Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When it pours

So unlike the Bush Administration's deeply plausible explanation that the Libby leak of classified information to the NY Times, was really just a case of "previewing" some information that was going to be in the public domain in a few days anyway (and for God's sake, the NYT was really acting "deeply unfair", and isn't that reason enough?), I don't think this story is going to go away.

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush
proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers
captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile
"biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months
afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war.
But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence
that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now --
had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological
weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the
president's statement.

That, is what we call a lie. Even if you are so generous as to not call it a lie, it is misleading. And even if you were so generous as to say "they weren't deliberately misleading us", you have to admit that we (the American people) were once again not provided the whole and truthful story as to this specific intelligence finding. Ezra Klein goes off the deep end and slams them.

**Update, some are chiming in that the report is really not as explosive as it seems. Taking their criticisms in stride, is anyone really going to say that when you have three teams of inspectors, one from the Pentagon, who disagree on the purpose of the labs, AS WELL AS additional informants who, in contrast to "Curveball", state the labs are for hydrogen for weather balloons, that this information supports the statement "We have found the weapons of mass destruction"? I think not. As I said above, I'll be generous and state "highly misleading". Standard administration operating procedure though. Whatever supports what you are trying to sell is presented as fact, with no context as to whether there is disagreement among experts or even within the administration. I'm not saying I need to know all of that, I'm just saying, when it exists, a statement like "We have found the weapons of mass destruction" is not warranted, its propaganda.**

Oh yeah, speaking of a good blogospheric slam, please go read this absolute trashing of Mark Steyn by Belgravia Dispatch, who now that he's back, is in fine form.


This is scandalously absurd tommyrot to the nth degree. But in some bien pensant quarters, I gather, such musings pass for high-brow "Jacksonian"-style foreign policy deep-think, and quite apart from being met with protracted guffaws and sniggers, are instead greeted with furrowed brows and hearty, if appropriately resigned, nods of agreement. Let's be more plain: if this is the future direction that some in the Republican Party plan to cheer-lead regarding security policy matters like Iran--'blow up the whole bloody place, mate, and we'll see where the chips fall later'--please count the proprieter of this humble little site out of the fiery festivities.

Truth be told, my tolerance for such devastatingly juvenile B.S. being beamed in from the still wintry outlands of New Hampshire, ostensibly for eager and ready consumption by legions of newbie foreign policy mavens spinnin'-it-steely-Steyn-style-in-the-'sphere, is growing pretty thin. But, hey, maybe that's just me. It's Munich again, see, and the times require gumption and spine and fortitude--not the cowardice of the Eastern Establishment say, or Kofi's kleptocracy granting Kojo the run of the mill, or some other bastion of weak-kneedness, one too far removed from the pure, virgin northern woods, where a man can live and breath free, and see the great challenges of the time in starker, more cogent relief.

Ouch. Can we get some props for the trash talk as well?

This is certainly not to downplay the Iran problem. It is a huge issue and unfortunately, military action can not be taken off the table. As I said before, this issue scares me more than any other issue since 9/11.


Blogger Dave Justus said...

You said, that is what we call a lie.

I presume you mean that the president knowingly told an untruth. The article provides zero evidence for that, in fact it contains evidence to the contrary.

"The technical team's findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies' public statements on the trailers. A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington -- May 28, 2003 -- the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were "confident" that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production."

Other teams disagreed with the report at the time.

I dislike the degradation of terms. Saying something that you believe to be true, but turns out to be incorrect is not a lie, it is a mistake. Making these two very different things the same is not a good practice.

There are of course good reasons to worry about mistakes, but they are different reasons that worrying about lies. What we should do about them, and how we should react to them are very different.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Katinula said...

so you are saying that him saying "we have found the weapons of mass destruction" when he knew there was no consensus on that statement isn't a lie? Presenting something as fact, that is far from fact isn't a lie? he didn't says "we have evidence that our experts are assessing and inspecting and they could potentially be what we have been looking for". No, he said "we have found".
thats hair splitting there. I believe its a lie, I was trying to be generous in saying "deliberately misleading".

2:50 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I highly doubt that Bush read the report of the dissenting team, or that he even knew that it existed.

I would imagine that he was relying on the officially released May 28 report, and other classified reports that reached the same conclusion.

You seem to think that this report would be immediately given directly to the President, something that is bizarre in the extreme. First off, the article itself states that the report that was transmitted before May 29, 2003 was a preliminary report and the final report was 3 weeks later.

Secondly, as the article stated, the controversy continued for several months even after the final report from this team was issued.

As I stated, lying is deliberately saying something you believe is untrue. There is no evidence that this happened.

On the other hand, Ambassador Wilson did in fact lie.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Katinula said...

So you are accepting the fact that the President didn't know there was serious disagreement about what these trailers were for? I find that very hard to believe. That could only be the result of someone not presenting the dissension to him. Secondly, I certainly don't give my President a pass on not being on point with every fact about those trailers, given their importance. He obviously felt they were important enough to say something like "we have found the wmd". You seem to think it improbable that the leader of the free world would ask something like "are we sure these are wmd?". If the disagreement, preliminary or not, was not presented to him, I still find it fairly narrow minded of him to not ask a few simple questions which would have revealed the dissension. That alone is stupidity. However, I truly believe he knew about the dissension and didn't care, because one side supported his view. What he said was deliberately misleading and personally, I think that is lying. Who cares if the report is preliminary..thats hair splitting. These are EXPERTs who submitted a preliminary report. You are telling me that isn't enough for him to at least wait to find out what the real purpose of the trailers are? Please, you are giving him too much of a pass on that one.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I find it extremely unprobable given the timelines that this dissent would have moved through the beauracracy to the President. Two days from filing a preliminary report to reach the President's desk? Unlikely in the extreme.

I don't know whether or not he asked the questions or not. I am sure that if he had, the people he had asked would have been equally unaware of this new dissenting opinion and answered that yes, these are WMD trailers. This sort of information takes time.

There are some interesting things to question here. I certainly expect that reports that confirmed WMD materiels made it through the beaurcracy faster than those with a less popular view. I highly doubt that this is a result of undue pressure, but more a result that people (from the President down to mid-level CIA personel) are more interested in transmitting good news rather than bad, and information that confirms one's predjudices is more likely to be accepted at face value rather than information that goes against what you already beleive.

This is something that needs to be guarded against, and there is ample reason to look into ways that this episode can help teach us how to do better.

Presuming malevolence though, accepting that the system must have 'worked' when it clearly didn't from the information we have availible (once again, May 28 CIA formal assessment) reduces our ability to constructively deal with the actual problem.

If you believe, based upon this data, that the system worked and the information got to the President in a timely manner, and that the problem was that the President chose to lie about it, I think you are engaging in the same behavior that caused the CIA this problem. You only see evidence that confirms your beliefs, and fail to see any evidence that clearly shows otherwise.

I don't assume you are purposfully lying though.

1:36 PM  

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