Dishonest mistakes

by Henry on November 21, 2005

The Economist’s Lexington starts an article (behind paywall) on whether Bush lied with a piece of self-justificatory hackishness.

The Democrats risk painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly) or buffoons (too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered). They also risk exacerbating their biggest weakness—their reputation for being soft on terrorism and feeble on national security. So who is getting the best of the argument? Mr Bush starts with one big advantage: the charge that he knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction seems to be a farrago of nonsense. Nobody has yet produced any solid evidence for this. Sure, Mr Bush made mistakes, but they seem to have been honest ones made for defensible reasons. He genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—as did most of the world’s security services. And he was not alone in thinking that, after September 11th, America should never again err on the side of complacency. More than 100 Democrats in Congress voted to authorise the war. But being right and being seen to be right are different things. Mr Bush may not have consciously lied, but, egged on by Mr Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he made dreadful miscalculations.

The issue, as the Economist’s journalists know bloody well, isn’t whether the Bush administration believed at one point that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It’s whether or not the Bush administration mendaciously manipulated intelligence to make the public case for their beliefs. The critics mentioned in the piece aren’t making “the charge that [Bush] knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.” I’m not aware of anyone apart from a few crackpots who are. They’re making the case that the Republican administration deliberately suppressed information that didn’t support its case, and presented highly dubious information as providing a slam-dunk case for imminent war. In other words, the administration stitched up a regime that turned out not actually to have weapons of mass destruction, let alone an active nuclear programme, through spin, lies and use of ‘evidence’ that they knew at the time to be dubious. I’d like to see Lexington explain exactly how the claims of al-Qaeda links, the aluminium tubes presentation, the yellowcake claims and so on were “honest [mistakes] made for defensible reasons.” But of course he does no such thing – instead he attacks his very own, custom designed straw man in an attempt to disassociate the heap of political trouble that Bush is now in from the fact that the Bush administration undoubtedly lied in the run-up to the war. Shoddy, shoddy stuff.

{ 67 comments }

1

des von bladet 11.21.05 at 1:39 pm

The Neoliberal Veckobladet is paywalled, isn’t it? Not that I don’t trust you or anything but I happen not to subscribe.

2

Henry 11.21.05 at 1:43 pm

Yes – I should have said that in the post. Now done.

3

dsquared 11.21.05 at 1:49 pm

I love this:

The Democrats risk painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly)

The alternatives to “turning against a war when it goes badly” appear to be “turning against a war when it goes well” and “keeping on with a war that has turned badly”, so count me as an opportunist. You can replace the word “war” with the word “souffle” above to throw the point into sharper relief.

4

ponte 11.21.05 at 1:57 pm

They’re making the case that the Republican administration deliberately suppressed information that didn’t support its case, and presented highly dubious information as providing a slam-dunk case for imminent war.

I believe the proper term is “stovepiped“.

5

MaryCh 11.21.05 at 2:05 pm

So, they’ve kept betting on the horse they picked in 2000? Thanks for the update — it’s not yet time to return to The Economist for intelligent analysis. Still, I miss their starchy, clever writing.

6

abb1 11.21.05 at 2:08 pm

Yes, when a war goes badly you stick to your guns, young man. When the goin’ gets tough the tough get goin’. Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. No guts – no glory.

7

mrjauk 11.21.05 at 2:31 pm

You can replace the word “war” with the word “souffle” above to throw the point into sharper relief.

Well, I had planned on wearing my shirt all day. Can’t do that anymore, what with the new coffee stain and all. Thanks for nothin’, d^2.

8

Crackpot 11.21.05 at 2:48 pm

Why would believing (correctly, I might add) “the charge that [Bush] knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction” designate one as a “crackpot”? Just because you want to be a centrist apologist for the mainstream doesn’t make you correct, or qualified to join right-wing nutjobs when they spin any truth as crackpottery.

Yes, as Chaney loved to say, we “knew that Saddam *****had***** and ******used****** WMDs” in the early 1990s. This was true for THEN, not early 2000s. How hard is it for the average mind to wrap itself around that fact? Obviously VERY hard.

9

Rob 11.21.05 at 3:00 pm

You’ll just look like you’re turning aginst your shirt after its gone badly!

10

Taylor 11.21.05 at 3:00 pm

There is nothing ‘crackpot’ about believing that Bush knew all along that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. In fact I suspect exactly that and there is very reasonable conjecture that Mr Bush had plenty of motivation, aside from the belief that Iraq was actually a real military or terrorist threat, for going to war. Of course I cannot say with certainty that this is the case but to me it explains far more, far better than the idea that Bush actually believed that Iraq was a real threat.

11

Doug 11.21.05 at 3:05 pm

Is there a subscription option where you can just get the second half of the Economist each week? Their US coverage jumped the shark about a decade ago, the Europe stuff is distinctly iffy, and those two together cast a huge shadow on the credibility of the other front-half news. But the business section is decent, the science is a dandy collection, and the arts regularly pointed me toward things I wouldn’t have otherwise found. On balance, it’s not enough to read the thing every week, much less pay for it. But if I could get just the back of the book, I would.

12

bob mcmanus 11.21.05 at 3:05 pm

“the charge that [Bush] knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.” I’m not aware of anyone apart from a few crackpots who are.”

Yo! How could I resist? “all along” & “no weapons” are too strong, but by the time ground troops started across the desert?

1) Scott Ritter, another vice-ridden crackpot
2) Fruitless UN inspections;correction, provided with best intelligence, totally unproductive UN inspections; abrupt withdrawal of inspectors indicates a grounded fear of zero results
3) The actual execution of the attack certainly did not indicate there was a serious expectation of tactical bio-chem usage; many stories preceding the invasion detailing the woefully inadequate protective measures.

Too many people still pay attention to what sources, either on or off the record(Woodward) said…they lied.

13

Uncle Kvetch 11.21.05 at 3:14 pm

He genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—as did most of the world’s security services.

[Heavy sigh.]

Five senior officials from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball’s accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Curveball’s German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

“This was not substantial evidence,” said a senior German intelligence official. “We made clear we could not verify the things he said.”

[…]

At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball’s account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.

[…]

The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball’s case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball’s claims as a justification for war.

“We were shocked,” the official said. “Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence.”

14

Scott Lemieux 11.21.05 at 3:17 pm

And, of course, it’s worse than that. There’s a big difference between the WMDs for which there was some evidence (which posed essentially no threat to the United States), and nuclear weapons, for which there was never significant credible evidence and for which there was absoultuely no evidence as of March 2003.

15

P ONeill 11.21.05 at 3:47 pm

Perhaps it’s time to start referring to Economist articles using their actual authors, such as the Lexington column probably written by Adrian Wooldridge. They should put names to their shite.

16

roger 11.21.05 at 4:23 pm

Doesn’t one need to tie the facts, beliefs and suppressed facts and beliefs that constituted the case for war with Bush’s often repeated statement that he wanted to avoid war? It is that statement that is at the center of the lie. He didn’t wanted to avoid war. He was a dishonest broker. A man who sells you a lemon might not be able to predict all of the things that go wrong with the lemon, but – if he is dishonest — his dishonesty consists in the way he sold the thing. The way Bush sold the war was that he was longing for some peaceful alternative. The information his administration provided was intended to block any peaceful alternative.

17

Grogzwig 11.21.05 at 5:03 pm

I’d just read the article this morning, and although I agree with the word “shoddy,” I think the reason is different. The offending paragraph is there because it’s part of the Economist’s forumula: glibly criticize people who agree with you, to prove you’re analyzing things on a higher plane than the common pundits.

Because the whole article is clearly anti-Bush. For the benefit of those who don’t subscribe, Henry’s complaints all relate to one paragraph; all other paragraphs are background, or anti-Bush, containg phrases like “[Bush] made dreadful miscalculations . . . at a cost of thousands of lives . . . preconceived ideas that skewed his handling of the intelligence . . . This is a disaster for Mr. Bush.”

18

Henry 11.21.05 at 5:35 pm

p oneill – in the first draft of the post I mentioned that I suspected that Lexington was written by Wooldridge or the equally hacktacular Micklethwaite. But not having any evidence the one way or the other, I forebore.

19

bob mcmanus 11.21.05 at 5:45 pm

“the WMDs for which there was some evidence”

Cite? :) Just kidding.

The “everybody else says” evidence is trivially easy to explain. If you are an analyst in London, the cost/benefit difference in career risk between saying:”Saddam might have some WMD.” and “Saddam has none” was overwhelming and irresistable.

1) If action is taken on “none”, and the analyst is wrong, soldiers dead and reputation and career shattered.
2) Saying “none” while all around you are saying “maybe some” will not lead to friendships and promotions. Even after investigation, your colleagues are proven fools, and will not give you the big party for proving them wrong.
3) OTOH, saying “maybe some” and being proven wrong has not destroyed any careers, cause heck, everybody else agreed with you.

So data had probably been “stovepiped” for years preceding the invasion, in order to support the safe consensus.

And Henry, before you use the word “crackpot” you really should provide supporting factual evidence that a) there were WMD, and/or b) that Bush/Cheney believed there were WMD. As I said, statements on or off the record are worthless. Throw Woodward into the wastebasket.

20

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.21.05 at 6:19 pm

“The issue, as the Economist’s journalists know bloody well, isn’t whether the Bush administration believed at one point that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It’s whether or not the Bush administration mendaciously manipulated intelligence to make the public case for their beliefs.”

You want to tie that to the article right? So did Bush mislead the Democrats who voted for the war authorization? They have to choose between “painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly) or buffoons (too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered). They also risk exacerbating their biggest weakness—their reputation for being soft on terrorism and feeble on national security.” I presume you are aware there have always been Democrats looking at intelligence on the US Senate Committee on Intelligence. They especially are stuck in the tough position described by the article. Describing the political complexities of a situation aren’t the same as endorsing its present situation. I would think after all the difficulty talking about the Israel/Palestine issue we would know that around here.

21

Don Quijote 11.21.05 at 6:54 pm

That’s what happens when the supreme court puts an imcompetant fool in charge of the country.

BBC – Bush ‘plotted Iraq war from start’

A top official sacked from the US Government has accused President Bush of planning for an invasion of Iraq within days of coming to office.
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said Mr Bush was looking for an excuse to oust Saddam Hussein.

As a member of the president’s National Security team he said he never saw any evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Mr O’Neill also portrayed the president as unwilling to engage in debate – a charge rejected by Bush officials.

Every Republican who voted for this war should be impeached and have their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces sent to Iraq to fix the mess they voted for, every Democrat who voted for this war should be voted out of Office on account of either being to stupid. or to cowardly to be an elected official.

PS Sebastian, when will you be enlisting to fight in this war that you have supported whith such enthusiasm?

22

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.21.05 at 7:01 pm

I’m gay and have been so quite publically. Stupid as the rule is, the US doesn’t take gay soldiers.

You might also note that my comment above is not a matter of supporting the war, but rather basic interpretation of a text (the Economist article). But I don’t expect someone with your name to be good at fine distinctions.

23

bob mcmanus 11.21.05 at 7:04 pm

“he attacks his very own, custom designed straw man”

Henry, If Bush sincerely believed in the WMD, sincerely believed that Saddam was six months away from a nuclear weapon, I could not fault him for going to war or cooking the evidence as needed.

The only grounds for criticising the intelligence manipulation is that the evidence wasn’t really there, that is, that Bush didn’t have a justified true belief. Or whatever.

And indeed if we had found row upon row of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, no one would be criticizing the administration for taking liberties with intelligence.

24

Uncle Kvetch 11.21.05 at 7:05 pm

Stupid as the rule is, the US doesn’t take gay soldiers.

Not true. They don’t take openly gay soldiers. Keep your mouth shut about it and they’ll be more than happy to have you, Sebastian.

25

bob mcmanus 11.21.05 at 7:20 pm

“I’d like to see Lexington explain exactly how the claims of al-Qaeda links, the aluminium tubes presentation, the yellowcake claims and so on were “honest [mistakes] made for defensible reasons.””

If Bush and Cheney sincerely believed the above claims, their first duty was to defend the country, not gain a consensus on a course of action. They might have lied, but the reasons would be completely defensible.

26

Don Quijote 11.21.05 at 7:26 pm

But I don’t expect someone with your name to be good at fine distinctions.

But I on the other hand never the audacity to support a war in which I was not willing to foght in, which is more than can be said for you!

You could try, after all the policy is “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, I am pretty sure that they would be perfectly willing to look the other way.

The conservative Voice – US Military Continues to Face Recruitment, Retention Challenges

The Defense Department’s active, reserve, and National Guard branches met most recruiting and retention goals for enlisted personnel from fiscal years 2000-2004. However, for FY 2005, 5 of 10 components — the Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and Navy Reserve — missed their recruiting goals by 8 to 20 percent.

Excuses are like @ssholes, everybody ‘s got one.

27

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.21.05 at 7:27 pm

“Not true. They don’t take openly gay soldiers. Keep your mouth shut about it and they’ll be more than happy to have you, Sebastian.”

Considering I’ve been blogging under my own name for years, the “Don’t ask don’t tell” issue is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horses are out.

Shall I ask everyone what they have done to stop genocide in the Sudan lately? Perhaps the fact that you haven’t done anything about it means you like genocide? What about torture? I don’t see you storming the CIA. Why not? Maybe you secretly support torture?

Can we return to actual arguments sometime soon or is that too taxing on your intellect?

28

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.21.05 at 7:28 pm

“Excuses are like @ssholes, everybody ’s got one.”

But not everyone is one.

29

Don Quijote 11.21.05 at 7:45 pm

“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

30

MQ 11.21.05 at 8:25 pm

Come on, Sebastian is one of the only young rightwing types with a perfectly legit excuse not to be toting an M-16 in Iraq right now, leave him alone on that.

But that doesn’t make his latest attempt to push the admin propaganda line any more logical (unless he is just saying that the Democrats face political difficulties if they don’t respond to administration spin, which might be true). But the Democrats voted to authorize force *if necessary* to disarm Saddam Hussein. If Bush had left the inspectors in Iraq he would have seen it wasn’t necessary. The Dems can legitimately argue that Bush was an irresponsible and implicitly dishonest leader (since he didn’t really seem to care about an opportunity to peacefully establish whether or not Saddam had WMDs). Nor did the Democrats have anything like the administrative backup they would have needed to find all the spin, obfuscation, and lies in the administration intelligence case on WMDs. That’s especially true in an atmosphere of war hysteria like the one the Bush administration.

But do I wish more Democrats had had the guts to stand up to the executive during the rush to war? Yes, I do. But I also understand how hard it is to do that when you have the executive with all its resources cranking up war hysteria among the public.

31

Bob B 11.21.05 at 8:30 pm

Some substantive discussion here now is retracing ground previously covered in earlier in July last year. A useful refresher on some important prime sources relating to the issues can be found in the record:
http://crookedtimber.org/2004/07/07/palpably-absurd/

The report on Informed Comment by Juan Cole of the leaked secret memo dated 23 July 2002 from British intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove is pretty conclusive – and damning – on the fixing of the intelligence to justify the war:
http://www.juancole.com/2005/05/secret-british-memo-shows-bush.html

The text of the secret memo is here:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html

32

Barry 11.21.05 at 8:32 pm

Sebastian:

“I’m gay and have been so quite publically. Stupid as the rule is, the US doesn’t take gay soldiers.”

Halliburton. I’m certain that they have some nice jobs open. Driving a gasoline tanker, for example.

“Considering I’ve been blogging under my own name for years, the “Don’t ask don’t tell” issue is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horses are out.”

I’m sure that you’ll find that these people can be very good about not seeing things if they don’t want to.

“Shall I ask everyone what they have done to stop genocide in the Sudan lately? Perhaps the fact that you haven’t done anything about it means you like genocide? What about torture? I don’t see you storming the CIA. Why not? Maybe you secretly support torture?”

Coming from a supporter of Bush and the war in Iraq, this is rich.

“But not everyone is one.” (re: a**holes).

We already knew that you were special, Sebastian :)

33

Bob B 11.21.05 at 8:47 pm

On the alleged oil motive for the Iraq war, this is from Tuesday’s press in Britain:

“Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. A report produced by American and British pressure groups warns Iraq will be caught in an ‘old colonial trap’ if it allows foreign companies to take a share of its vast energy reserves. The report is certain to reawaken fears that the real purpose of the 2003 war on Iraq was to ensure its oil came under Western control. . . “
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article328526.ece

34

Larry 11.21.05 at 9:33 pm

I read the “Lexington” piece in the print edition, and thought it somewhat disingenuous. But it is after all an editorial piece, representing a political view (that I happen to disagree with) I am concerned though that there is some evidence the Economist has been holding out on US news. My disappointment is all the sharper because I don’t know of any other english language news source with as much credibility and reach, and if the Economist is regularly distorting the facts to suit an agenda; I want to know, and I want an alternative.

35

Henry 11.21.05 at 10:23 pm

Sebastian – I don’t hold any particular brief for the Democratic establishment. But when you say

bq. So did Bush mislead the Democrats who voted for the war authorization? They have to choose between “painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly) or buffoons (too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered). They also risk exacerbating their biggest weakness—their reputation for being soft on terrorism and feeble on national security.” I presume you are aware there have always been Democrats looking at intelligence on the US Senate Committee on Intelligence.

are you claiming, as you seem to be, that the Democrats on this committee and elsewhere had access to more or less the same intelligence as the Bush administration, and knew that the claims about aluminium tubes etc were bogus? Or if not, what’s the burden of your argument here?

36

Phoenician in a time of Romans 11.21.05 at 11:43 pm

“Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year.”

Oh, that’s fairly simple to deal with.

Article 55 of the 4th Hague Convention:

” Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.”

Said contracts are not the US’s to offer. Any independent Iraqi government would have a firm basis to nationalise these assets without recompense.

37

roger 11.22.05 at 1:18 am

While I think Bush and his gang are basically dishonest people who would instill fabrications into a charity drive for homeless blind dogs, I think that the debate about lies leading up to the war might be ignoring a more fundamental fact: the doctrine of pre-emptive war maximizes the possibility of Executive Branch dishonesty. If, as the doctrine claims, the U.S. is going to engage countries before they become threats to the U.S., it sets up a political situation in which the President is always going to have to pretend, in the leadup to the war, to want to avert war while playing an active part in pursuading the country to go to war. These two roles partially contradict one another. Wars that are declared, on the other hand, because the U.S. is attacked, while they can be dishonest (the Gulf of Tonkin incident proved to be a lie), at least do not call for the President to play that double and duplicitous role. In contrast to Gulf War One, where G.B. 1 could honestly campaign for his war, Iraq having made the first aggressive move, in this case the game was skewed from the beginning. The preemptive doctrine is simply incompatible with democratic governance, and will lead to wars that fall apart, due to their own illegitimacy.

38

Meteor Blades 11.22.05 at 1:27 am

“[Bush] made dreadful miscalculations …”

This could be taken to mean poor George made a terrible mistake. Yes, mistakes were made, to use the Nixonian tense, but the Administration’s decision to go to war wasn’t a mistake. A mistake is when you hammer your thumb instead of the nail.

They knowingly, willingly, unhesitatingly pronounced what they knew to be lies and marginalized, denigrated and smeared contrary-minded people, manipulated real evidence, concocted fake evidence, tricked an American population traumatized, fearful and furious about terrorism and sent young men and women off to a war at the tip of a bayonet named “9/11.”

Larry Wilkerson merely confirmed what Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke previously had told us: Administration officials didn’t mistakenly stumble their way into invasion pushed along by world events; they created a cabal of renegades specifically to carry out the Project for a New American Century’s plans for hegemony, first stop – Baghdad. They didn’t carefully weigh options and evaluate the pros and cons and make error in judgment, the kind of wrong choice that could happen to anyone. They studiously ignored everyone who warned them against taking the action they had decided upon years before the World Trade Centers were turned to ashes and dust.

Just as invading Iraq was no mistake, the pretense that Bush hadn’t made up his mind months before the invasion was no mistake. It was a calculated ploy to suggest falsely that the President and the ideological crocodiles in the White House gave two snaps about cooperating with the international community other than as a means to camouflage their unalterable determination to stomp Iraq, plundering it under the guise of righteous magnanimity.

Just as the war was no mistake, torturing prisoners was no mistake. It was a deliberate, premeditated policy of international outlawry and inhumanity guided by legal arguments requested and approved by the man who soon got his reward, appointment as attorney general, and carried out on the direct orders of men like General Geoffrey Miller at the “suggestion” of Don Rumsfeld and under the command George Walker Bush.

Mistakes were definitely made. Three years ago, too many elected Democrats and too many other Americans believed the president and vice president of the United States to be honorable men. To be patriots. To have the best interests of Americans at heart. They believed them and they believed a megamedia that operated like government-owned megaphones instead of independent watch dogs. Those were gigantic mistakes.

39

bob mcmanus 11.22.05 at 3:09 am

The Iran Trap

Arthur Silber with the help of Barbara Tuchman, Gunnar Myrdal, and William Fullbright discusses the irrelevance of intelligence to war.

40

stostosto 11.22.05 at 3:56 am

Re The Economist:

the incoherent rather than the incompetent.

41

goatchowder 11.22.05 at 4:06 am

I loved the souflee line, but it is clear that its writer doesn’t understand Republican Bullshit.

Repugs believe in magic. It is a faith-based world: if you BELIEVE in the souflee, you are helping it to go well. If you don’t believe in the souflee, you are dooming it to go badly, despite its best efforts! You are aiding and abbetting the enemies of the souflee.

To do such a terrible thing to a souflee is mere cruelty. To do such a thing to a war is treason. Ergo, Democrats are traitors. It is simple.

42

john m. 11.22.05 at 4:18 am

I’m a long time subscriber to the Economist and am glad to see that it’s not just me who thinks that their reporting (on the US in particular but also Europe) has degraded badly over the last 7-10 years. I thought I was just getting old and developing “everything was so much better back then syndrome”. That said, they hardly give President Bush a pass in that particular article but it is overall constructed in a peculiar manner which I agree is designed to obscure rather than enlighten. How many subscribers do they have in the US vs. elsewhere, I wonder? After all, they are the Economist and market forces should prevail…

43

stostosto 11.22.05 at 4:49 am

john m.:

From that leader endorsing Kerry that I linked to:

“The Economist’s weekly sales in the United States are about 450,000 copies, which is three times our British sale and roughly 45% of our worldwide total. “

I have subscribed to The Economist since 1992 (damn, I am getting old!), and I have noticed that lately I have been easily bored with it. But I don’t think it has changed its political line. It mixes great analysis, commentary and reporting with pieces that aren’t quite up to the highest standard. But I think that has always been the case. The odd hackery there is too, of course, but I would say less than just about any comparable magazine or newspaper.

I think it’s a good source, and (it used to be) entertaining too.

44

soru 11.22.05 at 8:41 am

Repugs believe in magic. It is a faith-based world: if you BELIEVE in the souflee, you are helping it to go well. If you don’t believe in the souflee, you are dooming it to go badly, despite its best efforts! You are aiding and abbetting the enemies of the souflee.

Replace ‘souflee’ with ‘diet’, or ‘marriage’, and your parody becomes an argument that makes internal sense. Some things actually are ‘faith-based’, willpower, or choice, for want of better words, do have a significant effect on them.

So is a war more like a souflee or more like a diet?

IMHO, it’s a bit of both, a war can certainly be lost for external, souflee-like, reasons. Back last year, in Najaf and Fallujah, it very nearly was. No amount of willpower or perseverence would help in the situation where there was general concensus amongst the occupied to throw out the occupiers by any means necessary, and damn the consequences.

However, the current mood of the US seems to me to be rather more introspective, rather little to do with events on the ground in Iraq, which are certainly no worse than they were a year ago, and rather more to do with the general public getting a bit bored and depressed with the whole thing.

soru

45

Uncle Kvetch 11.22.05 at 9:59 am

the current mood of the US seems to me to be rather more introspective, rather little to do with events on the ground in Iraq, which are certainly no worse than they were a year ago

The paramilitaries are not held responsible for all the deaths – some are the work of insurgents murdering supposed informers or government officials, or killing for purely sectarian motives.

You very seldom see American soldiers on the streets of Baghdad now. The Iraqi police are in evidence outside, but so are increasing numbers of militias running their own checkpoints – men in balaclavas or wrap-around sunglasses and headbands, with leather mittens and an array of weapons. An American official acknowledged: “It is getting more and more like Mogadishu every day.”

46

Tim B. 11.22.05 at 10:41 am

It is obvious, owing to public records, that the Bush cabal juiced and distorted the available evidence, while keeping under wraps any dissenting intelligence views.

But even if that had not been the case — even if they had proceeded to preemptive war thinking the intelligence was all true — the fact remains that it was proven, via invasion, not to be true. Shouldn’t Bush, et. al., suffer a severe consequence whether or not the intelligence was fixed around policy? Is there no price to pay, in the popular imagination, for being wrong about invading a sovereign nation that posed no threat to us?
It staggers the mind to think the fool was reelected. It does not stagger the mind that Bush would fail to resign out of a sense of honor. The man has zero integrity, zero ethics, and shows by his actions and nonactions that he is concerned only with the accumulation of power and the aggrandizement of his ego.

47

RT 11.22.05 at 10:44 am

The critics mentioned in the piece aren’t making “the charge that [Bush] knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.” I’m not aware of anyone apart from a few crackpots who are.

Maybe only a few crackpots claim Bush knew all along that Saddam had no WMDs, but that’s not the key distinction. It’s whether the Bush Administration didn’t believe Saddam had WMDs that constituted a threat.

We’ve known for two and a half years that this is precisely what they didn’t believe, thanks to the excellent reporting of the WaPo’s Barton Gellman.

As Bob McManus said upthread, “The actual execution of the attack certainly did not indicate there was a serious expectation of tactical bio-chem usage; many stories preceding the invasion detailing the woefully inadequate protective measures.”

It’s even worse than that: the actual execution of the attack didn’t make much allowance for guarding prospective WMD sites, once they were behind our front lines, during the initial invasion. As a result, these sites got looted to the ground after they were theoretically under our control, but before our special WMD task forces could check them out to find out what was there. (See the link.)

Now if the Bush Administration thought these sites contained WMDs that it believed to be a threat, don’t you think it would have demonstrated some concern about this looting? Wouldn’t this be a “hair-on-fire moment” as Richard Clarke would say?

Apparently not. The Bush Administration has never revealed the slightest concern about this looting.

So either they didn’t believe the WMDs (if any) at these sites were worth worrying about, or…hell, that’s it. There is no ‘other hand.’ They didn’t believe the WMDs were worth worrying about.

48

soru 11.22.05 at 11:17 am

And what do you think the situation was like a year ago?

soru

49

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.22.05 at 12:13 pm

“are you claiming, as you seem to be, that the Democrats on this committee and elsewhere had access to more or less the same intelligence as the Bush administration, and knew that the claims about aluminium tubes etc were bogus? Or if not, what’s the burden of your argument here?”

Democrats on the US Senate Committee on Intelligence did have access to more or less the same intelligence as the Bush administration. They knew that the intelligence pointed lots of different directions and that many of the directions suggested that Saddam was dangerous.

50

Henry 11.22.05 at 12:32 pm

bq. Democrats on the US Senate Committee on Intelligence did have access to more or less the same intelligence as the Bush administration.

ummm …. nope.

bq. “Asterisks Dot White House’s Iraq Argument”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/11/AR2005111101832.html
bq. by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus.

bq. Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. … Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President’s Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community’s views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

bq. In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

bq. The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

You can blame Democrat lawmakers for not doing more – I do. But your claim that Democrats on the Intelligence Committee or elsewhere had access to “more or less the same intelligence” is demonstrably untrue. Perhaps you’d care to withdraw it, and start looking for a new talking point.

51

Uncle Kvetch 11.22.05 at 12:50 pm

And what do you think the situation was like a year ago?

Well, it’s hard for me to say, soru, but given that the quoted US official says “more and more like Mogadishu every day,” I think it’s fairly safe to assume that this was not the situation that obtained previously, at least in the official’s view.

Soru, at the risk of being too forward, may I suggest that you rethink your wardrobe? “Wilfully Obtuse” is not a flattering shade for you.

52

Grand Moff Texan 11.22.05 at 2:06 pm

He genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—as did most of the world’s security services.

Maybe the journalist is being cute, here? The world’s security services “believed” no such thing, pointing out that the info was

1. old

2. bad

If Bush believed “as did” they, then neither did and neither were fooled.

Continuing to push bogus info and then preventing an investigation of the OSP and INC are all the proof of an intent to deceive we need.
.

53

decon 11.22.05 at 2:14 pm

Why read the Economist anymore?

I cancelled my subscription when they slandered Susan Sontag — and every thinking person who dared to question the empty patriotism and idiotic foreign policy of our current government.

The very clear tenor of the obituary they penned, and their subsequent response to those who criticized it, indicates that the editors of the Economist care neither for fact nor reason.

54

Grand Moff Texan 11.22.05 at 2:18 pm

Why read the Economist anymore?

Actually, I filed The Economist in the “funny pages” section after they ran a front page story in about 1998, “explaining” that the left wouldn’t allow the impeachment of Clinton because they were all starry-eyed and hero-worshippy, which is about as far from observable reality as possible before you get into CLINTON BODY COUNT land.
.

55

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.22.05 at 2:19 pm

Not to over-parse too much, but the Senate Intelligence Committee has and had access to much the same information as the administration, they just didn’t actually use the access that they had. This has been a common issue with the Intelligence Committee for decades (probably linked to the fact that there are far fewer people attached to the Committee than there are people in the CIA). The Committee even has independent channels for accessing information.

You quote a classic of the genre (and for people not even in the committee):

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

Less than 100 pages and practically no one could be bothered.

The specific doubts you worried about, and I quote, “and knew that the claims about aluminium tubes etc were bogus” well known issues of dispute at the time and had been hashed back and forth since May 2001 (even before 9/11). Even non-Committee Congressmen knew that was a disputed issue. The problems you have publically worried about for years now were known at the time. And the Niger “Saddam was seeking uranium” issue has gotten better for the administration since Wilson admitted that Moham-med Saeed al-Sahaf went to Niger, and that the prime minister interpreted his overtures as seeking uranium, and that when rebuffed al-Sahaf did not continue seeking ‘trade relations’, and no one can come up with a good non-uranium reason for al-Sahaf to go to Niger.

Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. … Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President’s Daily Brief, with lawmakers.

The first clause is obvious. The Committee does not literally read all CIA reports. The second clause is not accurate, the Committee can and does seek reports through other channels. The last sentence is just stupid. The Daily Brief doesn’t go to lawmakers, but the information in it usually does. And the Daily Brief isn’t even particularly an issue anyway. You are complaining about much lower-level reports. The kind of things you are looking for don’t typically show up in the daily brief.

Furthermore, you might note that this gives no excuse whatsoever for voting for the war if you thought the intelligence was bad:

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release.

For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

How bad is this reporter? First, the fact that you can’t publicize something on the floor is no excuse whatsoever to vote for the war if you think the intelligence is faulty. Second, an example of something cleared for public use isn’t an example of something not cleared for public use, one day before the vote or not. (It would be a valid complaint if after the vote or minutes before the vote–though if it was a going concern, minutes before should be enough time because those opposed who already know about it, just not able to talk publically about it). Third, we are placed in the position of being forced to believe that the CIA, which you argue couldn’t get all sorts of physical issues right (going back at least as far as Clinton), was correct in its assessment of Saddam despite the historical evidence to the contrary. He had a documented history of using banned chemical weapons in non-backed-in-a-corner situations and he had a documented history of being reckless (invasion of Iran, invasion of Kuwait, assassination attempt of Bush I, protecting a bomber from the first WTC attack).

And once again the Intelligence Committee members knew all that. They had the report with all the information you claim they needed to know. They knew the issues you claim they needed to be aware of. They still voted for the authorization of force.

So to reiterate:

But your claim that Democrats on the Intelligence Committee or elsewhere had access to “more or less the same intelligence” is demonstrably untrue. Perhaps you’d care to withdraw it, and start looking for a new talking point.

is just you being rude. They did have more or less the same intelligence. They were aware of the issues you regularly flog. Almost all of the issues you talk about were available to Senate Intelligence Committee members at the time. They received reports sufficient to alert them to conflicting intelligence on the issues you seem to think were crucial. They still voted for the authorization. I suspect they did it because they don’t have a silly view that intelligence is ever 100% verifiably correct before the fact on anything. This is especially true in nuclear affairs–see the nuclearization intelligence failures regarding India, Pakistan, and pre-Gulf War I Iraq. I would think someone with your academic specialty might be aware of those.

56

Henry 11.22.05 at 3:05 pm

Sebastian – my invitation to you to withdraw your claim that Democrats had access to more or less the same intelligence wasn’t me being rude; it was an opportunity to stop making an ass of yourself. (yes – I’m being rude now – but you clearly don’t want to take the opportunity). They _didn’t_ have more or less the same intelligence. As Milbank and Pincus specifically note, ” there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE.” A judgement that is reinforced, for example, by the shoddiness of the intelligence from Curveball. And your argument about how “bad” Milbank and Pincus’ reporting is is specious to the extent that it isn’t entirely irrelevant. You’re defending the indefensible, and not for the first time. Do you really want to defend the Bush administration’s presentation of the “evidence” on aluminium tubes, on weapon drones, on mobile biological warfare labs etc as being honest and non-mendacious? Or to put it another way – would you care to actually address the issue that this post was about, rather than adopting your usual habit of playing defence for the administration?

57

Uncle Kvetch 11.22.05 at 3:11 pm

Do you really want to defend the Bush administration’s presentation of the “evidence” on aluminium tubes, on weapon drones, on mobile biological warfare labs etc as being honest and non-mendacious?

Now now, Henry–I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all. He’s only saying that the people who believe a lie are, at the end of the day, far more blameworthy than the people who tell it.

58

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.22.05 at 4:09 pm

They didn’t have more or less the same intelligence. As Milbank and Pincus specifically note, ” there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE.” A judgement that is reinforced, for example, by the shoddiness of the intelligence from Curveball. And your argument about how “bad” Milbank and Pincus’ reporting is is specious to the extent that it isn’t entirely irrelevant. You’re defending the indefensible, and not for the first time. Do you really want to defend the Bush administration’s presentation of the “evidence” on aluminium tubes, on weapon drones, on mobile biological warfare labs etc as being honest and non-mendacious? Or to put it another way – would you care to actually address the issue that this post was about, rather than adopting your usual habit of playing defence for the administration?

I wasn’t defending the administration at all in my initial comments. I was saying that the Economist was correct in noting that the Democrats, and especially those on the Intelligence Committee, put themselves in a tough spot by their votes. This should be rather non-controversial. You then keep repeating things that you think should have changed Democratic Senators’ minds, but you keep ignoring the fact that for the most part these very same things were known to to Democratic Senators. They didn’t have access to every single report in the CIA universe, but they were well aware that the tubes issue was controversial and that the mobile labs thing was tough to confirm. And it is that very fact which makes the Economist correct that Democrats (who voted for the authorization) are in a tough spot.

That is addressing “the issue this post is about”. You seem to think that their article ought to have been about Bush and the presentation of the war in general. I think your view of the presentation in general ignores some rather noticeable things like the “State of the Union” address, but that is drifting well off the Economist topic. Their point was quite a bit more limited than that, which you have a problem with. You seem to confuse ‘making a limited point about political difficulties’ with ‘supporting everything Bush does’. To make the point you want to make, you don’t need to quote the Economist at all. You use their words as a peg to go off on a huge tangent. This happens both in your analysis of the Economist and now in your analysis of my comments. Going on a tangent is fine. Going on tangents while pretending to remain in touch with the text you quote and asking other people to stay on topic is just weird.

59

Jackmormon 11.22.05 at 4:31 pm

Bob Graham, then Chair of the Intelligence Committee, voted no on the resolution. (link)

60

Henry 11.22.05 at 7:16 pm

Sebastian – I’m coming to the conclusion that you’re just not worth arguing with. Either you are genuinely not able to read the post that I’ve written, or you’re deliberately misreading it. Let me state it again in simple terms. The point is straightforward. The Economist claims that the current debate is about whether or not Bush believed that there weapons of mass destruction, and lied about this belief. As I say, this is a bald misrepresentation of what the current political debate in the US and misses the burden of the criticisms that have been made of how the Bush administration represented the threat of WMD to the public. I don’t think that the point I’m making is difficult to understand. I’m saying that a specific claim which the _Economist_ makes about the current debate is bullshit. I then say why it’s bullshit, and what the current debate is in fact about. You claim, for reasons that are quite obscure to me, that this is “going off on a huge tangent.” I’ve made it clear both here in comments (repeatedly) and elsewhere that I don’t have any brief for the Democratic senators who supported the war. I can see why this is a more congenial argument for you to engage in, but it’s not the argument that I’m addressing, and it is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the Bush administration did in fact misrepresent the facts.

61

decon 11.22.05 at 8:53 pm

bq. I’m coming to the conclusion that you’re just not worth arguing with.

You are far too kind, Henry. Sebastian has been a sophisticated sort of troll for as long as I’ve been reading blogs.

62

Jon H 11.22.05 at 9:35 pm

“The Neoliberal Veckobladet is paywalled, isn’t it? “

For what it’s worth, every third or fourth visit I am offered the opportunity to view a Flash ad, after which I get free access, to apparently everything, for some period of time.

63

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.22.05 at 9:36 pm

“The point is straightforward. The Economist claims that the current debate is about whether or not Bush believed that there weapons of mass destruction, and lied about this belief.”

I can’t read the whole article because it is behind the paywall. But the part you quote does not make the claim that you think it does (which has been my straightforward point all along).

It begins:

The Democrats risk painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly) or buffoons (too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered). They also risk exacerbating their biggest weakness—their reputation for being soft on terrorism and feeble on national security. So who is getting the best of the argument? Mr Bush starts with one big advantage: the charge that he knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction seems to be a farrago of nonsense.

That paragraph does not say that current debate is just about the one thing. It says Congressional Democrats are working from a disadvantage in exploiting what you say the real debate is about because of their vote and because they had access to all sorts of intelligence–witness the “too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered” problem outlined in the part you quote.

As I said, I can’t read the whole article. It is behind the paywall. Maybe it goes on to say that there is no issue beyond “the charge that he knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction seems to be a farrago of nonsense.” But the passage you quote doesn’t limit the scope of all inquiry or the even present inquiry to that one area. It merely notes that there is a very important area of whether or not Bush knew there were no WMD in Iraq at the time of the run-up to the war. This area has been well-hyped by Democrats and other factions on the left. In this facet of the debate, Democrats have a problem because it

A) appears to be untrue
B) plays into their traditional crappy reputation
C) makes them look like opportunists, or fools, or both.

As a political analysis goes, that is pretty much spot on.

You want to talk about:

They’re making the case that the Republican administration deliberately suppressed information that didn’t support its case, and presented highly dubious information as providing a slam-dunk case for imminent war.

That is a great thing to talk about. But you don’t need the Economist article to talk about that.

On that issue, I think you broadly overstate your case because the State of the Union address does not base its case on imminent danger. (I assume that is what you mean by imminent war).

Your focus on the general case of how the war was sold doesn’t (even if otherwise correct) touch the Economist analysis on the issue it actually analyzes in the quote you actually quote.

64

fnook 11.23.05 at 12:14 am

Sebastian, the point is that the Economist writers are engaging in precisely the same type of bad faith hairsplitting that the Bush administration engaged in to the bolster the case for war in Iraq. Did they or did they not deliberately suppress the unhelpful stuff and bless the dubious material in an effort to paint the decision to commit a generation of our armed forces to battle in Iraq for the foreseeable future? Is this the kind of decisionmaking future American leaders should aspire to? Like you, the Economist knows that Bush and Cheney are very vulnerable on this front, so they have gutlessly chosen to frame the debate in a way that obfuscates this critical vulnerability, a vulnerability that is only going to become more and more apparent as time goes by. As you say, “this is a great thing to talk about.” I agree. But why don’t the Economist writers want to talk about it?

65

Uncle Kvetch 11.23.05 at 10:06 am

Sure, Mr Bush made mistakes, but they seem to have been honest ones made for defensible reasons.

Bullshit.

66

Henry 11.23.05 at 10:20 am

Sebastian – when an article starts by describing the debate between Democrats and the administration in braod terms, lists only one specific charge against Bush, and says that it’s a “farrago of nonsense,” it’s reasonable to say that this article is misrepresenting the debate. Especially if it is entitled “Pants on Fire” and has the below cartoon on top of it. If I pulled a similar trick on Crooked Timber, I’d expect you and other commenters quite rightly to jump up and down on top of me.

On the side-issue of whether there was important information in the President’s Daily Briefing that didn’t make it to the Intelligence Committee, this “National Journal”:http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/1122nj1.htm article makes interesting reading.

!http://www.henryfarrell.net/economist.jpg!

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AvengingAngel 11.23.05 at 8:32 pm

President Bush has decided to defend himself by offering the American people four falsehoods regarding the path to war. “Same intelligence”, “no manipulation”, “no pressure” and “rewriting history”- are fitting lies for a President now viewed by a majority of Americans as dishonest and unethical.

For the full story, see:

“Bush Rewrites History”

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