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February 8, 2004 - Revisionist Logic to Make Us Feel Good (and Noble)

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Follow the logic here. 

Powell Says Invasion Justified by Iraqi 'Intent'
Tuesday Feb 3, 4:28 PM ET


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Regardless of whether Iraq had stockpiles of banned weapons, Washington would probably have decided to invade Iraq anyway because of its "intent" and its weapons-making ability, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Tuesday. 

"I think it was clear that this was a regime with intent, capability and it was a risk the president felt strongly we could not take and it was something we all agreed to and would probably agree to it again under any other set of circumstances," Powell told reporters....


Got the concept? 

The Bush Doctrine, current release (3.0) summarized:

Preemptive invasion and occupation of nuclear-armed - oops, well not exactly - dangerously armed - oops, well, sort of - well then... pretty much unarmed third world countries that "would love to" attack the US immediately - oops, doesn't seem to be so well...  "soon" [user defined term] - with nuclear weapons, or with biological weapons, or with chemical weapons of mass destruction - if only they were armed.  

As one blogger put it -


There you have it.  It didn't matter whether Iraq posed a threat or not.  Bush still would've invaded because Iraq wanted to be a threat. 

So every classroom nerd deserves to be beaten by the bully, because those nerds all fantasize about besting the bully.  (I know - I was a classroom nerd.)


Logical?  Maybe not. 

Well, folks buy it.  The swarthy folks scare them - which may sound racist, or more charitably, ethnocentric - but nine-eleven changed everything.  And most folks know logic is something odd used by east coast Jewish liberal intellectuals to make George Bush look bad - when he's really a good guy who is selflessly protecting us all.  Think Gary Cooper in High Noon.

Consider Iraq.  No weapons of mass destruction and no connection to al-Qaeda and nine-eleven.  Even Bush and Rumsfeld say so now. 


But they probably wanted to be a threat.  What would you do, logically?  Whoop their sorry asses.  Of course. 


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clarifies Saturday, 7 February, speaking in Munich, Germany.


"I know in my heart and my brain that America ain't what's wrong in the world," he told an audience of defense and foreign policy luminaries here that included some the fiercest European opponents of the war.


Rumsfeld spoke shortly after German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the same audience that events in Iraq had proven Germany's anti-war position to be right.


Well, some things one just knows, I suppose.  You just know.  In spite of those pesky "events in Iraq."  Events, it seems, can be misleading.


"If someone is going to throw a snowball, you may not want to have a preemptive attack," he said. "You can afford to take the blow, and live with it and do something after the fact."


"As you go upscale from snowball to weapons of mass destruction, at some point where the risk gets high enough it's not going to be a snowball in your face," he said.


"It could be a biological weapon that is going to kill tens of thousands of human beings. Then you have to ask yourself if you have an obligation to take the blow and do something afterwards."


So why is everyone using the schoolyard comparisons now - bullies and snowball fights?  Oh heck, boys will be boys.


But the logic is clear.  A really bad thing could have happened, maybe, and when you can't be sure there's a horrible threat, you'd better assume there is a horrible threat - and open a can of whoop ass.  And if you're wrong and there wasn't a threat?  Well, sorry about all the death and stuff, but there might have been a threat.  And we were just doing our job - making the world a safe place.


Right.  Got it.


Rumsfeld also did acknowledge that the US image in the world had been hurt by all this - but he blamed it on media coverage, which he called "shocking, absolutely shocking."


Best not report our miscalculations and little exaggerations.  It makes us look bad.  And the BBC knows this now, what with the resignations there this last week.  They know now what to report and what not to report.


But the most curious logic this week had to do with Bush finally giving in and agreeing to form a commission to investigate "intelligence failures."  He wants to get the facts.  After he told us he had the facts.  And war was the only choice - given these facts. 

We knew the weapons of mass destruction were there.  We proved that to the UN - with visual aids and everything - way back when.  Uncle Colin said we knew the facts.  And the damned French said let the inspections continue - Iraq is contained.  In spite of these "facts" we showed them!  

The week Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld testified to Congress, and explained that David Kay, the weapons expert handpicked by the president to spend months in Iraq along with a team of fellow weapons experts searching for weapons of mass destruction, got it wrong.  There WERE weapons of mass destruction.  And according to Rumsfeld, the weapons were probably transferred to another country or else destroyed before the war. 

How does he know this?  Why would Kay and his team have gotten it wrong?  If Saddam had weapons, why didn't he use them?  Donald doesn't know.  But he's sure they were there.  Kay was wrong.  Powell was being silly. 

He's not following the script!   He's still using the beta release of the Bush Doctrine!  

He needs to remember that it doesn't MATTER if they were there, only that Saddam Hussein WANTED them to be there. 


But no one has found them.  And Rumsfeld said we would.  He said we KNEW where they were. 


Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and other Democrats on the committee reminded Rumsfeld that in September 2002 he said "we know" where weapons of mass destruction are stored in Iraq. 

Explaining that remark, Rumsfeld told the panel that he was referring to suspected weapons sites, but he acknowledged that he had made it sound like he was talking about actual weapons. 

The remark "probably turned out not to be what one would have preferred, in retrospect," he said. 


An unfortunate choice of words, but innocent.  I see. 

Explain that loose wording to the five hundred thirty dead soldiers, Donald.  No, they're dead.  Explain that loose wording to their families.  Explain that loose wording to their friends. 

Oops, getting a little bitter there...  One should be generous. 

It might occur to someone ungenerous that the gap between "we know where weapons of mass destruction are stored" and "we know where we suspect weapons of mass destruction are stored" is rather large. 

But does it matter?  Powell explained the new line of reasoning - Saddam "wished he had" the weapons.  Good enough.  Good enough for some perhaps.  Maybe for most.

Let's see...

If you were an ungenerous person you might consider that making it sounds like you were talking about weapons when you were not, in fact, talking about weapons comes awfully close to lying to congress and the American people and the rest of the world, particularly to haughty French diplomats. 

But one should trust one's leaders, and they wouldn't lie to congress, or to us. 

Okay.  Enough sarcasm. 

We'll see how this plays out. 


But this does strain one's patience. 

In short, we got rid of a guy that really, really wanted to have weapons of mass destruction, and we're told that this made him dangerous. 


I really, really want a Ferrari.  Does that make me rich? 

And we are now told we didn't have the actual "facts" about what he had. 


But most of us foolishly thought we had been told that we did have the facts, when we really should have understood Powell's presentation at the UN was about facts that might have been facts - and if so made Saddam Hussein really dangerous.  We couldn't wait.  War was necessary. 

Fine.  Do we keep these guys in power come November, or will our brains explode? 

From his exile in eastern France my grumpy American friend adds this:


And if we had any ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had any eggs...

The task of getting rid of those bozos is really quite simple, we just have to find a way to make voters of those literally millions of people who already hate Bush's guts, but don't vote.  That's a much simpler problem that trying to debunk and deprogram.  And television ads won't do the trick. 

Republicans are terrified that minorities might become interested in politics.  The more sensible position is to be terrified that they might not.


I'm not sure there is a giant bloc of previously non-voting, silent, minority folks ready to throw the bums out.  Yes, if Karl Rove thought this, he'd be worried.  And if they existed, the Democrats would be foolish to ignore them, and terrified they had overlooked that resource. 

But that's a little hypothetical for me. 

On the other hand, to save our heads from exploding from the pressure of being forced, weekly, to rethink the logic of why we're in Iraq - and to reconsider what it means that our reason for being there is a bit vague, and becoming more and more vague by the day - we could elect a new team to run the country. 

Could we? 

Here's what I see folks saying this week

Plutocrats And Populists
Harold Meyerson, The Washington Post, Thursday, February 5, 2004; Page A21

At the core of what Meyerson says is this - Bush could be tossed out.  But it wouldn't be because of war.  It's the economy.  It's the opressed masses rising up against the rich. 


Given the choice between serving the national interest and favoring the rich, George W. Bush has opted incessantly, even obsessively, for the latter. 

That is the main reason why he may well be unseated in November.  If Bush tax policies are not class warfare, then the term has no meaning at all.  Moreover, in the age of globalization, the interests of many US-based corporations grow increasingly divergent from those of the American people. 

It's not that these corporations have not resumed hiring, but much of that hiring takes place abroad.  A new survey in the Financial Times of the 100 largest American companies notes that they paid 30. 6 percent of their 2003 income in taxes, down from 33 percent in 2002 - a change that the Times attributes to their increasing share of economic activity overseas.  The administration's response to the challenge of "outsourcing" has been to slash taxes on investment, even as investment in corporations has less and less to do with creating jobs here at home. 

What the Democrats' neo-populists are taking aim at isn't business as such, of course, but policies that reward outsourcing and do nothing to foster employment in the States.  "This has nothing to do with class warfare," Kerry told supporters in St.  Louis last week.  "There are great companies and great CEOs throughout America, and I don't want us to be a Democratic Party that loves jobs and hates the people who create them."


Okay.  Set the war aside.  Forget about where those tons of nerve gas and antrax and whatever else may be.  Or if they even "be" - so to speak.  We could change things because of the economy. 

Maybe so. 

What should the Democratic opposition do? 

Be pragmatic. 

But that has its limitations.  And the Democratic Party is a mess. 

Michael Kinsley nailed that this week in Slate - and the column appeared in the Washington Post the next day. 

See The Pragmatists' Primary
Desperately seeking electability. 
Michael Kinsley - Posted Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004, at 12:26 PM PT  SLATE.COM

He starts out nasty:


Democrats are cute when they're being pragmatic.  They furrow their brows and try to think like Republicans.  Or as they imagine Republicans must think.  They turn off their hearts and listen for signals from their brains.  No swooning is allowed this presidential primary season.  "I only care about one thing," they all say.  "Which of these guys can beat Bush? " Secretly, they believe none of them can, which makes the amateur pragmatism especially poignant. 

Nevertheless, Democrats persevere.  They ricochet from candidate to candidate, hoping to smell a winner.  In effect, they give their proxy to the other party.  "If I was a Republican," they ask themselves, "which of these Democratic candidates would I be most likely to vote for?" And by the time this is all over, most of the serious contenders will have been crowned the practical choice for at least a moment.  First it was Lieberman the Centrist.  "I'm actually for Dennis Kucinich," a Democrat might say, "because I like his position on nationalizing all the churches.  But I'm supporting Joe Lieberman.  His views on nearly everything are repellent to me, and I think that's a good sign."

Then the General entered the race.  And I don't mean General Anesthesia.  A man in uniform, Democrats thought.  People like that sort of thing, don't they?  And yet he's a Democrat.  Or at least he plays one on TV.  True, on most issues he has either no known position or two contradictory positions.  But he says he can requisition those missing parts.  And he's a General.  Talk about pragmatic!   But when the General traded in his uniform for a fuzzy sweater, he suddenly looked less General-like than Al Sharpton. 

Some Democrats cheated and looked into their hearts, where they found Howard Dean.  But he was so appealing that he scared them.  This is no moment to vote for a guy just because he inspires you, they thought.  If he inspires me, there must be something wrong with him.  So, Democrats looked around and rediscovered John Kerry.  He'd been there all along, inspiring almost no one.  You're not going to find John Kerry inspiring unless you're married to him or he literally saved your life.  Obviously neither of those is a strategy that can be rolled out on a national level.  But he's got the résumé.  And gosh, he sure looks like a president (an "animatronic Lincoln," as my Slate colleague Mickey Kaus uncharitably described him). 

So, it's a deal?  Probably, but just to be completely businesslike, Democrats are taking the opportunity to check out John Edwards.  He certainly is good-looking, though maybe not in a presidential way.  He lacks the uniform, but he has a Southern accent, which is almost as good if you're trying to seduce those non-liberals.  Aspiring pragmatists also have noted recent press reports that Edwards has a stunning ability to sway an audience.  I'm not looking to be swayed myself, our Democrat thinks.  No need to sway me this year; my views don't matter, even to me.  But swaying the heathenry would be good. 

And Edwards is a first-term senator who never held office before.  Thus he offers almost no experience, which is just the right amount.  No political experience at all makes you look silly running for president, as Wesley Clark is discovering.  But experience is also a disadvantage in American politics.  All politicians, including incumbent presidents, campaign against Washington insiders and the political establishment.  But it's a bit more convincing if you're a relative newcomer.  Also, experience means a record of past votes and speeches.  This limits your ability to invent yourself for the needs of today.  As Kerry is discovering, even the most uninteresting two decades in the Senate can provide rich material simultaneously for Bush operatives trying to convince voters that you are a dangerous liberal and for primary opponents trying to convince voters that you are not one. 

As each candidate takes his turn in the pragmatists' spotlight, he gets beaten up a bit, irritates supporters of the other candidates, and gives the Bush troops a chance for some early target practice. 

If political pragmatism is defined as thinking like a Republican, it's no surprise that Republicans do it better. 


That hits the nail on the head.  The whole thing is a great read, if somewhat depressing for any Democrat. 

His conclusion is that the Democrats are intent on figuring out what other people want.  Republicans know what they want. 

As for me, I just want my head NOT to explode from trying to figure out what I'm supposed to think is the reason my friends and relatives are over in Iraq now. 

I did listen to George Tenet this week give a speech in which he said the CIA never really said Iraq was an imminent threat, but that they sort of were, really.  Depending on how you look at it. 

All this is most disorienting, but I guess that's the idea.  They win. 

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The Evolving Consensus View for Perplexed Americans


David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale University and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard.  That publication is often called "The Bible of the Neoconservative Movement" - what with Kristol and Kagan and the rest pretty much explaining the Cheney-Wolfowitz vision, which Bush fronts when he's not napping.  The Weekly Standard is our guide to why things are as they are, and as they should be. 

Gelernter lays out the latest version of the Bush Doctrine (version 3.5 by now) and we need to get behind this one, or at least understand it.  We put these guys in office - so we are accountable for this doctrine.  We own it. 

In a syndicated column that I caught in the Los Angeles Times but is probably available elsewhere, Gelernter explains it all to us. 

See The Happy Error: It took phantom WMD to rid the world of a great evil.  
David Gelernter, The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 08, 2004

Here's the opening, the set-up:


Thank God for those phantom Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.  Politically, they are a nonissue.  Morally, they are an amazing piece of luck.  Strategically, they are a guide to the future.  The missing WMD were not merely an honest mistake; they were a providential mistake. 

Saddam Hussein was the slaughterer of his own people, benefactor of Palestinian terrorism, enemy of the United States.  But political realities here and abroad meant that all we could do was draw a bead on the man and tell him, in effect: Make our day.  And he was so stupid, he did. 

When do the informal, uncodified rules of international politics allow a foreign nation to invade, occupy and rebuild a monstrous tyranny?  How does a dictator qualify for mandatory relocation?  Not merely by unspeakable savagery to his own people.  Not even by posing a threat to the prospective invader.  He must be seen to pose a threat.


This of course is followed by a long history of recent events, indicating how threatening things seemed.  This was not a view shared by any major governments but those of the UK and Australia, and not the view of the UN, nor of the UN weapons inspectors like Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, two guys we pretty much labeled blind, incompetent fools. 

Not important - all these folks were looking at the meager facts, not a how things seemed. 

Yeah, yeah.  So what does all this mean in term of future policy?

Here 'tis ...


What happens now?  We institutionalize the phantom-WMD maneuver.  It was all a mistake, but it worked beautifully. 

The end of the Cold War brought big changes to the moral universe.  Any nation has a duty to alleviate suffering.  Any totalitarian dictatorship is a threat to world stability and therefore to the United States.  Yet the Hippocratic Oath applies: If forcibly removing a tyrant generates more net suffering than leaving him, leave him. 

The end of the Cold War greatly expanded our scope of action and, therefore, our moral obligations.  How do we react to our new, expanded duties?  Today there are lots of tyrannized nations we could liberate without provoking world war.  But we can't march into them all, all at once.  What procedure do we follow?

The Bush method.  We publish an official list of tyrants we consider it our moral duty to overthrow
.  The implied next sentence is obvious: Give us an excuse and we'll do it.  Play games with the UN; show us your true colors.  Meanwhile, we might pray for the strange, accidental wisdom to make another providential mistake.


You get the idea.  We have the moral duty to overthrow selected governments.  And we really don't need facts about any threat.  And this is how you get things done in the world - how you make things better. 

Look for this in the upcoming campaign.