Wednesday, January 23, 2008

965 Varieties

You probably didn't need me to tell you that the supposedly independent study that found 965 "false statements" by Bush officials leading up to the Iraq war found no such thing.

If you scroll through the list of "False Statements" you'll see many guesses that turned out to be wrong, and many statements about possible future events that never happened.

But you'll find many like this:

Well, my message is, is that if you harbor a terrorist, you're a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist, you're a terrorist. If you develop weapons of mass destruction that you want to terrorize the world, you'll be held accountable.

That's "my message." It might be over-the-top, or illogical, but can't be "false" unless it's not, in fact, his message.

Or this:

And that can mean only one thing: It remains a dangerous regime, and it remains a regime determined to acquire these terrible weapons.

As with so many statements on the list, this is a statement about Saddam Hussein's intent with regard to dangerous weapons. And as far as I know, nobody maintains Saddam had some dramatic change of heart about them and swore never to seek them again. Instead, all the reports I have seen, including those the anti-war voices love to tout as affirming their view of the thing, state unequivocally that Saddam lusted after WMD and was going to go back to building or buying them as soon as he could worm out from under the sanctions:

Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks—but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.

Here's another statement that somehow is characterized as "false":

And our terrorists—and the threats to America not only are from the terrorist organizations that hate freedom and kill in the name of religion; our mission also includes countries which develop weapons of mass destruction, nations with a history of brutality. If they're ever able to mate up with terrorist organizations, the free world will be threatened. And this president is not going to allow regimes such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea to threaten our way of life.

It is a statement of what the president intends to do. It is a statement of potential threats. Where is the "falsehood" in it?

Or this one:

[Saddam] is to be concerned about, because we know that he continues to try to find the means to develop weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear programs, chemical programs, biological programs, that's what concerns us, and that's what the vice president was speaking of in his speech the other day.

We cannot pretend that this regime is one that can be trusted not to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is a problem that the world had better get serious about very soon.

Again, statements about Saddam's intentions, which are not in dispute.

Some statements on the list seem to be false. Assertions that "we have evidence" of this or that, where no such evidence has ever been produced, or where evidence produced turned out to be bad evidence, can be called false. But a great many -- a third to a half -- of the statements I read while skimming the list were like those above.

It doesn't matter. "Nine hundred sixty five" will join the list of numbers on the banners and signs of the anti-war protesters. Like "600,000." No doubt, too, "false statements" -- a carefully chosen phrase -- will morph into simple "lies."

Wish I could find a video clip of it, but here:

Mrs. Iselin: [at meal time] I'm sorry, hon'. Would it really make it easier for you if we settled on just one number?

Sen. John Yerkes Iselin: Yeah. Just one, real, simple number that'd be easy for me to remember.

[Mrs. Iselin watches her husband thump a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup onto his plate]

Sen. John Yerkes Iselin: [addressing the Senate] There are exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Department of Defense at this time!

UPDATE: As predicted.

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