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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 18 June 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Sunny optimism or early onset Alzheimer's - We report and you decide...

The big story of the week turns out to be more of the same.

Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11
Philip Shenon and Christopher Marquis, The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 16 - The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. ...


The president says there is a link, sort of, really. The vice president says there is, and attacks the Times as irresponsible. The Times editorializes that Bush and Cheney should apologize. Bush and Cheney say the Times should apologize.

To be clear, the commission's report does not, really, have anything to do with whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq. That wasn't what they were up to. And is there a contradiction? It is not true that these findings really do contradict what Bush and Cheney said, literally, about Al Qaeda and Iraq. And Bush is carefully saying that he does NOT dispute the findings of the commission.

The problem is with what is said literally, and what is implied.

On his Thursday broadcast Jon Stewart on his satiric "newscast" The Daily Show did run the clip of Bush saying, "You can't distinguish between Iraq and Al Qaeda when you're talking about the War on Terror." And Stewart made great fun of that.

But Bush was speaking of the big picture, the moral "good and evil" overview, not the details. The idea is Saddam Hussein did not, of course, have anything to do with the four hijacked airplanes and that whole really bad day almost three years ago. But he was still bad. He was, sort of, one of THEM. Sort of. "We never said that Saddam specifically...."

You get the idea.

You might glance at this comment -
Live by Syntax, Die by Syntax.

I wish there were a pithy, catchy way to say it, because it's important: George W. Bush and his administration used certain rhetorical and syntactical techniques to convince Americans that a war against Saddam was connected to 9-11, and they do not have the right to complain now when those same techniques imply that they are lying, manipulative bastards.

... The folks in this administration were careful in the way they constructed their talking points prior to the war. I've always thought that each mention of Iraq in relation to the WoT was vetted in anticipation of a situation like this week's.

... The evidence of their intent is in the result of their efforts: a majority of Americans have believed that Saddam had something to do with 9-11.

Well, not only did he not have anything to do with 9-11, he really had very little to do with Al Qaeda beyond a meeting here, or an overture there. But now, suddenly, Bushco wants to go back and parse their sentences and say, "see? see? We didn't really say that."

Well, shut up. You made the rules, and if you're getting your asses kicked now, it's your own damn fault.
Well, the situation is a little awkward. Perhaps we should have listened more carefully.

There were connections, a few meetings and such, and Iraq never really did anything for Al Qaeda in the end, but, but, they MIGHT have.

Matthew Yglesias offers some thoughts, and an interesting theory to the mix:
On the one hand, the administration, in the past, suggested that Iraq was behind 9-11. Currently, they aren't doing that, but they are "overstat[ing]" the extent of Saddam/Qaeda links and keeping stories alive "long after others in the government thought [them] discredited." The result of all this is "to keep alive in the minds of many Americans a link between Iraq and the attacks" which... was put there by the administration in the first place.

The administration, in other words, is trying to mislead people into ignoring the difference between being responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and not being responsible for those deaths. The administration's accusers, by contrast, are trying to mislead people into ignoring the distinction between misleading the public about this (after lying to them), and lying to the public. On what planet is the latter "almost" as irresponsible as the former? One is a question of life and death -- war and peace -- and the other is semantic hair-splitting.
Oh man, that just makes my head hurt.

And Yglesias knows he's being unclear - and links to David Adesnik saying something much simpler:
David Adesnik remarks that my throry that the administration's weirdly nonsensical discourse on the Iraq/Qaeda connection is designed to mislead people while protecting them from elite media criticism that it has not, in fact, protected them from such criticism. Rather, his "best guess is that Bush himself (along with Cheney) is deeply in denial. It's the same phenomenon we saw with Reagan. When you believe in something with all your heart and then stake your reputation on it, letting go is the hardest thing to do."
Yep, that's right.

And if Bush wants to be associated with the dead Reagan, he should remind people he's as good at denying reality as the Gipper ever was. Folks find that comforting. You stay the course, in spite of everything. Sunny optimism or early onset Alzheimer's. Whatever.

It was Ronald Reagan who famously said, "Facts are stupid things." He said that in 1988, and probably was confusing it with - "Facts are stubborn things." But who needs details? You get the gereral idea. Sort of.

So, it comes down to who are you going to trust? As the old Groucho Marx line goes, "Who are you going to trust - me or your own eyes?"

Posted by Alan at 12:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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