Goldberg Uncertainty Principle


The Beltway's current parlor game is to try and find an instance in which George W. Bush said Iraq posed an "imminent" threat to the United States. The game works best in green rooms or yakking with on-air talent with half their critical faculties taken up with ear-pieces, but the home version is mildly amusing too.

Jonah Goldberg claims that it is "revisionist spin" to say that the Bush administration made Iraq out to be an imminent threat. Let's take a whack at the Pop-O-Matic and see what we get.

As Operation Iraqi Freedom got underway, the White House sent the following letter to Congress:

March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

It is tedious, but evidently necessary, to note that the national security threat posed by Iraq is described as not just imminent, but ongoing. Iraq will not just threaten us tomorrow it does so today; that is what "continuing" means. Now—and in the future. Also note the 9/11 language thrown in to provide a powerful closer.

So it is that no serious person can deny that in word and in deed the Bush administration advanced the position that Iraq had to be invaded to forestall imminent attacks on the U.S., attacks as severe as, or worse than, 9/11.

But Goldberg is correct to note that it is leap to charge Bush with intentionally lying about Iraq. Bush may have believed what he seems to have said. Hence the principle, we may know either the meaning or the veracity of Bush's statements but never both.