The "Clinton Did It" Defense


In its continuing search for connections between bin Laden and Iraq, The Weekly Standard is attempting to rehabilitate Clinton's bloody panty raid on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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  1. I would personally vote for cry. That was one of the worst excuses for foreign policy that I have ever seen.

  2. your brilliant dismissal of the Sudan bombing fiasco notwithstanding, my undersanding is-was that the hayes reporting had rather firmly established these links, no?

    Perhaps, given its Pentagon provenance, that the military planner sorts who leaked this to him had at least established it their satisfaction

    my thought, and Im a true blue neo-con, is that al quaeda will have less connection to many ME govs than previous thought….and that most ME govs will have/do have clear and open lines of communication to most terror orgs away from AQ, such as the Pali’s, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad

  3. This might be part of a larger reconsideration of the importance of the strike on the pharmaceutical plant. Check out this post from a few days after the Kay report was released.

  4. I was skeptical of the so-called “children’s aspirin factory” raid as well, until a friend who works with a reputable and well known relief organization in Sudan told me that Sudanese government workers showed up, ex-post facto, to scatter bottles of aspirin on the wreckage.

    Sure, it may have been a perfectly innocent factory.

    On the other side of the coin, that bottle-scattering makes me think Clinton was right about the purpose of the factory.

  5. This reminds me of the “yellow rain” controversy. Anyone else recall?
    Either bees or the Chinese or the USSR, or all the above were poisoning the Hmong by air. The Hmong were in Laos.

  6. The main difference between this and the yellow rain controversy is that in the earlier case the hawks were probably right: While there was an embarrassing mixup in which what was touted as evidence of biological weapons turned out to be beeshit, the Soviets did indeed have an illegal bioweapons program, as we learned after the Cold War concluded. In the Sudan case, the hawks are probably wrong: Hayes doesn’t give us any new reason to put stock in soil-sample evidence that was generally regarded as discredited half a decade ago.

  7. Jesse Walker,

    Well, the U.S. also had a bio-weapons program, a very sophisticated one, at one time. Nixon of course killed it (or such is the story), but that was a public relations manuevre. And of course the U.S. still has a defensive program, and lots stockpiled chemical weapons, etc. that are still being incenerated, etc. A lot the stockpile dates back to WWI, when the U.S. considered the use of chemical weapons in that war. Even with the coming into being of the Chemical Weapons Convention and its various requirements for dismantling chemical weapons factories, etc., the U.S. will continue to retain a stockpile of chemical weapons; specifically nerve and blister agents. Most U.S. states also have non-stockpile material as well; much of it buried at military bases that are active or now defunct.

  8. The point was that the USSR kept its weapons program going after it was allegedly shut down. It’s possible, by the way, that the US did the same thing, despite Nixon’s act.

    Still, there’s no event in the last three decades of American history comparable to the 1979 outbreak of anthrax in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk, which was directly linked to biowarfare experiments.

  9. Jesse Walker,

    I agree; well that we know of at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am reminded of the book “The Andromeda Strain.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Pundits need to keep in mind thtat the President has access to more and better intel than they do.

    This gives the Pres the opportunity to make many pundits and opposition figures look stupid.

    Be careful out there.

  11. M. Simon,

    Which explains his statement concerning “yellowcake” in his speech. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jesse Walker,

    Interesting article.

  12. Jean Bart,

    What was wrong with the statement Bush made about yellowcake and Africa in his State of the Union address? Just wondering,

  13. “Pundits need to keep in mind that the President has access to more and better intel than they do.”

    This is exactly why it is such a great betrayal when the President misleads the public on intelligence matters- people trusted Bush on the Iraqi threat, and he said that “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.”

    Of course your point is true- the President can make pundits look stupid, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Bush to have hidden evidence of an Iraq-Qaeda connection while he fumbled around for a reason to invade (both before and after.)

  14. Blixa,

    That the claim was wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. What a minute… Wasn’t this the same “Asprin Factory” raid the conservatives decried as an example of Clinton’s wishy-washy foriegn policy?

    How a change in the White House can change rhetoric.

  16. Jean Bart,

    So the British government hadn’t learned that Saddam Hussein had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa?

    Do you have a link or something to prove this?

  17. Alma,

    Personally I think the reasons to invade were quite clear both before and after. But the question I ask you is do you think calling Bush and his people liars is a useful strategy, politically or intellectually, in trying to find out what’s going on?

  18. Blixa: The CIA Director George Tenet admitted that the line about African uranium shouldn’t have been in the speech. They knew the intelligence was wrong months before the SOTU, yet somehow the line got in anyway. Maybe it was an honest mistake, maybe it was a deliberate effort to use false claims to build a case for war–we may never know.

    What strikes me about the Weekly Standard’s ongoing effort to justify the invasion by showing some sort of Iraq-Al Qaeda link is that this seems like the kind of discussion we should have had before going to war in the first place. A shoot-first, ask-questions-later foreign policy is a bad idea given the intelligence failures we’ve now been reminded are possible.

  19. Spirit-

    I’m not sure whether or not calling Bush a liar is good political strategy for a Dem trying to move into the White House.

    But the Prseident’s statements have a major influence in shaping the public discourse, particularly in matters of national security, and I think it’s appropriate to point out when he lies.

    The statement I quoted before (“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.”) appeared in a major policy address.

    It was a lie. Even if warehouses full of WMD were to turn up tomorrow, it was simply not the case that intelligence last March confirmed beyond all doubt that Iraq had them. There was very little left when the inspectors left in 1998 (Rolf Ekeus has said this, among others) , and the admin has basically conceded that there was very little new good intel since 1998.

    So I don’t know about strategy, but Bush lied.

  20. Alma, at best there’s no way to know (and little reason to think) that Bush thought he was saying something incorrect. Personally, I not only think he was telling the truth, I think he was right. What you’ve got is a political disagreement where you’re convinced the other side is wrong. Happens all the time. Calling it a lie is childish.

  21. I think I was experimenting with oatmeal stout at the time so my recollections are fuzzy, but didn’t that bombing raid in Sudan a few days before one of the important votes during the Clinton impeachment party?

  22. the verb “to happen” happen a few days before

  23. I can only speak for one conservative. I didn’t have any real problem with Clinton’s foreign policy in the 90’s. I said so at the time. I thought Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo were handled reasonably well, the bombing of Iraq was likely effective, and the retaliation against bin-Ladin was at least something.
    I think other conservatives were silly to quibble about blue helmets, and as for 9/11, I don’t believe in the prescience of governments. After 9/11 I haven’t wanted to blame anyone in America– the blame belomgs to bin-Ladin.

  24. No mak, all our ignorance means is WE can’t be sure about what Bush was saying, not whether he was in doubt. And I do question Bush regularly–I just don’t call him names because I disagree with him

    And try as you might to paint yourself as reasonable, saying stuff like “acquiescing to a war with anything less in hand represents to me an oppressive imperial ethic” is pretty out there.

  25. What you’ve got is a political disagreement where you’re convinced the other side is wrong. Happens all the time. Calling it a lie is childish.

    sorry to jump in, but i have no philosophical axe to grind with republicans that i don’t also have with democrats, and i think pretty clearly it was a lie. that bush may have believed it when he said it is possible; in that case, someone within his administration was lying to him.

    and the lie lays in the words: “leaves no doubt”. plainly, there was plenty of doubt, and continues to be.

    to pretend that this government didn’t willfully lie and exaggerate at every opportunity to sell this action to the american people — even if that sales pitch and the action were done with the best of intentions — is completely naive with respect to how governments (and corporations, unions, ngos and most any organization of motivated people) work.

  26. Dimmy Karras,

    Saying “it shouldn’t have been in the speech” and “it was factually untrue” are different things. The former is something which, say, a CIA director might say to defuse a controversy (i.e. get the media to shut up about it by “falling on his sword” and giving them a mea culpa headline quote).

    They knew the intelligence was wrong months before the SOTU, yet somehow the line got in anyway.

    I don’t believe this is correct. Link? showing that they “knew” that British intelligence had not learned that Saddam recently sought to purchase uranium from Africa? (A link for this will be difficult to find, I’d think, since Britain still stands by this information… how could our gov’t have “known” that Britain didn’t learn this thing, when Britain still says they learned this thing?)

    Maybe it was an honest mistake, maybe it was a deliberate effort to use false claims to build a case for war

    I still see no reason to believe it was a false claim.

    It is almost certainly true that Saddam Hussein attempted to purchase uranium from somewhere in Africa. I’d bet you a large amount of money on it. The only question here is: when (i.e. was it “recent”). British intelligence says yes. British intelligence STILL says yes.

    And I’m not just trying to be pedantic, I’m just getting sick and tired of people spreading the same old bogus “lie” stories. Surely there are enough ACTUAL instances of Bush lying (he *is* a politician, after all) without drumming up phony ones and crying wolf. The Africa/uranium thing is as phony a “lie” as they come. Some people spread this phony “lie” story by pretending that Niger is the only country in Africa; sure hope you’re not doing that here. Niger is not the only country in Africa.

    And it is almost certainly true that Saddam Hussein attempted to get uranium from somewhere in Africa. In fact, it would be highly puzzling, surprising, and noteworthy if he *hadn’t*. (would beg the question… What the heck does he have against African uranium that he DOESN’T EVEN TRY to get any from there?)


  27. To others:

    I believe it’s been demonstrated here that the most serious lying came in the form of statements about some intelligence or other “leav[ing] no doubt” that Saddam had WMDs et al. I would agree that this was dishonesty.

    As I noted previously, I suspect that the “leaves no doubt” phrasing was no accident, but was a conscious hedge which Bush and other administration officials decided to rely upon. Their one tiny leg to stand on, for the record, is this:

    The statement that something “leaves no doubt” that X is true, is a statement about the person who says it. What the speaker is *literally* saying is that it “leaves no doubt” in his mind that X is true. It does *not* literally say that X is, indeed, mathematically, factually, metaphysically proven to be true. Just that he (the speaker) has “no doubt” about its truth.

    For example, a crazy man can say “a glance around the room leaves no doubt that a giant talking rabbit named Harvey is standing next to me”. This statement is factually correct (because the crazy man DOESN’T have any doubt that a giant talking rabbit named Harvey stands next to him).

    I would bet that this is what Bush et al had in mind when they relied upon this hedge.

    And no, I don’t say this because I think it excuses Bush or anyone else. I do believe this is the kind of thing that Rises To The Level(tm) of lying, dishonesty, prevarication, whatever you wanna call it. I’m just sayin’, it does look like “leaves no doubt” was their way of being Clintonian about the issue… ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe this will help us identify *future* Clintonian spins which come from the administration… we should all have learned how necessary it is to parse such statements… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. Mak nas

    First, we don’t know what information Bush or his people had at the time he made his statement. We still don’t know today. And we still don’t even know if he was wrong (much less lied).

    Second, we don’t know how his people interpreted the information they had.

    Third, the phrase….you know, I could go on, but it occurs to me if you honestly think this makes Bush a liar, then either you’re a Bush-hater, or you must think most every statement of “fact” any politician makes means they lie too. At every debate I’ve ever heard, I regularly hear statements I know to be wrong, but I don’t, then, childishly call the people making them liars.

    Rather than continue in this vein, let me quote some Democrats “lying” about the same issue you’re so sure Bush must have been lying about.

    Bob Graham and other Senators in 2001: “There is no doubt that since [1998], Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status.”

    Al Gore, 2002: “We know that [Saddam Hussein] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” (Don’t worry, he made mostly anti-Bush “lies” in this speech.)

    Ted Kennedy, 2002: “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

    Robert Byrd, 2002: ” We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability [since 1998].”

    John Kerry, 2002: “…I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in [Saddam Hussein’s] hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region.”

    Senator Rockefeller, 2002: “There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.”

    Henry Waxman, 2002: “He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do.”

    Hillary Clinton, 2002: “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.”

    There are many others. Amazing how many liars there are over this Iraq war.

  29. BTW, people continue to mention that the President even admitted that Iraq has WMDs. At most I can remember him saying that they may have them; not that they do. I’ve diligently looked through Chirac’s statements and found no evidence where he stated that Iraq absolutely possesses WMDs.

  30. First, we don’t know what information Bush or his people had at the time he made his statement. We still don’t know today. And we still don’t even know if he was wrong

    then it seems to me that there is a significant amount of doubt, wouldn’t you agree, even though the president attempted to dispel it by simply saying there was none.

    i’m not an irrational bush-hater, but i do understand that politics is the science of lying to get what you need/want. i don’t expect politicans to be honest. nor do i expect them (as you seem to) to make important decisions based on evidence alone, whether i voted for them or not.

    in fact, my argument on this particular aspect of this issue isn’t with bush — it’s with those who refuse to question him in spite of the fact that they know almost nothing he hasn’t told them. and i would be equally critical of those who would believe kennedy or clinton or any of your other illustrious examples without a dossier three feet thick of evidence — not politicians’ words, but tangible evidence.

    acquiescing to a war with anything less in hand represents to me an oppressive imperial ethic, not a peaceful one. with evidence, the case for self-defense can be made. now without it, it looks very much a war of choice and aggression.

  31. and yes, i heard powell at the un — and no, i didn’t find that compelling, and even less so after the subsequent retractions.

  32. The Weekly Standard article wasn’t a justification for the current admin’s actions, but was instead an effective disproof of the specious arguments of the current admin’s political opponents. Read it again.

  33. A man can have no doubt and still be mistaken.

    Does that make him a liar or just a person with an incorrect estimation of the reliabilaty of some facts.

    It would seem that the mis estimation of the reliability may have come from an ad hoc Bayesian analysis of the current state of belief.

    That would then be error not lie.

    Unless you are a victim of BDS.

  34. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/28/2004 02:51:33
    Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it..

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