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August 30, 2006

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You know, if people would like to move beyond this notion of "information warfare" and just tell the d*** truth instead, it would be a nice change.

Ha! It's like asking a leopard to change its spots.

Sebastian:

Bush specifically argued against an imminent threat standard in the State of the Union Speech.

liberal japonicus,

The "imminent threat" crap is surely one of the stupidest arguments that's ever taken place in the history of American politics. But the background to it actually is interesting. In particular, the passage from the 2003 SOTU Sebastian cited is a great illustration of deceptive political rhetoric. If I were a history teacher I'd use it in a class.

First of all, read literally, Bush clearly did not "specifically argue" against an imminent threat standard. In fact, from a legal standpoint it would have essentially been impossible for him to have done so. However, it's certain that passage was carefully crafted by his speechwriters to give the impression he did. Here's why:

The imminent threat standard is fairly established in international law. For the Bush administration to explicitly discard it would have been a gigantic repudiation of international norms, and created a precedent that we certainly wouldn't want others to believe they could follow.

At the same time, the idea Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. was a tough sell. So the September, 2002 National Security Strategy made the following case (obviously directed at Iraq):

1. Nations have a right to defend themselves against an imminent threat.
2. Current technology makes it possible for countries to do great damage to others without mobilizing armies, etc.
3. Therefore, the concept of what constitutes an imminent threat should be broadened: "We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries."

This isn't scary sounding enough for a State of the Union address, though—particularly when UN inspectors were in Iraq, and the idea it was an imminent threat to us was appearing more and more ridiculous.

So Bush's speechwriters were stuck. They couldn't repudiate the imminent threat standard. But they still had to come up with verbiage justifying the war about to happen. And they came up with this:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Given what they had to work with, this a good job. You start out with "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent." The implication is that Bush disagrees. But he never says so. Instead, his next sentence has no literal connection with one before: "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?" Of course, a requirement that countries wait until adversaries politely announce they're about to strike has never been part of the imminent threat standard. Nor were countries required to trust Saddam Hussein, or wait until it was "too late." You could obviously repudiate that standard without repudiating the imminent threat standard.

Thus, they were able to have it both ways: not repudiating the imminent threat standard (since they couldn't), but also making people not paying attention think they somehow had.

I guarantee that if we ever get access to the papers of the White House Iraq Group, there will be a memo in there discussing what they were doing, and why.

(theo, I see you explained this in a far more concise way than me.)

I find this more typical rudeness.

But that doesn't mean you get to just make up what he is saying.

but maybe that's just me (and perhaps Slart agrees, but I'm never too sure). On the other hand, I think inferring if I like you or not (and given that I don't know you except from words on a screen, some people might call that mindreading) is less rudeness and more an indication of the vacuousness of your arguments. Believe it or not, success in the Middle East will not hinge on whether you are liked or not.

I am unable to believe the Bush administration cares about winning the Information War. If they did, they'd have someone more experienced than Karen Hughes overseeing international diplomacy and public affairs.

(Of course, she's also the beneficiary of the usual cronyism, but if they really cared they'd choose a real expert.)

Karen of Arabia's personal Information War was primarily targeted at Americans, because we're the only ones who haven't yet made up our minds (although, increasingly, we have).

The US has already completely lost the hearts and minds of the rest of the developed world (Spaniards view the US as more dangerous than Iran), never mind the "Arab Street." The only thing that could influence them is actions, in particular the direct repudiation of Bush's policies.

At this point, the Information War is irrelevant except for domestic politics, and it astonishes me that some conservatives aren't Realist enough to see this.

"Believe it or not, success in the Middle East will not hinge on whether you are liked or not."

Really? Oh my God! Now I have to re-evaluate everything!

As for your link to our previous conversation--

You:

"Invoking the notion that you previously suggested is an artifact of looking at the world thru the lens of American culture suggests that this was just snark with no serious point."

Me:

"Huh? I suggested (rightly or wrongly) that the idea that hypocrisy seriously degrades authority is largely American rather than a universal understanding. How does noting that you don't need much moral authority to recognize Saddam's problems undercut that in any way? How does the idea that you don't need much moral authority to recognize genocide (though apparently more moral authority than found in almost any current national government) undercut that? I really don't understand your point unless it is just "I don't like Sebastian"."

I'll be shorter this time:

Your snarky comment makes absolutely no logical sense in the context of the discussion.

And you are the person slinging mud about vacuous arguments. Wow. Just. Wow.

Theo and Jon (S), great stuff.

What strikes me as odd about the broad outlines of QandO's complaint (and, by extension, the complaint of several individuals here) is that "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq and counterterrorism policies" is itself such an amorphous and generic term to start with. Even before you get to what some here like to call "mind reading" and I like to call putting 2 and 2 together, the AP story is more or less tautological. Those mysterious folks who might argue for appeasement with terrorists, whether they exist outside Rumsfeld's fevered mind or not, would by definition be critical of the administration's policies, would they not?

OT: via boing boing: presidential hopeful Mark Warner targets the g33k constituency.

Sebastian,
if you want to believe that invoking the imagined fact that I hate you constitutes a way of saying 'I don't understand your point', I'm not sure if I can help you. Introducing what I like or dislike is pretty shoddy argumentation, and I certainly hope you are capable of better, though your comment about me 'making up' what other people say would argue against that.

Jon S,
I agree, but we also have to add the effects of the 1% doctrine, which, by lowering the threshold of how we view the possibility of an attack, imminent threat is anything with a 1% possibility of happening.

Because Fleisher said it once (and mistakenly so) in a press gaggle, therefore that single reference must have represented the entire administration's position on imminence, even though Bush and others never used the term. Not that they didn't describe Saddam's Iraq as a threat or a growing threat or a gathering threat, etc.

So, suddenly the correct parsing of administration statements isn't important?

When they don't use the word "imminent", it's just putting words in their mouth to suggest that's what they meant. When they do - well they must have been mistaken!

The question was designed to clarify the administration's stand on invading Iraq. It's a hell of a mistake to say "absolutely!" when what he really should have said was "no." That's a howler.

If he was mistaken, could you link me some retraction Ari (or the administration) made of his statement? If not, then your contention that he was mistaken is an empty assertion. And to make such a mistake, then not correct it, in such a way as to make a false impression - that's deceit in most people's books.

A little perspective, Phil. In the 1980s, we provided a whopping 0.6% of total weaponry to Saddam. Some backing indeed.

Ah. So if you only support evil a little bit, that makes you less evil? Interesting coming from a self-professed Christian.

We slightly favored Iraq '

From Wikipedia:

"In June, 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran. President Reagan decided that the United States would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran. President Reagan formalized this policy by issuing a National Security Decision Directive ("NSDD") to this effect in June, 1982," said the "Teicher Affidavit," submitted on 31 January 1995 by former NSC official Howard Teicher to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.[2] According to retired Colonel Walter Lang, senior defense intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern" to Reagan and his aides, because they "were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." He claimed that the Defense Intelligence Agency "would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival"[3], however, despite this allegation, Reagan’s administration did not stop aiding Iraq after receiving reports affirming the use of poison gas on Kurdish civilians

"Slightly favored" my ass.

because the Khomeini regime had long before stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held your fellow Americans hostage, and the U.S. did not want this fundamentalist mullahocracy to expand beyond its borders.

1) My father was on active duty in the US Army, stationed in Germany, at the time of the hostage-taking in Iran, so I'm painfully aware of the event and its potential repercussions.

2) You remember why that happened, right? Hint: 1953.

We chose what was thought the lesser evil at the time.

And that makes it aaaaaaaaaaaaall OK!

You and Ara should save your condemnation for Russia, China and France, which provided 85% of Saddam's arsenal.

I don't live in any of those countries nor do my taxes support their governments' activities, hotshot. I prefer to worry about countries whose leaders purport to represent me on the world stage and whose governments I can vote for.

BTW, again from Wikipedia:

Much of what Iraq received from the US, however, were not arms per se, but so-called dual-use technology— mainframe computers, armored ambulances, helicopters, chemicals, and the like, with potential civilian uses as well as military applications. It is now known that a vast network of companies, based in the U.S. and elsewhere, fed Iraq's warring capabilities right up until August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait [7]
The "Iraq-gate" scandal revealed that an Atlanta branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled US$ 5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents finally raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, the branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq—some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology.
Beginning in September, 1989, the Financial Times laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the Financial Times provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the Financial Times, were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohio branch. [8]
See, there's more to warmaking than providing an arsenal, which is in fact a major part of your own argument right here in this post, so why you'd want to back away from that idea when it's inconvenient to you is somewhat strange.

Oh, wait -- no it isn't.

Rummy offered to quit twice. More informed appraisal of his competence cannot be assumed : I accept his take.
Whining about truthfulness by this administration is so ludicrous as to leave a bad taste in one's mouth : the bile of rage at being taken for such a fool.
There are some reasonable people around. Check out American Footprints Aug 30 Calmer Than You Are by Eric Martin.

And, to wrap that up, if you don't think that backing, funding and supplying a country's enemy in a war that costs that country a million casualties, vs. jihadist actions that have cost the US fewer than 5,000 lives, occupy the same "moral plane," your opinions on anything moral are essentially ignorable.

As for the three -- or more? -- of you seriously trying to argue that:

-- in a campaign season

-- in a speech before the American legion

-- when the White House has already announced an election season strategy of hammering on Iraq and terrorism to help support Republican candidates,

that the implied targets of Rumsfeld's crafty rhetorical questions were anyone other than Democrats generally, administration critics specifically, and Iraq war opponents even more specifically, you are either unable to recognize rhetoric when you see it, painfully deluded, or willfully letting yourself be deceived for reasons known only to you.

Bill Frist to Powerline, via Greenwald:

What I will do when we come back, I will use two arms, I will spend a lot of time talking about security issues and other issues, one of which will be the Hamdan decision, which raises questions about the military tribunals and these illegal combatants, and we’ll resolve that. We’ll have an opportunity for debate.

The other arm will be in all likelihood a discussion of terrorist surveillance and what tools the government should have and legislatively put that on the table. Arlen Specter has an approach that I haven’t seen the final draft of which works with the administration more closely. We’ll use those two arms, those two platforms to address the sorts of issues on war and terrorism, regarding giving the enemy the playbook and threatening the security of the American people.

Anyone going to argue he's not accusing people like me of "giving the enemy the playbook" and threatening the security of the American people?

The fall session of Congress could be quite edifying.

The Bush administration and the Defense Department need a media war room in order to answer attacks and prevent offenses such as Burns'. They need rapid response teams to rebut false and misleading charges made by foreign media and terrorist mouthpieces. Bloggers can help. It is good news that Rumsfeld and Cheney are now taking more of an offensive in this Information War. Better late than never, I suppose.

Charles, you do realise, don't you, that Rumsfeld set up a propaganda department, the Office of Strategic Influence, all the way back in October 2001? You do also realise, don't you, that even after that was supposedly shut down in 2002 the Information Operations Task Force in Baghdad carried on its work, including paying the Lincoln Group to plant false stories in the Iraqi media and directly taking over newspapers or paying them to run puff pieces?

Are you joking? By his definition I am absolutely, absolutely doing that.

Really? You are, by Rumsfeld's speech, doing one of the following?

* Appeasing extremists
* Maintaining that peace can be negotiated with extremists
* Maintaining that the terrorist problem is one of law enforcement
* Maintaining that America is the source of the world's problems

If so, yes, you can assume that his words are directed at you, and that he absolutely disagrees with your position.

Who do you think is responsible for the "moral and intellectual confusion" that strengthens our enemies? He is talking about administration critics on the war.

I submit that maybe, just maybe, he's talking about the media, and folks who publicly make remarks similar to "gulag of our times". If you're one of those, you're certainly who Rumsfeld is referring to. There's responsible opposition, and then there's the headless chicken variety. If you're doing the headless chicken (which I don't think you are, just to be clear) then he's not talking about you. If on the other hand your aim is to subvert, why is it offensive when someone calls you a subversive?

Unless you're volunteering that he IS talking about you, in which case: knock yourself out.

If you define 'victory' as holding both houses in November, the government's new offensive might end up being 'information war' enough. For all the bluster, neither the President nor his senior people have convinced me that they care more about success in the Middle East than they do about success in Congress.

An information war aimed at me that doesn't even aspire to that goal is going to fail. An information war aimed at moderate or fence-sitting Muslims in the Middle East that doesn't aspire to that goal is going to fail too. If the goal is to rally the faithful -- well, it strikes me as a pretty pitiful information war if what Rumsfeld and Bush are trying to do is rally American Legion members to stick with them.

CB, wake me up when the President is prepared to even pretend that he cares enough about winning the "WAMI" to try to rally his domestic opposition (and fence-sitters). Keep in mind that none of his domestic opposition opposes him because they agree with the goals of the Islamists, because they are afraid to confront Islamism, or because they don't know how awful the radical Islamists can be.

Whoops.

If you're doing the headless chicken (which I don't think you are, just to be clear) then he is talking about you.

Even preview is not my friend.

Slarti, those four items are accusations that have been levelled by conservatives at liberals in general, non-stop for the past five years. it is utterly absurd for anyone to read his comments and think Rumsfeld is using the same words, the same accusations, the same rhetoric, but means something different.

So, cleek, your point of contention is that he's talking about you simply because he's talked about you in the same way in the past?

Ok, then. Of course, the clues that Rumsfeld cleverly hid about who he is talking about go undiscovered. Sneaky bastard. Here's a hint:

* When a database search of America's leading newspapers turns up literally 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers who has been punished for misconduct -- 10 times more -- than the mentions of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror;

* Or when a senior editor at Newsweek disparagingly refers to the brave volunteers in our armed forces -- the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard -- as a "mercenary army;"

* When the former head of CNN accuses the American military of deliberately targeting journalists; and the once CNN Baghdad bureau chief finally admits that as bureau chief in Baghdad, he concealed reports of Saddam Hussein's crimes when he was in charge there so that CNN could keep on reporting selective news;

* And it's a time when Amnesty International refers to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay -- which holds terrorists who have vowed to kill Americans and which is arguably the best run and most scrutinized detention facility in the history of warfare -- "the gulag of our times." It’s inexcusable. (Applause.)

I'm not defending Rumsfeld so much as pointing out that, well, McQ is right, and you're headless and flapping.

Slarti,

"Doubtless true, but when someone quotes me, and then makes silly remarks about reading comprehension, I typically come to the conclusion it is.

Who is "someone"?"

You. Here.

Golly, Slart. Katherine's certainly written more than ten times as many words about US abuses of prisoners than about any given US military hero. You're all happy with Rumsfeld calling her morally confused and an appeaser of vicious extremists? If so, that seems uncivil of you. If not, I can't figure out what principled means you're using to distinguish responsible critics of the administration, like, say, Katherine, from Rumsfeld's targets.

It's simply not a defense of Rumsfeld's rhetoric to say that his claim that critics of the administration are morally confused appeasers was only meant to apply to those that really are, rather than to slander those that aren't.

Ok, Dantheman, it really is all about you.

If this is what you're arguing for, you win.

I'm not defending Rumsfeld so much as pointing out that, well, McQ is right, and you're headless and flapping.

sorry, Slarti, you're both wrong. Rumsfeld certainly talks about more than the media and Amnesty Intl. in his speech; for example, try looking at the section preceding the one you quoted; he's talking about administration critics. oh sure, he refers to them as "some", in much the same way his boss refers to his strawman enemies as "some", but it's clearly a strawman meant to represent administration critics.

and, no, just because his critics haven't actually proposed negotiating with alQ (or appeasing them, or going for a law-enforcement-only approach, etc.) doesn't mean BushCo hasn't been saying, for five years, that negotiating with alQ is exactly what they want to do.

Katherine's certainly written more than ten times as many words about US abuses of prisoners than about any given US military hero. You're all happy with Rumsfeld calling her morally confused and an appeaser of vicious extremists?

Katherine is not the newspapers, unless I've missed something crucial. But if Katherine's used rhetoric similar to "gulag of our times", she's exactly who Rumsfeld is talking about.

Rumsfeld is saying that one cannot be critical of the administration where, exactly?

Seeing as I'm unlikely to convince you AND vice versa, here's what I propose:

You're of course free to take offense at anything anyone says, even if it's not about you. I don't think it's about you. Sebastian doesn't think it's about you (by appearances, anyway). Doubtless there are some people who do think it's about you, but it's, as far as I can see, mostly you.

I get that you're committed to it being about you, even if it's not, particularly. So: enjoy. There are other ways you could enjoy it, like (for instance) having a good bit of fun with the (possibly) unintended self-criticism (see the "moral confusion" section, and what preceded it), but I'm not one to advise others on how to play with their toys.

via Making Light:

"If you want to get some idea of the resources being devoted to falsifying and suppressing legitimate public discourse, consider that paid professionals are being hired to post agenda-pushing comments on midrange blogs."

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007935.html#007935

see the links there.

If Slartibartfast, Holsclaw and Bird really were professional astroturf commenters, being paid by Ken Mehlman's cut-outs, would they sound any different?

I don't think so. Nor would they work any more assiduously to undercut legitimate discourse through shameless stalling, misdirection, obfuscation, and lies.

As one of the links on Making Light says--more reason not to feed the trolls.

Fed Up, let me put this more into Rumsfeld's construction:

Some blog commenters are paid shills, or even worse, unpaid shills, looking to disrupt and obfuscate with idiotic foolishness and misdirection. Should serious people pay any attention to them? My goodness, no.

I agree with you, CC, but maybe not in a way you'd like.

Can I just go on record as saying that anyone who uses the word 'Fauxtography' should be fine for crimes against the english language? Is our culture so intellectually dead that the only way to make your propoganda points stick is to condense them into a single invented word? Are we too lazy for bumper stickers?

If Slartibartfast, Holsclaw and Bird really were professional astroturf commenters, being paid by Ken Mehlman's cut-outs, would they sound any different?
I'd say yes.

Most of the folks may disagree with CB on a regular basis, but slamming pretty much every one of the conservative front page posters of ObWi as professional astroturfers (or sound-alikes) is a bit absurd.

OK, not a bit absurd.. patently absurd.

Republican propaganda shall henceforth be referred to as "information".

Republican propaganda changed to fit the needs of the moment shall also be referred to as "information".

"Information" shall be referred to as whatever the Administration says.

Democrat and American media propaganda shall henceforth be referred to as "spin" or "bias".

Islamist propaganda shall henceforth be referred to as "propaganda".

I shall learn of the differences by reading Charles' posts because the typeface at QandO is beyond my squinting abilities.

Can I just go on record as saying that anyone who uses the word 'Fauxtography' should be fine for crimes against the english language?

Charles' efforts with portmanteaus (portmanteaux?) have been noted previously, and they are simply accepted like Reverend Spooner's 'shoving leopards'.

John: if the font is too small, I just select some text, press control and rotate the scroll wheel on my mouse downpage. There's probably another way to do it.

So far, I've bounced around to a few conservative blogs (including nicedoggie.net, which I haven't visited in some time and probably won't for even a longer period) and National Review's The Corner, and haven't seen anyone who thinks Rumsfeld was talking about Democrats in general, or even any substantial subset of Democrats. Not one. If you're seeing any who are high-fiving each other over Rumsfeld's put-down of the Ancient Enemy, let me know.

So, I repeat: no one thinks he's talking about you but you. Although I can imagine that no one could be replaced with few.

Salrti,

"If this is what you're arguing for, you win."

Goody. What's my prize? Can I get a 24 hour ban on you alleging people are having trouble with reading comprehension for reading Rumsfeld's strawman exactly as he intended his supporters to read it?

Democrat and American media propaganda shall henceforth be referred to as "spin" or "bias".

OT, but interesting, commentary on "Democrat" here, of all places. Nothing ground-breaking, but you take what you can get.

anyone who uses the word 'Fauxtography' should be fine for crimes against the english language
Has it really been a year and a half since Charles coined "democrasunami"?
Can I get a 24 hour ban on you alleging people are having trouble with reading comprehension for reading Rumsfeld's strawman exactly as he intended his supporters to read it?

No, but you can self-ban for first-degree projection.

" but you can self-ban for first-degree projection."

Really? I said something about your reading comprehension? Cite or withdrawal with apology, please.

Thanks, Slart.

Now, that was information a guy can use.

Oh dear god. Slarti, please, for the love of god, disengage for a moment and look at the sentence you wrote:

So, cleek, your point of contention is that he's talking about you simply because he's talked about you in the same way in the past?

Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick, that's how communication works.

Seriously, I don't know how much simpler I can say this: that's how communication works.

Communication doesn't exist in a vacuum. Rumsfeld did not recently spring from Zeus' head, pristine as the driven snow. There's a history here, a context, a pre-existing pattern, and by god, yes, if he utilizes those tropes then he's making those references. The only alternative -- which I do not for a moment credit -- is that he's so colossally stupid and inept that he failed to notice, or maybe just forgot, the way that language has been employed for the past five years. Phil gets it exactly right in the second half of his post; there is quite literally no other plausible explanation.

And I'll note, for the record, in re this, that no, obviously I don't think I'm appeasing the terrorists or what have you. THAT'S NOT THE POINT. The question is whether I think Rumsfeld is accusing me (and others like me) of appeasing the terrorists. Get the distinction?

Or, since maybe an illustrated example is what's needed here, suppose a prominent Democrat (Harry Reid if you want a serious example, Michael Moore if you're anti-fat) were to give a lengthy speech decrying "the babykillers who supported Bush's brutal and tyrannical Iraq policy". Suppose too that there had been a five-year campaign by progressive bloggers and liberal op-ed columnists and Democratic congressman trying to paint (i.e. smear) all pro-war people as, in fact, babykillers, replete with sober denunciations of the murderous baby-killing thugs in the White House and the monstrous Molochs in uniform and whatever happened to the serious pro-war types like William Penn? Are you honestly saying that you would think, "Oh, that's nice, he can't possibly be talking about me because I've never killed any children"?

"if you want to believe that invoking the imagined fact that I hate you constitutes a way of saying 'I don't understand your point', I'm not sure if I can help you. Introducing what I like or dislike is pretty shoddy argumentation, and I certainly hope you are capable of better, though your comment about me 'making up' what other people say would argue against that."

Good dodge. Were you planning on responding to the sentences before the one that sent you into a tizzy or not?

Some believe that rhetorical figleaves should be ignored when it suits their purpose of defending the Bush administration at all costs but treated as immensely significant when that is necessary to support the regime. Those people are vile hypocrites toward whom no level of contempt is sufficient.

haven't seen anyone who thinks Rumsfeld was talking about Democrats in general, or even any substantial subset of Democrats

my first stop, Town Hall. the author starts out saying it's all a big misrepresentation, but can't keep up the charade. by the end he's talking about "today's appeasers" and how they "one by one ... deserted the war they had approved and sided with the war's early opponents". the same column is running at the American Spectator site. (and while you're at TownHall, be sure to check out Coulter's latest deep analysis They Shot The Wrong Lincoln)

Sebastian, we had repeated warnings that "on any given day" Saddam could hand over nukes to Al Qaida, that we couldn't wait for a mushroom cloud to prove he had WMDS--whether or not Bush used the word "imminent," he certainly implied it.

This whole post seems like a recycling job. We have Rumsfeld making the usual announcements that what's really wrong with the war is people not adopting the party line, then Charles explaining that the solution is the White House doing a better communication. The latter (as another blog pointed out) has become a running theme lately--Bush's policies are fine, he just isn't explaining them well enough! If he could only talk better, everyone would realize how wonderful the Iraq war is going (Kathleen Parker put a spin on this by explaining that it's because Bush is just a plain-spoken Texas cowboy, so he doesn't know how to handle all that high-falutin' presidential language).

haven't seen anyone who thinks Rumsfeld was talking about Democrats in general, or even any substantial subset of Democrats

Right.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, citing passivity toward Nazi Germany before World War II, said that "many have still not learned history's lessons" and "believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased."

Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone. But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

I like to think someone somewhere is writing a paper called "Relentless, Deliberate Obtuseness as Rhetorical Strategy: American 'Conservatism,' 2001-2006."

I wish, oh how I wish, I were trained in rhetoric, beause I wish I knew the technical terms for the astonishingly dishonest argumentation that Seb and Slart keep making.

The tactic of interpreting phraseology in very terribly painstakingly narrow ways when it suits your political aims ("Bush himself never said Iraq was an imminent threat in so many words," "Where exactly does Donald Rumsfeld say he's talking about opponents of Bush's Iraq policy?") and then interpreting phraseology so very generously and broadly when *that* suits your political aims (what's that Constitutional cite for Bush's expanded war powers, again?)... I'm sure there's a term of art for that technique in rhetoric, but I don't know what it is.

Oh, and that bit about how we can't possibly think Rumsfeld's referring to opponents of Bush's policies just because the Republican and the Right have used precisely that rhetorical device as a cudgel against opponents of Bush's policies for the last, oh, four years... that's rich, that is. That is so rich, so mendacious, so much an insult of any normal human's normal comprehension skills, that it's clear you've decided to give out, give up, and give in to the Newspeak campaign.

Congrats, guys. You're in the Tweedle-dum Tweedle-dee club. Enjoy the stay there.

Since no one seems to be able to explain who Rumsfeld was referring to when he asked his rhetorical questions, I have to ask why any blame should go to the MSM for 'misinterpreting' his remarks? I hope we can all agree that Mr. Rumsfeld, or anyone for that matter, should take care to be much clearer when comparing anyone to Nazi appeasers as that is a horrible comparison to make.

It would be nice if Mr. Rumsfeld and his defenders had the moral courage to actually name those that he/they accuse of such cowardly actions.

"The tactic of interpreting phraseology in very terribly painstakingly narrow ways when it suits your political aims ("Bush himself never said Iraq was an imminent threat in so many words," "Where exactly does Donald Rumsfeld say he's talking about opponents of Bush's Iraq policy?") and then interpreting phraseology so very generously and broadly when *that* suits your political aims (what's that Constitutional cite for Bush's expanded war powers, again?)... I'm sure there's a term of art for that technique in rhetoric, but I don't know what it is."

I'm not reading Bush narrowly, but I am actually reading his speech. Bush, in what is traditionally considered the most important regular speech Presidents give, did in fact use the term "imminent threat" and argued against it as the standard.

"Communication doesn't exist in a vacuum. Rumsfeld did not recently spring from Zeus' head, pristine as the driven snow. There's a history here, a context, a pre-existing pattern, and by god, yes, if he utilizes those tropes then he's making those references. The only alternative -- which I do not for a moment credit -- is that he's so colossally stupid and inept that he failed to notice, or maybe just forgot, the way that language has been employed for the past five years."

I'm willing to go along with this as a matter of interpretation but not reporting. If the interpretation is that obvious, you can just report the speech and the interpretation is there for everyone. The alternative is to report speeches which juxtapose the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons with the observation that Israel must vanish from the Middle East (with the historical context of militarily supporting groups which attack Israel) as "Ahmadinejad threatens Israel with nuclear destruction".

The Associated Press doesn't normally do that. (The normal method when they want to inject that kind of commentary on a political speech is along the lines of "Important Person X reacts to the speech by Y".) So in the Ahmadinejad example, they might say "Israel decries threats".

Bush, in what is traditionally considered the most important regular speech Presidents give, did in fact use the term "imminent threat" and argued against it as the standard.

This is blithering nonsense. First, it's just flatly untrue, as has been explained clearly upthread. Second, asserting that in a given speech, Bush didn't say X, has nothing whatsoever to do with whether he or his agents said X on other occasions.

I'm willing to go along with this as a matter of interpretation but not reporting. If the interpretation is that obvious, you can just report the speech and the interpretation is there for everyone.

As is this. You can't summarize or paraphrase anything without understanding it's meaning. Where, as here, its meaning is obvious, it is straight reporting to paraphrase it according to that obvious meaning.

Unless your suggestion is meant as a claim that reporting on a speech in any fashion other than direct quotation is improper (a claim that would itself be ridiculous), it's nonsensical.

Me: Rumsfeld didn't say that.

Chorus: Sure he did. He said it before.

Me: But he didn't say it this time.

Chorus: But that's what he meant.

Me: But how do you know?

Chorus: We just do. We can't think of another explanation, even though you've pointed some out. And you're a bootlicking administration apologist, a toady and a shill for suggesting that we're unreasonable.

Me: Even assuming all of that is true, how does that make your point?

It's like arguing with a bunch of Creationists.

CaseyL- Isn't it straining at gnats and swallowing camels?

Blue- Agreed, Rumsfeld is obviously a moral coward. I'd say he lacks moral authority but Seb and Slarti have made it clear they dont believe in it right now.

Jon(S)- Good idea I'd read it.

KCinDC- So Delightful I'll say it too: Some believe that rhetorical figleaves should be ignored when it suits their purpose of defending the Bush administration at all costs but treated as immensely significant when that is necessary to support the regime. Those people are vile hypocrites toward whom no level of contempt is sufficient.

Jeff Eaton- You said, "Most of the folks may disagree with CB on a regular basis, but slamming pretty much every one of the conservative front page posters of ObWi as professional astroturfers (or sound-alikes) is a patently absurd."

Why is that? Just because it would leave the rest of us looking dumb? I'm not convinced that they are paid shills even though Slarti has admitted to it, but thats mainly because I don't think their arguments are a credit to the Republican party especially now.

Frank, just in case you or anyone else didn't get the joke, I of course don't believe that, for example, Slarti or Sebastian are "vile hypocrites toward whom no level of contempt is sufficient".

As they've demonstrated, it would clearly be unreasonable for anyone to take offense at my statement. My goodness, how could anyone object to it?

Slart: I missed the comment in which you explicitly listed who Rumsfeld meant to refer to as the some who suffer from moral confusion and wish to appease vicious terrorists.

Here, LizardBreath.

Just to try to keep this stuff straight, Charles and Sebastian are arguing that the AP story misrepresented what Rumsfeld said by saying he was leveling those charges at administration critics, while Slart is saying that Rumsfeld only meant critics like AI and the press, but not critics like Katherine. Is that right?

Or is Slart, too, saying "administration critics" is an unreasonable inference to draw from Rumsfeld's talk of appeasement and forgetting history?

And is anyone going to respond to Jon (S)'s cite in which the White House more or less accepts the AP's interpretation?

"Some believe that rhetorical figleaves should be ignored when it suits their purpose of defending the Bush administration at all costs but treated as immensely significant when that is necessary to support the regime. Those people are vile hypocrites toward whom no level of contempt is sufficient."

Since I'm not one of those people, I'm not taking offense. :)

I missed the comment in which you explicitly listed who Rumsfeld meant to refer to as the some who suffer from moral confusion and wish to appease vicious terrorists.

I missed that, too. Not that it's incumbent on me to make such a list.

Slart:

But how do you know?

By this standard, no one could ever be held to account for anything they say, as long as their rhetoric is somewhat short of explicit. As others have pointed out, you're completely ignoring the ways in which language is normally used and interpreted. When Rumsfeld asks:

With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?
One wonders, why is he asking this? It would seem to be unneccessary unless he believes that there are people who believe this. Who are they? In the absence of any specific referents, we are left to infer the answer based on context and prior behavior. Rumsfeld's history of this sort of rhetoric towards opponents of the war has been noted by others. As for context, this is pretty clearly part of a campaign by the administration to paint their opponents as weak-kneed appeasers. Cheney recently used very similar language in a speech - "This is not an enemy that can be ignored, or negotiated with, or appeased." Coincidence? I think not.

I have a lot of respect for both Seb and Slart. They're generally willing to engage their opponents in a forum where they are outnumbered, and generally do so with an impressive degree of honesty and fair-mindedness. But with each post to this thread, my estimation of them drops a notch.

Slart:

If you're seeing any who are high-fiving each other over Rumsfeld's put-down of the Ancient Enemy, let me know.

Hugh Hewitt seems to have a bit of a spring in his step here.

Appeasers can and usually are patriots. The Baldwin-Chamberlain governments that led Great Britain in the '30s were composed entirely of patriots, though of the most misguided sort who never understood Hitler and the rise of fascism and who always advocated policies they thought would appease Hitler but which never did because Hitler did not want to be appeased.

[...]

The policies proposed by today's Democrats and promoted by a chorus of modern Geoffrey Dawsons in the MSM --as editor of the Times of London, Dawson was appeasement's mouthpiece-- are certainly as destructive of the nation's security as were those of the Baldwin/Chamberlain governments, but like the men of those governments, the appeasers of today are certainly patriots, just deeply misguided, foolish patriots. Because the charge of appeasement is so completely applicable and the understanding of appeasement's folly so clearly understood by a majority of the public, Democrats will, as shown above, argue that our enemies aren't fascists and complain mightily that they are not appeasers. When those responses prove futile because "facts are stubborn things,", they will attempt to change the subject by protesting that the charge of appeasement is a charge of treason, which it is not and never has been. The best response to such victim posturing: "Chamberlain was a patriot, but he was an appeaser. Halifax was an appeaser, but he was a patriot. Your response is silly. Stop playing the victim and at least attempt to defend your appeasement policies."

You know what I think would be fun? I think it would be fun to go through Bush's SOTU speeches, and look for places where he specifically said something, but then, through his subsequent statements and actions, and those of Administration officials, clearly indicated that he meant or believed something else. Don't you think that would be fun, Sebastian? I sure do.

Circular. He's simply underscoring that Rumsfeld is in fact talking about appeasers, which is already pretty clear.

Again, if you're an appeasement kind of guy, matttb, then Rumsfeld is talking about you. And I agree with him on this particular point.

On the other hand, if you're thinking that Rumsfeld is saying "if you're a Democrat, you're an appeaser" then I don't think that's supportable.


Charles, at the risk of repeating an argument that someone else made, there are two main problem with the war room idea:

1) They already try, and they aren't very good at it.

2) Nobody believes them - Hezbollah is more credible than the Bush administration at this point.

To whomever runs this blog: This "Charles" guy really detracts from an otherwise interesting site. I think it's a terrific idea to have somebody with a conservative slant among your authors. But couldn't you find one whose repertoire extends beyond hairsplitting and straw men?

Slarti, are you seriously claiming, before God -- and, more importantly, before me -- that Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration have not engaged in a consistent pattern of referring to the Democrats as appeasers, and that when he therefore uses the word "appeasers" during this speech, in this context, before this audience, in a campaign season, that he is not referring to Democrats? Really? You don't think that these people have ever attributed to war opponents positions that they don't hold, such as the desire for appeasement?

If I'm ever accused of a crime, I want you as my attorney. You clearly don't believe there are any such things as patterns of behavior, or of using someone's prior statements to help either support or impeach their testimony, or any of that stuff. What's more, you appear to think you can convince others of this. That's gold in front of a jury, folks.

Yawn..

When the Associated Press squanders half a trillion dollars of our federal reserve money to make Iran the most powerful country in the mideast get back to me.

When Reuters starts locking up American citizens for years without filing charges or allowing right of counsel drop me a line.

And when Donald Rumsfeld his finally held accountable for his pathetic performance over the past three years call me a paramedic.

McQ's constant whining about the press got old over a year ago. Not to mention his very selective choices.

Rumsfeld and his speechwriters aren't idiots. He makes sure to leave just a sliver of plausible deniability in this rant.

Slart: I'm going to highlight a portion of what I already quoted from Hewitt's post: "The policies proposed by today's Democrats and promoted by a chorus of modern Geoffrey Dawsons in the MSM --as editor of the Times of London, Dawson was appeasement's mouthpiece-- are certainly as destructive of the nation's security as were those of the Baldwin/Chamberlain governments, but like the men of those governments, the appeasers of today are certainly patriots, just deeply misguided, foolish patriots."

Hewitt sure seems convinced Rumsfeld considers the Democratic leadership and MSM to be these 'modern day appeasers'. You've just said you agree with his particular point on appeasers.

So, which Democratic policies constitute 'appeasing' fascism?

And BTW, I'm no Democrat, for obvious reasons.


These 'appeasers' must be rooted out. I suggest Rumsfeld be waterboarded until he divulges their identities.

"that Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration have not engaged in a consistent pattern of referring to the Democrats as appeasers, and that when he therefore uses the word "appeasers" during this speech, in this context, before this audience, in a campaign season, that he is not referring to Democrats? Really?"

Actually, given recent history and diplomatic spats (in which Rumsfeld was involved) I would have guessed that he meant European governments, not Democrats.

(Funny side note, I thought three times about whether or not it was appropriate to say "Democrats" here even though Phil used it). You've got me almost trained. ;)

Since I'm not one of those people, I'm not taking offense. :)
Yes, Sebastian, that's the response I figured you'd give in the present context. It's possible, however, that if presented with a similar statement at a different time in a different thread, you'd react like most humans, who have years of experience in the way language actually works, rather than like a science-fiction robot.
Rumsfeld and his speechwriters aren't idiots. He makes sure to leave just a sliver of plausible deniability in this rant.

Which is the point that Rummy's staunch defenders seem to be (deliberately?) ignoring.

I'll second Gromit's suggestion that people should check out Jon(S)'s
link
. This is clearly part of a strategic campaign by the White House to recapture some momentum on National Security and to put the Democrats back on the defensive. Parsing Rumsfeld's remarks without acknowledging this is simply disingenuous.

Fred Kaplan's piece is also worth reading.

Oh, and I forgot to provide a link to the Cheney speech.

OK, Phil, more than slightly favored. The U.S. had a policy had preferred that Iran and Iraq beat each other up rather than extend their belligerence to neighboring countries. The policy worked because both Iran and Iraq obliged. The Iraqis who held the mostly French, Chinese and Russian arms that killed Iranians were Iraqis, not Americans. In normal circles, you blame the person firing the gun (or their boss for giving the orders), not America first. The U.S. should be a ways down the line if you want address responsibility, with Saddam at the head, followed more distantly by China, Russia and France, but I guess "blame America 5th or 6th" just doesn't have the same ring.

You remember why that happened, right? Hint: 1953.

Yes, I do, Phil. Ever hear of a thing called free will? So the only recourse to 1953 was to storm sovereign U.S. territory and hold American citizens hostage? So two wrongs make a right? Or is it that we just had it coming, just like the poor girl who showed a little too much leg to the rapist? The Iranians had a choice here.

And that makes it aaaaaaaaaaaaall OK!

Right. Because it would have been so much better for the greater evil--fresh from its fundamentalist revolution--to overrun Iraq, no? Is it your position that risking an Iranian takeover of Iraq would've made the world a better place?

All I am seeing is the AP reporter filling in the extremely obvious blanks in Rumsfeld's speech.

And that's exactly where Burns went from reporting to editorializing, dan. Rumsfeld used the word "folks" or "some quarters" to describe those who would appease terrorists, etc. Rumsfeld was being deliberately vague, setting up faceless boogeymen strawmen to bolster the points in his speech. He didn't make a very good case, in my opinion, because he relied on those lame props. Alas. As a journalist, Burns' responsibility should have been to inquire further as to who in particular Rumsfeld was referring. Instead, Burns took the lazy, biased route. AP changed the content of the piece for a reason, because Burns over-projected, as are many on this very thread. The difference is that any reader of his speech on this thread can make whatever projections he or she wants, but Robert Burns cannot because he was supposed to have adhered to a higher standard. Again, alas.

Rumsfeld did make specific charges regarding the decision makers in mainstream media and that gal at Amnesty International who made the "gulag" reference, so if no one in this thread is in either group, then he wasn't talking to you.

Charles, you do realise, don't you, that Rumsfeld set up a propaganda department, the Office of Strategic Influence, all the way back in October 2001? You do also realise, don't you, that even after that was supposedly shut down in 2002 the Information Operations Task Force in Baghdad carried on its work, including paying the Lincoln Group to plant false stories in the Iraqi media and directly taking over newspapers or paying them to run puff pieces?

Yes, Ginger, I am aware of the DoD's previous clunky attempts to engage in the media world, although the "planted" stories that I saw weren't false. The subterfuge was stupid, and they shouldn't have done it. If the administration is going to be competent about this information war, it should be out in the open.

If he was mistaken, could you link me some retraction Ari (or the administration) made of his statement?

If Fleisher wasn't mistaken, shinobi, could you link to any other statement made by the administration that claimed that Saddam's Iraq was an imminent threat? As it is, by your logic, one single solitary statement in a press gaggle negated months and months of Bush administration policy which explicitly stated that Iraq was not an imminent threat (the Bush SOTU being one of many examples). In fact, in the run-up to the war, the lack of an imminent threat was one of the reasons many on the Left (and a few on the Right) were opposed to our removal of Saddam. Please. You're clinging to a myth.

Me: Rumsfeld didn't say that.
Chorus: Sure he did. He said it before.
Me: But he didn't say it this time.
Chorus: But that's what he meant.
Me: But how do you know?

Corrected Chorus: Because he used the same language that has been employed to that task by the past five years both by people in the Administration and their political allies outside it. [And, pace Jon and Larv's links, are more or less admitting it outright.] That he didn't use the exact wording you prefer doesn't make the reference any less clear.

[Slarti, you of all people should know this isn't rocket science.]

Davebo, matttbastard, et al.: I've been referring to this tactic as "implausible deniability" for a number of years now. It's predicated on the observation that as long as you don't explicitly say what you mean -- even if you creep close enough to see the depths of every pore on its fetid body -- a sufficient number of people will vehemently deny that's what you ever meant or said (regardless of how audibly you wink at the audience) and refuse to acknowledge that millions more got the message loud and clear.

The same is true of acknowledging error, incidentally; as long as you never say that you were wrong (or, more pointedly, were lying), you can't ever be held accountable because absent a direct, signed-and-sealed confession, too many people will leap to your defense, reasonable inferrence be damned. It's a particularly odious kind of literalism I've been seeing a lot of recently, and of fairly recent vintage. I can't think of any pre-Nixon examples, to be honest, although I'm sure some must exist.

If Fleisher wasn't mistaken, shinobi, could you link to any other statement made by the administration that claimed that Saddam's Iraq was an imminent threat?

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"? (Quoted from memory. I'm sure my wording's inexact.) Or you could just go upthread to the link where Sebastian debated this on Dan Drezner's blog and lost.

"Yes, Sebastian, that's the response I figured you'd give in the present context. It's possible, however, that if presented with a similar statement at a different time in a different thread, you'd react like most humans, who have years of experience in the way language actually works, rather than like a science-fiction robot."

That is very probable. I'm sure I have, even.

Which brings us back to the interpretation vs. reporting thing. I haven't called you crazy for reacting that way. Very human, totally defensible interpretation.

I'm criticizing the Associated Press for reporting it as if he directly said that--taking out the possibility of other interpretations and dramatically broadening the category of people that Rumsfeld is talking about. Even if you take a fairly broad interpretation of Rumsfeld's comments, he isn't talking about all critics of the Bush administration's Iraq and terrorism policies. (Surely we can agree at the very least that McCain isn't being called an appeaser here)? The AP summary leaves that interpretation open when it is clearly not open in the speech.

Can we close the case file now?

Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone. But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"The same is true of acknowledging error, incidentally; as long as you never say that you were wrong (or, more pointedly, were lying), you can't ever be held accountable because absent a direct, signed-and-sealed confession, too many people will leap to your defense, reasonable inferrence be damned. It's a particularly odious kind of literalism I've been seeing a lot of recently, and of fairly recent vintage. I can't think of any pre-Nixon examples, to be honest, although I'm sure some must exist."

NYT Pulitzer Prize, Walter Duranty. Prize awarded 1932. Defended until well into the 1970s. The NYT still makes a token defense whenever it comes up, but their hearts aren't in it so I won't make the stronger claim of "defended to this very day".

I think the problem here is that every discussion about anything related to the war on terrorism ends up as a discussion on every possible facet and perceived betrayal about it.

Yes, I supported the war in Iraq.

Yes, if I understood how unseriously Bush was going to take it I wouldn't have.

Yes, Rumsfeld has been one of the huge problem actors.

That doesn't mean that every single thing Rumsfeld says is wrong, nor does it mean that every negative thing he says is directed against every single person who has ever disagreed with him.

Actually, given recent history and diplomatic spats (in which Rumsfeld was involved) I would have guessed that he meant European governments, not Democrats.

Right. During campaign season. OK.

I am reminded at this point of an episode of Family Guy in which Peter, being given the opportunity to choose as a prize a new speedboat or a "Mystery Box," chooses the box, saying: "A boat is a boat, but the Mystery Box could be anything! It could even be a boat!" It's just about that ludicrous.

OK, Phil, more than slightly favored.

Thank you. I'll accept that as shorthand for "I was incorrect and you were correct."

The U.S. had a policy had preferred that Iran and Iraq beat each other up rather than extend their belligerence to neighboring countries.

Well, no, the US had a policy that Iran get the shit kicked out of it by Iraq.

In normal circles, you blame the person firing the gun (or their boss for giving the orders), not America first.

Where did I blame America first? Cripes, you're like a sugar-addled ADHD child. I said that assisting in fomenting a war that causes a million casualties is absolutely on the same "moral plane" as jihadi activities that kill fewer than 5,000 people. Pay attention.

The U.S. should be a ways down the line if you want address responsibility, with Saddam at the head, followed more distantly by China, Russia and France, but I guess "blame America 5th or 6th" just doesn't have the same ring.

When you find someone who isn't blaming Iraq for their part in the Iran-Iraq war, you be sure to point them out, Charles.

So the only recourse to 1953 was to storm sovereign U.S. territory and hold American citizens hostage?

I didn't say that, and challenge you to point to where you think I did.

So two wrongs make a right?

I didn't say that, and challenge you to point to where you think I did.

Or is it that we just had it coming, just like the poor girl who showed a little too much leg to the rapist?

I didn't say that, and challenge you to point to where you think I did. What's more, your implication that I would have any such opinion concerning the crime of rape is despicable and unbecoming, not to mention slanderous, and I demand an apology.

The Iranians had a choice here.

Yes, they did. If foreign nationals helped foment a coup here in the US, Charles, how would you feel about them and their country? What actions against them might you be inclined to support?

Right. Because it would have been so much better for the greater evil--fresh from its fundamentalist revolution--to overrun Iraq, no? Is it your position that risking an Iranian takeover of Iraq would've made the world a better place?

You apparently don't actually care what my position is, since you're striving very hard via the Rumsfeld Rhetoric Trick to attribute to me positions I do not hold, to engage in the fallacy of the excluded middle, and to limit everything to two possible choices, so why don't you actually just entertain yourself by filling in whatever answer makes you feel better?

I've been referring to this tactic as "implausible deniability" for a number of years now. It's predicated on the observation that as long as you don't explicitly say what you mean -- even if you creep close enough to see the depths of every pore on its fetid body -- a sufficient number of people will vehemently deny that's what you ever meant or said (regardless of how audibly you wink at the audience) and refuse to acknowledge that millions more got the message loud and clear.

Yes. This is a longtime, quite conscious strategy on their part. See here.

I find the depth of contempt this demonstrates on their part for Americans to be really bracing. Wilton Sekzer in Why We Fight is obviously an excellent example of how people are victimized. The ruthlessness with which they're willing to deceive and manipulate people is really something to behold.

It's also something to behold those who defend and enable this behavior.

Yes, Ginger, I am aware of the DoD's previous clunky attempts to engage in the media world, although the "planted" stories that I saw weren't false.

To quote a certain poster here, "I don't think it's wise for you to go down the "fake but accurate" road." /snark

Rumsfeld used the word "folks" or "some quarters" to describe those who would appease terrorists, etc. Rumsfeld was being deliberately vague, setting up faceless boogeymen strawmen to bolster the points in his speech.

that those strawmen came out looking exactly like those the GOP has been using for years to represent Democrats is a Total Coincidence. only a partisan attack dog, foaming up on BDS, would even think to make the connection between Rumsfeld's strawmen and those used all the time by the rest of the GOP. Rumsfeld certainly didn't intend anyone to make that connection, oh heavens no. that's unthinkable. i heard he even lives and works in a perfectly-sealed bubble, where no political rhetoric can enter.

Sebastian, thanks for the clarification. I apparently haven't been distinguishing enough in my mind between your position and Slartibartfast's.

Charles,

"Rumsfeld was being deliberately vague, setting up faceless boogeymen strawmen to bolster the points in his speech. He didn't make a very good case, in my opinion, because he relied on those lame props. Alas. As a journalist, Burns' responsibility should have been to inquire further as to who in particular Rumsfeld was referring. Instead, Burns took the lazy, biased route."

Ah, so your suggestion is that instead of using the level of reading comprehension and memory of multiple prior similar statements by Rumsfeld and other members of this Administration that God gave to fleas, before Burns filed his story, he should have (in spite of no press conference being held) asked Rumsfeld exactly who he was referring to by his "faceless boogeymen strawman", waited for an answer, and then accepted the answer at face value. And when his superior wanted to know why no story has been filed by deadline, his response should have been...?

Rumsfeld certainly didn't intend anyone to make that connection, oh heavens no. that's unthinkable.

Let me just repeat this line from the WaPo article I cited above:

But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

This refers to Rumsfeld's speech, btw. There's no longer a leg to stand on for those who think otherwise, imho.

Interpreting Rumsfeld's speech in terms of other official statements made by the administration about that speech? Mindreading foul.

Sebastian:

I'm criticizing the Associated Press for reporting it as if he directly said that--taking out the possibility of other interpretations and dramatically broadening the category of people that Rumsfeld is talking about.

Robert Burns of the AP:

Rumsfeld alluded to critics of the Bush administration's war policies in terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s...

Without explicitly citing Bush critics at home or abroad, he said "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons." Aides to Rumsfeld said later he was not accusing the administration's critics of trying to appease the terrorists but was cautioning against a repeat of errors made in earlier eras.
Rumsfeld spoke to the American Legion as part of a coordinated White House strategy, before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to take the offensive against administration critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq and growing calls to withdraw U.S. troops.

Where does Burns report it as if Rummy directly said it? Does "allude" mean something different than I've always thought it did (i.e. to make indirect reference)?

Also, don't these same objections apply to the WaPo piece linked above? Are they also misreporting the administration's position?

This refers to Rumsfeld's speech, btw. There's no longer a leg to stand on for those who think otherwise, imho.

Right. Now it's a twofer. The admin gets to voice the logical inferences it makes about its political opponents' positions and the base gets to get all riled up about MSM shenanigans.

Then it's the three-day weekend and the kickoff of the campaign season. Looks like it's gonna be fun.

Sebastian: I disagree on Duranty's applicability to some extent -- for example, his later defenders were not (AFAIK) enormously numerous, although they were influential, etc. -- but yeah, I'd say that's a fair cop. I should've said: such a defense being mounted by the government strikes me as novel, i.e. post-Nixonian, and flies in the face of our supposed national mistrust of governmental figures.

Jon (S): Oh, I know it's deliberate strategy. I used to call it "The Rorschach Strategy" back in 2002 -- precisely calculated ambiguity designed to let everyone see what they want to see -- but I've come to believe that one half of that equation is wrong. IMO, the purpose is clearly to allow those who wish to be deceived to deceive themselves; that other people see different things is coincidental, or maybe even serendipitous for the strategy.

Which is what perplexes me so completely about this sort of thing: the Bush Administration is playing their followers for chumps. They're doing all but admitting outright that they're playing them for chumps. Who the hell would want to follow someone who holds them in that "depth of contempt", as you said?

Charles: What cleek said, only with more bolding and profanity. Thank god I didn't hit "Post", huh?

[On preview] Sebastian, what KCinDC said. Thanks.

Jon(S),
Your WA Post excerpt at 10:55am is a little weird. Rumsfeld did not address the issue of cutting and running from Iraq, so I suggest that the reporters misplaced the reference to Rumsfeld because he didn't make the allegations that Baker and VandeHei purported. What I saw in that article was a lot of politicians--on both sides--making strawman arguments and talking past each other.

1) They already try, and they aren't very good at it.

2) Nobody believes them - Hezbollah is more credible than the Bush administration at this point.

On #1, I agree, Jon h, and that's one of the reasons why I think Rumsfeld should have been spending more time with his family for nearly two years. On #2, to say that a terrorist organization is more credible than the Bush administration is the kind of wacko statement that gets liberals in hot water and helps them lose elections, in my opinion of course.

Gateway Pundit thinks if it walks, quacks and appeases like a useful idiot...

Charlie writes: "On #2, to say that a terrorist organization is more credible than the Bush administration is the kind of wacko statement that gets liberals in hot water and helps them lose elections, in my opinion of course."

Um, right. The fact is that *for their audience*, Hezbollah is far more credible - amazingly, DESPITE being a terrorist organization.

Whereas, for any given audience other than RedState/NRO/Weekly Standard, nobody believes anything Bush/Rummy/Cheney says.

This is not to say how amazingly credible Hezbollah are. It's to say how miserably deceitful the Bush administration has been.

to say that a terrorist organization is more credible than the Bush administration is the kind of wacko statement that gets liberals in hot water and helps them lose elections
Charles, to deny that Hezbollah has more credibility with a certain (growing) audience, especially among those following the "foreign media and terrorist mouthpieces" you're worried about, is the kind of refusal to face reality that's gotten the Bush administration, its supporters, and the rest of us into the current disaster.

Kevin Drum starts swinging back.

Is the consensus of the rightward commenters on this thread truly that reporting-as-stenography is a good thing? Yeesh.

Let me just repeat this line from the WaPo article I cited above:

Let me just repeat this line from the WaPo article Jon (S) cited above.

Charles writes: "Yes, I do, Phil. Ever hear of a thing called free will? So the only recourse to 1953 was to storm sovereign U.S. territory and hold American citizens hostage? So two wrongs make a right? Or is it that we just had it coming, just like the poor girl who showed a little too much leg to the rapist? The Iranians had a choice here."

Looks more like the US is the serial rapist and you object to anyone fighting back. How dare they! Why, Iran was wearing that short poodle skirt back in 1953, and the US had just pulled into port, and, well, you just don't tempt a sailor like that. Didn't her mom ever teach her that?

And yet, Charles, you certainly don't feel we should resist violent attacks on the flimsiest of grounds. A bit of a double standard there.

"Right. Because it would have been so much better for the greater evil--fresh from its fundamentalist revolution--to overrun Iraq, no?"

If I'm not mistaken, Charlie-o, Iraq started that.

"Is it your position that risking an Iranian takeover of Iraq would've made the world a better place?"

If you don't think that's the case, why did you support the Bush administration's war that accomplished exactly that. And entirely predictably.

"Actually, given recent history and diplomatic spats (in which Rumsfeld was involved) I would have guessed that he meant European governments, not Democrats.

Right. During campaign season. OK."

Well, I'm at least part of the target audience, and that is how I would have interpreted it.

Larv, you appear to be quoting the new AP wording of the story. The section you quote used to be:

In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security and accused them of lacking the courage to fight back."

It later became:

Rumsfeld alluded to critics of the Bush administration's war policies in terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s, "a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the Western democracies."

Without explicitly citing Bush critics at home or abroad, he said "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons." Aides to Rumsfeld said later he was not accusing the administration's critics of trying to appease the terrorists but was cautioning against a repeat of errors made in earlier eras

I fully agree that the revised summary is much more accurate and appropriate.

In unusually explicit terms...

If you want to be hyperpedantic, I suspect that's completely correct: Rumsfeld was being "unusually explicit". That's more a comment on the Administration's smear-and-deny strategy than anything else, though.

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