Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fool Me Once, Shame On Me...

Fool me 935 times, shame on...

935, according to the following study by the Center for Public Integrity, is the number of false statements that member of the Bush Administration, including the President himself, made in the lead up to the war in Iraq. 935 lies. Enough to dupe the "other" Americans (not me, I am proud, sadly, to say).

The study points out that

[o]n at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials [Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld], along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both.

To the administration's credit, as pointed out in a comedy sketch on today's Randi Rhodes Show, none of the lies were about sex.

5 comments:

Tom said...

Sir Fab,

I just discovered your blog(I was led here by your comments on the Curdmudgeon). Good stuff.

One question about this entry, though. First, let me say that I'm no fan of President Bush and I think even less of Cheney, Wolfowitz, and the NeoCon crowd who were so keen on the Iraqi war.

With that caveat, I'm still not convinced that there were 900+ lies even if there were that many falsehoods. Here's what I think went on--please tell me where you disagree.

I think that Bush et. al. were just *sure* that Hussein had WMD. In fairness, it wasn't just the the Repubs, the Democrats thought he had them too. And why not? He clearly had them when he used them against the Kurds in 1988. And his cooperation with U.N. inspectors was spotty at best. In short, we knew he once had them, he was under a great deal of pressure 15 years to get rid of them, and he was always publicly defiant. That he had quietly destroyed them seemed incredible.

Bush et. al. reasoned (albeit implicitly) that since they *knew* SH had WMD, any evidence to the contrary was misleading evidence. So they ignored or misrepresented such evidence. (Clearly, there were lies about evidence.) And they pressured the intelligence community to tell them what they wanted to hear. I am in no way condoning any of this. The decision to go to war is so important, it is inexcusable to not search objectively for the facts of the matter, examine every bit of evidence carefully, and reconsider your position in light of it.

Again, I'm not trying to defend Bush's decision to go to war. It was made because he arrogantly thought he knew things he didn't know and because he refused to look seriously into the possibility that he was wrong. But I've not seen any evidence that Bush believed that SH did not have WMD, so I don't think he was lying when he said that. Wrong? Yes. Culpably wrong? Yes. Lying? I don't see it.

I'd be very interested to hear your take on this.

Again, great blog and I really appreciate your comments on the the Curmudgeon page.

Sirfab said...

Thanks, Tom, for your kind comments.

As to the issue that you raise: you are choosing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, and that is a fairly common position. No one, even opponents of the president, want to believe that the president lied. In fact the scenario you depict seems plausible, and many endorse it: it is not the the president lied, it is just that he lacked good judgment.

Beside opening up a philosophical discussion on which of these two faults, lying or lacking judgment, is the worse, I am still loath to giving president Bush the benefit of the doubt. I still remember the way the president and the administration initially tried to sell the war in Iraq to the American public by fabricating a nonexistent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

You make a point that I have heard before:

"Bush et. al. reasoned (albeit implicitly) that since they *knew* SH had WMD, any evidence to the contrary was misleading evidence. So they ignored or misrepresented such evidence. (Clearly, there were lies about evidence.) And they pressured the intelligence community to tell them what they wanted to hear."

That may be. But if you make any statements that fly in the face of the evidence that you have been given and paint such statements as the truth, instead of as reasonable guesses, are you not in fact lying? The lies were then born out of necessity, because no one would have supported the war in Iraq without compelling evidence that Iraq possessed WMD. Bending the facts to fit the pretext for war is deceitful at best or criminal in a worst case scenario.

As for the study by the Center for Public Integrity, one would have to analyze each of the 935 false reperted therein to determine whether we are dealing with flat out lies or misjudgements. Regardless, there is a pattern in this administration of dishonesty, whether on Iraq or other subjects. Here are a few examples of the Bush administration's propensity to play fast and loose with the facts.

Top 30 Bush Iraq Lies (from March 10, 2003, before the start of the war)

"Dick Cheney, June 16, 2006 (on level of violence in post-war Iraq)

Claim vs. Fact (Rice's Q&A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission)

I don't think anybody... (President Bush on Katrina)

I know these four examples do not directly address the Center for Public Integrity report (the first link does), but I think they point to the fact that this administration cannot be trusted to give an accurate and honest account of facts, regardless of the topic. So, does the Bush administration deserve the benefit of the doubt? I say they have lost the right to it.

Tom said...

Fab,

Thanks for the detailed, thoughtful response. You *almost* have me convinced. (-:

But one of the things you said doesn't strike me as quite right:

"But if you make any statements that fly in the face of the evidence that you have been given and paint such statements as the truth, instead of as reasonable guesses, are you not in fact lying?"

Maybe there is no big moral difference between lying and whatever exactly it is that you describe, but your description doesn't really sound like lying to me. I think that people can be really pig-headed, and can sincerely reject out of hand evidence that they really should take seriously. That is to say, that might sincerely, even earnestly, assert something that they really ought to know is false. When people do this, they are certainly not being rational, but it seems to me almost as clear that they aren't lying--even if they are doing something at least as bad.

Sirfab said...

Perhaps your defense of pigheadedness has a point. Which begs the question: would you rather your president be a competent liar or an obstinate dummy? I fear Bush is the worst of both worlds. He is incompetent, he is stubborn, and--as evidenced most clearly by his lie about Katrina--he is not above lying to save his butt. (I don't think anyone could have anticipated a breach of the levees, when in fact there is a videotape of him being briefed about the very possibility of the levees being topped, two days before Katrina hit. That is not the only lie he has been caught telling, but it is one of the most obscene.) You can probably tell I don't like the guy, but he really has very little going for him on close examination.

Sirfab said...

One more important link on this subject.

Fixing to Fix "Fixed".

In this case, giving the Bush administration the benefit on Iraq brought us some benefit!

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