Thursday, September 04, 2003

A Level-Headed Look: Mike Tomasky of TAP goes for the "Bush lies" roundup and proves how hard it is to make the accusation stick, and why it's giving Bush-misled-me candidate John Kerry no traction. Tomasky starts by calling these 8 purported lies the "president's prevarications," but quickly shifts to calling them "lies the administration has told." Let's look carefully.
1. It said Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to the United States. He was not.
No, he was not. But the administration's argument was to take him out before he became an imminent threat. There's a huge difference. Argue if you want, Mike, whether he would've become an imminent threat; but don't try out third-rate spin on me.
2. It said he sat on massive caches of weapons of mass destruction, which he was ready to employ at a moment's notice. He apparently did not and he obviously was not (or he would surely have used them when the infidels hit his soil).
"Apparently" doesn't make a lie, unfortunately. The WMD issue is still up in the air. If it turns out Saddam destroyed them all in 1999, so be it. But to claim this as a lie, when our intel sources agreed with the UN and Europe that Saddam had and continued to have WMDs, is patently absurd. It reminds me of the old SNL sketch in which Reagan was the smiling dupe whenever anyone visited his office, but when he was alone with his staff he became the sly mastermind who spoke multiple languages and spearheaded a cagey foreign policy. It was a good poke at the liberal critics who couldn't decide which caricature of Reagan they liked, the dupe or the Iran-Contra mastermind.
3. It said regime change would be a cakewalk. It was for two weeks -- during which time the administration naturally showed the tastelessness to gloat about it -- but it sure isn't now.
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.
One of these things is not like the other. (Speech link via the Shark.) Ken Adelman of the Defense Policy Board (not officially part of the administration, by the way) did in fact say, "I believe demolishing [Iraq's] military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." And he was exactly right, as even Tomasky is forced to admit. But then Tomasky implies ("it sure isn't [a cakewalk] now"] that Adelman's comment was an unqualified statement. It was not. As for the administration gloating, Tomasky should provide examples. I can't be expected to waste my time responding to mindless generalization.
4. It said our soldiers would be greeted as liberators. They were for about two days; now they're "greeted" as occupiers.
If I hear this one more time I'll vomit. Some Iraqis see us as liberators; some see us as occupiers. Pundits who make generalizations about what "the Iraqis" think or feel (as though Iraqis are drooling idiots who can only, like amoebae, have simple, uniform responses to stimuli) should have their liberal-media-conspiracy decoder rings taken away. Not only have the blogs been full of news of Iraqis happy to work with us, those blogs have increasingly cited (gasp!) mainstream journalists who have stepped out of the herd to look around for themselves.
5. It said it had a solid postwar plan. It didn't.
Actually, the administration did have a postwar plan. It didn't work out very well, but they did have a plan. To claim that they lied by telling us it was a "solid" plan is pretty persnickety. Besides, imagine Rummy and Cheney meeting with Bush and saying, "We've got a postwar plan, George; it's a piece of shit with racing stripes, but you need to go tell America it's solid anyway because . . ." Um, because . . . well, the lie breaks down here a bit, but you can see where Tomasky's going with this, can't you? If you figure it out, e-mail me.
6. It said toppling Hussein would hem in terrorism. Instead, for now at least, terrorism has spread, as extremists of all stripes swarm into Iraq, where our soldiers are paying the price (four more were injured Wednesday morning, after the United Nations bombing).
I'm not sure it means terrorism is spreading if "extremists of all stripes swarm into Iraq." Sounds to me like terrorism is concentrating. There is speculation of a "flypaper strategy" in which we allow Iran and Syria to ship their militants across the border to attack our troops. (On the theory that we'd rather have terrorists attack Americans whose job is to carry lots of guns than attack Americans whose job is to, say, empty wastebaskets in office buildings.) At any rate, this may be an example of poor predictive power by the administration; but if that's the case, we'd have to say Terry McAuliffe was "lying" last year when he said Jeb Bush was "toast" in Florida and the Dems would re-take the Senate. Tsk, tsk, Terry. Pants on fire.
7. It said the death of Hussein's sons would slow the bloodletting. Violence has increased (and the same will surely happen if Hussein himself turns up dead or captured).
I reject the premise. I recall the administration saying they hoped this would convince Ba'athist holdouts to see the futility of fighting for a dead regime. That's all. If Tomasky has quotes he's like to lay out, I'll reconsider this one. Tomasky himself admitted that Iraq was being overrun by foreign jihadists. I don't think we can say for sure what the death of the regime means to them, if anything. I'd argue that the enemy we are fighting is shifting, and that perhaps the deaths of Odai and Qusai did put the Ba'athists off their program a bit. As for the "bloodletting," how many U.S. troops have died in postwar combat? 66. A tragic figure, yes, but not indicative of bloodletting. If Tomasky means the UN bombing massacre was a bloodletting, he's right, and he should take that up with the UN bureaucrats who hired Saddamite thugs for security.
8. It said we don't need more troops on the ground. A pipeline bombing and a hotel bombing later, it's pretty obvious that, as depressing as it is to contemplate, we need more troops on the ground.
As I said earlier this week, I'm open to the idea a more troops just as soon as Tomasky tells me exactly why it's "obvious" that we need them. More troops certainly couldn't have helped the UN, viz above, and I'm not sure what they could do in general, unless Tomasky thinks we need enough troops to guard every UN, US, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other NGO worker; every foot of oil pipeline; all the mosques; and any other strategic location you can think of. (Sounds like half a million troops could whip this country into shape, eh? Now what were you saying, Tomasky, about Iraq resenting an occupying force?) It's not as though we know where the enemy is, who is involved, and what they plan to do next; we're not just sitting around saying, "Gosh, if only we had more troops, we'd be able to stop them." We need more intel, more cooperation; that's obvious. The more troops thing? Sorry, not obvious.

Look, the "lies" thing is tired. If someone at TAP wants to tell me how they'd run the operation, I'm happy to listen. But let's hear some real balls-out policy, not chickenshit, drugstore-cowboy criticizing.

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