Is You Am or Is You Ain't?

|

Can't resist pouring gasoline on the inferno raging here over why Iraq was cold-cocked. To wit –

Your local, highly accurate weatherman comes on the tube and makes one of the following statements:

A) Showers continue across all of the viewing area.

B) Showers are imminent across all of the viewing area.

It which case is it raining as he speaks? Discuss and show your work.

Next, what is the meaning of the word "is"?

NEXT: Ad Nausea

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Don’t pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining, Jeff.

  2. HA! Good one Jeff. It’s amusing to see all the warmongers posting variations of:
    “I never said that. And when I said it, I didn’t mean it”

  3. In the former case it’s raining, of course. If “showers continue” that means there exist showers. If a “threat continues” that means there exists a threat. (And there DID exist a threat! Why are people acting as if that’s been disproven?)

    Those threats aren’t necessarily imminent threats (=threats ready to take place). Just threats. Do you think all threats imminent threats?

    That seems to be the essence of the disagreement here. One side interprets *any* use of the word “threat” to be indistinguishable from a claim of an “imminent threat”. Granted, if threats and imminent threats are the exact same thing then Bush is “guilty” of what you say. But then my response becomes, So what?

    At this point it’s very unclear how any President could ever argue in favor of a war on the basis that there is some threat without making statements which would be interpreted as a claim of “imminent threat” by the standards you are applying. Maybe that’s the point? You want no wars unless the threat is imminent => if he wants a war for a non-imminent threat you’ll pretend to believe all his statements have “imminent” in their penumbras and then accuse him of “lying”?

  4. A sterling example of how meaning in the English language is context-dependent.

    I haven’t the foggiest idea how this carping over imminence is supposed to benefit the body politic, though.

    Let me try to simplify the risk calculation for you.

    Saddam bad. Saddam use gas. Saddam admit have germs and gas, no say where it go.

    Saddam gone. Bad guys no get germs and gas from Saddam.

    The real question is – where the fuck are all the germs and gas that Saddam was documented to have in the early ’90s?

  5. Nice try, but no dice. In common parlance, a reference to an “imminent threat” suggests that the threatened act, not the threat itself, is imminent. In the case of a “continuing threat,” however, it is the threat that continues, not the threatened activity (which can’t be “continuing” since it has not yet begun). We didn’t invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was “continuing” to attack us, and we sure as hell didn’t invade because we were afraid that Saddam Hussein was about to start threatening us.

    On to your last question. Is is the third person singular of the verb to be, which has the meanings of both the Spanish verbs “ser” and “estar.” On a related note, am is the first person singular of to be, and therefore does not belong in this heading, which does not concern the author of the passage. Ain’t was originally a contraction for “am not,” but has since fallen into disfavor, resulting a lexical gap leading to such oddly formed tag questions as “I’m really smart, aren’t I?”

  6. Speaking of immanentizing the eschaton….

    I like your examples, Jeff. But there is a distinction. The confusion springs from the meaning of the word “threat,” not the meaning of the words “imminent,” “continuing,” or even (less pleasantly) ?on-going.?

    A “threat” implies a FUTURE harm. For this reason, “imminent threat” is an odd construction. Does that phrase refer to something which is about to threaten? Such a definition swallows itself, because if we are aware that someone (or something) will threaten us in the future, it necessarily threatens us now. Accordingly, for the phrase “imminent threat” to have meaning, there must be a distinction between a “threat” and an “imminent threat.”

    The most logical definition of an ?imminent threat? is a threat that has been exacerbated or accelerated. Imminent threats thus comprise a subset of threats which includes only those threats on the cusp of maturing from potentiality into actuality. An imminent threat is a pre-existing threat which has neared the point at which it will cease to be a mere ?threat? and will become an actual harm or attack.

    Right now, we live under the constant and eternal threat of annihilation via a large asteroid or comet striking our planet. If the Hubble crew were to spot such a ?planet killer,? the threat would become imminent. And, at the moment the asteroid hit the earth, the ?threat? posed by the asteroid would end & the killing begin.

    Get me?

  7. ‘Nice try, but no dice. In common parlance, a reference to an “imminent threat” suggests that the threatened act, not the threat itself, is imminent. In the case of a “continuing threat,” however, it is the threat that continues, not the threatened activity (which can’t be “continuing” since it has not yet begun).’

    So even if someone who lacks the means to make his continuing threat (which I suppose need be nothing more than verbal) an imminent one, the U.S. is justified in attacking him?

  8. “So even if someone who lacks the means to make his continuing threat (which I suppose need be nothing more than verbal) an imminent one, the U.S. is justified in attacking him?”

    The regime of Saddam Hussein had no (oh, for example..) firearms?

  9. my sentence should read “even if someone lacks”

  10. Name:

    Oh sure, I would have loved to see Bush and co. sell the war on the threat posed by Saddam’s rifles and pistols! You are kidding, no?

  11. A man is threatening me with a gun. I smack the gun away and kick him in the gut. The gun flies across the room and he falls to the floor. Then, the man gets to his knees and begins crawling towards the gun. I repeatedly tell him not to go for the gun. He claims he is not, as he crawls towards the gun. Should I kick him again before he gets to the gun? or after? At which point does he pose a threat? If both, are the threat levels equivalent?

  12. I am just trying to understand your implied statement that Saddam Hussein lacked the means to make good on whatever threat he posed to us. No means whatsoever? How do you know this?

    Keeping in mind that “means” can include stuff like: money, scientists, etc.

  13. “Can’t resist pouring gasoline on the inferno raging here over why Iraq was cold-cocked.”

    “Iraq” wasn’t cold-cocked. To an extent that I don’t think has ever occurred in history, ***Saddam Hussein’s regime*** was “cold-cocked,” while “Iraq” was spared.

    And, in fact, much of the damage done to “Iraq” since late March 2003 has actually been done by ***Saddam Hussein’s regime.***

  14. Name:

    Jesus, quit while you still sound like a hominid! So any country with scientists or money whose leader dislikes the U.S. is subject to invasion?

  15. Oh, and not to nitpick, but what are all these threats of aggression Saddam made against the U.S.?

  16. MB,

    If President Bush KNEW that Saddam lacked the capacity to harm the safety and security of the United States before the US invaded Iraq, then the decision to attack was illegitimate. Few disagree with that point.

    Right now, we don’t know whether (as of march 2003) Saddam had the capacity to inflict serious harm on the US. I belive he did – but I will listen to arguments and evidence on that point.

    Assuming Saddam lacked said capacity, it remains plausible that Bush believed Saddam posed a serious threat to the citizens and the security of the USA. Assuming Bush believed this to be the case, and that his belief was based on the best intelligence available to him, Bush’s decision to invade was legitimate – even if the belief was incorrect.

  17. The invasion of Iraq was never about the threat that country posed to ours, even if Saddam had had all the weapons Powell claimed. It was about rebuilding the entire Middle East– an illegitimate use of force top to bottom. But Americans wouldn’t have gone to war for that, hence the specter of Iraqi aggression. Which would have amounted to what, scientists with money and shotguns annihilating Peoria?

  18. The “continuing” threat was Iraq’s continuing attempts to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. That they continued to do this up to the point where we launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is a known fact.

    The other threat is that Iraq might actually one day *have* or *use* chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against the United States. It is this threat which people are trying to claim the President said was “imminent”.

    Obviously the President said, many times, that Iraq was, at that time, developing WMDs, as they had in the past and would continue to do in the future. Because, well, they were, as both pre- and post-war investigation has shown.

    What the President never said was that the threat that Iraq would actually HAVE the weapons was imminent. So the people pointing to the lack of exiting WMDs as “proof” that there was no “imminent” threat are attacking a straw man. It doesn’t matter if Iraq had WMDs, and it never did; what mattered, then and now, is that they wanted them and were actively trying to get them.

    Understand now, little brains?

  19. Blah, blah, blah.

    Am I the only one who thinks that the WMD was, at best, a cursory reason for military action.

    Smack down a local tyrant to convince his neighbors that you are still willing to do it. Pick the biggest asshole that you can find who is making a show of defying the international community. He tailors his actions for over ten years to convince the world that he still has WMDs, he is a known thug, he gasses his own people, and we know that he would without hesitation blast New York to oblivion if he could get away with it. If he wants to pretend that he has WMD, fine.

    The world is spending far too much time on a secondary consideration, though.

  20. Jeff, Jeff–you lost big last time. Your best strategy is to sweep it under the carpet and hope everyone forgets. Otherwise, we will continue to mock the holes in your logic until the loss of this argument is imminent.

    (And for future reference, I’d advise against cold-cocking anyone after you’ve given him 14 months of warning.)

  21. Tommy Grand nails it spot on. There is a big difference between a threat and an “?imminent threat.” A threat exist when there is the physical capability to do harm. An imminent threat exists when there are indications that the people controlling the physical capability intend to use it.

    During the Cold War, the Free World was under continuous threat from Soviet nuclear weapons. They had both the bombs and the means of delivering them to targets in the Free World but nobody described this day-to-day peril that existed for 40 years an “imminent threat” because for most of that time people were confident that the Soviets would not employ the weapons. The threat did not become “imminent” except during brief periods like the Cuban missile crisis.

    Likewise, as David Kay’s report makes clear, Saddam had at a minimum the physical capability to produce chemical and biological weapons on short notice. We also know that he could have used world spanning terrorist networks to physically deliver those weapons to anywhere on the planet resulting in a mass causality attack.

    The Bush administration never argued that it had specific information that Saddam planned to attack anyone or that the threat level posed by Saddam had either increased or decreased post 9/11. They never claimed to be in a Cuban missile crises. Rather, they repeatedly argued that we Saddam was a sword of Damocles, long-term standing threat that post-9/11 they were no longer willing to tolerate.

    It’s extremely dishonest to claim that Bush implied that the threat posed by Saddam had intensified or grown “imminent” when there are voluminous statements from the administration stating exactly the opposite.

  22. “Which would have amounted to what, scientists with money and shotguns annihilating Peoria?”

    As I point out in my comment to Brad DeLong, dated October 16, 9:55 am (PST):

    http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2003_archives/002466.html

    …a 5-lb bag of anthrax has been estimated to be sufficient to kill 1/3rd of the population of Washington DC.

    Similarly, VX gas is a binary chemical agent, and is therefore not deadly until the two components are mixed together. The two components are elemental sulfur (available anywhere) and “QL” (O-Ethyl O-2-diisopropylaminoethyl methylphosphonite).

    Get maybe 50 pounds of the stuff, and with a well-planned attack, people sent by Saddam Hussein could kill wipe out a significant portion of the ridership of a subway system in a major city.

    The idea that, because Saddam Hussein didn’t have ***missiles,*** his biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons wouldn’t be a threat to the U.S., is tremendously naive.

  23. I’ll repeat my request from the last thread:

    Will one of the anti-war Reasonites please post links to the (pre-war) pieces they wrote debunking Bush’s supposed claims about the “imminent” threat. We saw volumes of analysis on every aspect of every argument made pro or con. Surely one of you wrote something about this ubiquitous claim of imminence by the administration. Put up or shut up.

    Please, show *your* work.

    Next, what is the meaning of “revisionism?”

  24. MB,

    Given the fact that it is the asshole of the world and the font of so much misery, why would totally rebuilding (redesigning, reshaping, flushing-down-the-toilet, whatever) the Middle East be an illegitimate use of force?

  25. “During the Cold War, the Free World was under continuous threat from Soviet nuclear weapons. They had both the bombs and the means of delivering them to targets in the Free World but nobody described this day-to-day peril that existed for 40 years an “imminent threat” because for most of that time people were confident that the Soviets would not employ the weapons.”

    Most of us were confident–possibly unrealistically confident–that the Soviets wouldn’t use nuclear weapons, because if they *did* use them, the Free World would know it was the Soviets who used them.

    One frightening lesson of 9/11 ought to be that, in this era of biological and chemical weapons, it will NOT always be possible to identify who is attacking…even while the attackers kill many thousands of innocents.

    For example, anthrax spores can be released in a virtually uncountable number of ways. A delivery system can be hooked to the bottom of a car, or released from a light plane…that’s apparently what the 9/11 hijackers originally planned. In fact, they could be released into the air supply ducts of multiple large building spread around a city. Because people would not immediately fall ill, it is quite possible that the identity of the attackers wouldn’t ever be known.

    This new knowledge needs to be factored into our thinking. It makes decisions about what to do much more complicated.

    Saddam Hussein apparently sheltered (even PAID) one of the *1993* attackers of the World Trade Center. That *alone,* in my mind, provides strong evidence that Saddam Hussein was a credible threat to many innocent U.S. civilians.

  26. Oh, the 6:31 PM post is mine.

    And I meant to write that Saddam Hussein apparently sheltered and paid that 1993 WTC attacker for many years.

  27. “The “continuing” threat was Iraq’s continuing attempts to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. That they continued to do this up to the point where we launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is a known fact.”

    David Kay on Iraq’s chemical weapons program:

    “Multiple sources with varied access and reliability have told ISG that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW program after 1991. Information found to date suggests that Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce and fill new CW munitions was reduced ? if not entirely destroyed ? during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of U.N. sanctions and U.N. inspections. We are carefully examining dual-use, commercial chemical facilities to determine whether these were used or planned as alternative production sites.”

    David Kay on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program:

    “Despite evidence of Saddam’s continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material. However, Iraq did take steps to preserve some technological capability from the pre-1991 nuclear weapons program.”

    David Kay on Iraq’s biological weapons program:

    “With regard to biological warfare activities, which has been one of our two initial areas of focus, ISG teams are uncovering significant information ? including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.
    We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile BW production effort. Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing we have discovered rules out their potential use in BW production.”

  28. There should be an ellipsis between the two paragraphs on bioweapons- they are not consecutive. My bad.

  29. Another angle: risk management – likelihood of occurrence versus impact of occurrence. A threat can be, in practical terms, more or less “imminent” depending on the potential damage of that threat. Even if the likelihood of, say a nuclear suitcase bomb in Central Park and a suicide bomber in Central Park are equal, the nuke is a more “imminent” threat because it is a much more serious one. More serious preventive measures are, accordingly, more justifiable.

  30. It’s not the fact that the Middle East is the asshole of the world that makes it legitimate to try to remake it. It’s the fact that we are all threatened with being murder by nutjob religious fanatics if the Middle East continues to be the asshole of the world.

  31. is you IS or is you ain’t, darn it.

  32. Why does everyone pretend that the attack on Iraq was surprising?

    Bush said that any people supporting groups of international terror will be targeted by the US. Iraq made no secret of it’s support for the hamas folks, who were attacking people in a country differenct from theirs. The IRA sure got the picture quick, they jumped right into talks when they realized they were attacking folks in a foreign country (England from Ireland) and the US might go after them too.

    Syria? Well, I’ve heard they support a lot of terrorists. Iran? Same thing. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, cold they all be on the list too? If you take Bush at his word they are.

    The problem with the war on terror is that you can’t declare war on all the countries at once cause that would givbe them too much mobilization time and cost too many extra US lives. I guess making unelected tyrants feel secure until their time on the list is the act of a scoundrel, but so is blaming all internal dissent on the US for the last 30 years.

  33. And some people wonder why some people still believe that FDR not only planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, but that he actually flew the lead plane. Sheesh!

  34. Iraq was not cold cocked! I never even saw a chicken! These are nothing but imperialist yankee lies. We are on the verge of a stunning victory! Wait and see . . . No really, any minute now . . .

  35. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.PENIS-ENHANCEMENT-PILLS.BIZ

    DATE: 12/10/2003 10:54:47
    The world is a beautiful book for those who can read it.

  36. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://average-penis-size.nonstopsex.org
    DATE: 12/21/2003 01:34:50
    The meaning of life is that it stops.

  37. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 212.253.2.205
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/19/2004 08:03:26
    Dreams are made to be destroyed. Nightmares are forever.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.