Wednesday, October 15, 2003
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (8)
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- part II
Jonathan Schwarz's opening statement on the question: "It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."
"It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."
Jonathan will be arguing in the negative:
I concede that no Bush administration official ever said -- as far as I'm aware -- the precise words "Iraq is an imminent threat." However, the evidence clearly shows that the idea that the Bush administration argued there was an imminent threat from Iraq is not completely fabricated. (Indeed, I believe any fair reading of Bush administration statements shows that indeed they did clearly claim Iraq was an imminent threat. However, for the purposes of this bet, I need merely show that the idea that they argued Iraq was an imminent threat is not made up out of whole cloth.)
For easy reference, I've numbered the parts of my argument below.
1. First I'd like to address the most frequently-cited evidence that the statement at issue is true. That is this section from the most recent State of the Union address:
Some, such as Charles Krauthammer, claim this means that "in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush plainly denied that the threat was imminent".
This is incorrect. Bush here did not deny that Iraq was an imminent threat. Rather, he was making the argument that we could not know whether or not Iraq was an imminent threat. In other words, the implication of what Bush was saying was that indeed Iraq might be an imminent threat.
(While this is somewhat off-topic, my speculation is that Bush's speechwriters wrote this section of the State of the Union as they did because they were in a difficult position. They knew people were claiming that we should only attack if Iraq were an imminent threat to the US, and that that idea had a great appeal to many people. And they knew that the idea that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US might appear far-fetched. But at the same time, it wasn't politically feasible to say explicitly that Iraq wasn't an imminent threat. So they finessed it, while elsewhere trying to make the threat sound as alarming as possible.)
2. Next, let's turn to Bush administration claims on other occasions before the war -- claims that clearly show that the idea that they argued Iraq was an imminent threat are not completely fabricated.
On June 6, 2002, Dick Cheney referred in a speech to the "gathering danger" of Iraq. At the United Nations last year on September 12, Bush himself stated that "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger".
According to Roget's Interactive Thesaurus, "gathering" is a synonym of "imminent."
3. In testimony before Congress on September 18 last year, Donald Rumsfeld stated that:
Here Rumsfeld says that he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraq may be an imminent nuclear threat. More significantly for our purposes, he states that Iraq has biological weapons and that they are an "immediate threat."
According to Roget's Interactive Thesaurus, "immediate" is also a synonym of "imminent."
4. On October 16 last year, the following exchange with Ari Fleischer took place at a White House press briefing:
I believe this speaks for itself.
5. During an October 7 speech last year in Cincinnati, Bush stated that:
Later, in the State of the Union, Bush said that terrorists armed by Iraq could "bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
In other words, Bush was arguing that Iraq could on any given day help terrorists bring the U.S. a day of horror like none we have ever known -- and that Iraq was a danger comparable or greater than Al-Qaida, which everyone would agree is an imminent threat to America.
6. Next let's examine three significant interpretations of the Bush administration's Iraq claims.
Radio Free Europe's headline after Bush's speech was "Iraq: Bush Tells Americans Saddam Is An Imminent Threat". Many other news outlets made such claims, but Radio Free Europe's is particularly noteworthy because it is funded by the U.S. government itself.
After the war on this past June 8th, William Kristol -- obviously one of the prime journalistic supporters of the war -- stated on Fox News Sunday that "Bush and Blair certainly articulated" "the case for urgency".
Also after the war, Ari Fleischer was again asked whether the United States claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. Again he agreed:
7. Finally, the blog on the official Bush/Cheney reelection campaign website approvingly cites columnist Kathleen Parker's "judgment that Kay’s report does indeed prove that conditions in Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States and the world."
It's worth examining the implications of this closely. George Bush's official website is promoting the idea that David Kay's findings prove that Iraq was an imminent threat. Yet what Kay found was far, far less than the unequivocal claims by the Bush administration before the war -- that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons and was actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
Therefore, by the Bush campaign's own standards of what constitutes an imminent threat, it logically follows that the Bush administration was arguing that Iraq posed an imminent threat. After all, Iraq could hardly have been more of a threat with what Kay has discovered than it would have been with what the Bush administration said they definitely had.
In conclusion, let me summarize what Sebastian must argue:
Yes, Bush and Cheney did state that Iraq posed a "gathering danger," which is a synonym for "imminent threat." Yes, Rumsfeld did state that Iraq's biological weapons were an "immediate threat," which is a synonym for "imminent threat." Yes, the President's press secretary agreed when asked, both before and after the war, that the Bush administration claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. Yes, Bush said Iraq was as much of a threat as Al-Qaida and could on any given day give terrorists the means to bring us a day of horror like none we've ever known. Yes, a news organization funded by the U.S. government believed Bush was saying Iraq was an imminent threat, and William Kristol understood Bush to mean that the case for war was urgent. Yes, according to the standards of Bush's own official website, the Bush administration argued that Iraq was an imminent threat.
Nevertheless, it is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq.
I believe this cannot be judged to be a tenable argument -- and that therefore I have won this bet.
UPDATE: Holsclaw responds.
posted by Dan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM
Ding ding ding, we have a winner.posted by: scarshapedstar on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
The difficulty is that the references to synonyms for "imminent" by administration officials are all taken out of context.
Their immediate context was statements that "we don't know if Iraq is an imminent threat, and can't wait until we know." That is very different from saying that Iraq is, in fact, today, an imminent threat.
The political context was the well-documented demand by opponents of the war that we wait until Iraq is an undeniably imminent threat. The Bush administration resisted this standard for triggering the war, saying that we must attack now because we cannot wait for Iraq to become an imminent threat. Bush and his opponents agreed that Iraq was not an imminent threat; that was not the argument at the time. The argument at the time was over whether to wait until he was.posted by: R.C. Dean on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
On the basis of the debate proposition, looks like the $100 goes to Schwartz, on the basis of point 3 and point 5. Imminent threat means,in untortured English, that very bad WMD things could happen to us "on any given day". And there is no question that Bush and Rumsfeld are members of the Bush Administration.
What do you know, I had my mind changed on this point. Guess that's the problem with being a moderate, you never can be exactly sure your position won't change when presented with evidence.
(I don't buy point 2 -- if you need Roget's to make your point, you don't have a point. Point 4 is Ari letting a reporter put words in his mouth -not exactly an unequivocal statement. Point 6 and 7 refer to folks who are not Bush administration officials. Believe it or not, webloggers and headline writers can be wrong.)posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
This seems like nitpicking at best. "Possible" is also a synonym for imminent, and everyone would (hopefully) agree that Iraq was possibly a threat at the time. So by Schwartz's own logic, even if the administration had said the threat was "imminent," they would have been correct.posted by: Justin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Gathering does not mean Imminent no matter what the thesaurus says, and to assume that a thesaurus only give exact synonyms is either obtuse, naive or dishonest.
Gathering: To grow or increase by degrees.
Imminent: Threatening to occur immediately; near at hand; impending
My god what a bunch of inane blather. To wit:
"In other words, the implication of what Bush was saying was that indeed Iraq might be an imminent threat. "
And yet I dont here any critics screaming that Bush had claim Iraq _might_ be an imminent threat! Of course they might have been. That is the point. They are making an argument with evidence not available when the decision was being made. Six months ago, no reasonable person could deny that Iraq might very well be an imminent threat. The inspections regime was infiltrated, weak, and run by a career bureacrat who had given Iraq a clean bill of health once already, only to have a defector reveal an entire program unknown at the time. Should we have taken him seriously this time? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but its not the most product act to set your watch by it.posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
1) The synonyms are most certainly not taken out of context.
And, think about your argument, which centers on the idea that Bush et al said that:
"we must attack now because we cannot wait for Iraq to become an imminent threat."
Tell me, oh contextualizer, if one "cannot wait" to act, and if one must "attack now" then what does that make the threat?
Imminent, yes? Because we Cannot Wait, yes?
That is the very definition - something that is coming so fast and so soon that we must act NOW and we CANNOT WAIT to act....is by very definition...imminent.
2) On the other hand, you could continue making the case that the Bush's did NOT intend to portray the threat as imminent, did NOT feel that there was a clear and present danger...and therefore violated the constitution, violated the spirit (if not the letter) of the Congressional Resolution, and violated just about every War Crimes law, standard, convention, and accord on the books...and are now international war criminals on the order of Alfred Jodl, who was hung by the neck until dead for pre-emptively attacking Poland absent any imminent threat....
so...which is it?
They DID claim the threat was imminent, both by the use of specific synonyms, and by the very way that they framed the debate...in which case they lied, knowingly (based on the newly released information, as well as numerous testimonials and pieces of evidence from many sources...
Or the DID NOT claim the threat was imminent, and never intended to...in which case they are War Criminals, guilty of crimes against the peace, from which (as I recall) an American Justice on the Nuremberg Tribunal stated "all other war crimes arise"....
Now there's a Hobson's Choice for you!posted by: Dan (not Drezner) on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
R.C., I think the Bush Admin was not saying that Iraq was not an "imminent threat". Rather, they were saying that Iraq might very well present an imminent threat, but because of the nature of the threat (i.e. conspiring with terrorists rather than massing armies on the border), we could never be certain until the threat became a reality. Therefore, they argued, we should assume the worst.
I agree with appalled that points 4, 6, and 7 are all irrelevant to the question of whether the Bush administration stated that Iraq posed an imminent threat.
I am not particularly impressed with the argument in point 2 that "gathering" is a synonym for "imminent." We have a "gathering" fiscal crisis in Social Security, but it won't arrive for at least another 10 years. I don't think anyone would call that an "imminent" problem.
Point 1, as I note above, is not a statement that Iraq is an imminent threat. It is a statement that we don't know, and can't afford to wait.
Points 3 and 5 are the most troubling.posted by: R. C. Dean on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"On any given day" does not mean the same thing as imminent. It means that they didn't know then, as they maintained many times, and that they were not willing to risk the security of the US to rule it out.
The fact that Bush, from his loudest possible megaphone, the SOTU, *specifically ruled out* the tortured interpretation offered above overrides any invidious word parsing that his enemies might make of the countless words that pour out of any white house.
posted by: Moptop on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Six months ago there were many many many reasonable people who were perfectly well aware that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat.
23 of them, including a Republican and an Independent, former Republican, were senators...
Scott Ritter was one.
There were a LOT of people who stated in no uncertain terms that Iraq was NOT an imminent threat.
Many who stated that were experts in the field of WMD, proliferation, terrorism, espionage, and etc.
Unfortunately, people like you called them traitors, commies, Saddam lovers, "objectively pro-terrorist" and other such inane drivel...they were shouted down...the millions who marched were ignored...
and now...here we are.posted by: Dan (not Drezner) on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Methinks you miss Schwartz's point. He's not saying that the equivalent of "we don't know if Iraq is an imminent threat=Iraq is an imminent threat." He's saying that the Bush's administration's argument was essentially this:
We don't know whether Iraq is an imminent threat. However, we feel that there is a very strong chance that it is--and here's the reasons why--and thus, we should play it safe and invade without being certain.
In other words, according to Schwarz, the administration's argument was not over whether the threat was imminent, a fact that we could never know for certain. Instead, they were primarily arguing over the sufficient probability of imminence to justify an invasion--and in making that argument, they asserted that such probability was sufficiently high.
Incidentally, this debate was over before it started. There are enough at least ambiguous statements out there by the administration to make the conclusion that the argument that the administration suggested that Iraq was an imminent threat a "complete fabrication" impossible. If the question was "Did the administration assert an argument that, in the aggregate, suggested that Iraq was an imminent threat?" then it would be a different story.
Surely you must realize that, Dan.
By the way, say hi to my wife if you see her this afternoon. Her office is in Gates-Blake.posted by: Joe on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Tell me, oh contextualizer, if one "cannot wait" to act, and if one must "attack now" then what does that make the threat?
It makes the threat less than imminent, but still intolerable. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? If you know that your neighbor is experimenting with homemade explosives, but hasn't got the formula right, do you wait until you hear a big boom to call the cops? No - you call them right away, regardless of whether his success is imminent. See, not imminent, but intolerable.
The Bush administration did not violate the Constitution, because it had Congressional authority, which is all the Constitution requires. The Constitution does not require that the US wait for an imminent threat to go to war.
The Bush administration did not violate the Congressional resolution, because that resolution did not require an imminent threat. That is what the whole argument was about, remember?
The Bush administration did not violate any war crimes laws because it did not commit a war crime by going to war in Iraq. Indeed, what happened this year in Iraq was the perfectly legal conclusion of the war that began in 1991. That war ended with a cease-fire contingent on Saddam's behavior. Saddam violated the cease-fire. To argue that the 2003 invasion was illegal, you have to go back and argue either that the 1991 war was illegal, or that Saddam did not violate the cease-fire. Good luck with those.posted by: R.C. Dean on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Let me weigh in on this with some survey results. Among those who believe that Iraq poses a threat toi the U.S., a plurality believed in late January 2003 that the threat was immediate (see below). The question is of course whether they got that directly from the Administration, or from watching FOX News.
Putting aside for a second the notion of who is correct, I'd just like to commend Mr. Schwartz on perhaps the best argument I have ever seen articulated on the internet.
"Six months ago there were many many many reasonable people who were perfectly well aware that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat."
Knew? KNEW? Are you serious? Scott Ritter knew for a fact that Hussein didnt have a sack full of anthrax? A tank of VX? KNEW? Thats absurd. The nature of Hussein police state made it certain that there was, and is, exactly one person on earth who knew the exact capabilities of Iraq WMD, Saddam Hussein himself. For all we know he's running around to this day with a suitcase full of death. No-one knew, no-one could have known. We could only speculate based on the evidence at hand and passed history. That is a valid argument, that the evidence at hand was not to the threshold to go to war. It is utterly invalid to say that anyone knew for a fact that Iraq was not a threat. We erred on the side of caution, based on an unblemished track record of Hussein's terrorist impulses.posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Dan, I think you could tighten up the presentation of the online debate (and a great one, it is).
A suggestion or two:
Why not put your comments in green or some other neutral color to make sure you, as the ref, are or are not speaking. (Do you have your yellow and red cards handy?)
My big concern is to make sure the pugilists' positions are displayed unambiguously (in blue or red, perhaps) for viewing ease.
As it stands now, I get the feeling you're doing play-by-play.
Finally, as seen from my perch and according to my scorecard, I scored the first round as a draw.
Ding, ding, ding. ...
"And there you have it folks, the end of the first round in this fifteen round slugfest of a matchup."
"Howard, over to you for insight on this great fight. ..."posted by: Michael on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
[i]To argue that the 2003 invasion was illegal, you have to go back and argue either that the 1991 war was illegal, or that Saddam did not violate the cease-fire. Good luck with those.[/i]
Or you could argue that because the 1991 war occurred under UN auspices, an independent state actor is not authorized to declare Iraq to be in breach of the ceasefire terms absent UN authorization--and in this case, actually in the face of de facto refusal.
Either or.posted by: Joe on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Two of points...
Using a thesaurus as a debate tool is silly. What you are saying is "No, the guy didn't say it but I twist his words I can make it look like he did." To my way of thinking anyone that uses that, loses many points. you are admitting you are wrong.
In high school I took the thesaurus and started at "YES" and kept looking up synonyms until I got to "NO."
That is probably only of value to Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant.
My other point is that Dan should allow a rebuttal on each side. I think this is a silly word game but the historical precedent for rebuttal in debate is well establish.
Besides, they should work for the 100 clams.posted by: Paul on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Yeah, I am saying that based on the data we had, we KNEW that Saddam posed no threat to the US or his neighbors, and we KNEW it at the time.
Funny, Greg Thielmann says the same thing...so does Scott Ritter, Joe Wilson, and a host of people a lot smarter and braver and more knowledgeable than you or me...
How did we KNOW this?
Hmmmm...well, first of all, we had a pretty damned good handle on Iraq's imports and exports, a pretty comprehensive knowledge base from the previous 8 years of comprehensive inspections leading up to Desert Fox, comprehensive satellite and flyover data....
And the knowledge of what Hussein started with, how long those precursors, agents, toxins, and bugs last, what kind of gases and vapors and spectra those processes give off...and so on and on and on and on....
But then, all this arguing and logic and debate stuff makes no impression on you, does it?
None at all.posted by: Dan (not Drezner) on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Go back to the original sources, guys. See, eg, point 4: read in context, that's a "yes, go on." (Read out of context it's merely peculiar, since the questioner hadn't actually formed a question yet.) If you read on, it continues:
"Q The chief U.N. inspector, however, is saying that, even under those conditions, it would be as much as a year before he could actually make a definitive report to the U.N. that Iraq is complying with the resolutions and allowing the inspections to take place. Isn't there a kind of a dichotomy? Can we wait a year, if it's so imminent we have to act now?
In fact, the quotation in conext says that the threat is not imminent -- Fleischer is saying in so many words that some further time (to go to the UN, to do further inspections) can be afforded Iraq. Just not arbitrarily much time.
There are other points that could be countered easily -- and the claim in point 1, that when Bush disputed the notion that we could only act in case of an imminent threat, he was somehow arguing that the threat was imminent, is just laughable.
Moptop: If I were to say that "On any given day, I could have you killed", I think you'd consider that an imminent threat. So,when Bush says in effect "on any given day, Saddam could get Al Qaeda to release wmds", I take that as a statement that the threat is imminent.
Give Schwartz the $100. He's earned it, even though, given the nature of the debate question, he had it pretty easy.
But let's not pretend that this is anything other than an amusing exercise.
The real argument is whether we were right to invade Iraq, and whether, when presented with a similar situation, we should do it again. And that requires an analysis not only of WMDs but whether the USA should be in the business of removing evil regimes that may someday be a threat to world peace. And the basic question posed in Bush's SOTU -- whether we can trust evil regimes to stay in their corners and not bother us -- is a valid question.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I disagree with those that say that resorting to a thesaurus is not a valid debate tool.
Read the sentence being debated.
What Jonathan has to prove is that reasonable people could have interpreted what the Bush administration said as Iraq being an imminent threat.
Jonathan is NOT being asked to prove that they actually said that. He acknowledges that those exact words were not used. But as long as he can show that what they did say could reasonably be understood as representing Iraq as an imminent threat then he will have won the bet.
In this context the use of a thesaurus is not only valid, it is crucial.
I, for one, have no doubt that what the Bush administration said could be easily interpreted as meaning imminent threat. The list of statements by Jonathan, as well as many others he does not include, clearly show an administration that was conveying the message that Iraq represented a grave threat to the US and that we could not wait for that threat to become an actual attack before responding. I suspect that if you asked in your office most people would say that means an imminent threat.
The Bush administration and its backers could argue that their comments back then were simply based on what we knew then. Instead they seem intent on denying saying what they actually said.
Evidently, it is inconceivable to you that perhaps the poll results reflect that the American people heard all sides of the argument and made up their own minds about the situation. It is understandable, of course, that you would rather imagine that they are sheep brainwashed by Fox News.posted by: Eddgra Fallin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Torturing logic and the English language until it screams "I give!" does not a great argument make...posted by: HH on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Dan (not Drezner),
While I agree that the Bush administration was dishonest in the run up to war, Bush's argument was that we couldn't wait, not because the threat was imminent (though it might be), but because in a post 9/11 world, you must strike before they have a chance of striking you. That logic (pre-emptive strike) is what the public case for war was. Shorter: Because Iraq might be an imminent threat in the future (or may be one now), we must strike now in order to head off any possibility of a 9/11 repeat.
Of course, as we can agree, this is a very wide net to cast, and is irresponsible. However, I'm just pointing out what I think the Bush team's public logic was in that speech.posted by: Eric in TX on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
GT -- if that's the case, why did the administration go to all the trouble of avoiding the actual word? Obviously, they were trying to communicate a more subtle concept than "imminent threat."posted by: Eddgra Fallin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I agree that a rebuttal opportunity is appropriate. That said, I think Sebastian is going to have a hard time proving this one, since he not only has to demonstrate that the Bush administration did not ever claim that the threat was imminent, but has to also show that no reasonable person would have interpreted what they said to mean that (the "complete fabrication" bit).
Given that the first postulate requires word parsing on the level of "it depends on the meaning of 'is' is" I don't think he has much hope of proving the second.
And I say that having been in favour of removing Saddam from power (although the ham-handed approach taken by the Bush Administration eventually convinced me that they were likely to make things even worse in the long run).posted by: Kevin Brennan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Maybe it's a SOTU spelling/transcription error: he really said we couldn't wait until Iraq became an _immanent_ threat - ie an unavoidable, omnipresent threat.
posted by: ajay on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
To me, this is really an asinine debate. An objective look at the pre-war arguments would reveal that the Bush administration did not know how imminent the threat was, but it wanted to get rid of Saddam before we all found out the hard way. The administration did not use the word "imminent" because they weren’t sure that the threat was quite that advanced, but they did feel it was "gathering." All the anti-war types keep hyping "intelligence caveats" and such, but why should Bush have given much credence to these? Our intelligence services suck right now, as clearly demonstrated by their failure to adequately warn us prior to 9/11. Given their colossal failure to know what was going on inside al Qaeda, how in the heck could anyone have any faith in their ability to read the tea leaves correctly in Iraq?
Mark Steyn hit the nail on the head when he wrote, concerning the whole African uranium flap:
"The intel bureaucracy got the Sudanese aspirin factory wrong, failed to spot 9/11 coming, and insisted it was impossible for any American to penetrate bin Laden’s network, only to have Johnnie bin Joss-Stick from hippy-dippy Marin County on a self-discovery jaunt round the region stroll into the cave and be sharing the executive latrine with the A-list jihadi within 20 minutes.
"So, if you’re the President and the same intelligence bureaucrats who got all the above wrong say the Brits are way off the mark, there’s nothing going on with Saddam and Africa, what do you do? Do you say, 'Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day'? Or do you make the reasonable assumption that, given what you’ve learned about the state of your humint (human intelligence) in the CIA, is it likely they’ve got much of a clue about what’s going on in French Africa? Isn’t this one of those deals where the Brits and the shifty French are more plugged in?"
Sorry- As many people pointed out only #3 and #5 have any water at all.
So let's look at them...
In #3 the context of the quote does not match the context of this debate. Rumsfeld is making the case that we have more to worry about than nukes.
"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam Hussein is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain... We do know that he has been actively and persistently pursuing nuclear weapons for more than 20 years. But we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons. They're simpler to deliver and even more readily transferred to terrorist networks, who could allow Iraq to deliver them without Iraq's fingerprints."
He does use the word "immediate" but that is juxtaposed against the backdrop of 5 - 7 years for nukes. Certainly there is some room to say that it is more pressing than 7 years away but stating it will happen tomorrow.
#5 Bush said:
"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." Iraq, he said, was "a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined [than Al-Qaida], and whose consequences could be far more deadly."
**Arguing that something COULD happen is quite different from arguing it WILL happen.**
Let's say I'll give him both 3 and 5... Let's say he has 2 whole quotes that back him up.
Compare that to the MILLIONS of words said about this topic. When Bush actively said many times including in the state of the union that the threat was not imminent, when he made speech after speech for the better part of a year saying that, do 2 questionable remarks prove Bush made a different point? Hardly.
The question open for debate was "Did Bush sell it as a imminent threat?"
The question was not "Can I find 2 weak quotes to back up my argument."
Indeed I could use google enough to find 2 quote to support anything.
These 2 weak quotes hardly undo the mountain of times Bush said the threat was not imminent. This not debate, it is gotchya politics.
Paulposted by: Paul on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
A point of debate.
Mr. Schwartz writes:
the evidence clearly shows that the idea that the Bush administration argued there was an imminent threat from Iraq is not completely fabricated. ... for the purposes of this bet, I need merely show that the idea that they argued Iraq was an imminent threat is not made up out of whole cloth.
"Fabrication" does not require that no materials be present, nor does evidence that a lie draws on components of the truth prove that it is not a lie. Pretending that this is not so represents the entirety of Mr. Schwartz's argument. Point by point:
1. Argument: Saying that one does not (or cannot) know whether a threat is imminent = saying that the threat is imminent.
2. Argument: A thesaurus calls "gathering" and "imminent" synonyms. Fabrication: That "synonym" means "definition," and that it doesn't matter that m-w.com calls these "related words," not synonyms. (Point of debate: Mr. Schwartz should have forced an agreement to a standardized language guide if he'd intended to take this route...)
3. Argument: A. Rumsfeld said that the nuclear threat could be imminent. B. Rumsfeld said that BW is "an immediate threat."
4. Argument: Ari agreed with a reporter who called the threat "imminent."
5. Argument: The President argued that a horrible attack could happen on any given day.
6. This point is completely irrelevant to the debate at hand because it refers either to people other than "the Bush administration" or to a statement after "the runup to the war."
7. This point is even more irrelevant than the previous because it involves a statement made after the "runup" by somebody other than the "Bush administration."posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Let's argue symantics all day, shall we? What a nice diversion from the truth that a good number of Americans are not willing to make even the slightest sacrifice to rescue a people enslaved by an evil man. Furthermore, these same people seek to politicize this mission to the advantage of thier own short-sighted goals regardless of the cost to the people of Iraq.
Let's stop playing these cynical, petty and greedy games with each other, and turn our attentions to discussing the ultimate good that may be possible with full, altruistic American engagement with the third world. Shall we? My guess is the answer is "No."posted by: Steve Kling on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
A "gathering storm" is not an imminent storm. And when Churchill used the phrase in his famous book, he covered a period of about 20 years, beginning with the Treaty of Versailles. It wasn't until August of 1939, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that the war became imminent.
Bush obviously learned something from Churchill's book.posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Fabrication your whole post.
Partisanship is fine... But don't deny reality.posted by: Paul on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Justin Katz -- WOW! Give that man an award (or better yet, the $100 bet). Brilliant, concise, straight to the bone.
Paul -- If that's the best you can offer as a rebuttal, I pity you.posted by: Eddgra Fallin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Conversely, if they had wanted to make clear that it was not imminent they could have done so. They could have clearly said that no, Iraq is not an imminent threat.
But they didn't.
They obfuscated and said a lot of things that together left many people (most?) thinking that the threat was imminent. Myself included.
That's why on the narrow point being debated Jonathan is right. It is not a complete fabrication to say that the Bush administration
No one among the Bush supporters was saying back in February or March: "Hey, let's be clear. The Bushies are not saying this is an imminent threat". In fact they were saying over and over that we could not wait.
In fact, on February 13, 2003 Andrew Sullivan wrote:
Tony Blair's brave stand in favor of disarming Iraq has managed to bring the Tories to almost even standing in the polls with Labour - for the first time in years. Many of those Tories don't much like Tony Blair, don't trust him, and believe he's too invested in spin. So they're tempted to march against war. They kind of like the idea of having inspectors spend months and months and months doing nothing in particular in Iraq. It's called "muddling through," an ancient English past-time. They don't want to face what seems like imminent apocalypse. They feel uncomfortable with American brashness. And the Tory leadership, such as it is, cannot resist occasional cheap shots at the government. This is why, alas, the Conservative Party, led by the truly awful Iain Duncan-Smith, whose only selling point is that he's not his chief rival, the pro-Euro, anti-American, Ken Clarke, is no longer a credible governing party in Britain.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Charlie is right, above, that Fleischer said more at the news conference where he was asked about an imminent threat. But he is 100% wrong in his analysis of Fleischer's answer.
Q The chief U.N. inspector, however, is saying that, even under those conditions, it would be as much as a year before he could actually make a definitive report to the U.N. that Iraq is complying with the resolutions and allowing the inspections to take place. Isn't there a kind of a dichotomy? Can we wait a year, if it's so imminent we have to act now?As I pointed out in the previous thread, Fleischer's answer would be nonsensical if it didn't tacitly agree with the question's specifically-articulated premise that Bush believed Saddam was an imminent threat. Moreover, I believe the word "that" in the first sentence of the extended answer refers either to the imminent threat, or to the conflict ("dichotomy") between the imminence of the threat and the UN Inspectors' belief that their work might take a yeat to complete even with full Iraqi cooperation. I repeat, this sentence of Fleischer's presupposes agreement with the existence of an imminent threat. (One can also draw a very strong inference from Fleischer's failure to correct the question's specific premise that Bush believed Saddam was an imminent threat.)
The opposition to Schwartz and his very cogent argument seems to me to consist of the following weak defense: the variety of literally terrifying claims about Saddam's potent WMD and delivery systems which could attack on as little as 45 minutes' notice somehow are not a description of an imminent threat unless the words "imminent threat" are actually used. This is nonsense, equivalent to the so-called tax-protestors' arguments that they don't have to pay income tax as long as they structure employment contracts without using the words "salary", "wages", etc. that appear in the tax laws. I think these defenders are confusing the idea of an imminent threat, meaning that Mad Dog Saddam's weapons are available, ready for use, and (because of the delivery systems we incorrectly believed he had) we would be unable to defend against them, with an imminent attack. Although I think one could make an argument that, for example, Condoleeza Rice's reference to our only warning being a mushroom cloud could be construed as a suggestion that attack could come at any moment, I don't think it costs anything to concede this point purely for the sake of simplifying the argument.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Since there's money at stake here, you have to look at the proposition being debated:
"It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."
The words in this proposition that make it a sucker's bet are "complete fabrication". Basically, the affirmative, in order to carry the day, needs to prove that a reasonable person cannot look at what members of the Bush administration said, and draw a conclusion that they are arguing AT ANY POINT IN TIME DURING THE RUNUP TO WAR that they are arguing that the threat is imminent.
Look first Rummy's statement.
"But we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons. They're simpler to deliver and even more readily transferred to terrorist networks, who could allow Iraq to deliver them without Iraq's fingerprints."
Rummy says (1) the threat is "immediate" from bilogical weapons (2) Iraq has these weapons and (3) it is simple and easy to transfer weapons to terrorists. Sounds pretty imminent to
And lest we say Rummy was on one of his periodic trips off the reservation, W amplifies the SAME point in his later Cincinatti speech: "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists."
I would say the negative wins on just one of those quotes -- because these are both arguments that there is, in at least one respect, a threat that could hurt us tomorrow. The fact that the two on-point quotes address the same issue and are made by administration policymakers clinches the $100 for the negative.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Since this decision turns on the definition of "complete fabrication", let's check that definition. From dictionary.com:
fab-ri-cate: 3. To concoct in order to deceive: fabricated an excuse
This suggests (to me) that in order to win the bet, Sebastian has to show that war opponents are being actively and creatively dishonest when they say that the Bush administration claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. It's a very high threshold to meet. So just to say that "immediate" and "on any given day" are not equivalent to "imminent" is not enough -- Sebastian has to argue that the people who say that these terms are equivalent are not simply mistaken or ignorant but are actively, knowingly lying in order to fool others.posted by: KenB on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I would add that the bet is not just about what the Bush administration said or meant to say but what reasonable people might interpret.
So long as you can show that reasonable people could have concluded from listening to the Bushies that Iraq's threat was imminent, even if you could PROVE that that was not what the Bushies meant to say, Jonathan will have won the bet.
O.K., but you once again engage in a bait and switch. First you write, "That's why on the narrow point being debated Jonathan is right. It is not a complete fabrication to say that the Bush administration."
But the point being debated is whether or not the Administration said the threat was imminent. So why do you quote Andrew Sullivan? Last time I checked, he was not part of the administration.posted by: Eddgra Fallin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Hey, Kling, did you write Bush to cancel the upper level's tax cut to pay for our Iraq Adventure?
If not, what the hell are you sacrificing?posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Given the terms of the debate, I think that Schwartz wins. However, he practically won when the terms were stated. The standard of 'complete frabrication', to my ears, means that any evidence that anyone in the administration said anything which could be construed as warning of an imminent threat, would be sufficient to show that the acqusation has at least some foundation. I think that Schwartz has done this.
However, the more important question is if, given the totality of the message and arguments which the administration were giving at the time, is the description of their position as being based on an 'imminent threat' reasonable. I think that Sebastian has shown that the administration was clear to make sure that concerns that Iraq may pose an 'imminent threat' was not the core of thier arguement for war.
While the 'imminent threat' description may not be a complete fabrication, it is not a fair description of the adminsitration's pre-war position. Schwartz wins the bet, but looses the debate (IMHO)posted by: marc on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I think Jonathan wins because of the wording of the proposition. That said, we need to remember the debate prior to the war. Many argued that 9/11 changed the rules of the game - that imminence is not necessary given the nature of weaponry and intelligence in the 21st century. When Michael Kinsley and others argued this is a bad precedent, they were acknowledging that the administration was pushing for war without using imminent threat, that tried and true principle, as the justification. It was a bad precedent precisely because the threat was not construed as imminent.posted by: Mark on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
When last I checked, Don Rumsfeld was and is a member of the Bush Administration.
Therefore, Point 3 alone proves that the argument that the Bush admin pushed the imminent threat line is not a "complete fabrication."
In other words, point 3 shows that the argument is at least *tenable*, which is all Schwartz has to demonstrate (though he does much better than that).
Schwartz wins.posted by: ryan b on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
In fact as I think more about it it seems to me that Jonathan argued this the wrong way.
Rather than talk about what the bushies said Jonathan should have looked at examples of how the words of the Bush administration were intrepreted as meaning that Iraq was an imminent threat. If at least some observers understood the Bush administration's comments at the time to mean that the Iraq threat was imminent he would have won the bet.
here are a few:posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
So far, I think Jonathan is ahead on the question presented, although Sebastian has a strong argument as well. This was a great opening round and congrats to you both.
Eddgra asks me:
But the point being debated is whether or not the Administration said the threat was imminent.
I answer partially above.
In fact that is NOT what is being debated. What is being debated is whether what the Adminstration said could be construed as meaning that the threat was imminent. That is a much lower threshold which is why so many posters agree Jonathan won.
That's why Sulliavn's comments (as well as all the other links I posted) are relevant. They clearly show that many people interpreted the Administration's words as meaing that the threat was imminent.
Note that the bet is not dependent on whether the people that believe that are right or wrong. This is the crucial point you miss.
Even if you could prove to me that the Bush administration never meant to say that, so long as some people believed it at the time then Jonathan wins the bet.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Bogus, bogus, bogus. Bush's statement was a clear denial in my book.
As for the other quotes, first, and foremost it is the president's words i look to first, not his underlings. Seriously how long did you guys have to look on google or lexis-nexis to find that quote? Who relied on those statements before the war? Give me a break. 90% of americans listened to the state of the union and maybe Powell's speech. That is all.
And citing radio free europe as a government mouthpiece because it is funded by the government is simply silly. So is NPR, and no one is fooled into thinking that they are anything but a Dem party booster.
And contrary to what some idiot poster wrote, "imminent threat" is not merely one that we cannot wait to handle. An imminent threat, as a term of art, is like the tanks are on the border and they are about to invade, or the enola gay has taken off with fat boy aboard. But who here says we should wait so long before striking Saddam? The argument is that in this nuclear world, that we shoud strike long before Saddam actually gets the nuke.posted by: A.W. on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Given the proposition, Schwarz argued in precisely the right way. The focus in the "resolution" is on "what the Bush administration argued", not on what others thought was said.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
More examples:posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
IMHO the focus is on the "complete fabrication".
If Jonathan can show examples at the time of observers that understood Bush's arguments to mean the threat was imminent he can sidestep the whole, what did they really mean? issue.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I think that Paul has is right, and Appalled Moderate has it wrong.
The bet is over whether the Bush Administration ARGUED that there was an immediate threat. I think that Schwartz hasn't even begun to prove his claim that the Bush Administration ARGUED that Iraq posed an immediate threat, since an ARGUMENT would necessarily consist of something more a couple of ambiguous remarks.
One other point on the Thesaurus issue: According to the Thesaurus that is linked, another synonym for "imminent" is "possible". According to Schwartz's logic, then, anyone who claimed that Iraq was a "possible threat" would also be claiming that Iraq posed an "imminent threat". Which is laughable.posted by: Al on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Dan (not Drezner): "Tell me, oh contextualizer, if one "cannot wait" to act, and if one must "attack now" then what does that make the threat?"
RC Dean: "It makes the threat less than imminent, but still intolerable. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? If you know that your neighbor is experimenting with homemade explosives, but hasn't got the formula right, do you wait until you hear a big boom to call the cops? No - you call them right away, regardless of whether his success is imminent."
Okay, fine RC. But you don't tell the world:
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that (MY NEIGHBOR) now has (HOMEMADE EXPLOSIVES)." [Cheney, 8/26/02]
'Cause if you say those things, RC, people will misunderstand you and mistakenly believe that you are telling them that the threat is imminent. Can you see how people could make that foolish, foolish mistake?
As to the final point about the Bush/Cheney website, I take the point that she is not "Administration". However, it is worth laboring all the way to the columnist's conclusion, which is "Surely before the war, those circumstances posed a threat, perhaps even imminent, that if allowed to flower would have provided the incontrovertible proof we so crave -- too late.” "
Emphasis on "perhaps"..
In fact, may war oppenents thought Saddam was a threat, but that inspections were the better way to dal with it. I excerpt from the Ambassador's recent interview with Dr. Josh Marshall.
"[people] ought to consider the possibility that a year from now, if we went in the direction that we were going, **the land to the south of Turkey might well be a chemical, biological and nuclear wasteland**. I always thought--and that was the first time I spoke out on it. I then refined my thoughts in a series of conversations on CNN and Fox and a series of other places. And I wrote an article later in the summer in which I tried to articulate a position which was that disarmament was a good objective. It was a legitimate national security objective and concern. And the problem was, that the enforcement mechanism for the UN security Council resolution covering disarmament was broken. In other words, the inspection regime--the policing operation--had fallen apart. The solution to this was to summon again the international will, to go back at disarmament in an aggressive way. And that in order to ensure that you got Saddam's attention and compliance, that you were going to have to approach the issue from a position of strength. In other words, that you were going to have to make it very, very clear to Saddam that you were prepared to use force in order to disarm him consistent with the UN Security Council resolution. And in order for that threat of force to be credible, you actually had to be prepared to use it. So it was what I would have called sort of "muscular disarmament." [END EXCERPT]
Well, I interpret the "chemical, biological and nuclear wasteland" comment as consistent with Saddam having these weapons. The issue seemed to be, at least to the Ambassador, how to deal with the threat, not whether he was a threat.
The debate was indeed on the standard of "complete fabrication" which is why most posters agree that Jonathan won. He has presented evidence that some senior administration officials made statements which could reasonable be construed as agruing that Iraq was an imminent threat.
However, to me this isn't the interesting question. Admitting that a discription is not a 'complete fabrication' is a long way from accepting that it is a fair representation.
I for one, will accept the proposition that the pro-war party in general, and the Bush administration in particular, did more-or-less directly make the arguement that Iraq is likely an imminent threat. Many people, both above and elsewhere have the quotes to prove this.
However, this proposition does not imply that 'imminent threat' was a major, or even necessary part of the arguement. I think that the SOTU quote is telling here; in the most public forum, the president himself denied relying on the 'imminent threat' arguement. He clearly stated that the case for war is not dependent on an imminent threat.
Thus the proposition that the administration sold the nation on a bogus 'imminent threat' arguement fails.posted by: marc on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Following your logic, one could "prove" all sorts of odious things by merely asserting a cause and effect relationship where one does not exist. In the run-up to war, a great number of people were debating the Iraq situation, and as shocking as this may sound to you, a few of them actually arrived at their conclusions despite having not relied on the White House as their sole source of information.posted by: Eddgra Fallin on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Marshall interview with Amb. Wilson:posted by: Tom Maguire on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I'm not averse to careful parsing to serve a particular argument, but I am averse to selective parsing.
appalled moderate writes:
Basically, the affirmative, in order to carry the day, needs to prove that a reasonable person cannot look at what members of the Bush administration said, and draw a conclusion that they are arguing AT ANY POINT IN TIME DURING THE RUNUP TO WAR that they are arguing that the threat is imminent.
You're wrong, plain and simple. To win, the affirmative must show that this statement is a "complete fabrication":
the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq.
To deal with the easier (because already accomplished) part first: that statement is unequivocally incorrect. The administration specifically argued the opposite and, when explaining, was careful to use other words than "imminent." But even if a quotation could be found (which it hasn't) in which an administration official used the word "imminent," the burden still has not been met: "the Bush administration" is the entire group, indicating their agreed-upon message, and "to argue" does not mean the same thing as "to state."
Now, as to "completely fabricate," even using KenB's own source, there is no reason to skip all the way to the third definition, when the first is perfectly applicable: "To make; create." Shifting to fabrication and you can follow it through dictionary.com on your own, as I have done, we get what we would expect: it can mean "a lie," but it can also mean "an error."
Because it is not specified in the proposition above, it can be applied thus: "where intention existed, it was a lie, where no intention existed, it was an error." There is no reason to assume that "fabrication" requires that the untrue conclusion was reached deliberately.
More importantly, the Schwartz side lost the right to make appeals to definitions that "we all know" when it relied upon a "sucker's bet" when it relied upon the Holsclaw side making its own assumptions about the word "fabrication."posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
A comment on this:
One other point on the Thesaurus issue: According to the Thesaurus that is linked, another synonym for "imminent" is "possible". According to Schwartz's logic, then, anyone who claimed that Iraq was a "possible threat" would also be claiming that Iraq posed an "imminent threat". Which is laughable.
Okay, but Mr. Schwartz (I think) handcuffed himself on the quote. Bush (on 9/12/02) told the UN: "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger."
Forget whether or not "gathering" is a synonym for "imminent" (and whether that's undermined by the other synonyms Roget's also includes). Bush said Hussein already IS a grave danger, and getting worse.
Again: "_is_ a grave and gathering danger." Not "_will_ be a grave danger someday." Or "_might_ be a grave danger sometime, and we just don't know when that'll be." No. IS. IS. IS!
Are you conservatives really, honestly, gonna join our disgraced former president and parse over the definition of "what is is"?
God, this is so frustrating. This has gotta be what arguing lingustics with Derrida is like.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Yes, maybe you could prove a lot of things that way. So what?
I didn't set the terms of the bet. Jonathan and Sebastian did.
I agree with marc that the question being debated is not particularly interesting. I don't know in what context Jonathan and Sebastian decided to bet on it.
But that doesn't change the fact that that is what they are betting on. And as currently phrased I think Jonathan won the bet.
If a long list of people can be shown to believe prior to the war that the Bush administration was saying that Iraq was an imminent threat (as I did with my links) then one can hardly argue that this interpretation was a complete fabrication, unless you want to argue that all the links posted were part of some massive fabrication.
You seem to want to argue something else, whether the Bush administartion actually meant to say the threat was imminent. That is a different point than what is being debated.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Justin Katz rocked this well, so I'll keep this short.
#2 "possible" shows up in that list of synonyms for "imminent" as well...
It depends on what the definition of 'immanent' is.
What however does not depends upon definitional quibbles, is the magnitude of destruction.
oh how I miss my spellcheck.
freenposted by: Freen on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
One quibble. It's not right to say that Jonathan has "won."
Drezner says that this is the "opening round," so it's more accurate (in every sense) to say that Jonathan is "winning so far."
(I'm interested to see what Sebastian comes back with next time, although I wouldn't bet on him taking the $100).posted by: J Mann on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I agree that this is not the relevant question.
In my view the administration told us that Iraq represented a threat of such characteristics that we had to attack them even if we had not been attacked, breaking with decades of foreign policy consensus.
This was justified on the intelligence that the administration had at the time.
What has been made public since then tells me that we have not only found no evidence to support this preemptive strike on national security grounds (you can always make a humanitarian argument) but, what's worse, the intelligence that has been made public from that time does not support that either.
Most Americans don't parse the words like we do here. But they understand what they were told and what we are now finding out. Which explains, IMHO, why support for the war has dropped about 30 points in 6 months.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
By the way, in the big run-up to the war, in the many, many squabbles I had with hawks (on-line and off), I wish even ONE of them had said to me: "Oh don't worry, the threat from Iraq is not imminent."
Never heard that. Did you? I heard how Blix is a big pacifist stooge. I heard how the UN is an irrelevant debating society. I heard how peace protesters were "objectively pro-Saddam." And I even heard from Rumsfeld that he knew EXACTLY WHERE THE WEAPONS ARE.
But I just didn't hear many hawks consoling the masses with, "Hey, you're uninformed, folks. Don't worry. There's no imminent threat from Iraq. Calm down, people. They can't hurt us now, or any time soon."
Maybe I just wasn't listening hard enough.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Wonderful reading. Great thread. I particularly liked the idea of the perception of "reasonable people". Certainly Radio Free Europe's headline would have sufficed under that scenario. Unfortunately the phrase "reasonable people" was not included.posted by: carsick on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
A quick thought so as not to lose the war in order to win the battle:
The difference with Clinton was that one cannot reasonably argue over the definition of "is." "Immanence" and "fabrication," being more suggestive words, can be misconstrued.
But this semantic debate highlights the anti-Bush people's underlying disingenuousness in trying to have it both ways: before the war, arguing that Bush was introducing the doctrine of "preemption/prevention" by attacking without an "immanent threat"; after the war, arguing that Bush lied by calling the threat "immanent."
The reason it comes down to word parsing is that the anti-Bush crowd is blatantly trying to make an untruth true, and the pro-war folks are having to pin down words to their meanings.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Spell check won't catch it because "immanent" is the correct spelling of a different word. I made the same mistake.
Oops.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Andrew -- If your interpretation of what Ari Fleischer said as "imminent" held, then Bush would have been guilty of failing to act in the presence of a real, present, immediate danger, turning instead to the UN and political debate for another six months, and Ari is defending the President from the charge that he was acting too slowly. Reality dissents.posted by: Charlie on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
The problem is the standard. The deck is stacked against Sebastian if he has to argue that the "imminent" meme is a complete fabrication. Considering the volume of public pronouncements on the Iraq issue, it is not difficult to extract single lines or phrases that support the idea that the adminstration argued that the threat was imminent. What is clear is that the administration's central argument, as cogently expressed in the SOTU, was that we can no longer afford to wait until threats become imminent. To use a legal analogy, it's the equivalent of ignoring the text of a statute in favor of an interpretation based on comments that contradict that text in the legislative history.posted by: brett on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Help me understand something here....if the threat was not imminent...why was containment abandoned? There are a many a gathering threats to us...but if there was no tie to 9/11 and no definitive tied to Al Qaeda....we pulled the trigger in a way premptively I would think would have been reserved for the most imminent of threats. I think this playing with words is interesting but misses the real point. The Prez knew the threat was not imminent and knew he could not make that arguement...but he acted as if it was imminent. Leaving the question...should he have? What he said is interesting to debate....what he did is more interesting.posted by: Curious on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
IMHO The whole point was that the administration wanted everone to believe that the Iraqui threat was imminent while keeping the option of "plausible deniability" in case the whole thing blew up in their faces, as it has.
So you win Sebastian, but if you are honest, you will only accept 1 cent.posted by: claude tessier on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Mr Katz: The words in the prop are "complete fabrication", not just fabrication. Even using your definition, the affirmative has to prove that the whole I-word controversy is without basis in arguments made by "the Bush Administration".
Jonathan cites 4 administration officials in the course of his argument. To my mind (which is the only mind I really can discuss with any authority -- and I think it is a reasonable one), Bush and Rumsfeld make an implied imminent threat argument, Cheyney does nopt,and Ari lets words get stuffed in his mouth. For Sebastian to win the debate (under the rules I remember from high school debate team), he will have to address all of these statements, and why anyone looking at these statements would be indulging in "complete fabrication" if they said these statements meant the Bush administration was saying "imminent threat."
Since one of the morenvalid quotes is from Bush himself, all I can say is good luck...posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
By the way....I am still waiting to see the proof that Saddam was any threat to USA. He was a bad man...he did bad things....but can you all honestly say that you felt threaten by Saddam prior to this big push to move on him. That said I do believe the world had a case against him that had little do with him being an imminent or gathering threat.....he thumbed his nose at the UN and he welched on his promise to come clean. We should have pushed for harsher inspections and when he chose not to comply built the coalition of the world to make him comply. We could have done that without creating a threat that turns out to have been more of a paper tiger. I repeat...I believe Saddam was a bad man and needed to go....just think we could have done this differently without spending a lot of capital and credibility in the process. Time will tell who is right.posted by: Curious on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Sebasitan took a sucker bet. Even if he can show that the Bush administration scrupuously avoided saying the magic words imminent threat, there's enough evidence that they implied it to disprove the notion that it's a complete fabrication.
It has some basis in fact, so it's not a complete fabrication. QED.
Too bad the bar was set so low.posted by: uh_clem on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Look. Bushco had valid reasons to get the war on post haste.
1. The U.N. inspectors were proving with every passing day that there were no WMD in Iraq.
2. The contracts for oil between the Russians and the Iraqis were about to be consummated.
The war had been the objective of Bushco for many years, and had nothing to do with WMD and everything to do with securing riches and land. One only has to read the documents of the Project for a New American Century (signed in the 1990s by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Cheney, Perle, and all the others) to know that Bushco planned for a very long time to break into Iraq, for reasons that had nothing to do with an imminent threat.
It might be a lot easier to believe that Bushco's reason for the attack was the safety of Americans and a more peaceful world if the principles hadn't salivated for this war for many years. We might believe their stated rationale if the Bush family itself wasn't enriched through the Carlyle Group. And we might feel more generous toward their parsing if it weren't for the fact that American families are being looted and their treasure being laundered through the military-industrial complex directly into the pockets of big-time donors and cronies. And we might cut Bushco some slack were it not for the fact that thousands of young men and women have gaping wounds and shattered minds and missing limbs, and hundreds of mothers have broken hearts knowing that their child's blood was spilled in a sandy land a world away.
We can't "not know" those things when we examine Bushco's words uttered in the runup.
The absolute determination by these people to make war in that land was clear for years. The motive was clear. The intent was clear.
Why do we even pussyfoot around the pretense of WMD? What they said about the threat from Saddam means nothing. It was all fog.posted by: mrp on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Wait a minute - I think we're all missing something really important here. Let's just forget the whole 'imminent threat' debate for a moment, and focus on the real issue: Drezner's just found a way to sit back and let two people do all the blogging for him while he scampers off to watch the ALCS.
We're on to your little scam, Drezner!posted by: George on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Shhhhh.... people are trying to watch the ga-- I mean, read this post. Don't distract with side issues.
Heh.posted by: Dan Drezner on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
As I argued above, your definition of "fabrication" is unjustifiably restrictive. The word "complete" has no effect on the meaning of "fabrication," just the degree. (Something can be a "complete" error, without it being a deliberate lie.)
But I'll cover one more exit and give you "fabrication" as involving a deliberate attempt to deceive. Anybody who says that the Bush administration "argued... that there was an imminent threat from Iraq" is lying. First, the "administration's argument" is the official line of the group denoted by "administration," not the individual statements of members of the administration. Second, by no stretch of the language does "argue" mean "imply."
Since the question is what the administration did, it is irrelevant what other people did infer, or could have inferred, from its statements.
Face it, the "sucker bet" has backfired.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I agree that points #3 and #5 are the strongest. #5, however, isn't that serious. It's a "what-if" scenario. What if Iraq had bio/chem weapons? Would they be willing to share them with terrorist organizations? After 9/11, I say err on the side of caution.
Point #3 is more problematic. Rummy is saying that bio weapons are an "immediate threat." However, does this satisfy the condition for fabrication? Could this, instead be the result of bad intel, or of Iraq's disposal of bio weapons (with the assistance of the Russian generals)?
As far as Ari's reply to the question, triple barrell questions should never be answered with one word (actually, they should never be asked, but that's just me). This isn't sufficient evidence for anything.posted by: Geoff Matthews on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Gee, all of the pro-Administration people thought sebastian won, and all of the anti-Administration people thought Jonathan won.
Can we just give up the facade and explicitly acknowledge that 95% of the blogosphere prizes partisanship and clannishness over any amount of reason or goodwill? Once we do that, we can stop with the bleats about 'hyporcrisy from the other side!' and faux surprise.
Megabytes of daily verbiage are just incredibly baroque justifications for the base monkey urge to pick sides.posted by: sidereal on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Hey, I don't have a dog or a $100 in this hunt, Mr. Katz. It's for the great blogmaster to decide who wins or loses. We can just sit back and carp, and clog up his website with comments.
I think, though, that the debate proposition says that if you read the statements presented by the administration, and came away with the idea that they implied that there was an iminent threat, then you didn't really read what was said and you are making all this stuff up. It is my humble, temperate viewpoint that you can read the statements presented by genuine administration officials, and come to the conclusion that (i)they believed the threat from Iraq was imminent, at least with respect to biological weapons and (ii) they wanted you to believe that too.
This comes from a guy who voted for Bush in 2000 and still anticipates doing so in 2004.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
It seems we can't even agree on what the debate is about.posted by: GT on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
This is the saddest debate in the history of the English language since Clinton disputed what the meaning of the word "is"-"is".
We all knew what the Admin meant at the time, and the warmongers were using it to beat everyone else including those who wanted to go to war but were more cautious about it. Now they want to say because of some technical English interpretation they really weren't pushing the idea that we had to get Saddam because he might get us anyday?
That doesn't wash. The only thing such an argument proves is that ideological Republicans have become as slimy and dishonest as they ever accused Democrats of being.posted by: Oldman on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Justin's posts have made clear to me what the debate is about (besides generating a bit of free labor for the blog-owner). For him (and presumably for Sebastian), it's not enough to say that the critics are simply wrong about the "imminent threat" claim -- he insists that the issue is so clear-cut that anyone who disagrees with him must be lying. Thence the "complete fabrication" wording.
Sidereal, my impression was that even many people who disagree with the truth of the "imminent threat" claim itself said that Jonathan should win this particular debate. It's only a few hardcore true-believers (and maybe some people who didn't read the resolution carefully enough) who see it going the other way.
"But this semantic debate highlights the anti-Bush people's underlying disingenuousness in trying to have it both ways: before the war, arguing that Bush was introducing the doctrine of "preemption/prevention" by attacking without an "immanent threat"; after the war, arguing that Bush lied by calling the threat "immanent."
Justin, YOU are being disingenuous. The anti-war crowd, before the war, was indeed saying that the threat from Iraq was not imminent. And we're still saying it today.
Bush and his apologists, meanwhile, have gone from scaring the American people with talk of "grave danger" (Bush 9/12/03) and how we can't afford to wait, to packpedaling and saying that Bush never said the danger was imminent. Once you said something "IS" a grave danger, and now you say, by "is" you meant "might be in the future sometime."
And it's US who are trying like the dickens to pin down the definitions of even the simplest of words. Like, well, "is". And "danger".
It's pissing me off.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Well said, Patrick.
If the Bushies want us to trust the intent of the president, they should just stop all the lying.
(And if they want us to think their war policy pure and good-intentioned, the Bushes should get out of war profiteering.)posted by: mrp on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Kudos to sidereal for pointing out the realities of debate in this country. For many (perhaps even most) on the right and the left, rational debate takes a back seat to strongly held beliefs which approach the fervency of religion. Once beliefs stop relying on actual data and become articles of faith, debate is pointless. There are still people who are willing to let their positions change based on facts, but there seem to be fewer and fewer of them in an increasingly polarized country dominated by shrill talking heads.
"A 'gathering storm' is not an imminent storm."
And if it is, it's about time that Josh Marshall attack his buddy for originating the term...
If #3 and 5 are the strongest quotes, then this is an even weaker argument than even a skeptic might believe at first glance. The word "immediate" must be seen in the context as a comparison of progress on bio/chem weapons as opposed to nuclear weapons... anyone who has any idea what they're talking about will tell you that Rumsfeld was absolutely right here, not claiming that the FULL threat from Saddam was "immediate" or "imminent."
#5 takes too much of a stretch to say that it was called "imminent."posted by: HH on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
sidereal excludes one possibility from his analysis: that one side is, indeed, correct. Since I, among the people who are correct, happen to have been raised up as individually and personally disingenuous, I'll address some of these claims:
For him (and presumably for Sebastian), it's not enough to say that the critics are simply wrong about the "imminent threat" claim -- he insists that the issue is so clear-cut that anyone who disagrees with him must be lying.
This misses the very point of the thing. In terms of this debate, you're simply assuming that you are correct; that's not debate. Anybody who persists in claiming that the administration "argued" as above is, indeed, lying, because the administration did not do so. Now, outside of this specific debate, it would be fair for the other side to modify the claim to suggest that "the administration sure did imply it." At that point, we're almost back to the pre-war debate: the anti-war crowd saying that the threat must be "imminent" and the pro-war crowd saying that we cannot wait until we're sure that it is "imminent." It's getting foolish: the anti-war people thought the war was wrong and still do. Great, now let's move on.
Bush and his apologists, meanwhile, have gone from scaring the American people with talk of "grave danger" (Bush 9/12/03) and how we can't afford to wait, to packpedaling and saying that Bush never said the danger was imminent.
The danger was, indeed, grave, as the consequences of WMD attack attest. However, gravity is not a measure of imminence. Neither, truthfully, does "can't afford to wait" equate to a statement "imminence" because the argument (again) was that we "couldn't afford to wait" for the threat to become "imminent." The reasons we "couldn't afford to wait" were manifold, but here are two:
1) We could not know, mostly due to Hussein's obfuscation, whether attack was coming the next day or ten years down the road, and all other efforts to stabilize the situation over the course of more than a decade had been thwarted. There were no further options that merited waiting.
"We all knew what the Admin meant at the time, and the warmongers were using it to beat everyone else including those who wanted to go to war but were more cautious about it."
I interpreted the administration’s prewar rhetoric as a warning about an attack that could occur at any time. It could even come in the form of Iraqi subsidized terrorism. Saddam Hussein was obligated to reveal everything to the inspectors. He refused to offer his full cooperation and we simply carried out the United Nation’s resolution. Why take any further chances? The evidence was already overwhelming that Saddam tried to have George Bush I assassinated. That alone is good enough for me.
Far too much is being made over the precise semantic meaning of imminent. Iraq is about the size of California. An effective chemical WM. program, we should not forget, can be run out of a very small building. And with Saddam Hussein's already existing track record---there was no sense waiting any longer.
"I wish even ONE of them had said to me: 'Oh don't worry, the threat from Iraq is not imminent.'"
Er, because the entire point of the argument, as quoted by Bush was that something must not necessarily be imminent to be a worry, especially after we heard from people like Larry Johnson that al Qaeda wasn't such a big deal prior to Sep. 11.posted by: HH on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
If you look, you will see several posters (including brett, joe, Appaled Moderate, and Eddgra) who are generally pro-administration (at least in relation to the general 'imminent threat' issue) but score the debate, on the complete fabrication standard, to Jonathan.
The magnitude of destruction had been very real.
Material destruction of civilian and industrial infrastucture has been lower than for any other regime change by military force in history.
The loss of any lives (with the exception of the Hussein boys and a few of thier thugs) are a tragedy to be regretted. By the standards of what it takes to remove a sociopathic dictator with a large army (cf Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Idi Amin, Taylor) the loss of life has been small. The same is true in relation to the loss of life in the wars started by Saddam.
Every poll of Iraqis have show a large majority agreeing that the losses of the war, and the indignities of US occupation, are well worth it.
You are right to remember the costs of the war; to ignore them is morraly obtuse. However, to focus on the costs while ignoring the (far greater) benefits is equally obtuse.
>They obfuscated and said a lot of things that together left many people (most?) thinking that the threat was imminent. Myself included.
Really? And even though you yourself
What does that say?posted by: Mick McMick on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Amazing display of dexterity in the masturbatory arts. Interesting concept dan, just not very nutritious it turns out. Not surprising either.
Imminent, impending, growing, gathering... This is politics, not engineering, people. To those so predisposed, illicitly acquired category II narcotics morph into "highly addictive painkillers." A crime becomes a mistake. Negligence becomes inattention.
1441 was explicit enough. If you recall, Bush did NOT try to appeal to the better angels of the UNSC's nature. He was dragged there kicking and screaming after insulting them and calling them irrelevant to our interests. He then proceeded to re-challenge their honor and integrity and impugn their efforts and findings. The Kay report suppports their skepticism. The reason Bush went off the international reservation was that he considered the UN to be insufficiently alarmed at the power and momentum--there's a word I haven't seen parsed yet--of the threat. His "grave and gathering danger" statement to the assembly was the rhetorical equivalent of "Tick-tock. Don't you get it?" (Yeah, let's argue that interpretation too.)
Regardless of the sources, or the words used, the impression was left with 7 of 10 Americans believed that Saddam was a guy we had to take down before he hit us, again, no less. That nugget, lodged in the gut of Americans, was leveraged by precise words as well as ponderous inferences across an entire administration. You are arguing an "auteur" model of political leadership. Sorry, the only operative example of that model is Robinson Crusoe. If one speech were all that were required to mobilize a nation, to do anything, we'd have been defunct 200 years ago.
Screw whether Bush said "X" precisely. Forget Fleischer, et al. The administration consists of GWB and Cheney. That is the ticket. They are joined at the hip authoritatively. Both have made "noises" that, for our own good, we should trust their judgement. Their judgement was and remains: we had to move. Now. Immediately. With haste. Urgently.
The Administration's rationale seems to have wandered a fair bit, but the import of action never has. To argue otherwise is to show one's ass in polite company.posted by: bluto on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
The anti-war/anti-Bush crowd has a serious problem with "the big lie." They chant these mantras so long and so focused at the expense of any other consideration (national security, actual Iraqi suffering, etc), that they not only start actually believing what they chant, but getting confused about who chanted it.
Here's an actual example:
The war is about oil.
It's about the oil.
No blood for oil.
This is a war about oil.
It's about the oil.
[snip brief war]
Hey! Where's the cheap oil Bush promised?!posted by: Mick McMick on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Justin tells us that the debate is about what the administration did and not what others may have inferred.
This is wrong and it illustrates the problem we have resolving this.
Once the debate moved from the strictly factual it will always be determined by what others infer. The question is inferred by whom?
If the question had been “Did the Bush administration ever categorically affirm that Iraq represented an imminent threat” then the debate would be simpler. Unless somebody finds a quote I have not seen the answer is no. In this case there is little or no room for interpretations. Either they used those words or they did not. Jonathan has conceded they did not.
But the question being asked is different. The question is whether to say that the administration argued that Iraq represented an imminent threat is a complete fabrication. Did they say or imply that Iraq was an imminent threat, even if they did not use those specific words.
Notice that the italicized words are crucial. If Jonathan and Sebastian had in mind that the only counter to the assertion was to find an administration quote that used the specific words “imminent threat” they would not have needed Dan to referee for them. So they both allowed that the Bush administration could have, in principle, said or implied that Iraq was an imminent threat without using those words.
Therefore Jonathan has to show what administration quotes he thinks say or imply that. And somebody has to judge if that is correct or not. That somebody is Dan.
That’s where Justin is wrong. This does depend on what others interpret or infer, not just on what the administration said. In this case it’s Dan’s interpretation that will be binding.
But there is a problem with Dan as the referee. Objective and impartial as he may be (and I trust that he is) he cannot help but be influenced by all the ‘imminent threat” debate that has been going on for a few weeks now.
Let’s be clear. Justin and others may think that the administration never said nor intended to say that the threat was imminent. But once the threshold moved from actual phrasing to simply “arguing’ a point then someone has to judge whether what was said meets that threshold and so the administration’s intents become irrelevant.
That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to go back in time when this was not directly a topic of debate. If we can find several and independent commentators and reporters that at the time thought the administration was saying that the threat was imminent then it would provide strong support to the idea that saying this is not a complete fabrication. Unless one thinks that they are acting in some sort of collusion.
As for going to the UN, that was a concession Bush made to Democrats and some shaky supporters who still suffered from the delusion that the UN had ever solved any problem.
Then it became quite clear that France and friends had monetary and political interests in Iraq that they gave priority over our security, and in fact openly stated that they would NEVER agree to ANY resolution that promised consequences if Iraq did not comply. So why bother continuing the charade?
As it turned out, France and friends had been selling Iraq weapons in direct violation to the "sanctions", so those turned out to be totally worthless, and the UN had absolutely corrupted the oil for food program into their own money train.
Going to the UN at all was a mistake, and only gave America's enemies, both abroad and domestic, more time to bash the US as the villain.
Next time, I don't see the UN having a say at all.posted by: Mick McMick on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
David: "He refused to offer his full cooperation and we simply carried out the United Nation’s resolution. Why take any further chances?"
Blix said he was getting enough co-operation for inspections to still be useful. Remember? He wanted "months, not years."
Why NOT allow the United Nations to continue the inspections for a few more months, not years? We coulda gotten the sort of broad-based coalition we got in '91. It wouldn't have cost you and me $150 billion, and it would've gotten us more foreign participation, therfore saving American lives. Also, if that coaliton involved Arab nations (as in '91), then this wouldn't be perceived in Iraq as solely a western/white occupation of an Islamic country (perhaps averting the sort of reports we're seeing today from the UK's International Institute of Strategic Studies, that the Iraq war has SWELLED Al Qaeda's ranks, and making recruiting a breeze for them).
On the downside, Bechtel and Halliburton would not get so many of the reconstruction contracts. I know, bummer, huh?posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
MMick - "Next time"? Do we have a next-time target acquisition already? Syria? N Korea? I can't wait to hear the pResident's speech telling us how imminent/gathering/kinda urgent the danger is. I sorta wonder where he'll find the soldiers to fight it, too.
Maybe he'll just pull a few more from Afghanistan, where the Taliban is back.
Y'all remember Afghanistan and the Taliban, right? The ones were actually were in on the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Yeah. Well, while Bush was scarin' the bejeebers out of us with Saddam Hussein, looks like Afghanistan (where, BTW, we really *were* welcomed as liberators) sorta slipped off the ol' Rumsfeld-Rice radar.
But,hey, you know the terrorists won't go back to Afghanistan. Naw: they're too busy blowing us up in Iraq, and we all know terrorists only fight on one front at a time.posted by: SurelyYouJest on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
ORWELLIAN - That's the only word to describe the administration's defenders here.
Don't you remember Condi talking about mushroom clouds?
Don't you remember Colin Powell holding up that vial of whatever-the-heck-it-was?
Don't you remember GWB talking about the eleventy-thousand tons of nerve gas?
Don't you remember the part about there being no more time for UN weapon inspectors to do their job?
We had a six month fear campaign designed to scare the bejesus out of ordinary Americans in order to get us to support the war.
And now you're acting like it never happened, and that people who remember it are somehow revisionist historians.
Does the phrase Memory Hole mean anything to you?posted by: uh_clem on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"I wish even ONE of them had said to me: 'Oh don't worry, the threat from Iraq is not imminent.'"
HH: Er, because the entire point of the argument, as quoted by Bush was that something must not necessarily be imminent to be a worry."
Yes, Bush did say "imminent is not relevant." But Bush did NOT say "the threat is not imminent."
However, Bush DID say "Saddam is a grave danger" (not "GONNA BE" a grave danger), and Bush also said that Saddam can launch his WMDs within 45 minutes of giving the order (an assertion he sometimes made WITHOUT the weasel-like attribution to the British).
But only NOW are you correcting the people who interpreted "Saddam can deploy his weapons in 45 minutes" to mean Saddam's WMD attack is "ready to take place" (which is the Webster's definition of the word "imminent", by the way).
Can you imagine how "within 45 minutes time" can be interpreted by a reasonable individual to mean "ready to take place" (again: "imminent")?
Why weren't you correcting our silly misconceptions back then, BEFORE the war? It may have helped mental midgets like myself.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Marc: "You are right to remember the costs of the war; to ignore them is morraly obtuse. However, to focus on the costs while ignoring the (far greater) benefits is equally obtuse."
But the war wasn't sold to the world on humanitarian grounds. It was sold to the world as urgent and critical defense for the first world from a third world thug. Any after-the-fact benefits to the Iraqi people are therefore immaterial in a discussion of the runup to war.
The "mission creep" that has occurred as the evidence proves each rationale faulty demeans the White House.
It's sort of like a hit and run driver claiming that the death of the pedestrian should be excused because an old wobbly and diseased elm tree was taken out, too.
Er, sorry. I meant faulty rationale above, not rationale faulty.posted by: mrp on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Just one problem: you have, without even arguing that it ought to be the case, made "argue" and "imply" the same thing. It's not. Not by any definition. That's the whole game right there. The proposition is not: "it is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration made it possible to believe the threat to be imminent."
To be sure, the debate could have been about whether the administration unduly gave that impression, but Schwartz chose to frame his first point in terms of the literal meaning proposition, not its effect.
None of your rhetorical questions speak to imminicne of threat.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I know, that's for sure, 'cause look at all those WMDs Hussein has stockpiled during the sanctions.
"2) Such endeavors as no-fly zones, sanctions, and inspections could not have gone on forever (indeed, the anti-war crowd was arguing for lifting sanctions before the runup to war), and if Kay has shown anything, it is that the end of the post-war "containment" strategies would have been followed by a dash for WMDs."
Yeah, but that was NOT the argument made, remember? Bush didn't say "we can't wait because someday they'll 'dash for WMDs.'" Bush said they have them RIGHT NOW! Rumsfeld said he knows exactly where they are! Aren't you mad that they've switched arguments on you so deftly? And you bought it? You?! And you're a smart guy, Justin.
"There were no further options that merited waiting."
Trying to put together an international (and Arab-inclusive) coalition (like in '91) was CERTAINLY a further option that merited waiting. We just didn't, that's all.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
the parsing struggles reflect bushspeak in post 9/11admin.statements:9/11 was never spoken of without a smooth turn to sadaam after a glide by the war on terror.to debate whether presidentused "imminent" pre:invasion is a diversion from exam of admin's totalitarian usage of language leading to popular belief in 9/11-sadaam link.
Are you for real? Going to the UN was "a Bush concession to democrats" ? Tell that to James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. Tell that to Poppy. If Powell deserves any kind of credit in this debacle, it's for persuading boss man to go to New York to stave off complete ridicule at the time.
The UN is not a problem solving body. It is a fig leaf or a team uniform for definitive action. In combat, 8 out of 10 soldiers are rock-huggers, waiting for someone to say charge. (Courtesy David Hackworth.) Same goes for Assembly members. The only challenge is whether you, as the putative leader, have the facts, judgement and persuasive qualities to assure that you don't get fragged after taking that hill under false pretenses.
Sure the sanctions had begun breaking down. Pick your malefactor. Entropy in political calculations is no exception, and no further coherent, resonant rationales were supplied to bolster the wobbly knee crowd. Viz: UN is irrelevant, why bother even a token effort at good faith re; iraq's import post 2000 election? Bush reaped what he sowed--unilateralist, pique-based foreign policy leading up to and during this mess yeilded him a lonely man on the international front, excepting the UK and a painfully few others. These are now the people who are invited to our Iragi baby shower called a Donor Conference. Don't hold your breath for super deluxe loot. Defies reason, even for the oxycontin addled.
Mick, are you so right, and others so patently wrong? Line up the sensible people and countries, whatever their ultimate position, who say this was ill concveived and ill-executed as statecraft and politics: Once an accident, twice a coincidence, three times a pattern.
blutoposted by: bluto on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
This doesn't summarize my two points:
Bush didn't say "we can't wait because someday they'll 'dash for WMDs.'" Bush said they have them RIGHT NOW!
My two points were separate: 1) we can't know when attack will come, and by the time we know, it'll be too late; 2) our "containment" options are running out of longevity. Iraq's having weapons on hand speaks to the first point, and to the argument that containment wasn't enough. The rush to weapons speaks to the even worse circumstances that would surely have ensued were Hussein left in power; it also serves to indicate the danger of leaving the dictator in power.
Furthermore, it cannot be said that Iraq has been proven not to have weapons. The search has only just begun, and Saddam had a long time to hide/transfer them. Even so, before the war, more authorities than the Bush administration believed the WMDs to exist.
As for the Rumsfeld reference, now we're dipping into the store of Big Lies from the anti-Bush people. I'm too lazy to get the link, but on my blog I showed that Rumsfeld had said originally, and said again when people were wrongly accusing him of backpedaling, that he knew the region in which the weapons were. Not the building or exact coordinates.
And as for this supposed international, Arab-inclusive coalition, that's another debate entirely, but I'd suggest (and I think it was argued pre-war) that such endeavors are merely dilatory measures that ensure that the interests of hostile regimes are not endangered (indeed, are even aided) by U.S. policy. Post-9/11, that's simply not acceptable.
And at the end of the day, Ba'athist thugs are no longer free to enter any home in Iraq and gouge out the eyes of an infant because her daddy isn't lying well enough.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Justin: "As for this supposed international, Arab-inclusive coalition, that's another debate entirely, but I'd suggest (and I think it was argued pre-war) that such endeavors are merely dilatory measures that ensure that the interests of hostile regimes are not endangered (indeed, are even aided) by U.S. policy."
Is that what it was the Arab-inclusive coalition was in '91? 'Cause I think most Americans (me too) would take post-war '91 over post-war '03 any day of the week. Especially now that the UK's International Institute for Strategic Studies is positing that the Iraq occupation has dramatically increased al-Qaeda's recruitment capacity (making additional 9/11's MORE likely, not less).
Maybe it's 'cause they consider this an exclusively white/western/Christian occupation of a Muslim land.
And, p.s., I don't consider this to be outside of the realm of the debate, as I thought the whole point was we supposedly "couldn't afford to wait" long enough to assemble such a coalition.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"And at the end of the day, Ba'athist thugs are no longer free to enter any home in Iraq and gouge out the eyes of an infant because her daddy isn't lying well enough."
And at the end of the day, Bush is still supporting an Uzbeki dictator who literally boils his political dissidents.
And at the end of the day, you didn't care how many Iraqi infant eyes got gouged out back in the 80's when Saddam was our ally and Rummy was shaking Saddam's big, baby-blinding hand. (Want a picture of that? I've got one.)
Please don't pretend you are a benevolent humanitarian, concerned about human rights, Justin. Truthfully, it makes me ill.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I think most Americans (me too) would take post-war '91 over post-war '03 any day of the week. Especially now that the UK's International Institute for Strategic Studies is positing that the Iraq occupation has dramatically increased al-Qaeda's recruitment capacity (making additional 9/11's MORE likely, not less).
Well, here's the thing, Mr. Meighan: we haven't yet had a post-'03 9/11, whereas we actually did have a post-'91 9/11, arguably for a reason that you give:
Maybe it's 'cause they consider this an exclusively white/western/Christian occupation of a Muslim land.
al Qaeda, bin Laden, Saudi bases, bin Laden changing his rhetoric to pro-Saddam... it's all coming back to me now. How about you?posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Our "containment" options are running out of longevity. Iraq's having weapons on hand speaks to the first point, "
Except for, y'know, they don't HAVE any weapons on hand.
"Furthermore, it cannot be said that Iraq has been proven not to have weapons. The search has only just begun, and Saddam had a long time to hide/transfer them."
Blix got five weeks, and that was enough to convince the pro-war crowd that Blix's heart wasn't in it, and UNMOVIC was a big sham.
We've had five months. Serious question: how much longer until you lose your faith that Iraq has the many specific WMD stocks that Bush and Rumsfeld and Powell promised us? Six months? Ten months? How long, Justin?
And if/when that timeframe is exceeded, will it shake your faith in Bush Administration's credibility? If not, why not?
"Rumsfeld had said originally, and said again when people were wrongly accusing him of backpedaling, that he knew the region in which the weapons were. Not the building or exact coordinates."
Well, how big was this region? Big enough to search in five months? He made the "we know where they are" statement quite definitively... certainly that specific knowledge would give them SOME clues on where to check, right?posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"Well, here's the thing, Mr. Meighan: we haven't yet had a post-'03 9/11, whereas we actually did have a post-'91 9/11, arguably for a reason that you give:"
You're gonna have to make your point a bit clearer, here. Sorry, I'm not as smart as you are. Please repeat, less obliquely.posted by: Patrick Meighan on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
That last comment of mine might have come off a bit more snide and a bit less playful than I'd intended. Sorry, if that's the case.
Regarding the 9/11 comment: my understanding is that bin Laden was more or less ambivalent about Hussein (with some harsh words when the dictator threatened to invade Saudi Arabia) until Saudi Arabia sided with the U.S. and it became clear that the U.S. intended to oppose Hussein with force. After that, with the continued "Crusader" presence on the peninsula, bin Laden made the United States a major target.
I want to clarify something else: I supported the war independently of any arguments that the administration did or didn't make. I supported it in the early '90s because I thought it merely postponing the inevitable and unfair to those we had encouraged to rise up (leaving aside the second point, the speed with which we toppled Hussein this time suggests that maybe, from our standpoint, we proved better off having waited). I supported it when Clinton was on the warpath, because I thought it sufficiently important to transcend politics. I supported it before 9/11 because the sanctions were harming Iraqis and not their torturer, yet ending sanctions would have been about the most insane foreign policy possible. And, of course, I supported it even more after 9/11.
Now, some will dismiss me as a "warmonger" on this basis, but weighing all options, I thought war became increasingly necessary as time went on.
At any rate, this has been truly edifying, but I really have to get some other stuff done. Thanks, everyone, for the debate about the... umm... debate.posted by: Justin Katz on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"Does the phrase Memory Hole mean anything to you?"
Which memory hole might that be? Are you speaking about Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons against his own people? And could you be referring to his attempted assassination of a former President of the United States? I just finished viewing the “Sixty Minutes” segment concerning Colin Powell allegedly ignoring the “real” evidence about Saddam’s WMD capabilities. And I was not in the least bit impressed.
The bottom line is this: Saddam was playing games with the inspection teams. He had no right to act in such a manner---and we should opt on the side of caution. Further procrastination may have placed our nation in jeopardy. End of story. It's really as simple as that.posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
It is important, I think, to contextualize the dispute over whether or not the administration implied to led people to believe that the US must attack Iraq because of an "imminent" CBW threat. As a previous poster mentioned, what is really at stake here is whether the US invasion was a "preemptive" strike. If it was, the US invasion was defensive in nature rather than an act of over aggression (which might be justified on humanitarian or broader strategic grounds, but that's another story).
What the administration has consistently argued since the runup to the release of its National Security Strategy is that 9-11 changed the rules of the game in many ways, one of which involves how we understand preemption. In common parlance, preemption occurs when one state believes an adversary has already committed to an attack, and concludes that it will gain an advantage in the inevitable conflict if it strikes first.
The administration has essentially argued that:
(1) 9-11 proves there is a terrorist network -- or networks -- that is, for all intents and purposes, already at war with the US;
These three points, I believe, are indisputably true. The question is whether the next follows:
(4) any "enemy" state or state with a history of supporting terrorists has incentives to arm those terrorist networks with WOMADs;
In other words, the Bush administration has, in aggregate, been arguing for nearly two years that the standard of preemption is no longer an "imminent" threat in the classic sense, but now extends to what normally would be called "preventive" war -- war designed to prevent future shifts in relative power that place you at a disadvantage.
The confusing thing (in the context of the debate taking place here) is that the logic of this argument is that the US must, in effect, treat any potential development of the kind described in (4) as an **effectively imminent** threat, even if there is ambiguous or no evidence of its actual imminence in the sense usually associated with preemptive warfare . This is the basic claim in Bush's speech (quoted in both affirmative and negative "speeches"), we do not know if the threat posed by Iraq is imminent (proximate, immediate), but that uncertainty means we should treat Iraq _as if_ it is an imminent threat.posted by: dn on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Curious -- that question -- "...if the threat was not imminent...why was containment abandoned?" -- is easy. It's because the Bush's estimation (whatever else you might say about the argument) was that Saddam was a serious threat that wasn't getting any less, and that it was more consistent with the safety and good security of the country to act immediately than to wait. Put aside the issue about whether Bush's administration was arguing that the danger was imminent; they were clearly arguing that the danger was real, and growing, and that we might not know when the danger was immediate until the threat had become an actual attack.
Informed by 9/11, this seems not unreasonable -- after all, on 9/10, the threat was present, and immediate, and without question imminent. It was also unknown.posted by: Charlie on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Sebastian, why don't you make the case that Iraq, in fact, was not an imminent threat. Do you believe this? Did Bush believe this? Your position is remarkably close to the antiwar position and highlites the distortion of the entire debate. What are we left with? A very awkward 'strategic vision' from Paul Wolfowitz. This vision, in the lead up to the war was only laid out once, a few days before the war at AEI. It simply was not part of the debate, your position entails that it was.posted by: squeal on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"We've had five months. Serious question: how much longer until you lose your faith that Iraq has the many specific WMD stocks that Bush and Rumsfeld and Powell promised us? Six months? Ten months?"
Who cares? The question is not particularly relevant. Saddam Hussein was playing games with the WMD inspectors. That's all we needed to know.posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
"But Bush did NOT say 'the threat is not imminent.'"
When you acknowledge that others are saying "we must wait until the threat is imminent," you are implicitly saying it is not. Period. If this confused anyone, that's their problem.posted by: HH on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Please present me with an history of Iraq's international terrorism.
I think most Americans would agree that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. That if he could he would somehow inflict pain or some tragedy upon the citizens of our country.
The U.S. kept him boxed in as much as possible for over 10 years.
If you let the snake out of the bag odds are he will want to bite someone.
I don't know if I would call the snake an imminent threat, but if he got out of the bag he would be. There is fine line between the two.
I think the description the administration used with Iraq was about as accurate as you can get when you are holding a bag with a snake in it.
I guess I don't really have the desire to parse the term imminent. It sounded to me like the administratioin argued they had a snake in the bag and if it got out it would be really dangerous.
Arguing what IDEA you think the administation was trying to make is an agrument that can't be defeated. I had to stop reading there.
Patrick Meighan wrote:
And at the end of the day, you didn't care how many Iraqi infant eyes got gouged out back in the 80's when Saddam was our ally and Rummy was shaking Saddam's big, baby-blinding hand. (Want a picture of that? I've got one.)
I'll see your picture of Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein and raise you a picture of FDR smiling with Joseph Stalin and even throw in a picture of Welsey Clark swapping hats with an accused Serbian war criminal and maybe Hillary Clinton making kissy-faces with Yassar Arafat's wife.
You know what that will prove? Absolutely nothing.posted by: Thorley Winston on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Just an off-beat comment. It seems the supposition in the debate's title is wrong: "POST-WAR debate on pre-war rhetoric" because in the war on Saddam Hussein is apparently NOT OVER. Maybe the problem is we called it FINIS too soon. In this last 1% is the biggest WMD of all and is still missing, but certainly not nonexistent. That he is still alive and kicking, just means that he and his supporters, whoever they are, ARE an imminent threat to the Coalition countries now, not just the US, and probably are figuring out how to retaliate for being overthrown. He is a threat no longer as the dictator of a rogue state, but a threat Saddam is. As what? Osama bin Laden II? We know he had hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal and a network of loyalists. What's left for Saddam to do with his life anyway but attack us all? Perhaps not in one Uday-Qusayesque final stand, but in a long twilight struggle as a terrorist leader. Become Osama Bin Laden II, made deadlier? Perhaps, it's not a good idea to underestimate a cornered rattlesnake that we can't even see or find yet? (Sorry if I didn't get in the spirit of the debate...)posted by: Dean Jorge Bocobo on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
So who got the $100?posted by: Bob on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Terrorism was not Sadaam's thing in general, but you seem to have forgotten his attempt to assasinate Bush pere and a Kuwaiti official in Kuwait. Since this thread has been all about parsing words I'd say the above episode constitutes "international terrorism" and your post should be edited.posted by: Mark on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
I think sending hit squads abroad to silence critical escapees from Iraq also falls into the realm of international terrorism.
Paying thousands of dollars to encourage Palestinians to send children to blow themselves up is certainly international terrorism, unless you're one of those who call them freedom fighters.
Giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda members, and to Abu Nidal and others, is supporting international terrorism.
Holding meetings with Al Qaeda to establish mutual-hate society operations is supporting terrorism.
Why do you continue to try to prove Saddam was not the evil tyrant that he obviously was? Is that your argument against preemption? That Saddam wasn't that bad?posted by: Mick McMick on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
One of you chowderheads wrote:
"We all knew what the Admin meant at the time, and the warmongers were using it to beat everyone else including those who wanted to go to war but were more cautious about it."
So, Bush implied people died?
Give me a break.
How do you claim that Bush implied something he specifically denied. Its like as if I said, "Kobe Bryant is innocent" and you turn around and claim I suggested he was guilty. Its the dems who are twisting words here, not the republicans.
(Not that I have any opinion on Kobe; i just don't know right now.)posted by: A.W. on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Re: Imminent Threat.
Please see page 15 of President Bush's National Security Strategy from September 2002. There, in addition to morphing concepts of preventative war into preemptive war (an important point of law), he expands and adapts the concept of "imminent threat." He then subsequently uses that expanded definition to describe Iraq in his State of the Union address in January 2003.posted by: Mark Lewis on 10.15.03 at 10:15 AM [permalink]
Post a Comment: