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Bush lied

November 12th, 2005

With Americans increasingly convinced that the Bush Administration lied to sell the war in Iraq, Bush and his defenders are pushing an idea that’s been refuted quite a few times before, but obviously needs another go. This is the claim that “everyone believed that Saddam had WMD’s”. Hence, it’s argued, even if the Administration misread the evidence, this was an honest mistake, shared by others. The argument is bolstered by citations from the Clinton Administration, Democrats who supported the war and claims about the concurrence of the French and other intelligence services.

For this argument to hold up, it’s obviously necessary that people believed in Saddam’s weapons independently of what they were told by Bush and Blair. After all, the whole point of the criticism is that the Administration’s lies led people to support the war.

It’s easy enough to support the claim that independent observers generally believed that Saddam had WMD’s with citations from 2002 and earlier. The evidence supported such a belief. Saddam was known to have used chemical weapons in the past, and to have attempted to produce nuclear and biological weapons. Moreover, he had first obstructed and eventually expelled the UN inspectors who were supposed to check that his weapons and facilities had been destroyed. This belief was reinforced by the claims made by Bush and Blair, who asserted that they had detailed knowledge about Saddam’s weapons programs. It was reflected in the unanimous passage of UNSC Resolution 1441, requiring Iraq to declare all its weapons and readmit inspectors.

The problem for the Bush argument is that the inspectors were in fact readmitted, inspected the sites that had been pointed to as likely targets, and found nothing. At this point, anyone who was not willing to rely on the word of Bush and Blair ought to have revised their beliefs and most in fact did so. For example, here’s my take on the issue, in January 2003, and this didn’t rely on inside information or special insight[1]. Most national governments that were in a position to make an independent judgement reached the same conclusion, a point reflected in the failure to get a second UNSC resolution supporting the war.

The conclusion to be drawn from the evidence after the inspections resumed was not that no weapons existed, but that there was not enough evidence to reach a conclusion and that inspections should continue. Again, most people who did not rely on the disinformation presented by Bush and Blair drew this conclusion.

Of course, a lot of people did believe, even after the inspections resumed and found nothing, that Saddam definitely had WMDs. But, almost always, this was because they placed credence in the claims of Bush and Blair, and particularly the willingness of Colin Powell to endorse them. As evidence that these claims were not dishonest, the fact that they fooled a lot of people points in the wrong direction.

fn1. My lack of special insight was evident in my belief that the British Labour party would never support a war in the absence of clear evidence that Saddam had WMDs.

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  1. Razor
    November 16th, 2005 at 17:58 | #1

    Katz – so, given the arbitrary nature of the application of the conventions, why are the lefties screeching so loudly about it for the poor victims like our own Aussie Jihadi banged up in Gitmo?

    Andrew Reynolds – both North Vietnam and North Korea claim to operate within the Geneva Conventions, and the evidence is there for all to see how they treat POWs.

  2. Andrew Reynolds
    November 16th, 2005 at 18:50 | #2

    Razor,
    I would not like to be judged by their standards – however (IMHO) Bush is, in this matter at least, putting himself in their company. That is not a good place for the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy to be.

  3. Ian Gould
    November 16th, 2005 at 19:14 | #3

    I’m interested as to how the people who endlessly proclaim the end of torture as one of the unquestionable goods arising from the overthrow of Saddam will spin this:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article327331.ece

    “The raid was at a building in central Baghdad. Men armed with automatic rifles burst in and made their way to a set of underground cells where they found 175 people huddled together. They had been captured by paramilitaries and tortured. The terrified, mainly Sunni, captives had been held in an office of the Iraqi interior ministry, and the rescue party were Iraqi police and American soldiers.”

  4. Katz
    November 16th, 2005 at 20:11 | #4

    Razor,

    Arbitrary isn’t good, just almost inevitable.

    The secret to being a sane leftie, like my good self, is to know enough about reality to avoid being mugged by it, and to find a ready supply of RWDBs to ridicule and and to lampoon.

    Looks like today is my lucky day!

  5. November 16th, 2005 at 21:43 | #5

    Ian Gould: Rather looks like proof positive that us enlightened western nations should not pull out of Iraq early. Can’t leave running a country & being sensible to a bunch of arabs.

  6. Ian Gould
    November 16th, 2005 at 23:19 | #6

    Steve,

    I have never argued that the west should “pull out of Iraq early”.

    In fact I’ve cosnistently argued that the Coalition will need to stay for a decade (or longer) to avoid catastrophe.

    It’s one of the reasons I opposed the war in the first place.

    Does the word “quagmire” ring a bell?

    “Can’t leave running a country & being sensible to a bunch of arabs.”

    You know I’d find that offensive even if your spiritual ancestors hadn’t been making identical comments about Jews back in the 30s and 40s.

  7. Katz
    November 17th, 2005 at 07:34 | #7

    Well said IG.

    The Right are enjoying a moment of sunshine at the minute. For the most part, they’ve put on clean underwear and assumed their best visit-of-the-parson manners.

    But it is well known that many of them are driven by some very atavistic and dangerous desires. Sadomasochism is a leading psychological trait of the Right.

    The masochistic element of the Right crave discipline and domination of an authority figure.

    The sadistic element of the Right are more than happy to oblige.

    It won’t be long before best behaviour begins to wear off and the Right start hogging the cucumber sandwiches and casting learing glances at the parlour maid.

  8. November 17th, 2005 at 10:24 | #8

    Ian Gould: Clearly you have never lived in an Arab suburb. Otherwise you would know what a bunch of hotheaded lunatics they are!

  9. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2005 at 10:32 | #9

    “Clearly you have never lived in an Arab suburb. Otherwise you would know what a bunch of hotheaded lunatics they are!”

    I lived in the Woolloongabba and West End area of Brisbane for several years and one of my current busienss partners is an arab.

    tiem to trot out another rationale for your bigotry.

  10. Razor
    November 17th, 2005 at 10:58 | #10

    Katz – you’ve been monitoring my internet usage?

  11. Katz
    November 17th, 2005 at 12:15 | #11

    “Katz – you’ve been monitoring my internet usage?”

    No, but the proposition suddnly becomes interesting…

    Would that be in reference to sadomasochism or to soiled undergarments?

  12. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2005 at 13:20 | #12

    “But it is well known that many of them are driven by some very atavistic and dangerous desires. Sadomasochism is a leading psychological trait of the Right.”

    It’s always struck me that in British politics at least the scandals of the right almsot always involved sex (e.g. Profumo) and the scandals of the left almost always involved money.

    Of course, tory former barow-boy Dennis Archer combined both as has New Labour luminary David Blunkett.

  13. November 17th, 2005 at 14:32 | #13

    Some of your best friends are arabs eh Ian Gould? You are sounding like you are from the “soft hands” side of the cappucinno divide.

  14. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2005 at 16:19 | #14

    Steve, spare me your pathetic attempts at inspiring middle-class liberal guilt.

    i was born the youngest of six kids, my dad was on a veteran’s pension and my mum worked as a maid, I grew up on a farm with no power and no phone and I put myself through University workign night-shift at the old Roma Street mail exchange unloading mail trucks.

    I know it’ll shock you but most working class people are as disgusted by racists such as yourself as are those on the other side of the cappucino divide.

  15. Andrew Reynolds
    November 17th, 2005 at 17:43 | #15

    IG,
    There are just as many racists on the left as on the right – remind me who said, in Federal Parliament, that “two Wongs do not make a White” and which party implemented (as opposed to formalised) the White Australia policy? Whitlam himself had some very unkind things to say about Vietnamese refugees – mainly due to his fear of their percieved anti left tendencies.
    Bigotry, racism and other forms of prejudice are not right / left but right / wrong.

  16. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2005 at 18:51 | #16

    Andrew,

    I never said any different.

    I have many friends on the right and I know that the majority on the irght are not racists, I’ve also run across some appalling racists on the left.

    The point here is:

    1. I can’t think of any way to interpret Steve’s “what a bunch of hotheaded lunatics they [arabs] are!” that isn;t racist.

    2. Steve tried to protray me as some out of touch middle class liberal. I actually take considerable pride in the fact that I was born working class and remain working class even thoguh i’ve made a decent amount of money along the way.

    So, from my perspective, this isn’t even a politcial argument – it’s an argument about Steve being a racist.

  17. Andrew Reynolds
    November 17th, 2005 at 19:28 | #17

    The only way would be as a rather silly and off the mark joke, as are many jokes made in the pub.
    I just find this comment “You know I’d find that offensive even if your spiritual ancestors hadn’t been making identical comments about Jews back in the 30s and 40s” along with yours and Katz’s comments about the right as indicating that you believed that it was a left / right thing.
    If I was wrong, I apologise. To me, one of the defining things of belonging to the liberal (as opposed to Liberal) right is the recognition of the freedom and dignity of every individual.

  18. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2005 at 22:03 | #18

    Actually that particular comment was me commenting as a Jew. (Yes, Steve there are such things as working-class Jews, hard to believe isn’t it?)

  19. November 17th, 2005 at 22:40 | #19

    Ian, I did type that you were sounding like a…. (etc etc) did not type that you are a…. (etc etc)

    I don’t know anything about jews, as I have never knowingly met one, they are an abstract, never thought of them as working class, or any other class. Off the top of my head the only jew I can even name is General Monash, and he wasn’t a Queenslander.

    Your chant of “racist” is standard coffee shop left wing smokescreen. Try to not descend to unwashed protester level every time someone makes an observation that not all of the earth’s population is culturally homogenous. You may just retain some credibility.

  20. jquiggin
    November 18th, 2005 at 08:15 | #20

    We seem to have got past the point of useful discussion here, so I’m closing this one off.

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