Saturday, March 13, 2004

Boy Am I Tired Of People Calling People Liars

In the comment thread to this Ara Rubyan post I try to persuade shep to stop calling Bush a liar. I contend that he can't prove it and argue against his points. Next I'll have to find someone (hopefully someone as reasonable as shep) who's calling Kerry a liar and try to persuade him to stop. My last two comments follow.

Thank you for indulging me while my thoughts gel. My biggest problem with your argument is that it appears to be a recycled ad hominem attack from the Iraq debate. Instead of arguing that the war is wrong or the strategy is poor, argue that the Administration is lying. Like all such attacks, it is not precision guided. If your argument was true, since I support the war, I must either be a liar or a dope. Not just me, but folks I admire, like Den Beste and Hanson. I don't think I'm reacting to an attack on Bush's support of the war. I'm reacting to an attack on mine.

It's too bad really, since your argument can be transformed (with considerable work) into an argument that Bush was mistaken when he took us into Iraq. This can in no way be misconstrued as ad hominem. Your difficulty is that the strategy appears to have produced good results already.

Your first point seems to boil down to complaining that the Administration did a poor job of explaining a complex situation to the public. This is not a lie and given human nature I can't see the solution. The problem at its root is that the public has other things they want to do rather than examine complex national security issues. Some are good, like child raising, others less good, like obsessing about the Scott Peterson case. Most people are quite content to leave complex issues such as this to their elected representatives. I, for example, have been happy to leave the complexities of agricultural policy up to our government.

Are you contending that our Republic no longer functions? Was Congress fooled? Did their staff gather all the publicly available information and analysis such as the stuff I read? Was information withheld from their staff? Did the Congressmen and Senators properly examine the information their staff supplied? I'm afraid that your attack has even less precision than you might desire. It also paints all those Democrats which voted for the Resolution as either liars, dopes or cravenly afraid of contrary public opinion, when it was their plain duty to evaluate this serious national security matter on its merits, not on poll results.

Your second point appears to be that the Administration improperly linked Saddam and Al Qaeda. But the Administration was careful not to overstate their evidence. And the relationship did exist, as postwar evidence shows. We went round and round about this on Dean's World. Don't forget the press speculation on the subject. I've never seen an Administration claim that Saddam was involved in 9/11, and you've certainly not quoted one. The Washington Post did find this:
A number of nongovernment officials close to the Bush administration have made the link more directly. Richard N. Perle, who until recently was chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, long argued that there was Iraqi involvement, calling the evidence "overwhelming."
But you can't blame the Administration for anything Richard Perle says. This point is merely an unsubstantiated suspicion on your part because of these poll results. Here's the Post Story interpreting the results. Note this:
Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University professor of linguistics who has studied Bush's rhetoric, said it is impossible to know but "plausible" that Bush's words furthered such public impressions. "Clearly, he's using language to imply a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11th," she said.

"There is a specific manipulation of language here to imply a connection." Bush, she said, seems to imply that in Iraq "we have gone to war with the terrorists who attacked us."

Tannen said even a gentle implication would be enough to reinforce Americans' feelings about Hussein. "If we like the conclusion, we're much less critical of the logic," she said.
I'm sorry, but a gentle implication does not rise to the serious level at which you are accusing Bush.

Your third argument was that the Administration exaggerated the dangers. This is clearly a difference of opinion on the face of it. Of course someone who did not support the war would make this claim. This isn't even deception.

Your fourth argument was that the administration was already committed to invade and just looking for the most marketable rationale. I'm afraid I did not state my objection to this strongly enough. I believe that overthrowing Saddam by force was excellent strategy against terror on September 10, 2001. And on the ninth. And on the eighth. And on every day back to the end of Gulf War I. The 9/11 attacks made this clear. Prior to 9/11 we thought of the Arab people as if they were just like us. 9/11 made clear that their culture was profoundly different. Failure to remove Saddam weakened us in their eyes. If the Administration had a good idea, and a new event occurs which makes it apparent that the idea was even better than they thought, it is their responsibility to LEAD us. What you are complaining about is a virtue, not a flaw.

Your fifth point (this time I can count) was that they were insincere in their presentations and commitments to Congress and the UN and “spun” the public over the rationale for war. I'm sorry, but "insincerity" and "spun" are too vague for me to really credit this argument as valid, not to mention the mind reading aspect.

I suspect that we have both dug our heels in on this one and will not move. You don't have a smoking gun. I can't prove a negative. We can go on to other topics if you like, unless you've got new evidence.

Oh, and shep, perhaps we should both swear off examining each other's mental state. We aren't very good at it.