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June 15, 2008

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Yes Brendan, I'm afraid that the "Bush lied" mantra will never disappear. Too bad Brad DeLong didn't supply evidence for his 6 bullet points. If he had, there could be a reasonable debate about the strength of the evidence for and against.

Another question worth looking at is: How strong was the case for war, based on what was known or believed at the time? As I recall Bush gave around 8 or 10 separate justifications for going to war. Half a dozen or so were fully accurate (or believed to be true). Three or four may have been exaggerated. IMHO, if one corrects the alleged exaggerations, the case for war in Iraq was still very strong.

Of course, it is clear Bush did "lie" in that the war was sold as necessary to prevent a real and imminent threat posed by Iraq. Bush presented that lie to the American people over and over.

We don't need to look at "intent" - all we need to do is review what Bush knew about that threat and what he (and his surrogates) said about that threat. There is an wide and obvious difference that has been revealed over time and, in retrospect, we can see that there was a clear pattern designed to mislead.

That is what lying amounts to - the use of "exaggerations, false suggestions, and half-truths" to create a deception.

Returning to intent - we don't need to find a secret inner intent to explain or prove that these were lies as opposed to "intelligence failures" of some sort. We can accept that the intent was to go to war. We can even accept that the intent was what Bush said we needed to bring about as a final goal - "regime change".

We don't even need to see evidence that there was a premeditated plan to lie (although there is evidence of premeditation in many areas concerning selling the war). We can accept the McClellan theory that the lying occurred to achieve a purpose and was simply an on-going process.

If we had focused on the "real" goal of regime change we would have been better able to execute a post-invasion plan. One of the "costs" of the deceptions used is that we didn't focus on that primary goal - it was placed as secondary to the main objective (let's call it "disarming Iraq").

DeLong's list is all well documented and supported by extensive evidence. Are they proof of lies ?

Well, items number one, two and six were presented as strong beliefs and strong theories - as near certainties. Is it a lie to say you strongly believe something when there isn't strong evidence for it?

Yes, that generally would be considered a misrepresentation (a "lie") when we rely on experts for their opinions. Should we hold public officials to a lesser standard ?

Item number three was more of a failure to plan and execute politically, or a case of willful disregard, or, at worst, a misrepresentation. It is difficult to tell a lie about something that hasn't happened yet...unless you say that we were lied to about being prepared with a plan that didn't exist.

So, yes David, this mantra will continue. Probably for as long as we preserve recorded history. It will be part of the Bush legacy.

It will also continue in the near term as citizens, politicians and military people try to come to terms with all the ways we have failed to execute this preemptive war and its aftermath. In that regard I think Brendan is wrong to say it "doesn't matter". Part of looking forward is looking back.

It will also continue as more accounts of willful misrepresentation are confessed or acknowledged, so I guess Brendan will get to comment on it again.

Howard says, "Of course, it is clear Bush did 'lie' in that the war was sold as necessary to prevent a real and imminent threat posed by Iraq. Bush presented that lie to the American people over and over."

This myth that Bush sold the threat in 2003 as imminent keeps running into this statement from Bush saying it would we should not wait till the threat was imminent: "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."

And in what obscure speech did Bush make this statement? In the 2003 State of the Union Address before both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs and the diplomatic corps. It was broadcast live on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. It was reported in all the papers.

So when the left claims Bush sold the threat from Saddam as imminent, they are--there's no other way to say it--lying.

GW Bush (President 43) came into office with a policy of changing the regime in Iraq. Neither the right nor the left says much about why this is so.

We have a few hints, though. Bill Clinton (42) had a policy of regime change in Iraq, and G H W Bush (41) also had a policy of regime change against Saddam Hussein; He even invaded and kicked him out of Kuwait.

Saddam had a history of WMD (including nuclear) development going back decades. But he was not the only such world leader. The thing that made Saddam different was that he used chemical weapons twice, once against Iraqis, once against Iranians. There was no "Red Line" in his mind about using WMD's.

The story about "Stealing oil" would have to explain how Bill Clinton was in on it. The Opposition has their own "Exaggerations, false suggestions, and half-truths".

After 9/11, GW Bush decided to "Prevent" future attacks; since WMD's were too powerful, and their owners were too reckless, to rely on deterrence. This was a very expensive decision and the Opposition could pick on it, but it's apparently too tough to chew on.

The other expensive GW Bush decision was to install democracy in Iraq. A principled opposition would pick on this too. But it's also a tough nut, and received little discussion.

Instead the Opposition relies on cheap slogans and unprovable allegations, lowering the debate when it should be raised.

The Senate report must be viewed as an election-year ploy; There is no other reason for releasing it, as the war itself is in the end-stage. Just like intelligence-related arguments from the Administration, refutation would have to rely on data still secret.

Bush said Iraq was a present, an imminent AND a future threat.

We can find numerous statements supporting each claim.

The overall claim was that urgent action was required.

Howard, if you know of someplace Bush said that Iraq was an imminent threat, please share it with us. When Brendan's partner Ben Fritz addressed the subject in Spinsanity, he found no such statement by Bush. And if we can't believe Spinsanity, then what the hell can we believe?

If you are tired of arging about the use of the word "lie", why don't you just drop the argument? I'm fine with referring to deceptions, half-truths, false suggestions and exaggerations as lies.

As to not knowing their intent: phooey! Of course we know their intent. Their intent was to use half-truths, false suggestions, deceptions and exaggerations to persuade. In other words, they lied.

These excerpts are taken from a single speech the President gave on October 7th 2002, building a case for the urgency to act.

I selected a few sections or sub-sections (and not just individual single sentences), as it is hard to judge the meaning when taken out of a fuller context. Two sections are included for continuity. This obviously amounts to just a portion of the entire speech (he labels Iraq as a threat several additional times throughout).

In the numbered sections 1, 2, 3 & 7 the case is made for Iraq generally as a present threat.
In sections 4, 6, 8, & 12 the case is made for Iraq as an ongoing threat (one that exists and could continue and/or could develop).
In sections 9, 10, 11 & 14 the case is made for Iraq contributing to (or becoming) a future threat.

The other sections (5 & 13) are for context, as it didn’t make sense to have Bush elaborate on something in the next section if you don’t know what it is he is referring to.

I think the excerpts support what I said in my original post so I’m not going to repeat those comments.

*****

"Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace, and America's determination to lead the world in confronting that threat." (1)

"Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith." (2)

"We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America." (3)

"Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since we all agree on this goal, the issues is: how can we best achieve it?" (4)

"Many Americans have raised legitimate questions: about the nature of the threat; about the urgency of action -- why be concerned now; about the link between Iraq developing weapons of terror, and the wider war on terror. These are all issues we've discussed broadly and fully within my administration. And tonight, I want to share those discussions with you." (5)

"Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" (6)

"Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary; confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. When I spoke to Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network." (7)

"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." (8)

"Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon." (9)

"Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." (10)

"Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring." (11)

"After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon." (12)

"Later this week, the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." (13)

"The attacks of September the 11th showed our country that vast oceans no longer protect us from danger. Before that tragic date, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined, and whose consequences could be far more deadly. Saddam Hussein's actions have put us on notice, and there is no refuge from our responsibilities." (14)

Thanks, Howard. ISTM that most of the President's assertions were correct or reasonable. He was flat-out wrong about Saddam having chemical and biological weapons, but that wasn't a lie. It was what our spy agencies told him. Leading Dems believed the same thing. I've paraphrased each of your paragraphs and added my opinion of his comments.

P1 Bush says Iraq is "a grave threat to peace" That was a reasonable evalution. Leading Dems and the UN agreed.

P2 the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. This was widely believed to be true. Also, note that Iraq had not fulfilled its obligation to provide an accounting of the chemical weapons it possessed in 1998.

P2 Iraq possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. This was widely believed to be true.

P2 Iraq has given shelter and support to terrorism True. E.g. the large payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

P2 Iraq practices terror against its own people. True, to a horrifying degree. Facts that come out after the invasion showed that Saddam's treatment of his own people was even more horrible than had been known.

P2 "The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith." True, as was proved by the numerous Security Council resolutions.

P3 The 9/11 attacks showed that America is vulnerable even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. A wise observation. The 9/11 attacks showed that the rules had changed -- we need to be concerned with threats from anywhere in the world.

P4 "Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. True

P6 It doesn't make sense for the world to wait to confront Saddam as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons This is the argument for attacking before the Iraqi threat was imminent. I think it's dead on. We see this problem today with Iran. Once they obtain nukes we will no longer have the option of attacking them (which may or may not be a good thing).

P7 Confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror, rather than a distraction from the war on terror. This judgment remains controversial. Note that al Qaeda had not mounted an attack against the US since the Iraq war began. Also, al Qaeda is now losinug popularity in the Muslim world. OTOH in 2004 - 2007 or so, when al Qaeda was experiencing success in Iraq, that success probably helped them gain converts.

P7 Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists I believe Saddam was harboring some terrorists, but not necessarily al Qaeda. The statement is true, but arguably misleading.

P7 Saddam possess the instruments mass death and destruction. This was believed to be true at the time.

P7 The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network. IMHO, this is a key argument. In fact, I bellieve the world was lucky that Saddam didn't move ahead in this direction after the UN inspectors left in 1998.

P8 "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Since Saddam was not actually reconsituting its nuclear program, the evidence Bush quoted may have been incorrect. Or, the reasoning was incorrect.

P9 We need to confront Iraq now because our enemies would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon." This reasoning only makes sense if one believes that Iraq will make its WMDs available to al Qaeda. By using the phrase "our enemies", Bush more or less implies that Saddam and al Qaeda are united, but without providing evidence.

P10 Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." This was a cogent argument, particularly since our spy agencies had not been effective. In 1991, we discovered that Saddam's nuclear program was much further developed than we had thought.

P11 "we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring." This is a judgment, which I consider reasonable.

P12 Bush points to 11 years of non-cooperations by Saddam. His point is generally correct, although he repeats the mistaken belief that Saddam "has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon."

Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." This was proved true by the many months of delay spent trying to get UN approval before our military action finally commenced.

Before 9/11, we had only hints of al Qaeda's plans and designs. Today in Iraq, we see a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined, and whose consequences could be far more deadly. Note that Bush was comparing the threat of Saddam against the threat of al Qaeda. He didn't say they were united. However, it may be that mentioning them both in the same paragraph could have led listeners to think Bush was saying they were united.

Why can't we just focus on the problems with (b) rather than wasting more time on this pointless debate?

Because this is how most people speak. If someone repeatedly says things that turn out to be false, he's called a liar. Particularly if he's speaking about things he's expected to know. Using exaggerations, false suggestions and half-truths is actually evidence of intent to deceive.

Why can't we just focus on the problems with (b) rather than wasting more time on this pointless debate?
Because lefties too want moral clarity. Not as much as the right, of course. But there are some issues that the left wants to frame as moral --as matters of character, of right and wrong -- rather than as simply some bad decisions here and there that nevertheless arose from good or neutral motives. And "lying" is a matter of morality in a way that "exaggerations, false suggestions, and half-truths" are not.

"...the word "lie" implies an outright falsehood made with conscious intent. But (a) we can never prove intent..."

If your definition of a lie and statement (a) are both correct, then as far as we can tell nobody ever lies so we might as well drop the word from the English language. Often you seem to be a voice of reason, but in this instance you seem a bit too stuck on your "we can't tell if anyone is ever lying" position to make any sense.

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