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Steyn contest

June 9th, 2002
.!.

Mark Steyn tells his British audience that Australia is “on board” for a US invasion of Iraq without the authorisation of the UN. Writing in The Spectator he says

“Just as a matter of interest, how many countries does George W. Bush have to have on board before America ceases to be acting ‘unilaterally’? So far, there’s Australia, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Turkey”

As far as I know, none of the countries listed by Steyn have made commitments to support an invasion, and certainly Australia hasn’t. It’s possible to weasel out of this by quibbling about the meaning of “on board”. But the position and statements of the Australian government have been copied, almost word-for-word, from those of Tony Blair. So why doesn’t Steyn list Britain as being “on board”? Because, of course, his readers would know that he was talking nonsense.

But just when I was getting really annoyed, I came across this piece of light relief “…. Romania has offered the use of its airspace to attack Iraq.” Does Steyn think that Iraq is part of the former Yugoslavia?

I know I’ve been going on a bit about this guy. But he seems to me to be symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with thinking on the pro-war side of the debate, and the enthusiasm with which our local warbloggers cite him only confirms this.

Anyway, I thought I’d liven things up by announcing a contest. If anyone can show me a Steyn column* that doesn’t contain
(a) an unattributed or distorted quotation;
(b) a serious factual error; or
(c) a distortion of the truth comparable to that cited above,
I’ll promise not to mention him for the rest of the year.

As is appropriate in a debate about unilateralism, I’ll be judge and jury in my own case. I’ll do my best to give at least an email response to everyone, and to post the results at an appropriate time.

* I have seen a few purely humorous columns from Steyn, which are actually not too bad. Its only when he comes into contact with facts that the trouble starts. So I’m confining the contest to “serious” pieces like the one I’ve cited here.

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