By Any Means Necessary?


I enjoy Christopher Hitchens as much as the next guy, even when I'm on the opposite side of the argument, but he's totally lost me here:

The literal-minded insistence that all government rhetoric be entirely scrupulous strikes me ? as weird. It can only come from those who were not willing to form, or to defend, positions of their own: in other words, those for whom Saddam would not have been a problem unless Bush tried to make him into one.

Asking that your government doesn't lie, and that it makes the best honest case for using deadly force, strikes me as something less than a "literal-minded insistence," and something more like a fundamental precondition for avoiding abuse and bad policy.

NEXT: The Stainless-Steel Mao

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  1. Let me see if I understand Hitchens’ argument correctly here – he’s basically saying that since it’s a given that politicians are going to lie, citizens should just accept any lie that politicians want to tell. What a crock of shit.

  2. Didn’t Hitchens write an entire book about the moral failings of Henry Kissinger? What’s the difference between these failings and what he is arguing here?

  3. I saw Hitchens on tv once. He was so drunk he was incoherent. He’s amusing and occasionally insightful, but alcohol clearly has the better of him now.

  4. He’s obviously drinking again.

    Seriously though, I think I understand somewhat of what he is trying to say, though reading Hitchens is becoming a chore like reading Buckley. He’s basically saying, the government may have a valid need to lie, and those who criticise this fact rarely offer a valid response to said prevarication. He’s saying that since the opposition cannot forthrightly counter the lie with a better one, they should shut up. That is about the most horrid cynicism I have ever read. Or is Christopher saying that the opposition should do a better job countering the lie with the truth? Nah, we know that isn’t what he is really saying is it?



  5. Brad S.,

    I’ve seen posters here argue the same thing; specifically about the yellow-cake issue. As I recall R.C. Dean struck a similiar pose in fact.

  6. not to defend hitchens, but rather than saying we should accept the lie, i think he means we should assume they’re lying and require proof to be shown they were telling the truth, instead of the other way around. no expectations, no disappointment, put another way.

    i frankly can’t now find the indignation to get angry about the lies and half-truths told in building the case for going to war. i also have to shake my head at people who waste $20 to read al franken’s rather unwitty witticisms on the subject. wasn’t it plain from the get-go? who expected something other than a propaganda push? does anyone actually trust what spills from the mouth of any politico?

  7. I think the point is that some truths can’t be uttered. If the point of the war was to stomp on a petty dictator whose petty dictator neighbors believed that Mogadishu is the definitive statement of US military resolve, and who already had 0 respect for UN mandates, then you can’t very well go to the UN and say that.

    Why? Because the UN is built on the farce that dictatorships are legitimate governments and deserve to have equal votes in matters of world opinion.

    We certainly don’t have to go along with everything our government says, and an insistence on truth from our government is a hallmark of a functioning democracy. What seems ‘weird’ to me is when people act as though it is reasonable to air all of the laundry in a public debate before choosing on a military action. We live in a republic for a reason, and when the deployment of forces is undesirable, we can vote against the politicians who supported it in the first place.

    I can’t shake the feeling that there is a willful denial of some of the merits of the invasion on the part of people who pen criticisms based on WMD claims. The WMD issue was a plausible pretext. We could have found them, and everybody – EVERYBODY – believed Saddam had them. By scrupulous here, we aren’t talking about outright lies (none have been confirmed), but changing the emphasis of the argument in favor of invasion to WMD search.

    This is no different from a politician having multiple plausible reasons for supporting a tax hike (i.e. reduce the debt and pay off his supporters with programs), but that doesn’t mean he is going to stump for all of those reasons.

  8. mak_nas – no, I don’t believe anything that spills from the mouth of a politico (at least not at face value). I think I’m in the same boat with a growing share of the American public. But that doesn’t mean that as Americans we should tolerate outright lies.

  9. Did everybody agree that Iraq had WMD? I hear this claimed a lot, but is it really true?

  10. We all know politicians are all crooks and liars. But when they’re caught being crooked or lying we have no choice but to be shocked, simply shocked and (hopefully) hit ’em with whatever they deserve. For after all, there’s degrees of crookedness and lying, and we don’t want them to think they can get away with anything and everything.

  11. I agree with another comment I saw about the block of quoted text near the beginning of the piece…the reasons are excuses. The U.N. had already borne witness to Saddam as having been as bad as Milosevic. The U.N. failed its own mandate with Res. 687; for it to have removed Milosevic but not Hussein was political and hypocritical. The resolution was never enforced, and the cease-fire never came to pass. The U.N. rendered itself irrelevant long before GWII.

    I think to many people, the war ended when they stopped reading about it. Unfortunately many base their opposition to the war on that ignorance. The larger implications in those little no-fly zone incursion and gunfight stories were entirely lost on many.

    I have noticed lately a distressing tendency on the part of those who support the intervention in Iraq to rest their case largely on underreported good news.

    Who does this? Support rests on the underreported good news? or does the support not wane as much as the media would like because of the underreported good news? If the media seeks a fair response it must provide objective coverage. It has thus far demonstrated that it is incapable and/or unwilling to do so.

  12. Ah, well, insofar as the ellipsis in the quoted phrase replaces “in view of the above,” readers really should read Hitchens’ entire argument.

    “Scrupulous” is not synonomous with “honest.” Indeed, I think Hitchens’ use of the term here is more along the lines of “punctiliously exact” in that he criticizes, inter alia, the inane hair-splitting by many (but by no means all) critics of the Bush Administration’s justifications of its Iraq policy.

    As much as I would prefer complete disclosure and candor on the part of American officials in their relationship with the American public, I seriously doubt foreign policy can be conducted by those standards. I realize that many who read and post to these pages are (or would at least prefer others to be) more, shall we say, scrupulous?

  13. “Asking that your government doesn’t lie, and that it makes the best honest case for using deadly force. . .”

    Did Bush ever really even make a case for this war? The closest to an officially offered rationale was WMD, which has been something of a bust to date. Was that it? (Post-facto rationalizations like schools and freedom and “Saddam was a bad guy” don’t quite cut it for me). Can you be accused of lying in making your case if you didn’t make a case? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Last time I saw Hitch I thought he looked pretty good: more clear-eyed than usual. Little less puffy.

  14. brad — i appreciate your idealism regarding the accountability of polticians to honesty, but i have to say cynically — and truthfully, imo — that intolerance of political lying implies that there is somewhere a completely honest politician who can be tolerated on the job. plainly, experience shows this isn’t true.

    i feel that this bout of fibbing from on high is much like the last one — that being those surrounding clinton’s sexual indiscretions — something for those who oppose the administration to latch onto with righteous indignation in an attempt to fan the angry fires of ousting the incumbent.

    and i would disagree with the opinion that the difference is in a matter of degree, war not being infidelity. both told their lies to make what they thought good and necessary more palatable to those who would disagree. the two acts are equivalent.

  15. Did everybody agree that Iraq had WMD? I hear this claimed a lot, but is it really true?

    Yes. In 1988 Hussein launched a sarin/VX/cyanide/tabun/etc. cocktail against Kurds sympathetic to Iran in Halabja in 1988, killing thousands. In the late 1990s, Dr. Rihab Taha (Dr. Germ) admitted that there was a large and active bio/chem program active.

    I love how to many, the fact that we cannot currently find supplies which if still intact may take up no more space than a small uhaul truck somehow exculpiates Iraq in the WMD scene. I wonder, if I kill a few thousand people with a baseball bat, but destroy the baseball bat such that it is never found, should I remain free?

  16. For after all, there’s degrees of crookedness and lying, and we don’t want them to think they can get away with anything and everything.

    fyodor, i think they figured out that they could long, long ago — or at least any of them who got themselves elected to an office of any power.

  17. As I recall R.C. Dean struck a similiar pose in fact.

    I don’t recall it at all.

    My position on the yellowcake thing was that what Bush said was, and still is, accurate as written (he qualified it by reference to the Brits (who still stand by it), and he referred to all of Africa, not just Niger).

    To my knowledge, no one has ever shown that Saddam was not seeking uranium in Africa, or in Niger for that matter (what, those high-level Iraqi delegations went down there to talk about chickpeas? Suuuure they did). Keep in mind, Saddam had a history of buying uranium from Africa.

    If you want to accuse someone of lying, you better be able to put evidence on the table contradicting their factual statements, and that has never happened (notwithstanding the ludicrous Mr. Plame’s, er, I mean Wilsons’s, alleged oral report to the contrary).

    Certainly, no one has ever shown that the Brits were and are lying about what their intelligence has turned up.

    I was pointing out the spin being put out by the anti-war folks, not admitting that Bush lied and saying he had every right to.

  18. dude – go back and read Bush and Powell’s statements to the UN, and Bush’s statement to Congress. Bush and Powell justified finishing the war with Saddam on several grounds.

  19. If you want to accuse someone of lying, you better be able to put evidence on the table contradicting their factual statements

    More than that, you have to be able to put evidence on the table that Bush and co. knew the truth to be otherwise when they forwarded the reasons for an Iraqi invasion. Lying != being wrong.

  20. in any case, any salesman will tell you that rule #1 is ask for the sale (which bush and powell did, as rcd points out) and rule #2 is to quit selling when you’ve made the sale. judging by the support numbers, they made the sale among the constituency — no matter how much i disagree.

  21. to anonymous at 02:58 PM: You ask “if I kill a few thousand people with a baseball bat, but destroy the baseball bat such that it is never found, should I remain free?” Maybe not, but if I start going around claiming you have a bat and are going to kill again, can I be president?

  22. xray,

    Remember, you failed to report the specifics of the destruction of the bat and thwarted every attempt to verify that it had been destroyed for ten years.

    When given the chance to supply specifics of the bat’s destruction before you are hunted down, you obfuscate again on the belief that enforcement of the ‘no bat for you’ rule is a joke.

  23. Yes, Jean Bart. It is true. He used them in the past. They were Clinton’s rationale for Operation Dessert Whatever where we bombed them for a couple of nights in 1998. The inspector’s never found stockpiles, but the UN mandates stipulated that they be destroyed in the presence of international observers. I don’t think that ever happened. Also think back to the begining of the conflict, and remember that the armed forces crossed the border wearing chem suits. I don’t think that was part of a large PR plot to make us believe that the weapons existed when we actually knew they didn’t. The military commanders assumed they existed and planned for their use. That is why the whole debate of whether they existed or not truly bothers me. All sings before the fall of the regime said yes, they did. That does not mean, however, that the administration did not exagerate the level of threat that Hussein and his WMD’s presented. D.

  24. Jason Ligon,

    In other words, the U.S. was dumb enough to be fooled by a tinpot dictator. ๐Ÿ™‚

    R.C. Dean,

    And so far none of other reasons have been justified; which is why Bush, et. al. don’t talk about them them anymore, except the “freeing Iraqis from tyranny” rationale, which was always the weakest rationales.

    In fact, the rationales given now, the whole “fly paper” rationale for example, are something thought up as far I can tell post-invasion.

  25. The Bush administration’s approach is much like a prosecutor who throws dozens at charges at a person when they are arrested; they hope at least one might stick. So far what has stuck is that Saddam was a “bad man.” As a cassus belli, its not particularly convincing.

  26. Anon at 2:58 was I, and no, if you want to be president in the U.S., you have to run for election.

  27. Yeah, Jean, that’s cute. If the U.S. was “dumb enough” to be fooled by Saddam, what about the rest of the world (and certain veto-wielding members of the Security Council)? Don’t the presence of mass graves in Iraq show that the “world community” was fooled a lot worse than the U.S. was, and about something far more important? Unless you want to say that France, Russia, etc. weren’t fooled at all — that they knew there were mass graves in Iraq and didn’t care. I don’t think that’s better.

  28. As a cassus belli, its not particularly convincing.

    But it sufficed for Milosevic?

  29. Unless you want to say that France, Russia, etc. weren’t fooled at all — that they knew there were mass graves in Iraq and didn’t care. I don’t think that’s better.

    Of course they knew, but over the last seven years, France and Russia (friends to the Hussein regime) combined to pull in 11 billion from the oil-for-food program. The U.N.’s 2.2% commission made them a tidy little bundle of cash too. Then there’s Banque Nationale de Paris, the bank that until 2001 held all the oil-for-food money in escrow (read: slush fund). Somebody’s bank’s president got fat.

    But no, European opposition to the war is obviously rooted in jus ad bellam, because European politicians can’t be corrupt, they’re leftists. And leftists are omnibenevolent, even when their coffers stand to be drained to the tune of beeeellions by America’s decision.

  30. Hitchens’s point in the quoted paragraph is that whether or not Bush was scrupulous about his public reasons to go to war has nothing to do with whether or not the war was worthwhile. If, for example, you now believe there were never any WMDs in Iraq, that can be an argument against, but if you believe Bush fudged the public case for the WMDs in Iraq, that is not in and of itself an argument against. In other words, the case for or against the war can and should be evaluated independently of what the Whitehouse said about it. Not sure why that’s so hard to grasp.

    (That’s Hitchens’s argument, not mine.)

  31. rst: well-worded. “run for election” is not quite “get elected.”

  32. I am underwhelmed by the pathetic rhetorical trick of saying “everyone believed Saddam had WMD”, which in context is blatantly false, then saying “ha, ha, ha, I meant before the first Gulf War”. Every informed person knows Saddam had the weapons then. The UN supervised the destruction of many of them.

    Many people were sceptical that Saddam had the weapons when Bush et. al. were claiming he did. The most prominent were Texas congressman Ron Paul, and columnist Pat Buchanan.

    I once did some Googling and got the impression that some of the usual suspects on the left, like Noam Chomsky, did believe in the WMD. That may contribute to the perception that “everyone” thought so.

  33. I think when they say “everyone” they mean “everyone credible.” That’s not Pat Buchanan. Not sure about Ron Paul’s expertise in the matter. But the intelligence consensus in the Clinton Administration was that he had ’em.

  34. well-worded. “run for election” is not quite “get elected.”

    Yeah I figured someone would jump on it. For what it’s worth, if the SC is the word on constitutionality (abortion is only constitutional because the SC recognized it as such; it has no inherent constitutionality on its own), and the SC verified Bush’s election as consistent with the Constitution, and it is by the Constitution that we elect our president, then Bush was elected president. If you don’t think he was, then please also waive any SC-derived constitutional rights you have gained since judicial review, including the Miranda act and Roe v. Wade.

  35. everyone believed Saddam had WMD

    David, go look up a chick named Dr. Rihab (Rahib? I don’t feel like checking) Taha. Universal consensus was not need to judge whether Iraq had WMD in the late 1990s; their own chief of the program admitted that it was active. Seeing as how little to no progress was made after the first wave of WMD decomposition in the early 1990s, it is unreasonable to simply assume that WMDs are no longer there. It is reasonable to assume that because by their own admission, they were there, and no accurate or reliable records exist of their destruction, they are still there.

  36. Most of the mass graves in Iraq were dug when Saddam and President Reagan were good buddies. Almost no one cared then and almost no one really cares now.

  37. Bush didn’t say he was reasonably assuming. He said he knew.

  38. rst,

    I’ve seen claims of corruption in the past; so far they amount to just that – claims. Its like a lot of the bullshit Francophobes claim about France – fanciful claims based largely irrational prejudice.

  39. David Tomlin:

    Just as a note, I made the argument that everyone knew he had WMD, but others followed up with the comments about incidents before the first Gulf War.

    I meant that at the end of the first war, he claimed to have X amount of sarin, y amount of vx, and so on. The UN supervised the destruction of 2/3X and 3/5Y, which implicitly asks the question, “What about the rest?” The answer was obfuscated for 10 years by Iraqi intelligence.

    I am also referring to the good Doctor who indicated that Iraq had an active bioweapons lab. When asked about it, again there was no answer.

    To believe that he had no WMD despite the math not working out is to believe both that his initial count after losing the war was too high and that it was worth his while to engage security forces to prevent anyone from finding out that he had no weapons. Some individuals may have held this belief, but they were a gross minority. Even the most outspoken opponents of the invasion in the UN didn’t argue that there were none, they simply argued that we needed to give him more time to come clean.

    There is no politician on Earth I respect as much as Ron Paul, but I think the libertarian non intervention reflex got the better of him in this particular case. The issue needed to be framed so as to place the burden on the guy who claimed originally to have the weapons.

  40. rst: I will point out, re the Milosevic/Saddam argument, that this is *not* an argument for war if you *opposed* the action against Milosevic, as I and plenty of other libertarians did.

    And a better argument re “WMDs” is Gene Healy’s, which goes roughly as follows:

    (a) chemical and biological weapons are not significantly more destructive than conventional weapons, and don’t merit the WMD designation anyway;

    (b) who cares whether Saddam had chem/bio or not? Even if he did, that didn’t make him a threat to American security, and so even if we’d found massive stockpiles the war would still be unjustified. The UN, as you state at so much length, is an essentially worthless organization, and so UN resolutions about WMD destruction (or anything else) are not a valid reason for war.

  41. JDM — I think Hitchens’ point in that paragraph is not so easily defined; that indeed, he was making several points. The two points I disagree with:

    1) that critics of the administration reasoning for war aren’t (and/or weren’t) engaging in reasonable criticism, but rather a “literal-minded insistence that all government rhetoric be entirely scrupulous.” I think there has been both reasonable and unreasonable criticism, and I honestly don’t recall anyone insisting, in his case, that “all government rhetoric be entirely scrupulous.” Such an insistence may indeed be “weird,” if it existed; at any rate I tend to think it’s generally a swell idea to ask your government to be honest when deciding to go to war.

    2) That such a “literal-minded insistence” can “only come from those who were not willing to form, or to defend, positions on their own” vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein & war. That strikes me as ridiculously omniscient, absolutist, and ultimately wrong. It would seem pretty hard to determine with 100% accuracy exactly why any theoretical person would engage in “literal-minded insistence,” but I can easily conceive of such a person being pro-war — if, for instance, he was pro-war, but he was also obsessed with making sure the government tells the truth. These are not at all mutually exclusive categories. In fact, I can easily imagine that, if such a literal-minded person actually exists, that he believes precisely that the government *should* be scrupulous, because such scrupulosity (sic) can be seen as the most effective way to build and sustain public support for the war effort.

    Yet Hitchens doesn’t stop there with this particular bit of absolutism & omniscience. In addition, the “only” people capable of such literal-minded scrupulousness must be “those for whom Saddam would not have been a problem unless Bush tried to make him one.”

    If I could read minds like that, I’da moved to Vegas years ago.

  42. I looked up Dr. Rihab Taha, and found an article from before the war that represented her as claiming all Iraqi bio-weapons were destroyed in 1991.


  43. Pat Buchanan used to work in the White House. I disagree with him about many things, but I don’t agree he has less credibility than Clinton and his team.

  44. Bush didn’t say he was reasonably assuming. He said he knew.

    Yes, and Clinton said he didn’t have sex with that woman.

    I’ve seen claims of corruption in the past; so far they amount to just that – claims. Its like a lot of the bullshit Francophobes claim about France – fanciful claims based largely irrational prejudice.

    Sounds a lot like the anti-American claims of lies and imperialism. So far, they have amounted to just that – claims. Like a lot of the bullshit that anglophobes claim about the US, fanciful claims based largely [on] irrational prejudice.

    The fact remains that the U.N., France, Russia, and Syria will lose billions in the cessation of oil-for-food program. But while everybody will bring a torch to question the motives and integrity of the U.S., the prevailing assumption is that Europe’s opposition is based on some humanitarian bullshit — ignoring wholesale that these countries and the U.N. as a whole made significant financial gain off the sanctions that were killing umpteen billion Iraqi kindergartners per second.

  45. More of the same…

    Lets all just agree that historically both the United States and France (hell every other country and administration in the world) has made poor foreign policy decisions. That does not mean that every other foreign policy decision made by that country is wrong if it is inconsistant with the past ones.

    I’m fairly certain that every intelligence agency in the world was telling their Chief Executive that Iraq had Chemical and Biological weapons and active programs, our intelligence agencies obviously believed it and have briefed every President as far back as Reagan on that fact. They could have been wrong but I think it is more likely that the 12 years of dickering around with the U.N. enabled Saddam to hide and finally relocate his WMD to Syria.

    By far this is worse than the possibility that Saddam never had them in the first place. eh?

  46. As for the whole WMD kerfuffle:

    (1) There seemed to be a pretty solid consensus pre-war that he had the stuff, or at least the ability to produce the stuff. A few dissenters here and there, maybe, but everybody who mattered (that, who had access to top-level intelligence) agreed on this point, and had for nearly 20 years. The argument was over what to do about it.

    (2) It wasn’t up to us to prove he had them, under the terms of the 1991 ceasefire and multiple UN resolutions. It was up to Saddam to document that he got rid of what he admittedly had (easily done), and to demonstrate that he dismantled his capability for making more (more difficult). He never did so. He had the burden of proof, not us, and he did not carry it.

    Let me repeat that: Saddam never demonstrated that he got rid of WMD stocks that he admitted that he had, as confirmed by UN inspectors. The only rational conclusion was (and is) that he retained at least some WMD capability.

    The whole discussion about whether the good guys had sufficient proof that Saddam still had WMD is a red herring, a case of moving the goalposts. That was never our responsibility under the international consensus expressed through UN resolutions.

  47. less credibility than Clinton and his team

    Cre-di-bi-li-ty (n) –

    I didn’t have sex with that woman.

    Actually, she sucked me off, I shoved a cigar up her snatch, and I splooged on her dress.


  48. I’ve seen claims of corruption in the past; so far they amount to just that – claims. Its like a lot of the bullshit Francophobes claim about France – fanciful claims based largely irrational prejudice.

    and here’s where, despite your obvious intelligence, jb, you lose all the credibility that matters in pointing out the flaws of the united states, imo. if someone made that statement about italy or america or the catholic church or some other institution, it would be interpreted (rightly) as an irrational denial of obvious fact. and it is the same when said of france.

    let’s not forget that french politics are, like any otehr nation’s, driven by money and self-interest; and that french politicians utter lie upon lie every single day, just like any other, just like the ones told by dubya, in the interest of getting things done their way.

    you can be a nationalist and a francophile, but you cannot also be a rationalist. ๐Ÿ™‚

  49. . . . Clinton said he didn’t have sex with that woman.

    I didn’t believe him either, but no one accused me of hating America then.

  50. The intelligence people were saying they couldn’t be sure Saddam didn’t have the weapons. Bush and Blair lied and said it was certain he did.

  51. I didn’t believe him either, but no one accused me of hating America then.

    Nobody cares how *you* feel about America – the few nobodies who do care are tossing around protest-placard sentiments of no more value than “Bush lies, people die”. What matters is whether the pretext for war was reasonable or unreasonable; any factual basis thereof is currently indeterminate. It seems that the fact that WMD’s have not been physically located is somehow a fulcrum on which the opposition turns. That’s a technicality, because Hussein’s behavior and policy (“it’s not a lie when you’re ordered to lie”) combined with the fact that there was no proof of destruction of WMD – his responsibility under 687 – supported the widely held if not universal belief that they were still there, and only the observation that they are not present-at-hand – an observation that is blatantly ignorant of Hussein’s successful decade long history of hiding the weapons, lying about facility decommisioning, etc. – supports the notion that they are not there.

    Did the fact that the glove didn’t fit OJ’s hand mean he was factually innocent?

  52. To Jason Ligon:

    Sorry about the confusion. I should have checked.

    The rest of your post amounts to saying that because you have arguments for why everyone should have agreed with you, you are entitled to claim that everyone did agree with you.

  53. If people who accuse me of hating America don’t care, why do they bother making the accusation?

  54. It is simply not true that everyone believed that Iraq had WMD, or even active programs to develop them, after when UNSCOM left.

    Even former UNSCOM chief Rolf Ekeus, who has supported the war on the grounds that he believed that Iraq probably kept some precursors and the ambition to have weapons, said publicly before the war that Iraq had “very little left” in the way of weapons programs when the inspectors left in 1998.

    Bush said that intelligence left “no doubt” that Iraq “continued to conceal and possess some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” That was a blatant lie however you slice it.

  55. David T., you seem to be the man with the answers. Please point me to one instance when Bush said he was “certain” that the weapons existed. Give me a press conference, speech, whatever. I don’t think you will find it. And I also think that to make a statement like “Bush and Blair lied and said it was certain he did” is a complete mischaracterization of the entire rationale for the war.

  56. If people who accuse me of hating America don’t care, why do they bother making the accusation?

    Who knows, they’re the nobodies. Regardless, their accusations do not change the rational basis for the war, only your perception of the people who support it and, indirectly, what they support.

  57. Bennett:

    “We know for a fact there are weapons there.” –Then-White House spokes-man Ari Fleischer, Jan. 9, 2003

    “The Iraqi regime possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” –Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

    “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” –Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002

    “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” –Bush, March 17, 2003

    I’m sure there are plenty more.

  58. “Bush said that intelligence left “no doubt” that Iraq “continued to conceal and possess some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” That was a blatant lie however you slice it. ”

    Only if you claim that Bush knew the weapons were gone before the invasion, and chose to cover that fact up. Not finding them after the fact is not proof that he lied. Besides I still don’t remember anyone from the administration saying that they knew beyond any doubt the weapons were there. If someone knows where please show me.

  59. The lie was that Bush claimed the intelligence was so conclusive as not to leave any doubt. In fact, there never was any such conclusive intelligence, and Bush either knew this or is thoroughly incompetent.

  60. Matt,

    I don’t think he’s saying all criticism of the war is unreasonable, just that the post war “Bush lied, so we shouldn’t have gone to war” argument is unreasonable, or at least not compelling compared to the weight of the pro-war arguments as he sees them – specifically with regards to the information on Saddam cozying up more and more to the Islamofascists. You elided the “in view of the above,” which is important in interpreting this.

    I think the theoretical person he creates is just a rhetorical device, I don’t think he’s saying no one can hold the opinion that Bush should have been more honest on his pronouncements on the war, just that it ought to be separate from that person’s opinion about whether the war is justified. As you said yourself, you can easily see a pro-war person holding the same view, which is compatible with the point he is making. If it’s a tangential issue, the position could be held by pro- or anti-war people.

    “in other words, those for whom Saddam would not have been a problem unless Bush tried to make him into one.”

    In other words, the belief that Bush lied about the war could only change your opinion if it was only Bush’s pronouncements that informed your opinions on the pro-war positions in the first place – if you hadn’t viewed the facts at the time on your own, independently of what the Whitehouse said.

    His James Baker example from the same paragraph(which is pretty clear) seems to bear me out.

  61. JDM:

    I think you’re right about what Hitchens meant, and it’s a valid point so far as it goes, but for much of the pro-war public, it WAS Bush’s pronouncements that formed their opinions (I know, not everyone’s!), and it is disturbing that Hitchens seems to be implying that he should not be held accountable for that.

  62. Thanks. I stand corrected.

    However, until I see conclusive proof that he knew before the invasion they did not exist, and that his available intellegence at the time was rock solid, and he covered that fact up to make the invasion possible from a political standpoint, I can not buy into the Bush lied meme.

  63. Here’s what I don’t get about Hitchens. He’s willing to point out the violation of scruples of Mother Theresa, not that it’s undeserved but certainly in the scheme of things it’s pretty damned small. But he writes yet another column about how people should be on Bush’s side in this Iraq war, and now he’s essentially telling us scruples are only for the less important. Sounds like he’s pro-war (in this case) on a purely emotional level and can’t bring himself to admit it intellectually. It’s like he keeps writing columns on the Iraq war to convince himself.

  64. pinhas,

    Probably true, but this still doesn’t bear on the question of whether or not the war was just, or necessary, which has to be the root question. If it was unjust, any unscroupulosity (double sic) can only dig a deeper hole for Bush. If the war was just, someone might reasonably forgive some, especially if they are not particularly enamoured of the wisdom of the masses – as Hitchen’s is not.

    He probably believes, as I do, that the information was there for anyone capable of forming a meaningful opinion.

  65. Russ,

    I think just the opposite. The column has nothing to do with it being Bush’s side. He’s almost saying you can’t be against it just because it is Bush’s side, on logical grounds. He keeps writing the articles, I’d imagine, because the same pointless arguments (not all of them) keep coming up, though they are refuted again and again.

    You’re right that he’s really off the reservation with his anti-Mother-Teresa-look-at-what-a-fearless-iconoclast-I-am posturing, though. Good for you, jackass, beating up on a nun who dedicated a huge part of her life to the poor.

  66. I’m calling Hithchens a jackass, not Russ. At least not here. I’m agnostic on whether or not Russ is a jackass. I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other. I just don’t have the information. I’m perfiectly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though.

  67. I’m sure there are plenty more.

    Your statements do not illustrate deception – requisite in a lie – merely being incorrect about an issue which was central to public support. The words of leaders are propaganda; in focusing on the rhetoric, you seek something to justify support of the war, not the war itself. The events that occurred throughout the lifetime of U.S. and U.N. relations with Iraq are a matter of history; whether WMDs are actually there at this moment is factually indeterminate but nevertheless the belief that they are is supported by the history of the situation, and the belief that they are not is only supported by the fact that they are not in our hands at this moment.

    Popular support may have been based upon a notion which was later proven untrue, and hell, the entire war itself may even have been illegal, but that does not make it wrong or immoral.

  68. It is certainly deception to present unsubstantiated allegations as incontrovertible facts, even if you think the allegations are probably true.

  69. Too many posts to read so I’m probably repeating what someone else already said, but it looks to me like he’s saying that since know government officials will lie and their lies are only a real problem for those who can’t think for themselves. If you ~can~ think for yourself, your opinions will be largely independent of what gov’t officials say. The problem is the credulous idiots, who’ll take gov’t statements at face value and specifically won’t recognize a threat like Sadaam unless it is pointed out to them by gov’t officials.

  70. Jason Ligon,

    “We have a republic for a reason.”

    Yeah, the federalists decided in the 1780s that the lower orders were getting entirely out of hand, and wanted a powerful central government that would be insulated from interference by the Great Unwashed.

  71. Anyone else think D.A. Ridgely near the top of the thread sound like Hitchens himself? That tight prose sounds awfully familiar.

  72. Kevin Carson,

    The republic protects the rights of the individual less than pure democracy, eh? That is a whole other discussion.

    While I am sympathetic with many of your arguments, I just don’t understand the intense appeal of tribal communities where everything costs too much.

  73. Oops. Anon 10:31 is me.

  74. “Anyone else think D.A. Ridgely near the top of the thread sound like Hitchens himself? That tight prose sounds awfully familiar.”

    Thanks, outer. However, given that I don’t drink, unlike Hitchens, only my prose is tight.

  75. I suppose I should have written “given that I, unlike Hitchens, don’t drink,….” Ah well, one other difference — I don’t have an editor.

  76. unsubstantiated allegations

    The allegations were not unsubstantiated. They were supported by the history of evidence. Is a prosecutor guilty of deception if he does not win a conviction?

  77. Why would you assume Hitchens have any other position? He’s a (ex-?)Trotskyite – in his view, the moral superiority of a particular ideology does not owe anything to simple, mundane things like facts. It’s a higher Truth. Much like the Straussians and other neocons, lying to the masses – who suffer from false consciousness about their condition and the world, anyway – is part of the price of pursuing the vision of a world communism… err…. I mean democracy.

  78. lying to the masses

    This is a strictly neo-conservative trait?

    Lying to the masses has been the chosen profession of every head of state since states had heads. Were there a democrat in office he’d be lying through his teeth and it is quite possible that we would be in Iraq anyway – your faithful democrat candidates had the benefit of not having the responsibility to shoulder when they formed their initial uninformed opinions, and now have the benefit of controversy to solidify them. That it is a republican in office opens up the floor to the traditional he’s-a-republican-so-he’s-objectively-bad school of thought. If you can call it thought.

  79. “This is a strictly neo-conservative trait?”

    Certainly not. But, the neo-cons have embraced the idea that it’s desirable.

  80. There is a lot of harsh rhetoric running around here. Hitchens didn’t argue that outright lies are okay, he merely questioned the idea that in the context of political ideas, that equal emphasis should be given to all possible arguments instead of a politician going with the ones that they will believe will advance their position the best.

    Bush and Powell discussed many reasons for going to war, but there was a definite emphasis on WMD. This may or may not have been the best reason, and it may or may not have had the most factual basis, but it was certainly plausible. As I said earlier, some positions simply can’t be advanced in public.

    Also as I said earlier, if a politician has two reasons for wanting to increase spending, to stimulate the economy and to pay off those who voted for him for example, it is not realistic to argue that he should stump on both of these arguments.

    The scruple being referred to here is not truth and lies, it is whether the administration really believed the WMD was the best reason to go to war or if there was another unutterable reason that they felt was more compelling.

    Hitchens is arguing, and I agree, that it takes a willful denial of all other assumed knowledge about Saddam to argue that “I thoght this was ALL about WMD!”

  81. I think it’s the antiwar folks who have waffled in the face of facts. When we went in, the anti-crowd cried “It’s all about the oil.” Now, it’s “They lied about WMDs that don’t exist.”

    Having had one bogus theory about the Bush administration’s motivations disproved by history, they had to shift to another one. Pretty soon it’ll be “They want to make Iraq the 51st state.”

  82. Wait, did Rick just post a link to Raimondo’s site to back up his argument?

    Ok, just checking.

  83. Of course, what’s wrong about the sanctioning of government lying is that it assumes good intentions on the part of the government, and even when that’s the case it assumes good judgment on their part as well. The evidence is, that the lies attendant to the Iraq war seem to be a case of the US government failing the first of these assumptions on both the WMD pretext as well as the “terrorist link” pretext. If, in the unlikely case, with the WMD pretext, the first assumption was not failed then surely the second one was, in huge magnitude. Either way, our government’s lies have played out in the hideously tragic proportions that only the lies told by a government can.

    Now that Christopher Hitchens is engaging in argument on behalf of the filth of state lying he has embraced yet another tenant of the neo-con mind set.

  84. I think it’s the antiwar folks who have waffled in the face of facts.

    I don’t think they waffled in the face of facts, because let’s face the facts, we don’t have all the facts. The antiwar crowd waffles in the face of reasonable expectations for the present time based on historical trends. To them the history of Iraq is irrelevant; that Hussein had WMD, that he used them, that the cease-fire never actually transpired, that the U.N. and Europe had 11 figures of motivation not to end the sanctions, that the mass graves and rampant human rights violations against Shia and Kurds had been internationally-ignored outrages for 20 years, etc. Opposition to the war hinges on the interpretation of propaganda – what Bush meant about WMD, the U.N.’s diplomatic stances – and not the progression of history. It is a platform seemingly hatched more out of political convenience: the left needed something to push back with.

  85. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 12:28:27
    Ethics is not necessarily the handmaiden of theology.

  86. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 01:41:55
    Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.

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