Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!

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That policy reads, in part:
(5) Please be willing to supply facts and credible evidence to back up your view if asked and you have not already clearly defined that what you say is purely your opinion.
("Comment rules")

That's a pretty good rule, if one is going to have rules.
Recently, _H_ at "Terrorism News" posted a comment relating to President Bush's press conference, focusing on the point where the president's comments were interrupted by an additional question from reporters. Here's how _H_ relates it:
President Bush was in the midst of explaining how the attacks of 9/11 inspired his “freedom agenda” and the attacks on Iraq until a reporter, Ken Herman of Cox News, interrupted to ask what Iraq had to do with 9/11. “Nothing,” Bush defiantly answered. Watch it Here.

And here is the relevant context of the press conference (the portion referencing Iraq):
Q Mr. President, polls continue to show sagging support for the war in Iraq. I'm curious as to how you see this developing. Is it your belief that long-term results will vindicate your strategy and people will change their mind about it, or is this the kind of thing you're doing because you think it's right and you don't care if you ever gain public support for it? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Look, Presidents care about whether people support their policies. I don't mean to say, I don't care. Of course, I care. But I understand why people are discouraged about Iraq, I can understand that. We live in a world in which people hope things happen quickly, and this is a situation where things don't happen quickly, because there's a very tough group of people using tactics, mainly the killing of innocent people, to achieve their objective. And they're skillful about how they do this, and they also know the impact of what it means on the consciousness of those of us who live in the free world. They know that.

And so, yes, I care, I really do. I wish -- and so, therefore, I'm going to spend a lot of time trying to explain as best I can why it's important for us to succeed in Iraq.

Q Can I follow --

THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish. On the other hand, Ken, I don't think you've ever heard me say -- and you've now been covering me for quite a while, 12 years -- I don't think I've -- 12 years? Yes. I don't think you've ever heard me say, gosh, I'd better change positions because the polls say this or that. I've been here long enough to understand you cannot make good decisions if you're trying to chase a poll. And so the second part of your question is, look, I'm going to do what I think is right, and if people don't like me for it, that's just the way it is.

Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case.

And one way to defeat that -- defeat resentment is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government. Now, I said going into Iraq that we've got to take these threats seriously before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him. Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.


Calling the president's response defiant as _H_ does is an interesting take. The reporter is playing off the legend (for which I have given Noam Chomsky substantial blame) that the Bush administration led Americans to believe Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 attacks. That charge is of special interest to me, accounting for the poll that I created for my blog. As of now, five have responded to that poll, with all five expressing very strong agreement with the proposition that "President Bush caused a dramatic increase in the number of Americans who believe that Iraq was involved in the 9-11 attacks." There simply isn't any reasonable support for that belief (other than taking Chomsky's misstatements as reliable information); the most common "evidence" in support consists of showing how administration officials mentioned "Iraq" and "9-11" in proximity to one another (regardless of the specific context). The simple truth is that the attacks on 9-11 illustrated what a belligerent nation such as Iraq--regardless of whether or not Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 attacks--could accomplish through the use of terrorist proxies. Speaking for myself, I was always clear on that point as I supported moving to depose Hussein at the risk of touching off civil war in Iraq.

I covered that issue briefly in the comment I posted at TN, but primarily I attempted to call out _H_ on this claim: "Now I know that someone out in Internet land will state that nobody in the Bush administration actually said that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. But they never ruled it out when asked."
_H_ implicitly concedes that the administration never actually said that Iraq had something to do with the 9-11 attacks, even while claiming that "they connected Saddam and Iraq to Al-Qaeda in every possible way they could."
That leads me to wonder why, given that _H_ and company think that Bush is so deceitful, it apparently wasn't possible to come right out and say that Iraq was in some way responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
Here's my comment to that thread:
Bush's comments are best understood in the full context of the press conference, particularly in light of the preceding question and response (scroll near the bottom): 20060821.html

Does _H_ give us an example where Bush was asked about Iraq's role in the 9-11 attacks prior to the war, BTW?

The occasion was a press conference with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. Here's the key portion:

[Adam Boulton, Sky News (London):] One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't make that claim.

THE PRIME MINISTER: That answers your question.

And in the current case, Bush didn't rule out Iraqi support of al Qaida in the 9-11 attacks. Proof of no connection at all would be pretty much impossible. Bush's actual comment was "Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken." 20060821.html

In short, Bush's comment should be taken to indicate that that the deposing of Hussein was not punishment for the 9-11 attacks, but the response to a future terrorist threat along the same lines. That has been the administration's consistent position.
(commentary thread)

And here is _H_'s reply:

Claiming the administrations position has been consistent since 9/11 is very funny.

Hey , I am the first to throw my hand in the air when it comes to being biased but that really takes the biscuit.

Believe what you want. Others will judge as they see fit. I doubt you will find many outside of the extreme right wing of the US that would have the audacity to claim that the position held by the US administration has been consistent.

But each to their own I suppose.
(commentary thread)

So, confronted with a thread that provides facts in opposition to his claim that Bush never took the opportunity to deny that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks, _H_ doesn't even acknowledge the evidence.
Confronted with analysis showing how the recent press conference accords with the long-held position of the administration, _H_ ridicules the analysis without providing evidence that would contradict the analysis.

Isn't that against the rules for TN commentary threads?

Heh. Not really:
"At the discretion of the editors here at Terrorism News the following rules apply."


"The discretion of the editors will be applied as they see fit."
(Comment rules)

"... the Pirate's Code is more of a set of what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules."
--Barbarosa, from Pirates of the Caribbean

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