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It’s Still Ad Hominem If They’re Neocons

dick-cheney-sailors

My latest for The National Interest, “Neoconservatives, the Iraq Debate and Ad Hominem Attacks,” has posted. It was sparked by a long discussion on Twitter between several national security professionals and another with my OTB co-bloggers. The piece is over 2000 words but the following excerpt provides the gist:

On our television screens and op-ed pages, some familiar faces and names have again been talking about Iraq, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Paul Bremer, along with various neocon pols and pundits who never went away. Some are now arguing that, having gotten Iraq so spectacularly wrong the last time, these people should not be listened to now. That idea is both misguided and dangerous.

[...]

Ad hominem is a logical fallacy for a reason. An argument’s strength doesn’t depend on who’s making it. Excluding people from the discourse who have gotten it wrong in the past diminishes, rather than increases, our collective understanding. Even if we presume there’s actually an objective process for identifying right and wrong in complex policy decisions where counterfactuals aren’t available to us, the fact is that anyone who has made a significant number of hard choices will invariably have gotten some wrong.

It’s perfectly legitimate for journalists interviewing former senior officials in the Bush administration—as with any other guests—to press them on their past decisions and statements. To the extent Wolfowitz or anyone else has shown poor judgment on a specific issue, they should absolutely be called upon to explain why we should trust their judgment now. And, if they’re making arguments now that a Democrat is president that contradict arguments they made when their guy was in office, they should be challenged to explain why circumstances are different now or whether there are legitimate reasons as to why their position evolved.

[...]

I do think those who’ve obviously reflected upon and learned from their mistakes are more credible—and, frankly, more interesting—commentators than those who cling stubbornly to their old positions, facts be damned. It’s one thing to still believe that the 2003 invasion was the right course of action. It’s quite another to argue that we did the right thing, say, in throwing low-level Baath Party members out of the military and civil service. If former officials and longstanding pundits are simply going to emulate Baghdad Bob, regurgitating comically stupid talking points, they’re of no value. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Relatedly, while bad judgments on complex issues don’t necessarily devalue one’s value as a commentator, bad faith does. For example, some of the pols and pundits in question have demonstrated a repeated willingness to shade the truth to advance their position.

[...]

Cheney, Wolfowitz, and other senior Bush administration officials consistently cited intelligence they knew to be disputed when it supported their agenda and willfully ignored intelligence that they found inconvenient. Given the enormous pressures they were under in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, I’m willing to believe that they did so in support of a policy they genuinely believed necessary to secure the nation from foreign threats. But it’s their history of mendacity, not their bad judgments, that make them suspect as participants in the public debate.

Much more at the link.

UPDATE: A more pithy formulation occurred to me this morning as I was waiting for the piece to post: People who’ve made errors in judgment can make a valuable contribution to the debate. It’s hacks that we should exclude from the conversation.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    You do know you just painted a target on your own back, don’t you, James?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Fair points all.

    I will admit I’ve been among those to jump on the war advocates like Wolfowitz et al when they appear on TV and (1) deny that anything they advocated in 2002-2003 is responsible for what is happening now (2) insist that everything going wrong is President Obama’s fault, and (3) advocate further U.S. intervention in response to a problem that, arguably, was at least in part caused by the very policies they helped implement a decade ago.

    I suppose what I’d like to see when such people are on is that these people are challenged more directly — along the lines of “You got this wrong last time, why should we listen to you now?” — but as you said that is not what the shows that these people have appeared on are about really. And that is an entirely different issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Right. I think challenging them on those points furthers the debate. And, to the extent that they’re honest participants—which, as the conclusion notes, is the real issue—they’ve got a hell of a lot to offer from six years of struggling with the situation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  4. C. Clavin says:

    I’m sorry.
    These guys weren’t just wrong. They were spectacularly wrong … and did harm to those who questioned them. See: Plsme, Valerie and Shinseki, General.
    Second; they are unrepentant.
    Third; they continue to act as if they are the sole fount of knowledge and wisdom.
    Your point, in general , is correct.
    But it does not apply to this group.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 7

  5. Some are now arguing that, having gotten Iraq so spectacularly wrong the last time, these people should not be listened to now.

    No, some are arguing that, by continuing to insist they got Iraq right when it’s obvious they got it so spectacularly wrong, these people should not be listened to now.

    If somone is arguing that the sky is green, saying they should be ignored is not an Ad Hominem attack.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 52 Thumb down 1

  6. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Great point.
    Megan Kelly tried.
    But at the end of the day our fourth estate is made up of stenographers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    Um, why isn’t that picture the “caption this” contest?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    Even if we presume there’s actually an objective process for identifying right and wrong in complex policy decisions where counterfactuals aren’t available to us,

    I’m so old I remember when conservatives used to believe in objective reality, in hard-edged measurement, right and wrong, good and bad, in the idea that things could be quantified and weighed and measured.

    When did they all become so airy-fairy, so allergic to facts and figures? Half a century ago it was the left which was home to theorists who believed that there was no truth, that all perception was just socially constructed. Now it’s the right who cries “were we right? Were we wrong? Who can tell? What does that even mean….?”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  9. Davebo says:

    It’s one thing to still believe that the 2003 invasion was the right course of action. It’s quite another to argue that we did the right thing, say, in throwing low-level Baath Party members out of the military and civil service.

    Apparantly Dick Cheney isn’t the only one who hasn’t learned the lesson from their position on the war in 2003.

    Because both of those points are just plain wrong and if you can’t see that, even in hindsight, then you haven’t learned the lesson either.

    Edit: To make myself clear, both beliefs ARE the same thing. Wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, to the extent that they’re honest participants—which, as the conclusion notes, is the real issue—they’ve got a hell of a lot to offer from six years of struggling with the situation.

    But they aren’t honest participants.

    And the issue isn’t just that they got it wrong — it’s how they got it wrong. It’s that they not only got it wrong, but got it wrong while questioning the patriotism and smearing anyone who dared question them. It’s that they got it wrong by an active campaign of lying and propaganda, of planned and calculated deception.

    Lots of former Iraq War supporters like you guys attempt to excuse yourselves by providing cover to these guys, perhaps in a hope that if they’re rehabilitated, you won’t look so stupid for having fallen for them. But it’s not just hat they were wrong — it’s that they were liars.

    And no, liars don’t have a lot to offer in the way of honest analysis and forthright reckoning with consequences.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 0

  11. KM says:

    There is some wisdom in listening to those who have made mistakes and failed so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. They warn of the cliff.

    There is no wisdom in listening to the fool who has failed spectacularly and eagerly wants to do it again, having learned nothing in the process. They lead people off cliffs.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Sorry, no.

    A person who has been wrong, then recognizes his error, corrects his mistakes, and admits to all the above is worth listening to again. Everyone makes mistakes.

    A person who has been wrong and refuses to acknowledge error, and indeed proceeds to make the same mistake, again and again, is justifiably ignored.

    Mr. Cheney should be in prison. He is not someone we should be including in policy conversations.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 47 Thumb down 3

  13. josh says:

    James

    Would you go back to the surgeon who left a sponge in your insides after sewing you up? Is it ad hominem to say “Maybe I’ll go see another doctor next time”?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  14. anjin-san says:

    to the extent that they’re honest participants

    I have a hard time seeing Cheney as anything beyond a war criminal/profiteer.

    Not much room for honesty there.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It’s not an ad hominem because you’re pointing to their errors in facts rather than calling them names. We’re agreeing on the bottom line here.

    @Davebo: I don’t think the Iraq War was worth fighting in hindsight. But that’s an opinion, not a falsifiable fact. We don’t have the counterfactuals.

    @Rafer Janders: No, throwing them under the bus serves my interests. Regardless, I think I meet my own standard: my position evolves with my understanding of the evidence. And, again, I think we’re in agreement on the bottom line.

    michael reynolds: Aside from the closing line, we’re saying the same thing.

    @josh: Hiring a technician is not the same thing as engaging in an argument. A surgeon who’s made a mistake likely has scads of knowledge about his profession that I’d listen to over the views of a layman. But it he’s careless with his technique, I wouldn’t let him operate on me or mine.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 15

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think the Iraq War was worth fighting in hindsight. But that’s an opinion, not a falsifiable fact. We don’t have the counterfactuals.

    That’s almost nihilistic. By that standard, you can’t know if anything in life was worth doing.

    Maybe we should have surrendered to the Japanese after Pearl Harbor — after all, we don’t have the counterfactual for how things might in the end have turned out better if we had….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 0

  17. Scott says:

    I think the fundamental dishonesty of the Cheneys, Boltons, etc, is not that they are defending themselves and their actions but rather, they are using the arguments to attack not the security policy of today but rather commit ad hominem attacks on the President. They don’t push forward arguments on what to do today but rather, they argue the negative: that Obama is weak, feckless, etc.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  18. HankP says:

    @James Joyner:
    But they are technicians. They are elected or hired because they claim to have extensive technical knowledge in the areas of political science, history, military operations, economics, etc. and they are relied upon to develop and implement policies and actions that further American interests. Stating that they obviously don’t have the knowledge and skills that they claimed is not ad hominem, it’s simply a straightforward conclusion based on what they did and what followed. By your standards no one could ever be criticized about anything, ever.

    They have shown their incompetence. End of story. Their opinions are not safe to rely upon and add nothing to the conversation.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  19. steve says:

    James- Do you really think that any of the people you have cited here is capable of making good faith arguments? I am skeptical. Between wanting to defend their legacy and the general oppose Obama at all costs prevalent in their party now, I would be surprised if any could be honest participants. I think your argument has merits for the the non-politicians, but probably not the folks you are listing.

    Steve

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @HankP:

    By your standards no one could ever be criticized about anything, ever.

    This.

    They have shown their incompetence. End of story. Their opinions are not safe to rely upon and add nothing to the conversation.

    Double this.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Davebo: I don’t think the Iraq War was worth fighting in hindsight. But that’s an opinion, not a falsifiable fact. We don’t have the counterfactuals.

    Everything we have and know is counterfactual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    I see your point, James, but I have to disagree. One of the problems with Washington is that there are no consequence, ever, for being wrong. There are no consequences even if you are the author of the policies that went so spectacularly wrong. Wolfowitz and Bremer were key reasons why Iraq went so badly with their bad decisions and worse management. Bill Kristol was a relentless cheerleader for the idea of Iraq and dismissed anyone who warned of sectarian violence. It’s not just this case either. Pundits and economists who laughed at the idea of a financial crisis are still dragged out to comment, for example. Being spectacularly wrong and completely bungling policy should get you run out of town on a rail. These days, its gets you five-figure speaking engagements, columns in newspapers, book deals and permanent commentator status.

    It’s not like the neocons are the only guys in Washington who have something to say about Iraq. Maybe we can go with the people who didn’t screw the pooch in the first place?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 0

  23. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    “Some are now arguing that, having gotten Iraq so spectacularly wrong the last time, these people should not be listened to now. That idea is both misguided and dangerous.”

    The problem isn’t your argument, it’s who you are defending with it. You are deploying it to defend people who haven’t learned from their mistakes, who show no signs of even having thought critically about whether they did make a mistake, much less why they made it.

    I can understand and agree with you that people who acknowledge that they made mistakes and learned from them are worth listening to. However, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Condoleeza Rice, et al. show no signs of meeting either clause of the preceding sentence, and are therefore not worth listening to, even without their mendacity.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    That was dumb.
    Everything we have and know is factual.
    Cheney et al are counterfactual.
    If, then.

    If we listen to Obama, then we are all doomed.

    Dick has established that he is no expert on the topic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  25. Robert Levine says:

    “People who’ve made errors in judgment can make a valuable contribution to the debate. It’s hacks that we should exclude from the conversation.”

    Unfortunately most of the people from the Bush adminstration speaking out now are hacks; those who weren’t (ie those in the State Department whose detailed plans for post-invasion Iraq were trashcanned while Bremer was hiring baby Republican operatives to run the country) were systematically sidelined. Their hackish nature is demonstrated clearly by their blaming all the problems in 2014 Iraq on Obama and stating that 2009 Iraq was some kind of Edenic garden of peace and freedom.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  26. pajarosucio says:

    It’s a logical fallacy when it’s used to avoid the facts and reasoning of an argument. I don’t think it’s fallacious to point out Cheney et al.’s mistakes when their arguments are largely undergirded by their perceived authority and credibility. They aren’t being invited to offer their opinions in the mainstream because they have a novel or well reasoned argument, but because they are “former” officials related to security policy and they “think” the administration is wrong. It’s perfectly reasonable to question their credibility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  27. dazedandconfused says:

    A vote for Brown’s argument, mostly. Not that I disagree with your points at all, they should be listened to I agree with, but that skips over the issue of what these news shows and journalists choose to devote time and space to. It’s an important matter. Are they seeking to inform the public so the public can grasp the issues our elected officials, who are charged with have to determine our actions, say and do?

    An uninformed public in a democracy with our war machine is a horribly dangerous condition. It can be too easily “led the nose” with lies, and it can be argued that is precisely what got us into this mess, and made Iraq into the catastrophe it is today.

    Does the US major media believe they have no civic duty to inform the public, but only one to provide “entertaining” debate (and I suspect several of them are bringing out neocons for the opportunity to play their clever little “gotcha” questions, and by humiliating them, give life to the happy delusions of appearing to be well-informed people themselves which dance in their heads) on every issue that comes before them, even in matters of war? I rather think so, and am loath to say anything that might encourage them to continue.

    To be fair, perhaps they can’t find very many people who will even speak, other than neocons. Sure not seeing many others claiming they can’t get on, just complaining that the neocons are. I can’t claim to be well informed on this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  28. Ron Beasley says:

    Cheney, Wolfowitz, and other senior Bush administration officials consistently cited intelligence they knew to be disputed when it supported their agenda and willfully ignored intelligence that they found inconvenient.

    This James is the most important sentence in your article.
    They were at best cherry picking intelligence or at worst commissioning bad intelligence to fit their needs.
    Not the first time this has happened. When I worked for the DIA in the late 60s and early 70s the intelligence community knew that the Soviet Union was imploding but that information was ignored to justify additional defense spending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  29. Scott O says:

    I agree that ad homonyms aren’t useful but when someone is just an a$$hole what else are you supposed to say? That’s the term that fits with Cheney and Bolton in particular. As others have noted, it’s not just that they were wrong and unrepentant, they used ad homonyms on those that disagreed with them, calling us unpatriotic and worse.

    @Rafer Janders:
    Cadets participating in the “Salute the dick” ceremony after crossing the equator

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    They were at best cherry picking intelligence or at worst commissioning bad intelligence to fit their needs.

    And given that they did this, it’s both useless and dangerous to listen to them now — you can’t give known and habitual liars the benefit of the doubt.

    Again, it’s one thing to get it wrong on an honest matter of a difference of opinion. It’s another thing entirely to get it wrong when you’ve manipulated the facts to get the result you wanted and then lied to everyone else about it and slandered and mocked hose who wouldn’t go along with your lies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  31. Scott O says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Um, why isn’t that picture the “caption this” contest?

    I want another try.

    As part of the Crossing the Line ceremony, marking the first time a seaman crosses the equator, new cadets “Salute the dick”. Whichever senior crewman most resembles a penis is chosen as the honorary dick for the occasion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. Andre Kenji says:

    It´s not a matter of ad hominem, it´s a matter of absence of qualifications. If someone shows lack of competence, in practice, about a certain subject, it´s right to ask why the hell he should be opining about that.

    Besides that, these dudes are NOW proposing practical solutions. But when they had power they implemented practical solutions that proved out to be wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  33. Andre Kenji says:
  34. MarkedMan says:

    James, I think it boils down to this: The specific people mentioned here shouldn’t be listened to or given air time not simply because they were spectacularly, insanely wrong about literally every important decision they made regarding the mid-east, but because they were liars and bullish*tters. As a corollary, think about the anti-vax pioneer, Andrew Wakefield. He had an interesting theory about a potential link between autism and vaccines that was, almost immediately, shown to be flawed then, within a few years shown to be incorrect in large parts and by now is known to be completely bogus on all counts. Nonetheless, he doubled down again and again, surrounding himself with sycophants, marshaling ever sketchier evidence including research he should have know was falsified, continuously attacked and degraded those people who showed up the flaws in his research, and as the bodies mounted due to his malpractice and malfeasance insisted that everything that happened was not only proving his theories but that more and more people should sign on to his disastrous recommendations. So yes, he is an important part of the discussion but are you really suggesting that his opinion should be given airtime when new epidemics of communicable diseases make it into the news cycle? What possible value could there be in giving limited and valuable airtime to a known charlatan and liar? And there is Cheney and his ilk in duplicate.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    See, James? It’s OK to demonize when they really are demons. And discussing issues is so much easier when you can decide who can and who can not speak about the matter. Just pick all the people who might disagree and find excuses good, valid, honest reasons why they should not be heard on the matter at hand.

    And if those people happen to admit that they were wrong? Can they speak then? Once they have confessed their sins and groveled and denounced their fellow heretics, can then they speak? Nah, they need to be hectored and assailed for a suitable duration as penance — and that “suitable duration” is usually a little longer than the discussion lasts.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 17

  36. rudderpedals says:

    James, I think you’re asking too much of the readers. It’s not fair to treat the former subject matter experts as rehabilitated, current experts, when they aren’t. If at some point in the future the personalities you identified do recant and have a viable explanation for their failure it would demonstrate current expertise. Until such time their expertise is wide open to question.

    I’m starting to dig the classical Greek’s banishment idea. They deployed it against their versions of Cheney etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think the Iraq War was worth fighting in hindsight. But that’s an opinion, not a falsifiable fact. We don’t have the counterfactuals.

    No, we don’t, but we do know what Iraq was like prior to 2003. Was moving from that to what we have today worth a trillion dollars, 4500 American soldiers’ lives, uncounted Iraqi lives, and the empowerment of both Iran and al Qaeda (in the form of ISIS and its related organizations)?

    I don’t think you can reduce this to mere opinion–I think one can objectively conclude the answer is “no.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Besides that, these dudes are NOW proposing practical solutions. But when they had power they implemented practical solutions that proved out to be wrong.

    Most of them aren’t even proposing practical solutions now — they’re just offering vague generalities such as “Obama should have done something” or “Obama needs to show strength”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    Even if we presume there’s actually an objective process for identifying right and wrong in complex policy decisions where counterfactuals aren’t available to us,

    Again, I can’t get over the nihilism of this world-view (or, more accurately, the adopted nihilism that applies in this case and this case only when it’s suddenly convenient for his thesis — James has never before argued that you can’t distinguish right from wrong). With this view you couldn’t say that, for example, freeing the slaves was right when a counterfactual for what would have happened if Lincoln hadn’t freed them isn’t available to us…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  40. gVOR08 says:

    Wrong fallacy. It’s not that the critics are making ad hominem arguments against Cheney and his accomplices, it’s that they are making an Argument from Authority, and everyone is questioning their authority. And honesty.

    @MarkedMan: has it right. The villains in this piece are the press who are selecting guests to stoke controversy, not to inform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  41. Rob in CT says:

    This is a group of people who were not only wrong, they were dishonest. Or rather they didn’t particularly care about the truth (bullshit artists), whilst leading us into disaster. They have zero credibility.

    @gVOR08: has it exactly right. The Neocons are trying to make an argument from authority, and they have no right whatsoever to be taken seriously.

    Next time a Neocon makes an honest and intelligent argument, you go ahead and let me know, James. If you live that long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. James Joyner says:

    @HankP: I’m not arguing that we should hire them to run another war but that the mere fact of having run a war poorly doesn’t make them not experts.

    @MarkedMan: But I’ve said that ‘known charlatan and liar’ is in fact disqualifying. My argument is precisely that it’s on this basis, not having been wrong, that we should make the judgment. So, for example, Colin Powell is a valuable participant in the debate. And John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

    Cheney, Wolfie, and others have real expertise about a lot of things. I’m willing to give them air time and column inches to share that expertise. If, however, they’re using it to argue that the war was won until Obama effed it up, I think the column shouldn’t be run and they should be cut off by the interviewer with an “Are you effing kidding me?!”

    @Mikey: @Rafer Janders: I’m not arguing we can’t distinguish right from wrong or truth from fact. But there are all manner of things within these debates that remain matters of opinion.

    @gVOR08: Well, no. I’ve cited specific, representative examples of people arguing they shouldn’t be allowed to debate because they were wrong—not because they’re liars, not because they’re hacks, not because they lack actual expertise—but simply because they were wrong.

    @Rob in CT: @Rob in CT: But I specifically make that argument, at length, in the conclusion to the piece, which I’ve conveniently excerpted here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  43. Jon Marcus says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Sure not seeing many others claiming they can’t get on, just complaining that the neocons are.

    You’re in a noisy room, and you haven’t heard anyone say they can’t get a microphone. Hmmm…why might that be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. Rob in CT says:

    It’s OK to demonize when they really are demons.

    Well, yes. You think this is a gotcha. It is not. It’s the truth. Again, these f*ckers weren’t just wrong. They were dishonest. You don’t want to believe that, of course, because they duped you and you still see them as being on “your side,” but it’s true. They wanted their war and were willing to say almost anything to get it. And they did, and did.

    And if those people happen to admit that they were wrong? Can they speak then? Once they have confessed their sins and groveled and denounced their fellow heretics, can then they speak?

    That would help, but they still need to make sensible arguments. Recognizing they were wrong and working through how/why and being honest about it all are important indicators that the person might have sincerely thought about things and might, maybe, have something useful to say now. Again, you think this is a gotcha, but it’s not. It’s the truth. Even the repentant neocon (very few of whom exist) still needs to approach the topic cautiously, btw. Some humility after having been catastrophically wrong is a baseline requirement.

    As for “hectored and assailed” oh, cry me a f*cking river. The world’s tiniest violin gently weeps for the travails of the Neocons.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  45. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    it’s their history of mendacity, not their bad judgments, that make them suspect as participants in the public debate.

    I have to give you credit for plainly admitting that Cheney et al lied. This is progress (although maybe you expressed this position years ago and I missed it).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  46. Rob in CT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I respectfully submit that a lot of the “shut up, you were wrong” is actually shorthand for “you’re a known liar, go away.” Why might this be? Well, as you may recall if/when a liberal points out that a given Neocon is a lying hack, we get all sorts of indignant crap about how they were honestly mistaken blah blah how dare you accuse me of lying… and for a lot of people that sucks the oxygen out of the discussion.

    I’ve gone with “they were wrong” more often than “they are known liars” because I simply don’t want to have that ridiculous discussion again. A lot of folks will grant they were wrong, but just can’t handle the possibility that they lied to get their war. I’m certain they did, but it’s nigh impossible to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt and for whatever reason that’s the bar people (particularly RWers, but also many moderates) set.

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  47. Jon Marcus says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I’ve said that ‘known charlatan and liar’ is in fact disqualifying…Cheney, Wolfie, and others have real expertise about a lot of things.

    So you don’t put “Cheney, Wolfie, and others” in the category of “known charlatan and liar.” You’ve acknowledged that Cheney et al have a “history of mendacity” which they have yet to acknowledge, let alone apologize for. Yet you don’t consider them to be charlatans and liars?

    Or do you think they should be cut off, and their columns not run, etc? If so, then what is the point of your article? If you do feel they should be given attention on Iraq, then I disagree and think you’re being inconsistent.

    Or is it that you don’t feel they should be given attention on Iraq, but think everyone else saying so isn’t using your preferred wording? I should be railing against “neocons who lie” not against “lying neocons”? Because the first is descriptive, while the second is ad hominem? That sounds like some industrial-grade hair splitting to me.

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  48. C. Clavin says:

    @Rob in CT:
    I’m with you…to a point.
    But if you make a claim…and you are told that claim is wrong….and you continue to make the same claim…isn’t that lying?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  49. Rob in CT says:

    James, I too appreciate your willingness to face the unfortunate truth that many of these guys just flat out lied or didn’t care what the truth was while bullshitting. That’s an important step.

    It may be that I’m still scarred from the arguments I had ~10 years ago. Everything was going to hell, like I and many others said it would. We were pointing out the lies & bullshit, and when we did, we got all sorts of crap about how AWFUL we were for calling decent public servants liars. Bush lied, people died (short & to the point, eh?) was itself demonized: you terrible liberals, how dare you malign our hero President that way?

    I am accusing you of precisely none of this. I am trying to explain my mindset now. Having gone through that torrent of bullshit, I’m less inclined to point out the lies and go with the much easier path of “they were wrong.” This is something everyone can see, and does not require that they go back and face the fact that they eagerly lapped up a bunch of obvious lies (which people obviously resist doing). It’s tactical, and I admit it’s a little wimpy. I’m just tired of the whole thing, you know? I knew it was bullshit from the start and I’m still having to hold people’s hands about the whole thing? Oy.

    Again, just trying to explain my mindset, and I suspect the mindset of many others like me.

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  50. Rob in CT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Wait, what? I do think that’s lying.

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  51. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    But there are all manner of things within these debates that remain matters of opinion.

    Yes, there are, but whether the Iraq war was worth fighting isn’t one. Not at this point.

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  52. jukeboxgrad says:

    Rob in CT:

    I’m certain they did [lied to get their war], but it’s nigh impossible to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt

    What Bush said the intel said is not what the intel said, and I think the evidence for this is pretty clear. Link, link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  53. Rob in CT says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Rephrase: It’s nigh impossible to convince average joes who were duped of that. It’s nigh impossible to meet the standard such folks set. They don’t want to hear it. Because if they did and accepted it, it would mean that back in ’02 they fell for obvious bullshit. That’s embarrassing. Most resist it. They really, really need (emotionally) for it to have been a tragic, honest mistake.

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  54. Another Mike says:

    @Ron Beasley: It seems to me from what I read here is that there are two issues about the war which are points of contention. The one point is how we got into the war, and the other point is how the war was conducted. I believe that President Bush conceded that how the war was conducted is a fair point to argue and mistakes may have been made, but how we got into the war is not a fair point to argue.

    James talks about mendacity and accepting disputed intelligence which helped the case and disregarding disputed data that hurt the case for war. It came down to a judgment call in the end, and congress made the same judgment as President Bush. It was not a new judgment as President Clinton was saying similar things about Hussein prior to President Bush.

    Exactly why did we attack Hussein? Was it because of WMD, or were there other issues too? It seems to me that there were other issues too.

    It seems that President Obama has no problem doing what he can to hasten the removal of dictators like Hussein in the Middle East. His approach is not to get too entangled. Maybe he has learned a lesson from President Bush. Maybe he didn’t have anything comparable to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the heavy loss of life on our own soil on his watch as President Bush did. In other words he did not have the same motivation as President Bush. He also did not have the unsettled aftermath of the first Iraq War to deal with.

    This debate will go on for generations. Frankly, this blog is too partisan to make much of a contribution to the debate. People are falling all over themselves to proclaim that there is no debate, it’s all settled.

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  55. Rob in CT says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Allow me to rephrase. I agree with you.

    But it’s very, very heard to convince average people who were duped of that. Why? Because it would involve them facing the fact that they were duped by obvious lies and BS. That’s embarrassing, so they resist.

    I don’t really have any doubts about the matter. They lied to get their war. I said this at the time, and was castigated for it. I said it later, and was castigated some more. So eff it. They were wrong, whether honest or not. That one goes down much easier.

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  56. Rob in CT says:

    Bah, I’m trying to respond to Jukeboxgrad, but I keep getting hung up in the spam filter for some reason.

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  57. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not arguing that we should hire them to run another war but that the mere fact of having run a war poorly doesn’t make them not experts.

    Yes, IT ACTUALLY DOES!!!!

    What else does their supposed “expertise” rest on, other than a reputation and a claim that they’re well-informed, honest and competent managers who know how to plan and execute a policy vision? Iraq revealed that those were all lies, that they had little knowledge of the region and even worse ability to plan and to put plans into practice. Absent that, what makes them “experts” other than the deference of people like you to their supposed authority?

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  58. jukeboxgrad says:

    I’m trying to respond to Jukeboxgrad

    I bet you’re using the Reply feature. For some strange reason it has a problem with me. Just reply without that.

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  59. Rob in CT says:

    congress made the same judgment as President Bush

    IIRC, they were given “spun” intel evidence, which they then used to make their decisions. Even so, yes, more congresscritters should have seen through the BS.

    the 9/11 terrorist attacks

    Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. We had already launched a war in response to the people who did, and the Bushies took their eyes off the ball to go off and have their excellent Iraqi adventure.

    This debate will go on for generations.

    Sadly, it probably will. Because lots of people still grant dishonest hacks the benefit of the doubt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  60. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not arguing we can’t distinguish right from wrong or truth from fact.

    Yes, you are. You may not think you are, but based on the words you’ve written on the page, you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  61. Rob in CT says:

    Juke,

    Ah, I see. You are KNOWN. ;)

    In short: people don’t want to face the face that they were duped back in ’02 by a pack of obvious lies. It makes them feel dumb, and they will resist. So you or I can present whatever evidence we like, and a large chunk of the population will resist to their dying breath. They need, for emotional reasons, to believe the whole thing was an honest, tragic mistake. Hence the path of least resistance becomes “well, these people were catastrophically wrong about a really important matter. Why are you listening to them?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  62. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: I’ll play.
    And you guys bitched about W’s “Mission Accomplished” cod piece flight suit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  63. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another Mike:

    congress made the same judgment as President Bush.

    Based on intel Bush cooked. Also, most Ds in the House voted No.

    Clinton was saying similar things about Hussein prior to President Bush

    Another popular and superficial non-argument that has already been addressed: link.

    It came down to a judgment call in the end

    Bush was free to make his own decision, but he was not free to lie. Consider these two statements:

    A) I’m not going to tell you what the intel says, but it has convinced me that we must attack, so you must support me.
    B) The intel says that Saddam is definitely building nukes, so we must attack.

    Your logic would be relevant if Bush had said A. A might have been an honest statement. Trouble is, he didn’t say A. He said B. B was a lie. Lying us into war is not OK. You should explain how you decided otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  64. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    Maybe he didn’t have anything comparable to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the heavy loss of life on our own soil on his watch as President Bush did

    What the hell does 9/11 have to do with our attack on Iraq? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  65. Matt Bernius says:

    James, I’d like to push on this:

    People who’ve made errors in judgment can make a valuable contribution to the debate. It’s hacks that we should exclude from the conversation.

    First, I completely agree with this stance. But isn’t discounting someone as a “proven hack” when it comes to the war getting pretty close to an Ad Hominem? Or do we need to constantly reprove the “hack” label every time the individual publishes something.

    I mean, on this subject, there’s little doubt that Cheney is a hack… right? I mean we can agree on this. After all, not only is he personally attached to the subject and attempting to defend his legacy, but he has the proven history of being one of the few who was *right* on not invading Iraq (see multiple defenses throughout the early1990′s of GHW Bush’s decision *not* to march on Bagdad) and then getting it *wrong* (making bad decisions about almost everything he spoke about in 1993) and going on to continually repeating “we didn’t get it wrong.”

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  66. Matt Bernius says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I bet you’re using the Reply feature. For some strange reason it has a problem with me. Just reply without that.

    *THIS* … @Rob in CT, I’ve freed your posts. But for some reason any direct reply to @Jukebox goes straight to spam. We’ve yet to figure out a way to whitelist him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  67. Rob in CT says:

    Jukebox,

    I think your link for the Clinton comparison is wrong. It goes to a National Review article about Lerner.

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  68. jukeboxgrad says:

    Oops, I missed this.

    Another Mike:

    Exactly why did we attack Hussein? Was it because of WMD, or were there other issues too? It seems to me that there were other issues too.

    Roughly half the pre-war SOTU is about terrorism, WMD, and Iraq. There are at least 15 scary paragraphs (over 1000 words) describing how dangerous Saddam is, how he allegedly has accumulated large stockpiles of horrible weapons, and how essential it is that we move quickly to disarm him. The word “weapon” (or close variants of that word) appears in the speech almost 30 times. You cannot read the SOTU address fairly and conclude that there was any serious attempt to argue for the war on any basis other than WMD, and the fear of terrorists obtaining them.

    A similar analysis applies regarding Bush’s famous pre-war address. It also focused mostly on WMD.

    If you look at those very visible and widely-circulated statements (and many other similar statements, such as those documented in this pdf), you see virtually nothing aside from a whole lot of focus on WMD. WMD is how Bush sold the war.

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  69. jukeboxgrad says:

    I think your link for the Clinton comparison is wrong. It goes to a National Review article about Lerner.

    You aren’t using the link(s) properly. In your browser, it looks like I linked to an article, but that’s not what I did. I have linked to a comment(s) on that article(s).

    If you look at the link itself, you will notice that it ends as follows: “comment-786734698″ (or some similar number). That means it is pointing at a comment on an article, not the article itself. I think you’re running into a problem with Disqus, where under certain circumstances it doesn’t scroll correctly to the proper comment indicated by the link. You might be able to encourage Disqus to find the comment properly if you click the link and then scroll down to the bottom of the page.

    You could also try a different browser. For example, sometimes I find that Chrome handles these links better than Safari.

    This seems to be a somewhat common problem. I have posted the above text quite a few times.

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  70. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: I jbelieve that there are all manner of things that are matters of opinion that those who hold them strongly confuse with facts. What that sentence is saying that, even if I were to concede the premise that those who have been spectacularly wrong on matters of public policy should be excluded from the conversation, it’s not obvious who it is that should determine the wrongness.

    For example, I disagreed with President Obama’s choice to use airpower to take out Muammar Gaddafy and agreed with his decision to do very little about the situation in Syria. Both Libya and Syria are currently fiascos. Does that mean I was right and Obama wrong on Libya? And that we were both wrong on Syria? Given that we can’t compare the status quo to a counterfactual in which we followed a different policy, I don’t think we can answer that definitively.

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  71. jukeboxgrad says:

    Matt Bernius:

    for some reason any direct reply to @Jukebox goes straight to spam

    I think it’s been this way for a long time. Quite mysterious and also sort of funny. There must be a ghost inside your machine that has decided that anything I say is essentially perfect and any reply is superfluous.

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  72. James Joyner says:

    @Matt Bernius: I’m using “hack” as a shorthand for someone who regurgitates talking points and otherwise refuses to engage in honest debate.

    Cheney comes at least close to the line and probably crosses it. He’s really smart and knowledgeable but has taken on the role once filled by Bob Novak: he’s a personae at this point, stuck defending his legacy, rather than an honest advocate. I think he honestly believes going into Iraq was legitimate and, while I disagree, I think that’s a point that can still be argued. But the notion, for example, that all was going well until Obama effed it up is just risible.

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  73. C. Clavin says:

    The other side of this…why aren’t the vocal critics of the Iraq War getting the same airtime as these fools? After all….the critics were right!!!
    This is up-side-down-world.
    The people who were spectacularly wrong about every single aspect of the endeavor are being treated as experts…and the people who were right in predicting a debacle are being ignored (again).
    Talk about a recipe for disaster.

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  74. C. Clavin says:

    People who’ve made errors in judgment can make a valuable contribution to the debate.

    Only if they are able to admit they made major errors in judgement.
    If they still believe they did the right thing in the face of all evidence to the contrary then they can be of no help whatsoever.

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  75. C. Clavin says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    I would have used the “face-palm” image…but that’s just me.

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  76. Ken says:

    “Ad hominem is a logical fallacy for a reason.” Ad Hominem is neither automatically nor universally a fallacy.

    An argument’s strength doesn’t depend on who’s making it.

    Yes, it most certainly does, at least when there is no other metric by which we can judge objectively. Otherwise the testimony of proven perjurers would be afforded the same weight as that of scrupulously honest memory experts

    A two thousand word exposition on why we shouldn’t dismiss the opinions of known, unrepentant liars who are not only refuse to acknowledge simple and blatantly obvious FACTS, but insist that they “make their own reality”? You’ll forgive me if I don’t waste my time

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  77. Rafer Janders says:

    I’m not arguing that we should hire them to run another war but that the mere fact of having run a war poorly doesn’t make them not experts.

    “Expert” implies expertise, some authoritative and comprehensive skill, a superior knowledge or understanding of the region, it’s history, and the complicated interplay of factors involved in launching a war and occupation. Now read these guys and tell me, do they sound like knowledgeable experts on Iraq and on warfare?

    “There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias. And the horrors of Iraq are very different from the horrific ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by Serbs that took place in Kosovo and left scars that continue to require peacekeeping forces today in Kosovo. The slaughter in Iraq—and it’s been substantial—has unfortunately been the slaughter of people of all ethnic and religious groups by the regime. It is equal opportunity terror.” — Paul Wolfowitz, February 2003

    “On this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.” — Bill Kristol, April 2003

    “The bulk of the funds for Iraq’s reconstruction will come from Iraqis — from oil revenues, recovered assets, international trade, direct foreign investment, as well as some contributions we’ve already received and hope to receive from the international community.” — Donald Rumsfeld, October 2003.

    “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, against us.” — Dick Cheney, October 2002.

    “Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” — George W. Bush, November 2003

    “We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on (biological and chemical weapons) that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.” — Dick Cheney, September 2004

    “There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can probably get along.” – John McCain

    “Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment–perhaps the key moment so far–in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.” — Bill Kristol, March 2005

    “[T]here are hopeful signs that Iraqis of differing religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath.” — March 2004.

    “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons — including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas. … His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons—including anthrax and botulism toxin, and possibly smallpox.” — Donald Rumsfeld, September 2002.

    “Liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” — Ken Adelman, February 2002.

    “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” — Dick Cheney, June 2005.

    “We know where they are [Iraq's weapons of mass destruction]. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” — Donald Rumsfeld, March 2002.

    “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . [in] weeks rather than months.” — Dick Cheney, March 2003.

    Now, which of the above men, James, do you regard as an “expert” on Iraq?

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  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    In short: people don’t want to face the face that they were duped back in ’02 by a pack of obvious lies. It makes them feel dumb, and they will resist. So you or I can present whatever evidence we like, and a large chunk of the population will resist to their dying breath. They need, for emotional reasons, to believe the whole thing was an honest, tragic mistake

    See, e.g., Joyner, James.

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  79. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    He’s really smart and knowledgeable

    On which of his actions and opinions in the last thirteen years do you base this opinion? What, specifically, did he say, do or accomplish as The King’s Hand from 2001-2009 that was smart and knowledgeable?

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  80. Ken says:

    Cheney, Wolfie, and others have real expertise about a lot of things.

    So did Mark Fuhrman

    I’m willing to give them air time and column inches to share that expertise.

    Why? They’ve proven time and time again that they are unwilling to provide honest answers, even in their areas of expertise, when it comes to public policy, if those answers don;t coincide with furtherance of their agenda.

    Honestly, how many times does someone have to fark up, and how many American soldiers have to be killed as a result of their intentional lies, before you stop giving the benefit of the doubt?

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  81. Matt Bernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m using “hack” as a shorthand for someone who regurgitates talking points and otherwise refuses to engage in honest debate.

    Understood… that said, most likely a lot of the ad hominem’s you are writing about are a form of shorthand as well.

    Cheney comes at least close to the line and probably crosses it.

    So you in general agree with the premise what until Cheney says something substantively new on the topic of Iraq, it’s ok to say he’s a “hack” who should be ignored.

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  82. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: The idea of being an expert rather than some doofus off the street is that you are able to make better decisions in the area of a said topic than said doofus off the street.

    The neocons have shown themselves to be anti-experts. I’d rather take the opinion of the doofus than these idiots.

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  83. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: What amazes me about Wolfowitz’s statement is how he couldn’t seem to grasp something that should have been pretty obvious: the reason Iraq didn’t have a record of militias fighting each other was because Hussein’s government kept them from doing so.

    I mean, there wasn’t a record of ethnic strife in Bosnia either when it was part of Yugoslavia, because Tito kept a lid on it. His death in 1980 started the downward slide. In the same way, for the same reasons, the removal of Hussein and his government took the lid off Iraq’s suppressed religious strife, with similar (if not deadlier) results.

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  84. Ken says:

    @James Joyner: @Mikey: @Rafer Janders: I’m not arguing we can’t distinguish right from wrong or truth from fact. But there are all manner of things within these debates that remain matters of opinion.

    And the opinions of people who are known to be willing to lie – egregiously, unrepentantly, and nonstop – in furtherance of their personal agendas CAN NOT BE TRUSTED

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  85. Rob in CT says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Dude, I’m at work at the moment. I’m stuck with Internet Explorer (and most likely I’m a version behind). I have Mozilla at home.

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  86. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ken:

    Honestly, how many times does someone have to fark up, and how many American soldiers have to be killed as a result of their intentional lies, before you stop giving the benefit of the doubt?

    Unlimited. James has a built-in deference to received authority that will never go away. If someone looks and sounds like an expert, if conventional opinion regards him as an expert, then James will always give that person the benefit of the doubt, no matter how many times they’re wrong — presuming, that is, that that person is an expert on the conservative side of the ledger. Offer not available to liberal experts, who have to prove themselves anew each time and are given no credit for past accomplishment.

    It’s an emotional / psychological need to believe in leaders, not a rational one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  87. Rob in CT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    All honest mistakes by fine public servants, amirite?

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  88. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not arguing that we should hire them to run another war but that the mere fact of having run a war poorly doesn’t make them not experts.

    Once again, it’s not just that they “ran the war poorly” — that would imply some honest intent, some genuine desire to get things right which was overwhelmed by circumstance and the fog of war.

    But in this case, they didn’t just “run the war poorly” — they deliberately chose to start a war for not good reason, cooked up the entire war of choice based on lies, deceived the public, and based the war on entirely uninformed and ignorant assumptions about the region and the political dynamics, assumptions which were challenged in real time — and dismissed by them — by actual scholars, soldiers, and experts on the regions.

    If you don’t know what you’re taking about, lie to cover up your ignorance, reject knowledgeable advice, and then base a plan on your lies and ignorance, then yes, that mere fact makes you not an expert.

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  89. KM says:

    @James:

    What that sentence is saying that, even if I were to concede the premise that those who have been spectacularly wrong on matters of public policy should be excluded from the conversation, it’s not obvious who it is that should determine the wrongness.

    I feel like you are trying to be reasonable and point out that the perception of right & wrong is subjective to the speaker and thus we should not be harsh in our judgements. That you are pointing out no one is perfect and thus who amongst us can fairly judge?

    I’m going to counter with this little bit from Big Bang Theory:

    Stuart: Oooh Sheldon, I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong.
    Sheldon: More wrong? Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.
    Stuart: Of course it is. It is a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it is very wrong to say it is a suspension bridge.

    As long as they are peddling Plum Tomato = Tacoma Narrows (or 9/11 = Iraq if you will), we can safely say their “expertise” is lacking without any real question of fairness . Just showing up for the party doesn’t make one a cruise ship party planner, after all.

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  90. stonetools says:

    The other side of this…why aren’t the vocal critics of the Iraq War getting the same airtime as these fools? After all….the critics were right!!!
    This is up-side-down-world.
    The people who were spectacularly wrong about every single aspect of the endeavor are being treated as experts…and the people who were right in predicting a debacle are being ignored

    THIS!!
    The guys who got it right on the Iraq War and on the economic crisis are being ignored, while the ones who got it totally wrong are being give a respectful hearing and their opinions are being given the same weight as those who got it right. I guess the media calls this “balance”.
    Its like if the German and Japanese leaders who started WW2 were still around, and we were asking their advice on current military matters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  91. gVOR08 says:

    @Rob in CT:

    …in ’02 they fell for obvious bullshit. That’s embarrassing. Most resist it. They really, really need (emotionally) for it to have been a tragic, honest mistake.

    True enough. But I think it goes further.

    One, there is a tendency to believe that people in positions of trust and responsibility are trustworthy, responsible people. We don’t want to accept that sometimes our leaders are not what we would wish them to be. (Especially if we voted for them.)

    Two, we all like to believe that we’re the good guys. The US wouldn’t do anything without the highest motives, therefore we must have had the highest motives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  92. jukeboxgrad says:

    Rob in CT:

    They need, for emotional reasons, to believe the whole thing was an honest, tragic mistake.

    Good point, I agree. There are a bunch of different reasons why the ‘honest mistake’ narrative has gotten a lot of traction. But it’s divorced from reality, and when we try to run away from reality it always ends up catching up with us and biting us in the ass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  93. C. Clavin says:

    @Rob in CT:
    I was refering to you point about lying being nigh on impossible to prove.
    It’s quite verifiable in many cases.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  94. Rafer Janders says:

    @KM:

    I feel like you are trying to be reasonable and point out that the perception of right & wrong is subjective to the speaker and thus we should not be harsh in our judgements. That you are pointing out no one is perfect and thus who amongst us can fairly judge?

    And I’d cut James for some slack for this if this was his consistent opinion, expressed across time and all manner of subjects. But he seems to apply it especially strongly here, to excuse the Iraq War architects whom he allowed to willingly dupe him, while not applying it in his multitudinous other writings about policy and politicians. There’s a degree of deference, of apologia, extended to old white conservative leaders such as Cheney and Rumsfeld that’s never extended to any other group of people who made honest mistakes and got things wrong.

    If you look like the traditional New Yorker cartoon stereotype of someone who knows what they’re talking about, James will (a) believe you and (b) excuse you if you get it wrong. If you don’t, then no benefit of the doubt applies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  95. jukeboxgrad says:

    Mikey:

    the removal of Hussein and his government took the lid off Iraq’s suppressed religious strife

    This is a key point. Sunni and Shia have been at war for over 1,300 years. As George Will pointed out a few days ago, “Saddam Hussein’s horrific tyranny at least controlled Iraq’s sectarian furies.” Notice this prediction that was made years ago, about what would happen once Saddam’s government was removed (link):

    … we’d have had to put another government in its place. What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi’i government or a Kurdish government or Ba’athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?

    Who said that? Dick Cheney, 4/29/91. He once understood that Iraq without Saddam would be “inherently unstable.” Too bad he developed Romnesia and forgot that later.

    Conservatives think history began on 1/20/09. “A situation that is inherently unstable” is what was created when the artificial boundaries of Iraq were drawn by Western powers about 95 years ago.

    Staying longer would make no difference. Whenever we left, the result would be the same.

    Matt:

    see multiple defenses [by Cheney] throughout the early 1990′s of GHW Bush’s decision *not* to march on Bagdad

    Exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  96. Rob in CT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Understood. Poor phrasing on my part, that. Nigh impossible to prove to some people’s satisfaction.

    @gVOR08:

    Well sure, that too. It’s funny, though. The whole “US is good” thing only seems to apply to particular actions (like, say, a war). It never seems to apply to other things our representative government does. Those things (like, say, trying to help our own citizens with things) are always terrible, no-good, and done for nefarious reasons. How about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  97. Rob in CT says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    It’s amazing, really. That 1991 quote displays:

    1) An awareness of the ethnic and sectarian divisions in Iraq;
    2) An understanding of “you broke it you bought it” with respect to “regime change”
    3) Recognition that propping up a government by outside military force is a temporary solution and once you withdraw the outside force it probably falls down.

    And it was all bang-on.

    See, when Bush won the 2000 election (yes, yes, I know, let it go) I wasn’t concerned about foreign policy. Why? Well, Bush had gone out of his way during his campaign to speak out against nation building (liberal interventionalism) and his advisors included people who sold themselves as sober sensible types. Dick Cheney prominent among them. The line basically was “don’t worry about Bush himself. Yeah, he’s not a FP expert, but he’s got a lot of expertise around him. They’ll guide him and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.” [this turned out to be almost backwards]

    I wasn’t knowledgeable enough (or partisan enough, which often follows from the knowledge) to know there were a bunch of nuts in there too. But with Cheney, based on his prior record, it was reasonable to think what you had was a rational foreign policy realist for VP.

    My best guess is that, like a good chunk of the populace, 9/11 drove Cheney insane. Tons of people totally lost their shit on 9/11. And 9/11 happened on Cheney’s watch. That had to really, really sting. Sure, actually pointing that out back in 2001-2002 (or hell, even now!) was effectively made politically incorrect (one simply does not do that, or one is “partisan” or “shrill” or a “moonbat”), but in his own head? He must have been furious. And as I think Tom Freidman (scumbag of the 2nd order) basically said, smashing the semi-government of a basket case like Afghanistan wasn’t very satisfying was it? Nah, we needed a real country to Suck On This. Put that together with a bunch of neocons who had been drooling over the idea of invading Iraq for years prior to 9/11, and you get Iraq!, The Sequel.

    But I really don’t know what happened in his head, and in the end it doesn’t matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  98. Matt Bernius says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Staying longer would make no difference. Whenever we left, the result would be the same.

    I’m going to *slightly* disagree. I do believe it would have been possible to accelerate change within Iraq. However there are three major caveats:

    1. It would have had to be a multigenerational effort
    2. It would have required the US to treat Iraq as a colony
    3. It would have required a far greater investment of time and energy

    Given that we were unwilling and/or unable to do these three,* the result was always going to be the same.

    [*] – It’s also worth noting that these three things were completely antithetical to the underlying Neocon beliefs about what it takes to create a stable, destabilizing democracy. Of course, it’s been proven that said Neocon beliefs never actually attempted to take reality (i.e. local history or culture) into account.

    And it’s the fact that neocons have yet to admit the utter failure of the *foundations* of their beliefs that makes them worthy of being ignored whenever they continue to advance ideas based upon that flawed foundation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  99. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    And if those people happen to admit that they were wrong?

    We are still waiting for you to admit you were wrong about the tragedy of the commons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  100. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rob in CT:

    My best guess is that, like a good chunk of the populace, 9/11 drove Cheney insane.

    It’s also entirely possible that Cheney — like Colin Powell — was being a “good soldier” (either in the 1990′s or 2001-now). By that I mean, advancing and defending his CiC’s position regardless of his own feelings or personal misgivings.

    Remember that GWHB drew a lot of criticism for *not* deposing Saddam at the time.

    However, to that point, that also is why he’s a hack — his goal is to advance a position regardless and in spite of any counterfacts that surround it. That’s completely antithetical to honest discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  101. Rob in CT says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I remember arguing, back in 2002, that the only way I could possibly see a positive end result from Iraq II was if we did what I termed “Marshall Plan 2.0.” By that I didn’t just mean loans. A large occupation force to keep the peace, too. A large international coalition determined to see it through, too (hah, coalition of the paid off, plus the Brits the poor saps).

    Anyway, my argument in 2002 was “do you see any of this being geared up? I sure don’t! Where are the thousands of young people being trained to speak Arabic, for one thing? There are tons of things you’d need to do, and there’s no way it could be kept a secret. Therefore, it’s obvious that none of these things are actually being done, and the Admin keeps popping off about Iraqis partying when the Marines come marching through. This is nuts!”

    I don’t know that a full-out effort would have worked* (in fact, I tend to doubt it). It probably still would have failed, with much more blood and treasure spent (so, in the end, a worse outcome). But the way things were done basically meant there was no chance at all of success, as most of us define it (there are questions as to whether some of the architects of the thing actually cared about the benchmarks most of us do).

    * also, we must define “worked” and that’s not easy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  102. jukeboxgrad says:

    Matt:

    I do believe it would have been possible to accelerate change within Iraq. However there are three major caveats

    Those are quite fair points you made.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  103. Rob in CT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Oh, and by the way (like it’s a minor thing, but it’s NOT), it’s also monumentally arrogant to even sit around pondering that sort of total re-making of someone else’s society. Engaging in it made me a little uncomfortable in 2002. Now it makes me queasy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  104. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: It was a pretty severe kind of paternalistic quasi-colonialism, wasn’t it? But at least “we’ll give them the democracy all right-thinking people want, and give it to them good and hard” is something of a noble purpose.

    Unfortunately, through hubris and often-willful blindness, they failed to understand what would actually happen: the vengeance of the Shiite majority for years of oppression at the hands of the Sunni. Not to mention the inter-tribal conflicts Western society doesn’t seem to be able to grasp.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  105. stonetools says:

    I think it would be one thing if Bob Schieffer introduced Dick Cheney on Face the Nation as : “Dick Cheney, the disgraced former Vice President who lied us into a war with Iraq and got everything about the war wrong.” But no, he is introduced respectfully as “Welcome, former Vice President Mr. Dick Cheney. Now, what is the Obama Administration doing wrong in Iraq?”
    If that’s how he is going to be presented, it’s better that we don’t hear from him at all, IMO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  106. Rob in CT says:

    @Mikey:

    I’ve always been flabbergasted that people who view domestic governmental action as always doomed to failure thought that extremely ambitious international governmental action had a good chance of success. It’s really crazy.

    When we do things in our own country (like, say, reforming the health insurance market), we do this via the duly elected representative government (legitimacy), we have no language barrier, there is no backdrop of significant violence, we have no sectarian or ethnic conflict that’s been simmering for ~1000 years. We do have divisions within our country that go back to the founding and the late unpleasantness, but those are an order of magnitude less significant than Kurd-Arab, Shiite-Sunni, and so forth.

    And even with all those advantages, we struggled to implement a fairly moderate technical reform to our healthcare system, facing significant political resistance and technical problems. But fundamentally remaking the Middle East (remember, the Neocons were babbling about Iraq being just the start)? Sure, no problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  107. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’ve always been flabbergasted that people who view domestic governmental action as always doomed to failure thought that extremely ambitious international governmental action had a good chance of success. It’s really crazy.

    I believe people look at the post-WW2 era and Marshall Plan success and think those were typical successes rather than major exceptions. We rebuilt Europe, why not the Middle East?

    Maybe it’s understandable to think those successes, as significant and grand in scope as they were, mean any such effort we undertake would meet with similar success. Unfortunately each situation is different and “prior performance is no guarantee of future results.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  108. Rob in CT says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, sure, I remember people trotting out Germany/Japan all the time back in those 2002 discussions. It was the go-to thing. We did that, why not this?

    My rejoinder was basically “Iraq is not 1940s Germany or Japan, plus WWII was a massive undertaking. We’re not gearing up for that! This is nuts!” but it fell on mostly deaf ears.

    The first point (Iraq != Germany or Japan) was often deflected by trying to insinuate that I was being bigotted vs. Iraqis (the soft bigotry of low expectations. What, Iraqis can’t manage democracy? Why not, huh?). Some of that may be been sincere, but I got a large whiff of “here’s a debater’s point I can use against the liberal to shut him up” out of it.

    The second point was just flat-out ignored a lot of the time. Or disbelieved. Of course there was a plan! Except no, there really wasn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  109. Greg in Arizona says:

    I haven’t heard anyone attack the architects of that war personally. They have been attacked because they lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq and now are lying that they lied.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  110. jukeboxgrad says:

    Of course there was a plan! Except no, there really wasn’t.

    I’m not so sure. I think the real plan was to be there for a long time, spending lots of money and enriching certain people.

    The Iraq war was not a failure. The true purpose of the Iraq war was to make money for the oil industry and the war industry. Link, link, link, link. Mission accomplished.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  111. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: I address that issue at length in the article itself. First, most of those cited have legitimate credentials and experience that qualify them as experts. Second, and perhaps more importantly, TV talking heads shows and major op-ed holes are almost always filled with “experts” rather than true experts. So, we’re playing bait and switch here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  112. Another Mike says:

    @Greg in Arizona:

    I haven’t heard anyone attack the architects of that war personally. They have been attacked because they lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq and now are lying that they lied.

    Someone makes an unfounded accusation that a person lied, and then when the person defends themselves by saying they did not lie, they are attacked for lying a second time. Is that you, Al Gore?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  113. jukeboxgrad says:

    an unfounded accusation that a person lied

    This is yet another lie, since the accusation is not unfounded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  114. Another Mike says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    But in this case, they didn’t just “run the war poorly” — they deliberately chose to start a war for not good reason, cooked up the entire war of choice based on lies, deceived the public, and based the war on entirely uninformed and ignorant assumptions about the region and the political dynamics, assumptions which were challenged in real time — and dismissed by them — by actual scholars, soldiers, and experts on the regions.

    There was also the no good reason of upholding international law, based on the 17 violated UN resolutions, and especially the defiance of Security Council Resolution 1441.

    Many people were mistaken about many things, but there were no lies and deliberate deceptions. And obviously these people were not Illuminati and so had trouble determining which of the experts and scholars to believe. With the clairvoyance of 20/20 hindsight it is easier to see who knew what they were talking about.

    There were experts later who said that unless we keep a certain military presence in Iraq, it will fall into sectarian violence and civil war. It looks like maybe they were right. There are just too many opportunities to be wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  115. stonetools says:

    @Another Mike:

    You see, this is why I can’t take conservatives seriously. Of course they lied. At the very least, they said things reckless as to whether they were true or not. Why can’t you admit even that?

    The problem here is that conservatives never, ever admit they’re wrong, and then go around acting as if they had been right all along. You can’t have an honest debate with people who make up their own reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  116. jukeboxgrad says:

    there were no lies

    Except that there were. Link.

    Claiming “there were no lies” is a lie. When you repeat a lie after you’ve been shown that it’s a lie you succeed only in proving that you’re an incorrigible liar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  117. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    Many people were mistaken about many things, but there were no lies and deliberate deceptions.

    “We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on (biological and chemical weapons) that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.” — Dick Cheney, September 2004

    This is a flat-out lie and a deliberate deception.

    And note when he said it, September 2004, a year and a half after our invasion, at which point there was no longer any doubt, even an unreasonable one, that there were in fact no such ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda. These can’t even be excused as something he said before the war, when maybe, just maybe, there was doubt. This was a lie he repeated, and kept on repeating, long after we had total access to the Iraqi government archives that showed no coordination with bin Laden.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  118. jukeboxgrad says:

    there were in fact no such ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda

    Correct. Notice what was found by the Senate Intelligence Committee (when it was still controlled by Republicans). They concluded this (pdf):

    Conclusion 1: … Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa’ida to provide material or operational support. … Saddam distrusted Islamic radicals in general, and al-Qa’ida in particular. … bin Ladin attempted to exploit the former Iraqi regime by making requests for operational and material assistance, while Saddam Hussein refused all such requests. … Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa’ida.

    And this:

    In 2005, the CIA assessed that prior to the war, “the regime did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.” … [p.92]

    Conclusion 5: … Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi. [p. 109]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  119. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons — including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas. … His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons—including anthrax and botulism toxin, and possibly smallpox.” — Donald Rumsfeld, September 2002.

    Another lie and deliberate deception. Rumsfeld may have suspected this, but he did not know for sure, and there was lots of evidence against the case. And yet he presents it as an absolute, as something “we do know” in great detail. And yet none of it was true.

    When you present a possibility as an undisputed fact, when you turn an “it might be” into an “it is,” then you know what you’re doing? You’re lying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  120. jukeboxgrad says:

    When you present a possibility as an undisputed fact

    This is the heart of the problem. Bush et al claimed “absolute certainty” even though the underlying intel was not absolutely certain. Not even close.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  121. stonetools says:

    Here is a list of false statements-that includes, shamefully, some Democrats and members of the Obama Administration. There is some reason to excuse the Democrats since relied on Bush Administration statements, but frankly, they were complicit in the lie too. At least Biden and Clinton did apologize and admit they were wrong-unlike ANY Republican.


    Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.

    Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, September 4, 2002

    Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

    Dick Cheney August 26, 2002

    If we wait for the danger to become clear, it could be too late.

    Sen. Joseph Biden D-Del., September 4, 2002

    Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

    George W. Bush September 12, 2002

    If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.

    Ari Fleischer December 2, 2002

    We know for a fact that there are weapons there.

    Ari Fleischer January 9, 2003

    Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

    George W. Bush January 28, 2003

    We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.

    Colin Powell February 5, 2003

    Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.

    Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, February 5, 2003

    We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.

    George Bush February 8, 2003

    So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not.

    Colin Powell March 8, 2003

    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.

    George Bush March 18, 2003

    We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

    Tony Blair, Prime Minister 18 March, 2003

    Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.

    Ari Fleisher March 21, 2003

    There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.

    Gen. Tommy Franks March 22, 2003

    I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.

    Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board , March 23, 2003

    One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.

    Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark March 22, 2003

    We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.

    Donald Rumsfeld March 30, 2003

    Saddam’s removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction

    Jack Straw,
    Foreign Secretary 2 April, 2003

    Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find — and there will be plenty.

    Neocon scholar Robert Kagan April 9, 2003

    I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.

    Ari Fleischer April 10, 2003

    We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.

    George Bush April 24, 2003

    Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit.

    Tony Blair 28 April, 2003

    There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country. Donald Rumsfeld April 25, 2003

    We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.

    George Bush May 3, 2003

    I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction.

    Colin Powell May 4, 2003

    I never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.

    Donald Rumsfeld May 4, 2003

    I’m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein — because he had a weapons program.

    George W. Bush May 6, 2003

    U.S. officials never expected that “we were going to open garages and find” weapons of mass destruction.

    Condoleeza Rice May 12, 2003

    I just don’t know whether it was all destroyed years ago — I mean, there’s no question that there were chemical weapons years ago — whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they’re still hidden.

    Maj. Gen. David Petraeus,
    Commander 101st Airborne May 13, 2003

    Before the war, there’s no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.

    Gen. Michael Hagee,
    Commandant of the Marine Corps May 21, 2003

    Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we’re interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of mass destruction.

    Gen. Richard Myers,
    Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff May 26, 2003

    They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.

    Donald Rumsfeld May 27, 2003

    For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.

    Paul Wolfowitz May 28, 2003

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  122. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    First, most of those cited have legitimate credentials and experience that qualify them as experts.

    It’s still “Appeal to Authority” if they’re Neocons….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  123. Another Mike says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    When you present a possibility as an undisputed fact, when you turn an “it might be” into an “it is,” then you know what you’re doing? You’re lying.

    I will have to concede that what Rumsfeld said was not the truth. He said those things were facts without any kind of qualification. If the intelligence community had told him those things were facts, then maybe he believed them. Maybe his mouth got way ahead of what was supportable by evidence, in which case he was more or less lying.

    I believe that President Bush and Rumsfeld, etc., and some democrats, believed there was good reason to take out Hussein, but they did not believe they could sell it without the WMD. They oversold the WMD intelligence and read more into it than was really there. Some democrats went along with it, because they wanted to see Hussein gone too. After the WMD did not materialize, the democrats felt safe attacking the war and President Bush, whom they never ever had any use for, to say it mildly. In my opinion, they and the media went too far, but that is another topic.

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  124. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    I will have to concede that what Rumsfeld said was not the truth. He said those things were facts without any kind of qualification. If the intelligence community had told him those things were facts, then maybe he believed them. Maybe his mouth got way ahead of what was supportable by evidence, in which case he was more or less lying.

    Thanks for the admission. And what about the Cheney statement I posted?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  125. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another Mike:

    If the intelligence community had told him those things were facts, then maybe he believed them.

    The degree of certainty Rumsfeld expressed (“we do know”) is not justified by what “the intelligence community had told him.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  126. Rob in CT says:

    @Another Mike:

    Well, wooptie f*cking doo, you finally admit, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, that the architects of the war lied their asses off.

    Nice. Some of us noticed this in 2002.

    This is why some of us are so pissed, btw. Only after you are given chapter and verse (of things that happened a grand total of 12 years ago at MOST) will you grudgingly concede “well, that wasn’t the truth… erm, maybe things got away from him there…”

    This is what I mean about people who were duped by OBVIOUS LIES refusing to face it. It makes you look dumb, and you can’t handle that, so obviously it must’ve all been a tragic honest mistake.

    It wasn’t. They wanted their war, and they got it.

    BTW, in the long list of quotes up there Hillary Clinton is listed. She’s guilty too. Not to the extent of say, Cheney, but guilty nonetheless. This is a major reason for her defeat in the Dem primary in ’08. It is THE reason I voted Obama over Clinton, and that goes for millions of Dems, I’d wager. We’ll suck it up, hold our noses, and vote for her in ’16 since the alternative will almost certainly be clearly worse on basically everything (including FP), but lots of us will not enjoy it one bit.

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  127. Rob in CT says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Goddamned right.

    Remember, people who expressed doubts or raised other issues were shitcanned left and right (e.g., Shineski).

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  128. Another Mike says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And what about the Cheney statement I posted?

    The Christian Science Monitor says the verdict is mixed on this assertion. Iraq had no involvement in 9/11 and President Bush has admitted that.

    I believe the war was justified without the WMD business. What is so disappointing to me is the abysmal lack of knowledge by the Bush administration of what would happen in Iraq when Hussein was removed. Everyone seemed to be taken by surprise. As someone said, when Hussein was removed the lid came of everything Hussein had been holding in by brute force. President Obama has had the benefit of seeing all the mistakes in Iraq and opportunity of learning the right lessons. I cannot say though that he has learned the right lessons, but I believe most conservatives now have.

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  129. Rob in CT says:

    @Another Mike:

    I believe most conservatives now have.

    Based on what? You have to be kidding me!

    I might give you a minority of Conservatives. There are paleocons who were basically right all along (so it’s not a matter of learning lessons perse, but rather having what they knew confirmed), but they are very few in number (The American Conservative is basically a voice in the wilderness). There is Rand Paul. That’s about it.

    What in the world are you talking about?

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  130. MarkedMan says:

    3 things:
    1) whether someone has a right to be heard is theoretical in this case. There is a finite number of guest slots on these shows and putting Cheney and his ilk on mean fewer slots for others.

    2) you may look at someone’s credentials as a reason to give them a job, but once they’ve performed that job you evaluate them on their results. At that point, credentials are meaningless.

    3) there is a thread going on above that posits that if we were willing to stay in Iraq long enough we could sort it out. Can someone give me a single example of a divided society held together at the barrel of a gun, that didn’t devolve into chaos and recrimination within months of the occupier leaving? Yugoslavia, the colonies of Britian and France, dozens of countries that had decades experience, and I can’t think of one that remained whole.

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  131. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    The Christian Science Monitor says the verdict is mixed on this assertion.

    False, false, false. Every credible news and intelligence source which looked at the issue of alleged collusion between Iraq and al Qaeda concluded there was none. Cheney was just lying. A flat-out, fully conscious lie, as he knew exactly what the intelligence was. As jukeboxgrad notes above, when the Senate Intelligence Committee did a post-war autopsy, this is what they found:

    Conclusion 1: … Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa’ida to provide material or operational support. … Saddam distrusted Islamic radicals in general, and al-Qa’ida in particular. … bin Ladin attempted to exploit the former Iraqi regime by making requests for operational and material assistance, while Saddam Hussein refused all such requests. … Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa’ida.

    In short, Cheney was lying. Why can’t you admit it it, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence?

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  132. Another Mike says:

    @Rafer Janders: I will admit that what Cheney said about a link between Iraq and Al Qaida was not true. If Cheney knew at the time he made the statement that it was not true, then he was lying. I am not in a position to say that he knew, and so will not say that he was lying.

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  133. jukeboxgrad says:

    I am not in a position to say that he knew, and so will not say that he was lying

    Cheney, 1/22/04:

    There’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there.

    Powell, 1/8/04:

    I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection

    Tenet, 4/29/07:

    We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period

    Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/8/06 (when it was controlled by Republicans):

    Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa’ida

    The “overwhelming evidence” that Cheney mentioned on 1/22/04 has never been presented, by Cheney or anyone else. According to Powell, Tenet, and a bunch of Republican senators, this evidence doesn’t exist. Therefore it’s reasonable to conclude that Cheney made it up.

    Cheney’s claim that we knew with “absolute certainty” that Saddam was building nukes is another example of a brazen lie. No intelligence agency made that claim.

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  134. anjin-san says:

    Some of us noticed this in 2002.

    My friends that told me about Howard Dean back when he was the Governor of Vermornt, and an unknown on the national stage also told me very clearly that the arguments for going to war were utter, total BS. They also predicted, quite accurately, how things were going to work out. In 2002.

    These are Democrats who are involved in politics mostly at the city government and county committee level. And they saw exactly WTF was going on.

    Bush and his crew lied through their teeth. A lot of Democrats, to their shame, made a craven political calculation that making a high profile vote in the post 9.11 world that could be seen as weak on national security might be a career killer. At least most of them have come clean and admitted they blew it. Bush, Cheney, and co. certainly have not.

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  135. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    If Cheney knew at the time he made the statement that it was not true, then he was lying. I am not in a position to say that he knew, and so will not say that he was lying.

    Jesus Christ. Cheney spoke this lie A YEAR AND A HALF after we invaded Iraq and seized all their archives. Cheney was the most powerful man in the US government and had all intelligence reports funneled directly to him. Of course he was in a position to know. Of course he was lying.

    This is why people consider you to be so clueless — as long as someone is on your team, you’ll find no end of excuses for him, even in the face of clear evidence. If you saw Cheney with an axe in his hands and a decapitated baby at his feet, you’d say “I’m not in a position to know it wasn’t self-defense, so I won’t say Cheney is a murderer….”

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  136. anjin-san says:

    I believe the war was justified without the WMD business.

    Why? Because Hussien was a murdering bastard? If that is our standard for going to war, we are going to need a much bigger army.

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  137. Another Mike says:

    @anjin-san:

    Why? Because Hussien was a murdering bastard?

    As I recall things were not great between us and the murdering bastard even before 9-11. We had already waged one war against Iraq and were maintaining a no-fly zone over parts of Iraq. There were frequent reports of Iraqi radar locking onto our planes resulting in us bombing Iraqi radar sites. It seems to me that it was only a matter of time until they actually got lucky and shot down one of our planes. The Clinton administration had its reasons for wanting to be rid of Hussein, and so did Bush. Bush though just went ahead and did it, being that he was in a foul mood after 9-11. And there was also all that business with the UN.

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  138. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    It seems to me that it was only a matter of time until they actually got lucky and shot down one of our planes.

    So we attacked and invaded a sovereign nation, engaged in an eight-year occupation, cost ourselves upwards of $3 trillion of hard-working taxpayer dollars, earned worldwide enmity, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and maimed, wounded, widowed and orphaned millions more, had 4,500 plus of our own soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines killed, and threw the entire region into a decade of chaos so that the Iraqis wouldn’t shoot down of our own planes flying over Iraqi territory?

    In that case, Mission Accomplished.

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  139. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    As I recall things were not great between us and the murdering bastard even before 9-11.

    Things weren’t so great between us and Iran, or between us and North Korea, or between us and Sudan, or between us and Burma, or between us and Zimbabwe. So why didn’t Bush invade them if the standard for launching an unprovoked aggressive war is “things aren’t so great between us”?

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  140. Rafer Janders says:

    @Another Mike:

    In known of that farrago of words do you remotely offer a justifiable reason why Bush invaded Iraq. You know that, right?

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  141. jomike says:

    @Another Mike:

    This debate will go on for generations.

    Hogwash. The substantive facts are known. We’re not talking about Cold War era CIA assassinations and coups d’etat and the like. There are not going to be dramatic revelations a generation from now that prompt some sort of 180-degree reassessment.

    Frankly, this blog is too partisan to make much of a contribution to the debate.

    Genetic fallacy. Most of the comments are on point and insightful. To dismiss them purely for lack of false balance is to make the same “both sides” mistake that plagues so much of mainstream media and blogs.

    People are falling all over themselves to proclaim that there is no debate, it’s all settled.

    The debate substantially *is* settled. To pretend otherwise is a “both sides” delusion.

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  142. anjin-san says:

    @ Another Mike

    We had already waged one war against Iraq

    Yes, and at the time it was wisely decided that regime change would open Pandora’s Box, a fear that turned out to be well founded.

    It seems to me that it was only a matter of time until they actually got lucky and shot down one of our planes.

    Since when do we go to war over things that might happen? Aside from that, if this has any validity, why did Cheney & Co. go on about phantom WMDs? Why did they not say “we are invading because we are afraid they might shoot down one of our planes”?

    being that he was in a foul mood after 9-11.

    Now were are getting somewhere. 3000 Americans were murdered on our own soil on Bush’s watch, and he wanted to blow some shit up. The price tag for his “foul mood” was steep indeed, and the meter is still running. Bin Laden must have nearly had a hemorrhage, Bush and Cheney played into his hands so completely.

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  143. anjin-san says:

    @ Another Mike:

    You really need to get better informed. The PNAC folks had wanted war with Iraq for some time. 9.11 gave them just the excuse they were looking for. Cheney’s pals at Halliburton made a fortune. Hell, they made several fortunes.

    When Wesley Clark was at the Pentagon on 9.12.01, his sources told him “we are going to war with Iraq.” Talk about a WTF moment.

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