Porter Goss describes here as the consequences of the war were inevitable.

My feelings and opinions of this administration are unspeakable.

One clear lie that we keep repeating over and over is calling the Iraq war a "preemptive" or, even worse, a "defensive" war. It was clearly neither. At best it was a preventative war and may have even crossed the line into an outright war of aggression.

A preemptive war is one where the an attack by the other party is imminent and the preempting nation attacks to defend itself against the imminent attack. The administration constantly stressed during the recent campaign that it never claimed that the threat from Iraq was "imminent". Of course that put them in the tenuos position of defending a war that would be illegal under the U.N. Charter but apparently they weren't worried about anyone calling them on it (rightly as it turns out) so they were able to get away with it.

My main realpolitick objection to the war--setting aside the moral, legal and constitutional objections--and this administration in general is their shocking lack of planning. Some might call it a faith-based administration, I call it an underpants-gnome run administration after the classic South Park episode. The Bush administration's plan for democratization of the Middle East apparently consists of three steps:

1) Invade Iraq
2) ????????????
3) Freedom in the Middle East!

The whole idea that Saddam, if he had WMDs, would use them against the U.S. or its allies, unless his very existence was threatened, was ludicrous. Likewise there was no way he would share them with anyone, terrorist or state. He was paranoid and he saw the possession of WMDs (even the illusion of having WMDs) as the only thing keeping in power. The '91 Gulf War demonstrated that he was afraid to use them against the U.S. I am sure he was surprised we didn't use ours against him.

Overthrowing Iraq disrupts the delicate stability in the Middle East. Saddam was a viscious, horrible dictator. But he was an effective buffer between the viscious, horrible governments we support in the Gulf and Egypt, and Iran. He helpfully suppressed the Shiites and Kurds for the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, and Turks, none of which will be particularly happy about the government that appears to be forming in Iraq. I am sure that a couple years down the line we are going to be none to happy with it either.

Sebastian: 9-11 justified the idea that we can't just sit around and wait 100 years for the Middle East to get its act together.

But it didn't justify invading Iraq and making a bad situation worse.

Bob: For the record, my primary and original argument for the war was democracy promotion.

For the record, Bob, launching an aggressive war against another country with the intent of invading and occupying it has never proved to be a good way of promoting democracy: especially not when the occupation includes bombings, unjust arrests, and torture of detainees.

von, sebastian:

The prewar intelligence did NOT indicate there were WMDs. By the beginning of 2003 the inspectors had provided intelligence that there were no WMDs, at least not where the US thought they were.

After 1998 we had to rely on satellites and defectors, all indirect intelligence. But in the months prior to the war we had inspectors on the ground going to the sites we knew, simply knew, had WMDs. And they were finding nothing.

Yes, of course they could have missed something. No person or system is perfect. But any rational and truth seeking process should have recognized in February 2003 that the previous intelligence was not being corroborated by the inspectors on the ground. That's why comparisons to other nations like NK or Iran, that have no inspectors, or to what Clinton may have said prior to the inspectors is not relevant. What was unique about Iraq early 2003 is that we could test our intelligence by inspecting the sites we claimed had WMDs. Test after test came out negative.

The best summary of the pro-war attitude at the time came from Kate O'Beirne in the Capital Gang when she said that the best evidence the inspectors were being fooled was that they couldn't find the WMDs. She simply assumed the conclusion was right.

This is probably a great example of how not to process information. Maybe hilzoy can come up with a post on what philosophy of science tells us about this.

Sebastian, I think the term you were searching for is "calutrons."

Besides the utter failure to plan for the occupation, what I find depressing is the fact that the military threat we applied (before the war) worked. Saddam acquiesced to serious inspections. Why, oh, why did we pull the trigger? This could have been a tremendous diplomatic success, including proof that the sanctions regime functioned as desired. Instead we have the current near-disaster.

As to "lies," though some were told I think the more apt characterization of most of the administration's rhetoric is bullshit. George W. Bush is a master of it.

There's a recently published book, On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt, emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton, and a review of it in the New York Times.

It's a paper that was originally published in 1986, now in print. It couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it."

The bull artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood. The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr. Frankfurt writes.

Daniel Davies wrote a brilliant post on applying a B-School education to analysis of the case for the Iraq war. It's snarky enough that war supporters probably will have a hard time getting past the tone to get much out of it, but for everone else, it's great. It's here, at his own blog rather than Crooked Timber.

Well, of course not. (Hat tip, Instapundit.) Pretty much every backer of the war in Iraq -- including myself -- hoped that it would result in a democratic Iraq. So Norm Geras is right that Iraqi democratization was not made up after the fact to justify the Iraq war.

As someone who supported the war, it is important to realize the shell game that was played. The combination of WMD + presence of Saddam + atrocities/lack of freedom in Iraq was presented as a way of widening support for the invasion. The implication was that it would be impossible to truly democratize Afghanistan if Saddam were allowed to remain in power. But given the fact that insufficient attention and thought were given to the post-war occupation, it functions, at least in my mind, to view the democratization notion as something a magician waves to distract the audience's attention.

That the same sort of noises are being made with regard to Iran and Syria should give anyone pause.

I also agree with ral's assessment, and point people to an excerpt of Frankfurt's book.

Edward, the “wise man” you're thinking of was Thomas Friedman.

I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq but, apparently unlike most of the anti-war commenters here, I think it's now incumbent on us to be willing to go to very great lengths to make lemonade. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000 and my confidence in the competence of politicians of any party or political stripe is low so I haven't been surprised that the post-invasion hasn't been perfectly executed. Actually, I've been surprised at how well it's gone under the circumstances.

At this point my main concern is not that we can't create democracy ex nihilo in Iraq but that we don't have the time.

Dave,

it was also someone over at Tacitus, but to avoid misattributing his exact words, I'll leave it somewhat vague.

I made the conscious decision to support "doing the job right" after Baghdad fell, although in the best of all worlds, the administration would still own up to its mistakes and, in an even better world, apologize for misleading the nation so recklessly. I'm not holding my breath.

Does anyone remember Husein Kamel, a relative of Saddam's? He is the one who gave us all of our weapons info after defecting from Iraq. His were the numbers of liters, barrels, etc. that we quoted in the SOTU, Colin Powell's persentation, and various administration speeches. In that same interview where he described what they had in Iraq, he also said that they had halted all weapons programs and destroyed the arsenal. That was the single factor for me not buying the administration stories. Either the guy in credible, or he isn't. You can't use his numbers detailing how many weapons they had and completely discount that they destroyed them. I never hear anyone mention this, certainly not in the administraion at the time. Wonder why?

I was under the impression, that unless one is "born-again" one could never have a pure enough character to realize the real reasons to slaughter thousands upon thousands.

I was told that sinners are blind to Satan's work and only men of God know what needs to be done.

Edward, you say "although in the best of all worlds, the administration would still own up to its mistakes and, in an even better world, apologize for misleading the nation so recklessly."

I've never bought in to that argument. In the best of all worlds? What world inhabited by humans would that be? Mistakes were made, some that seem apparent to me and many more that are probably not. Some actions you might consider are mistakes, I might not. One of our militaries mottos is to adjust, adapt and overcome. Overcome what? Mistakes. Or is it calculated risks, incomplete intelligence and unforeseen events.

And no one owes me an apology. For those of you who thrive on other's apologizing to you because life doesn't go as you please, well good luck.

blogbudsman,

We have a huge---HUGE---credibility problem due to the administration's pre-war rhetoric and actions. An apology would help clean the slate. It's also the "bigger" thing to do. Who is going to believe us if we need to build another coalition? Seriously? Do you think the mistrust Bush has built up can't hurt us?

Apparently, we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we do not have to fight them in New York. Bush said this repeatedly - it was a stock campaign line. I even heard it repeated by the head of the Southern Baptists in a radio interview.

But given that there was not a significant terrorist presence in Iraq prior to our invasion, what they are really saying is that we intentionally created the current situation in Iraq, where the terrorists are drawn there in order to fight us infidel crusaders.

Could there be a less Christian rationale than this? We are trashing your country, turning it into a terrorist hell-hole, to reduce risk to our own. Despite the successful deception of most Americans, Iraq still had nothing to do with 9/11.

the democratization argument is, i find, absolutely gripping, if for no other reason that the only organized opposition to the authoritarian govts in the Gulf that we have opposed and supported over time (see, e.g., Eygpt if we want to get away from iran / iraq for a moment) is Religious.

that's why SH's comments over the last several months here (and the drunken Hitchens/Simon affair) are so funny. they seem to believe that we americans get to tell the Gulf states what kind of democracy they can have.

now, i've collected some funny oxymorons in my life -- jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, presidential integrity, Los Angeles expressway -- but "imposed democracy" really is the finest.

"you WILL have a non-theocratic govt. It WILL be neutral to the West and Israel"

"sez you and what army? oh, that army. . . . say, are those two-a-day deaths and six-a-day too-injured-to-return-to-duty starting to hurt yet?"

now, it may yet be the case that iraqis will create a system of govt amenable to our strategic interests in the Gulf. but the odds don't seem to be in our favor.

blogbudsman, i don't remember you commenting in the Cole/Goldberg thread. How do you feel about the argument that those who argue in favor of aggressive war should be willing to undertake the risk personally?

Francis

Yesterday was day 700 of our Iraqi occupation. To truly achieve a goal of democracy in Iraq that leads to a stable country we're likely to have to be there for 7000 days. That's the sad reality nobody is willing to talk about.

The American public would not have backed this war had it been sold to them for what it is now, at the cost of lives, money and for such a long duration.

blogbudsman, what exactly do you have in mind when you say "their own kind"?

But given that there was not a significant terrorist presence in Iraq prior to our invasion, what they are really saying is that we intentionally created the current situation in Iraq, where the terrorists are drawn there in order to fight us infidel crusaders.

of course. because there is an unincreasing number of terorrists who want to harm the US in the world, and they are dumb, lazy and uncontrollably drawn to american soldiers. the mere presence of Americans in Iraq ensures that no terrorist will be able to even think of trying anything on the US proper. and once we've killed them all, that'll be the end of it - no matter what that america-hating Porter al-Goss says.

and, i don't know about you, but i love it when one gang from across town schedules a gang war in my backyard. and then the other gang shows up, and they fight and fight and fight, for years, sometimes. it always makes me love the one that scheduled the war, no matter how many of my family get killed. i love it - i f'in love it.

Edward conjurs "We have a huge---HUGE---credibility problem..."

No we don't.

And Jeremy, nothing nefarious. Just saying, maybe clumbsily, that they are killing their own people with their own people.

vida asks "Could there be a less Christian rationale than this?"

Like, "Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition"?

And Francis, we have a long history of brave men volunteering to serve as warriers for the greater cause. It's up to our Commander in Chief with the support of the voters to decide the who, how many and when. When the enemy defeats the first line of defense and approaches me and my family. I'll know my place.

And Daniel K., Americans have been free 83,500 days and to remain free another 83,000 days, I'll settle for a mere 7,000.

Now the day is young, the sun is out, the Harley is clean. I'm off. Check in again before bedtime. Sam-I-Am.

This far down in the thread, I don't suppose anyone is still reading, but I wanted to thank von for a (wait for it) nuanced post.

I am wondering about one thing and von, if you get this far down the comments...

You said:
Consequently, the absence of WMDs in Iraq has caused me to rethink the war more than some. It re-emphasized for me the validity of the old lessons that wars are tough and unpredictable and aren't always won, and should never be entered lightly, or quickly, or without sound cause.

With your position that the Bush administration truly believed Saddam was a threat to us, this sounds to me that you have returned to an old feeling -- that even if we thought that Saddam might have some stockpiles, some capabilities, the build-up to war should have been more reasoned, more thoughtful. You would still have supported Bush's decision to go to war (since you believe he believed we were at risk) but it bothers you now that TPTB were not sufficiently circumspect.

Do I have that right?

Full disclosure: my position on the war has always been something like Edward's -- that this administration wanted to go, no matter what, and used fear and panic post-9/11 to sell it. I am angry, not just because of that but because if I've got it right, they *knew* they had more time to get ready, to plan for many contigencies, to arrange to guard weapons depots, to train our soldiers in Arab customs, etc. -- and they didn't. Arrogance or the need to deceive on the urgency issue -- either one caused many more civilian and military casualties than were necessary.

No we don't.

Phew!

Who knew it was that easy. Blogbudsman thinks it and 'poof' it's reality.

Could you take a few moments to imagine me with my own 60 foot yacht and Carribean Island?

Blogbudsman,

some suggested reading:

If the United States is to be accorded legitimacy, we have to be credible, and it is obvious that the present Administration is suffering a crisis of credibility on WMD (weapons of mass destruction). If our allies think that the President of the United States is not telling the truth, that will not help bolster the case for legitimacy.

unless you really can conjure up reality via the power of your mind.

If democratizing were the sole issue, we would have upended North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe before Iraq.

"Yesterday was day 700 of our Iraqi occupation. To truly achieve a goal of democracy in Iraq that leads to a stable country we're likely to have to be there for 7000 days. That's the sad reality nobody is willing to talk about."

I was willing to talk about 15-20 years--much like Japan, Korea and Germany from before we invaded. That is why I thought all the UN talk about us leaving by Christmas 2003 was such crap.

Yes, Sebastian, I've thought that was self-evident from the start. I wish the Bush Administration had been a little more forthright about it. Yes, I know that Mr. Bush and other major Administration figures have said “long, hard process”, etc. I just don't think that saying that we'll be there for years (or decades) would have hurt them more than actually staying there for years or decades will.

Sebastian: That is why I thought all the UN talk about us leaving by Christmas 2003 was such crap.

But it didn't bother you that Bush never said "We'll be there for 10-15 years"?

Blogbudsman, Iraqis (e.g.) are not the terrorist leaders' "own people" -- you seem to be asserting smugly that it's fine for us as long as the terrorist leaders are holed up in their caves, plotting mayhem in (e.g.) Iraq. I think you ought to think a bit more about this assertion. Its implications are a bit more "nefarious" than you might intuit.

Only to you, Jeremy, only to you.

It's as if they are all of one mind...and they know what Bush means...it's the sinners/traitors/children of the Enlightenment, who are not of this One Mind.

Or is it like Bush is "speaking in tounges" and only the true believers can interpret this heavenly language of freedom and democracy with a dose of self-rightious vegence...you know, like white lynch mobs protecting their honor and culture.

It's as if they are all of one mind...and they know what Bush means...it's the sinners/traitors/children of the Enlightenment, who are not of this One Mind

my favorite variation on this is when they say (as some over at Tacitus liked to, and still do, i presume) WMDs and al-Q were used as the primary justifications because, even if they weren't the most important reasons (or even the most honest) for invading Iraq, they were the only reasons that would sell the war to the American public - ie. the real reasons, like democratization, establishing military bases, magic reverse domino, etc. were all too subtle and revolutionary for all us dummies to fully comprehend - so BushCo had to lie to us... for our own good, you see.

blogbudsman: so you oppose the stop loss orders and have advocated to your senators and congressmen that those who want to leave the army should be allowed to do so?

and now that the enemy has in fact defeated the first line of defense, as demonstrated by recruiting shortfalls in various Natl Guard units, you'll be joining up?

"Army National Guard announces that it has fallen 30 percent below recruiting goals in last two months" (wire services December 17, 2004)

or is the war worth fighting only with the lives of other people?

Francis

"Army National Guard announces that it has fallen 30 percent below recruiting goals in last two months" (wire services December 17, 2004)"

This is because Guard is effectively the same as reenlisting right now. We should authorize a larger main force for the next 5 to 10 years instead of leaning so hard on the Guard.

There was a great deal of pressure pre-war to lift the sanctions on Iraq. Saddam was already trading his oil in Euros, a fact kept fairly quiet. When the sanctions were lifted the French and Russians were all waiting to rush in, contracts were already in place. Was America going to allow this? No!

America would have struggled in a post sanctions Iraq, Saddam would have made deals with friendlier countries. Oil isn't forever and America just forced it's way in and staked it's claim. If you read what's going on behind the scenes, memorandum of agreements that are tying the Iraq oil industry to American companies you would see a clearer picture.

Whoever has power in Iraq will have to deal with the Americans, they are now closely entwined and no doubt will be constantly reminded that they owe their power to the Americans. America applies pressures of economic and military power to even allied countries around the world why will Iraq be any different? America expects to have bases no doubt, which will make it easy to threaten neighbouring countries.

Its a win win for America but a warning to the rest of the world of the new rules which America plays by. Expect the rest of the world to take note and I believe the amount of co-operation and agreements between other countries is a response to this new threat, the world will have to show a unified front to try and face down the threat of an America that will take what it wants. With China and India needing an increasing amount of oil and having their interest in Iran the world is going to get rather tense.

CNN February 27th 2001:

In what would be a major policy change, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that the United States was seriously considering supporting the lifting of all non-military U.N. sanctions against Iraq.

From The memory hole:

But two years earlier, Powell said just the opposite. The occasion was a press conference on 24 February 2001 during Powell's visit to Cairo, Egypt. Answering a question about the US-led sanctions against Iraq, the Secretary of State said:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq...

From the same link: on 15 May 2001, Powell testified before the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee>

Secretary Powell: The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful. There's no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons still under their control, but they have not been able to break out, they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were 10 years ago.

On 29 July 2001, Condoleezza Rice appeared on CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer:

But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.

Edward: "although in the best of all worlds, the administration would still own up to its mistakes and, in an even better world, apologize for misleading the nation so recklessly."

Blogbud: "Mistakes were made, some that seem apparent to me and many more that are probably not."

That's just the point for me BB, the president has not even ackknowledged that mistakes were made. Remember the April press conference? That, for me, is why I find Bush so infuriating. I know there are mistakes, you know there were mistakes, even most concerative writers will admit there there have been mistakes. Bush, as far as I can tell, can't find a single one worth mentioning - let alone apologizing for

Jesus Francis, I had to go back and read my own post after reading what you want to think I said. There are some great medicines that treat the early onset of psycho degenerative diseases. Neurological counseling is recommended and be sure you set up a medical directive with trusted love ones before testing for the final diagnosis. It is good to discuss power of attorney and you may want to secure long term medical insurance in advance. Good luck.

And Fledermaus, the point is, and maybe I pulled up a bit short in making it, is that mistakes will be, are and were made. So given that, what advantage in any spectrum do you gain by airing dirty laundry and accentuating negative. For the respect of your detractors? Yeah, right.

blogbudman says we don't have a huge credibility problem. I don't know if he means people still believe anything we say, or if he means it doesn't matter whether they believe us or not.

Since the former position is unsupported by factual evidence (witness how no one, not even Britain, seems inclined to support the Bush Admin on what to do about Iran) he must mean the latter. I'm curious how that works out, operationally, esp. if the Bush Admin does have a plan for forcing regime change in Iran - or, for that matter, Syria. How much of a coalition will Bush be able to put together in those cases? Or is the current thinking in pro-war circles that we don't need coalitions?


I'm forced to point out that bbm's 8:39pm post is a pretty egregious violation of the posting rules, made worse by the fact that it is rather involved. Suggesting that a poster is mentally ill (for whatever reason) is one of those things that isn't done (unless you are Charles Krauthammer) I hope that your 1:24pm post does not extend to this.

Opus --

If I could dig up my old comments on Tacitus.org back in the day (well prior to the Scoop switchover; maybe Ed or Bird can vouch for this), my position was pretty consistently, "right goal, wrong method." I wanted to wait another year prior to invading Iraq, because I thought that the threat wasn't all that imminent. I'm also a fairly committed foreign policy realist, which is code for saying that I would've spent more capital to try to get the UN club kids (read: France and Germany) on board. But, unlike the "I withdraw my consent" folks (Josh Marshall, Yglesias), I never withdrew my consent.

Blogbudsman makes a very good point above, namely, that even the best plans can be counted on to go awry. Maybe it's because I deal with calculated risks pretty much every day -- I'm a lawyer, after all, and every act can have consequences for my client -- I'm more charitable to when a plan goes wrong. You plan and plan and plan, but all planning does is give you an opportunity to excel. In the moment, to actually excel, you've got to do it by the seat of the pants. (Knowing your material better than you know your wife and cat is also helpful, albeit not a long-term strategy for happiness.) I can't help but think that the same thing is true in the foreign policy realm -- albeit with infinitely higher stakes.

All -- let's tone down the personal attacks and tit-for-tat.

Now, having re-written the intro to my latest brief (it's getting better, but it's still not good) and checked in on the blog, I'm off to see the man-who-believes-in-nothing-and-the-machine-who-talks-to-God (i.e., Galatica). I always dug the religious undertones of the campy original; this one's working on a much higher level. If only they could get Joss to punch up the writing ....

You plan and plan and plan, but all planning does is give you an opportunity to excel. In the moment, to actually excel, you've got to do it by the seat of the pants.

But the fundamental crux that you seem unwilling to address is... the Bush Administration didn't plan and plan and plan. We had pretty damn good evidence to that effect then, and we know that for a fact now. Predicated on that, I fail to see how your sympathy for the best laid plans going awry is relevant here.

I wish you were right.

I wish our goal in democratizing Iraq was in fact being earnestly pursued, instead of window dressing for more nefarious motives. I would posit that neo-con force projection was the driving force behind this war as preached by Perle, et al., for the last decade rather than a Wilsonian desire to make the Middle East safe for democracy.

The proof of this has been in the actual "boots on the ground" effort to promote democracy by the current crew in charge. This includes the original Pentagon plan to impose Chalabi as the new "democractic" leader of Iraq, and a hostility from the beginning regarding elections (even local ones for "dogcatcher") by Iraqis until sometime in 2006 or later.

The current elections took place only because Sistani basically threatened rioting in the streets if it did not take place. Under the Bush vision, the current assembly would have been basically hand picked by the CPA (but only after they had their fingers dyed purple?), and when that plan died, the fall-back was selection by stacked caucuses.

That is not the program of someone trying to spread democracy, but rather using a veneer of democracy as cover for force projection. Its a cynical misuse of the principles of democracy.

Instead, policy regarding democracy seems to have been almost infantile -- that force projection will magically create democracy in conquered lands "just like it did in WWII." Its another aspect of "they'll greet us with flowers" syndrome.

I think most everyone is cheering for a democracy in Iraq -- I am and share your hope (even though it most likely is going to be Iran-lite). Is the administration of the same view? I think they lament the inabililty to fix the results -- kind of like they prefer using Gunkert instead of actual reporters for press conferences. Real democracy is so messy.

And they are going to be very disappointed that Iraq/Iran-lite will not support their vision of the US using Iraq as a base for further force projection in the Middle East. I hope we are not wasting too many billions on those new fancy bases which we will never be able to utilize.

PS von:

Yes, the Bush people did lie about WMD and other things to promote a war.

They took marginal evidence that warranted some concern, and deliberately hyped it (including some faked evidence) to pretend that the threat was far greater. ("We know where they are" -- how is that not a lie?) This was to justify an immediate invasion over other alternatives.

How about the lies about Saddam = 911?

The administration also controled the information flow, since the info all stemmed from classified info, so that the shades of gray were deliberately scrubbed. You know -- saying something which on its face has some truth, but ommittimg other material things, which makes what you do say misleading. That's a lie.

As a lawyer, you know the many permutations of lying, in the sense of deliberate misrperesentation, includes this type of conduct.

We said no personal attacks. Don't go calling von a lawyer!

Edward, I doubt if I will take the time to read the book you recommended, but I'll meet you half way. I thought this http://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,3604,1417853,00.html>Guardian article was fairly put and will build on any thoughts established therein to further the discussion, maybe in a new posting if you're game.

But the fundamental crux that you seem unwilling to address is... the Bush Administration didn't plan and plan and plan.

I don't disagree with that; indeed, I've been pretty critical of the Bush administration's failings in these pages.

As a lawyer, you know the many permutations of lying, in the sense of deliberate misrperesentation, includes this type of conduct.

Well, sure. But virtually all forms* of "lying" under the law requires a scheme to defraud and intent to deceive. I don't believe that either has been established with respect to the missing WMDs; I understand that some opinions may differ, but that's mine.

von

*Excepting the special relationship/particular circumstance "frauds," of course: constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, inequitable conduct before the Patent Officer, etc.

Erm, "Patent Office," i.e., the USPTO. Never blog before coffee.

von: I am normally wary of saying people lied, because, as you say, it does involve not just saying something false, but intending to deceive, and also because I don't think it's useful to run together things like lying, intentionally omitting a key fact, etc. However, one of the claims that Rumsfeld, at least, made was that not only were we sure that Iraq had WMD, but that we knew where they were. He said: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."(cite.) It's hard for me to see how this could not be a lie.

It's hard for me, having been exposed to Mr. Rumsfeld in all ways media; and having listened to his supporters and detractors before and after, to believe he would think he could tell an out and out lie and get away with it. I can only believe he was misinformed about a situation where much misinformation existed. And I believe Mr. Rumsfeld, knowing that also, would have based this comment on something or someone he considered as credible, given what was available at that moment.

von: I don't disagree with that; indeed, I've been pretty critical of the Bush administration's failings in these pages.

I know you have but now I'm confused: given your response, this makes your original paragraph ("even the best plans can be counted on to go awry" &c) a complete non sequitur. [To be more precise, it falls under the category of "true but irrelevant".] Could you explain its relevance to the present discussion?

But virtually all forms* of "lying" under the law requires a scheme to defraud and intent to deceive.

Beyond the Rumsfeld lie noted by hilzoy, how would you classify Colin Powell's selective citations of Hussein Kamel? It was, after all, a clear attempt to defraud the American people into war with an intent to deceive.* IOW, to reiterate my earlier question: Do you count lies of omission as "lies"? And, pace hilzoy, do you count misrepresenting the degree of certainty with which one possesses knowledge a lie?

As I said, I'm not particularly bent out of shape if we have to use the adjectives "duplicitious", "mendacious" and "dishonest" instead of outright calling them "liars" but I'm curious as to where you're drawing the lines here.

* To be clear: irrespective of the rest of the case for war, that selective citation was fraudulent and deliberately deceptive.

Sebastian:

Oh well. He can retaliate and call me one.

As far as the lie thing goes, I would just like to point out, for like the fortieth time, the Merriam-Webster definition:

Main Entry: 3lie Function: verb Inflected Form(s): lied; ly·ing /'lI-i[ng]/ Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lEogan; akin to Old High German liogan to lie, Old Church Slavonic lugati intransitive senses 1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive 2 : to create a false or misleading impression
.

I think that for added precision, the second definition should say "to deliberately create a false or misleading impression". As far as that definition goes, the Bush administration not only has lied about its policies, but has lied about its policies more often than not.

Katherine, that second definition is probably meant for sentences such as "Appearances often lie."

I don't think it's only meant for such sentences, and I don't see any particular basis for your concluding so.

Could you explain its relevance to the present discussion?

Yes. I fault Rumsfeld for being incompetent; for trusting too easily in the intelligence. I don't fault him for lying, because (even with Hilzoy's example), I don't see evidence of an intent to deceive. IOW, Rumsfeld appears to have actually believed what he was saying.

Katherine, I certainly agree that any definition of lie that does not account for one's intent is not a very good definition of lie. But, with respect to the issue of Iraq's WMDs, I don't see evidence of a lie. (Other issues, of course, can be dealt with case-by-case.)

Anarch, I generally favor using fewer syllables rather than more and the Anglo-Saxon over the Latin.* That is, I agree with your point regarding language.

Oh, and DMBeaster's a dirty rotten lawyer -- like myself and half the blogosphere, it appears.

von

*Which is not to say that I actually follow my preferences.

Katherine, that second definition is probably meant for sentences such as "Appearances often lie."

"I don't think it's only meant for such sentences, and I don't see any particular basis for your concluding so."

a) it doesn't make sense otherwise, and it clearly describes the cited sentence correctly
b) That's what the American Heritage I checked said
c) maybe "probably" and "conclude" have different meanings to you and me
d) maybe the dictionaries think that "lie" does not mean what you think, and "by omission" is necessary. Which would explain why the oath is not "I will not lie".

I'll weigh in here, not wanting to write the checks I have to at the moment and looking for any diversion:

I was sure the US would find WMD in Iraq, and I believe Bush was too. How many wouldn't have mattered. One stockpile would have been photo'd and broadcast around the clock for weeks and the question of why we invaded Iraq would have been definitively answered.

We would have heard again and again how the brave men and women of our armed forces saved us from the unthinkable inevitability of those very weapons making their way to the corner of 5th Ave and 42nd Street.

So, for me, it's not a question of whether Bush totally lied. I don't think he expected that no WMD at all would turn up. It's a question of whether he told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But that's an unrealistic expectation. Of course he spun the nation into supporting the war. That's what leaders do. Nearly every war in history has had a similar "rally the nation" type effort behind it from what I can tell.

In the end you have to trust that the leaders' motives are honorable. With Bush, I simply can't. I've tried, but he seems totally allergic to being straightforward. He spins even when he doesn't have to. It seems pathological. It makes me suspect he's possibly evil.

I'm serious.

Agreed, but I don't think Bush is evil. I wonder about the guys running things, though - Cheney and Rove (and Rumsfeld, who I think is just the usual smart guy in a position of power overconfident of the usefulness of being smart).

von: Yes. I fault Rumsfeld for being incompetent; for trusting too easily in the intelligence.

Now I'm really confused. Here's the conversation as I thought it was playing out:

von, 9:42pm: Blogbudsman makes a very good point above, namely, that even the best plans can be counted on to go awry. Maybe it's because I deal with calculated risks pretty much every day -- I'm a lawyer, after all, and every act can have consequences for my client -- I'm more charitable to when a plan goes wrong. You plan and plan and plan, but all planning does is give you an opportunity to excel. In the moment, to actually excel, you've got to do it by the seat of the pants.

Anarch, 10:22pm: But the fundamental crux that you seem unwilling to address is... the Bush Administration didn't plan and plan and plan.

von, 9:41am: I don't disagree with that; indeed, I've been pretty critical of the Bush administration's failings in these pages.

Anarch, 4:15pm: Could you explain its relevance to the present discussion?

von, 1:44pm: Yes. I fault Rumsfeld for being incompetent; for trusting too easily in the intelligence.

Your defense of your earlier quotes is based on a separate charge than the one I was discussing in this subthread. Whether or not Rumsfeld lied is immaterial to the question of whether Rumsfeld planned (although there is an interesting overlap in the question of whether he lied about the planning) which is the specific allegation I was referencing during this topic.* I agree that Rumsfeld's incompetence is illustrated by his failure to plan but I don't think that's adequate justification for the relevance of your first (cited) post here. To be relevant, you'd have to cite cause to believe that the Bush Administration really did "plan and plan and plan" when, in fact, you've more or less admitted that they didn't.

IOW: I'm still not clear as to why your 9:42pm post doesn't fall under the category of "true but irrelevant". Why does it matter that planning only gives one an opportunity to excel if that planning never happened in the first place?

* On re-reading, I do refer to Rumsfeld having lied, but as I said that's a separate allegation.

I'm no longer convinced Cheney and Rove are running things, though Rilkefan. I belive 41 and his colleagues are running things. Cheney, Rummy, Rove etc, are just loyal servants.

"a) it doesn't make sense otherwise"

question begging.

"b) That's what the American Heritage I checked said."

The American heritage gave it as ONE example. I think they picked it not because it is the only example, but because it is an example that clearly illustrates the definition in one sentence, without additional context. If you say that "Donald Rumsfeld lied" or "Joe Schmoe lied" you need to specify exactly what the lie was to know whether the statement was factually false or merely technically true but specifically designed to make people believe something that is factually false.

"d) maybe the dictionaries think that "lie" does not mean what you think, and "by omission" is necessary. Which would explain why the oath is not "I will not lie"."

I'm not talking about mere omissions. I'm talking about things like this:

"[President Bush] has made clear that the United States stands against and will not tolerate torture and that the United States remains committed to complying with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Consistent with that treaty, the United States does not expel, return or extradite individuals to countries where the United States believes it is likely that they will be tortured."

"If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year."

In both cases, it's the affirmative statement COMBINED with the key omission.

I'm also talking about things like the "Clear Skies" initiative and the characterization of the social security plan as an attempt to "save social security" and the characterization of the tax cuts as benefitting the poor and middle class at least as much of the rich and the rampant dishonesty in the Bush budget and the claims that it will cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Screw this. I'm sick of responding to lame semantic arguments used to defend the indefensible. They deliberately deceive the American people constantly--rely on it to maintain power. This doesn't concern many people; they think the real problem is that I say "lie" when arguably it would be more precise to say "deceive" or "mislead." There has been an attempt to narrow the definition of the word "lie" out of existence: it's not enough for a statement to be inaccurate and probably intended to deceive; you have to prove intent to deceive beyond a reasonable doubt and since the administration is legally empowered to hide the evidence, to do that you need to basically be psychic. It's not enough for a statement or a group of statements to be deliberately and clearly intended to deceive if there is the slenderest thread of technical accuracy. If Cheney says that Iraq has reconstituted nuclear weapons, we're supposed to assume that he merely misspoke--even though he never, ever, ever corrects himself. And we're not supposed to draw any conclusions from a pattern of inaccuracies and deception, either. And we're not supposed to use the statements that may be technically true but are clearly intended to deceive as evidence that the false statements may also be intended to deceive.

The word "lie" has never, ever been defined this narrowly in common usage. In perjury statutes, yes, but we're not talking about convictions for perjury here. Clinton's behavior didn't meet the legal definition of perjury either.

As to WMD specifically: for the hundredth time, they were sure the guy was guilty so they felt free to fabricate and tamper with and exaggerate and deliberately mislead the public about the evidence. This is clearest when it comes to the nuclear threat. When prosecutors do this, "I thought the guy was guilty" is not considered much of a defense, but when it comes to the President of the United States, apparently it suffices.

And if they weren't deliberately and knowingly deceiving the public about biological and chemical as well as nuclear weapons, they were criminally negligent about securing Iraq's alleged WMD stockpiles after the war.

Re. plans and adapting to reality.

Anyone who has ever run a project knows that plans never anticipate all the problems and some adjustments are certain to be needed. Planning is a good exercise because it forces you to consider risks and contingencies. The best managers update the plan as they go.

Besides discarding the planning work of the Future of Iraq project, what has the history been of the administration's needs to "adjust, adapt and overcome" in Iraq?

  • the looting after the fall of Baghdad (I'm talking about arms depots here, not Rumsfeld's famous vase),
  • Ahmed Chalabi,
  • the disbanding of the Iraqi army,
  • the staffing of the CPA with kids from the Heritage Foundation,
  • the failure of reconstruction (electricity and sewage),
  • the above-mentioned path to elections,
  • Falluja.

The only bright spot so far is the recent election, and what is the result there? An assembly that is at best quietly opposed to the occupation and a continued interim government that has no power other than that provided by U.S. troops.

Expecting better results from the same crew takes "past performance is no guarantee of future results" to a heretofore unheard-of level.

I cannot tell whether this is the result of lies, conspiracy, incompetence, a deep laid plan for bases or just plain stupidity. What I see is atrocious results regardless of the causes.

[Katherine, though I share your disgust with the administration's dishonesty; I'm leaving that subject alone for now.]

"a) it doesn't make sense otherwise"

"question begging."

Actually, your above is question begging, but I see the point is moot.


Why the need to shoehorn a complex set of events into an overworked word? They exaggerated, they fooled themselves, they relied on testimony elicited by torture, they stovepiped, they split hairs, they pushed the data irresponsibly, they hid dissenting data, they probably on occasion out-and-out lied by most people's definitions. We should say what they did with the words needed to be clear.

I am saying, not only does the dictionary definition say that, but I have heard the word "lie" used in that way, to describe a person's attempt to create a false or misleading impression, for my entire life. If my mother asked me if I dented the car last night, and I said "No, I didn't even use the car last night" but in fact I had dented the car moments before sunset, she would consider that a lie. And when Bill Clinton said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky", when he in fact had oral sex with her, I and the entire country considered that a lie, even though the only definition M-W.com gives for "sexual relations" is "coitus". So it makes perfect sense to me that a dictionary would recognize that definition, and your saying it doesn't make sense assumes the conclusion.

I mean, "deceive" is almost as short and almost as forceful and beyond this sort of silly semantic dispute, so I usually use "deceive." But I think "lie" is also a perfectly accurate description.

Edward: I was sure the US would find WMD in Iraq, and I believe Bush was too.

If you think Bush was sure the US would find WMD in Iraq, what's your explanation as to why no units in the invasion force were assigned to secure/destroy them when they were found?

I think that means he was lying, because if not, this means Bush & co were too incompetent to fight their way out of a wet paper bag: they made no plans even to accomplish the primary objective of their war.

"If you think Bush was sure the US would find WMD in Iraq, what's your explanation as to why no units in the invasion force were assigned to secure/destroy them when they were found?"

This is hard to understand - however the troops were outfitted with chem/bio suits, right? Did they wear them?

Anyway, one possible explanation is that we assumed that immediately after we marched in and swatted away the Iraqi forces, Chalabi & Co would take over and assert control over the nasty stuff.

Holy crap, rilkefan: Are you suggesting Bush & Co. had no qualms about WMDs in Iraq if their satrap was in control of the stuff? So they didn't try to find any WMDs because they wanted to leave it in place??

Well, *there's* an interesting scenario, esp. if invading Iran was #2 on the Things to Do list.

Now that it looks like Chalabi has a real shot at being the next President or PM, I wonder if that strategy is back in play; and I wonder how Chalabi playing footsie with Iran figures into it.

Thanks a lot. My head is spinning now.

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