Little Green Footballs

Friday, November 25, 2005

The power of three

The horror and the carnage continues. Is this the 'noble cause'?

As the war in Iraq drags on, less and less attention is being payed to the daily carnage there.

In addition to the hundreds of Iraqis dying every week, an average of three American troops are dying every day there. In the first 24 days of this month, 75 GIs have lost their lives.
Also the Daou Report also has this excellent piece. THE STRAW MEN OF IRAQ: Ten Pro-War Fallacies.

Friday's hastily staged congressional vote on withdrawal from Iraq may have been designed to embarrass John Murtha, but the raucous session offered valuable insight into the various rationales for war and the tactics used to attack Democrats who oppose Bush's Iraq policy. A parade of House Republicans went after the Dems and laid out a surprisingly weak case for the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq. Here, in my view, are ten of the leading pro-war fallacies...


The typical framing is: "Democrats got the same intelligence and reached the same conclusion, so blaming Bush for misleading America is purely political." The argument is also presented in 'gotcha' form by people like Sean Hannity, who use a lengthy blind quote about the threat posed by Saddam that turns out to be from Bill Clinton, John Kerry or some other Democrat. The conclusion is that if Bush was lying, they must have been lying too.

There is a false assumption underlying this argument, namely that Dems received the same intel as Bush (they didn't), but setting that aside, here are two reasons why this is a straw man:

a) The issue is not whether people believed Saddam had WMD (many did), or whether there was any evidence that he had WMD (there was), it's the fact that Bush and his administration made an absolute, unconditional case with the evidence at hand, brooking no dissent and dismissing doubters inside and outside the government as cowardly or treasonous. That's what "manipulating the intelligence" and "misleading the public" refers to, the knowing exaggeration of the case for war (whether by cherry-picking intel or using defunct intel or by speaking about ambiguous intel in alarming absolutes). As I wrote in this post: "There we were, more than a decade after the first gulf war, two years after 9/11, and Saddam hadn’t attacked us, he hadn’t threatened to attack us. And then suddenly, he was the biggest threat to America. A threat that required a massive invasion. A bigger threat than Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Bin Laden. A HUGE, IMMEDIATE threat. It simply defied belief."

b) In addition to the fear-mongering described above, the contention that Bush 'misled' the public is not simply about Saddam's WMD, but about the way the administration stormed ahead with their plans and invaded Iraq in the way they did, at the time they did, with the Pollyannaish visions they fed the world, all the while demonizing dissent and smearing their critics.

In both (a) and (b), the crux of the issue is proportionality. Whether or not Bill Clinton or France or the U.N. believed Saddam was a threat, the administration's apocalyptic words and drastic actions (preemptively invading a sovereign nation) were decidedly out of proportion to the level and immediacy of the threat. THAT is the issue.
Please, read it all.

No comments: