September 14, 2003

Why Are We Ruled by These Liars?

Josh Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall. He concludes that the Bush Administration--this time, Dick Cheney--constantly tells transparent lies because they have no idea that they might do otherwise. I would add a second reason: the press corps defers to them. Russert knows damn well there is no reason to believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11, but all he'll do is ask Cheney, "Is there a connection?":

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: Apparently the Vice-President of the United States can't help lying to and deceiving the people he was elected to serve.

A harsh charge? Very. But I don't see how the truth of the accusation can be denied after this exchange this morning with Tim Russert on Meet the Press ...

MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think itís not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We donít know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didnít have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, weíve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the í90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in í93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of í93. And weíve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in í93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, weíve had the story thatís been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but weíve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just donít know.

We just don't know ...

Presumably Mr. Cheney is basing the veracity of this statement on the same principle by which he doesn't know that I can't bench press a thousand pounds.

Let's take this one step at a time.

In two years the US intelligence and law enforcement communities have not been able to unearth a single piece of evidence tying the Iraqi regime to the 9/11 attacks.

In Cheney's answer he reels off a series of allegations, most of which have either been positively discredited or remain wholly unsubstantiated. Even if each point were true -- which, for the most part, they aren't -- they are clearly intended to muddy the issue by tossing out a variety of points not directly related to the question of Iraqi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

The one supposed piece of 'evidence', of course, is the alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta and a senior Iraqi intelligence official in the spring of 2001. But contrary to Mr. Cheney's claim that "weíve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," US intelligence officials have thoroughly discredited that report. And it has even been denied by the Czechs. What's more, as al Qaida expert Peter Bergen noted last month when he spoke with TPM, the US now has in custody the two Iraqi intelligence officials connected with this alleged incident.

As Bergen asked, "Don't you think he knows his get-out-of-jail-free card to some degree is saying "Hey I did meet with Mohammed Atta"? He's obviously not saying that, otherwise we'd know about it."

The point is that there is simply no evidence whatsoever connecting the Iraqi regime with the 9/11 attacks. What's more, it's not as though we don't know quite a lot about how the attacks were carried out. We know who the perpetrators were -- both those in the planes and many in support roles. We know where the money came from. We know about their ties with al Qaida and bin Laden. We know a great many details about how this horrific attack happened. And none of them have led us back to Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi regime.

Even applying so low a standard as that by which we judge incidents with four-year-olds and cookie jars, Cheney's statement that "we just don't know" whether Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks is a lie.

Why do 69% of Americans continue to believe that Iraq may have been involved in 9/11? Many reasons. But one of the most important is that their leaders keep lying to them.

Posted by DeLong at September 14, 2003 08:03 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Another interesting TPM link is the one to various recent polls. And *none* of them are good for Bush or the GOP. The Gallup Poll is particularly striking:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/polls/tables/live/2003-09-11-poll-results.htm

Bush is down to 52% approval here, which is a 7% drop from two weeks before. This data point isn't yet on Dr. Pollkatz' site, but I thought it was interesting since it means that the Zogby poll wasn't the only one to see a >5% drop recently. And, in case anybody is wondering, the Gallup poll has definitely been one of the "friendlier" polls to Bush for quite some time.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 14, 2003 08:28 PM

Liberals just can't seem to get over their bitterness over the liberation of Iraq. That poor Saddam Hussein got such a raw deal.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 14, 2003 08:39 PM

joe, do you think this kind of mindless drivel is actually elevating discourse in any way?

or are you just as foolish as you sound?

Posted by: howard on September 14, 2003 08:42 PM

It is the liberals like you who are spouting mindless drivel. All you can do is call Bush names. Whenever I post detailed arguments about geopolitical strategy all I get in reply is hollow leftoid rhetoric. I *never* get a detailed and sophisticated counter argument. Only appeals to white guilt and Third World victimology.

It reminds me of the Republicans under Clinton. Instead of offering reasoned discussions of policy, all they could talk about was Clinton's white trash sex life.

Which is more important: whether or not President Bush is a nice man, or whether or not the people of Iraq get a chance at a better life?

Should Republicans have supported the Axis in World War II because they didn't like Roosevelt?

They called Reagan a simpleton and worse. And yet he played a significant role in freeing a quarter of a planet from a condition close to chattel slavery.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 14, 2003 09:19 PM

Joe -

wow -- I thought your first post was satire.

if your second post is an example of your detailed arguments about strategy, please stop posting them here. your detailed arguments are too brilliant and blinding for me.

cheers, though -- I love your self-pity. the beautiful thing about the whine is that it is the only art form where the artist is himself its main and intended audience.

Posted by: wcw on September 14, 2003 10:23 PM

Reply to wcw:

You confirm my point about the sterility and inanity of the American left by your vacuous non-reply.

On the one side we have the Hollywood airheads, the space academy professors and the radical chic fashionables of the liberal media. On the other side we have the hard-working, patriotic freedom loving Americans who make up the backbone of this of this country. Guess who is going to win?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 14, 2003 11:52 PM

Joe Willingham writes:
>
> Liberals just can't seem to get over their bitterness over
> the liberation of Iraq. That poor Saddam Hussein got
> such a raw deal.

This is a non-sequitor in so many ways. The original question was whether there is any relationship between Sadam Hussein and the planning and execution of terroristic acts on September 11. There isn't, but you wouldn't know that by casually listening to people like Dick Cheney.

But ignoring that, there's the question of whether Americans wanted to be the liberators of Iraq if it had nothing to do with domestic terrorism. I haven't seen any strong evidence that they had strong feelings about this.

Now, one group that apparently has *really* strong feelings about what has happened in Iraq are the people of Iraq. Their feelings on the matter are poorly polled, but I have heard almost nothing that makes me believe that they are globally supportive of our current *occupation* of Iraq. (And this is the key point, of course; we haven't liberated Iraq in the sense that we could and did liberate France. Iraq had a horrible government, but it was the only government they had and without it there was an instantaneous loss of civil order.) I would have to believe that Iraqis would be in favor of us giving them large sums of money to replace, rebuild, or just plain build their infrastructure.

But that just flips us back to what the citizens of the US want. Do you really, truly believe that US citizens would have freely decided to spend up to $200 billion on the invasion and occupation of Iraq (including a few billion for Afghanistan, I guess) rather than pursue almost any other course of action? Would they have decided to do this knowing how much it would decrease military readiness to protect our interests elsewhere? Would they have decided to do this if they had been told how long it would take, or how many troops it would involve? If people had been aware of it, would they have favored the firing or marginialization of everybody in the government or the military who ever dared give out realistic figures for what our costs would be in this operation?

I don't know anybody who isn't at least somewhat happy that Saddam Hussein is out of power. But to act as if this cost us nothing, or if it were the only good or the greatest good we could have achieved for this cost shows a failure of imagination. In my opinion, anyway.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 15, 2003 12:49 AM

"On the one side we have the Hollywood airheads... On the other side we have the hard-working, patriotic freedom loving Americans..."

No doubt this is a sly reference to a certain Republican candidate in California's current gubernatorial recall. He's working hard to put a chicken in every pot and an orgy in every bedroom.

Posted by: SavageView on September 15, 2003 05:08 AM

... and Joe,

since you are so certain that Iraqis are hungering for 'freedom' and relief from Saddm Hussein that any price, any lies, any fabrication and any tax-cut-spending-increase combination is worth it, go listen to a real Iraqi:

www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com

Fact: Bush, Cheney and the entire neo-conservative cabal pulled a fast one on the american public starting in June 2002.

Fact: 'Intellectuals' on the right signed on to this deception early with a wink and a nod: you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and boy do we need the eggs.

Fact: Bush and his administration was clueless about what this could actually cost us

Fact: They are desperately blowing smoke now at the american people hoping we would not notice it.

Fiction: Everyone who opposed this war is automatically a supporter of Saddam Hussein and a hater of freedom.

Newsflash for Joe: Iraqis must desire for liberty with the same fervour that Poles desired it. Then our intervention will help. Until then, we are simply substituting one jerk for another.

Posted by: Suresh krishnamoorthy on September 15, 2003 06:06 AM

... and Joe,

since you are so certain that Iraqis are hungering for 'freedom' and relief from Saddm Hussein that any price, any lies, any fabrication and any tax-cut-spending-increase combination is worth it, go listen to a real Iraqi:

www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com

Fact: Bush, Cheney and the entire neo-conservative cabal pulled a fast one on the american public starting in June 2002.

Fact: 'Intellectuals' on the right signed on to this deception early with a wink and a nod: you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and boy do we need the eggs.

Fact: Bush and his administration was clueless about what this could actually cost us

Fact: They are desperately blowing smoke now at the american people hoping we would not notice it.

Fiction: Everyone who opposed this war is automatically a supporter of Saddam Hussein and a hater of freedom.

Newsflash for Joe: Iraqis must desire liberty with the same fervour the Czech and Poles wanted it. When a Lech Walesa emerges in Iraq, our intervention will help. Until then, we are simply substituting one jerk for another.

Final Fact: we got conned into this war by the conman Ahmed Chalabi and now we cannot admit it without looking like the biggest fools on the planet.

Posted by: Suresh krishnamoorthy on September 15, 2003 06:09 AM

Why do you hate America? These people are just jealous of our wealth and freedom here in America. The liberals think if we all sing Kumbaya and hold hands this will solve the problem in the Middle East. It's all Clinton's fault for doing nothing about terrorism. Yadayadaya.

Posted by: Sean Hannity on September 15, 2003 08:25 AM

"Iraqis must desire liberty with the same fervour the Czech and Poles wanted it. When a Lech Walesa emerges in Iraq, our intervention will help. Until then, we are simply substituting one jerk for another."

That's a gross oversimplification of the political situation in Iraq. There is no Lech Walesa, and there is no tradition of democracy, but the Iraqis are not doomed to live under a brutal dictator. The problem is they are divided among themselves along ethnic, religious and tribal lines. A lot of countries have that problem.

The US can't impose a government on Iraq. The Iraqis are too independent minded for that to be possible. All we can do is give them a chance to find their own solution.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 15, 2003 09:35 AM

Someone needs to invoke the "Joe Willingham" law on this thread. Rational discourse has ended.

Posted by: Dilbert Dogbert on September 15, 2003 09:48 AM

A year ago I gave a speech saying that Sadaam:
1. Had no nuclear capability and wasn't getting any
2. Had biological/chemical weapons of unknown quantity
3. Had no missile capability
4. Was so hemmed in that it was (in my view) exceptionally unlikely that he would actually try anything
5. Was so hated by his neighbors that it was unlikely that he could ever actually collude to do anything
6. A very nasty fellow generally

and that attacking Iraq would:
1. Drive oil prices up, as Iraqi production would be temporarily destroyed
2. Cause volitility in the region with respect to Sadaam's neighbors
3. Cost perhaps several thousand US dead and many more Iraqi dead
4. Cost many billions of dollars (I had thought that it would be in the 80 billions...)

I never mentioned the UN, which I felt to be important but another speech entirely. I had no idea that the administration could botch negotionations so badly. I never mentioned Al-Qaeda because no astute person ever believed them to be connected. I also said specifically that Bush would be going to war (at the time he said that he didn't know) and put the date at around Valentine's Day.

So in terms of US policy the question was always: "Is it worth it?" On balance, I always thought the answer to be no. If I had 200 billion burning away in my pocket I can think of lots of ways to spend it that would be more cost effective. I didn't feel that Sadaam was particularly dangerous in 2002 as I didn't think he had anything but regional non-nuclear weapons and I was convinced that he wouldn't use them.

All of the administrations lies have been to undo these ideas. Cost is downplayed, commitment is downplayed, nuclear weapons are inferred, 911 connection is inferred, terrifying delivery mechanisms are alluded to. Had the administration said from the beginning: "He's nasty, has anthrax laden mortar shells, and we can take him out for only 200 billion dollars!" I'm guessing that he would have had much less support for the venture.

Everything else is just blowing smoke...

Posted by: Saam Barrager on September 15, 2003 09:54 AM

Joe Willingham writes:
>
> The US can't impose a government on Iraq. The Iraqis
> are too independent minded for that to be possible.

I agree. Which is why our Iraq policy is and was such a loser because it essentially assumed we could place the Chalabi faction in the driver's seat and all would be hunky dory. Note that there are two reasons why the US feels such a need to control the operation in Iraq. The first is the doctrine that a force that is primarily US troops be led by US generals, and the second is the fact that we still hope to impose something we like whether or not the Iraqis want it. If the policy instead had been to go in with the broad support of many allies, we wouldn't get to impose, but we wouln't have so much of our total force pool tied down. Now, we would have also had to convince others to join us. This would have sharpened our own reasons for wanting to do this and given others a direct stake in making sure the operation was a success. Right now, nobody else feels compelled to help and we are in a *very* sticky situation.

So even if you like the idea of toppling Saddam from power and rebuilding the country, there are better and worse strategies for getting what you want. I can't say that it's clear we chose the best strategy for our long term goal here. And it's a really bad strategy to lie about what it is you really want to do, since it makes other much less likely to trust you. Really, this is Dipomacy 101 stuff.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 15, 2003 10:02 AM

I didn't see the interview and am basing my comments only on the link that Brad provided.

What I thought was interesting was that Cheney didn't present new evidence. Rather, as if he were in insulin shock in his undisclosed location during the many months since the invasion, Cheney presented the same lies and exaggerations as before the war.

Other than the transparent motivation for repeating lies, Cheney, I speculate, seems to be using the press not to justify the war and its high costs but rather simply as a blunt instrument for propoganda. This, perhaps, could be because he has so little respect for the media and those who are likely to vote for him and the honorary Mensa member, Bush, or could be that he and the other Bushies believe in propoganda.

That is, rather than present an argument justifying the reasons for war, which he could have done, he only presented what has already been discredited. Propoganda, it seems the Bushies have figured out, is no different from a reasoned argument, at least when you're only interested in having popular support.

More importantly, however, in repeating lies, Cheney is implying that the difference between what is true and what they want to be true has no signifigance. The media can discredit the lies, or they won't. It doesn't matter, as long as those who are likely to vote for them understand that there's no difference between wanting a connection between Saddam and bin Laden and there actually being one.

Posted by: Adam Morgan on September 15, 2003 10:44 AM

Joe said:

The US can't impose a government on Iraq. The Iraqis are too independent minded for that to be possible. All we can do is give them a chance to find their own solution.

Ok, what if their 'solution' is a theocracy run by Shia' clergy? Or even to 'elect' Saddam Hussein again?

I thought so.

Posted by: Suresh krishnamoorthy on September 15, 2003 10:57 AM

"Ok, what if their 'solution' is a theocracy run by Shia' clergy? Or even to 'elect' Saddam Hussein again?"

Right now the US is negotiating with Shia leaders and a deal appears to be close. The Shia are far from united, but the majority don't want a theocracy. As polled, the Shia are much more in favor of democracy than the Sunni. That is not suprising since the Shia would have a majority in an elected parliament.

All the polls have Saddam Hussein in the low single digit numbers. The Kurds and the Shia hate him. Even among the Sunni he is not popular.

The danger is that the country will split into three parts. But if that's the only solution so be it.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 15, 2003 12:06 PM

Jonathan King writes:

"If the policy instead had been to go in with the broad support of many allies, we wouldn't get to impose, but we wouln't have so much of our total force pool tied down."

We *did* go in with the support of many allies. Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Japan, Qatar, Kuweit, and United Arab Emirates were among them. All told about 60 countries gave support ranging from sending troops to verbal assent.

General Powell made a valiant effort to get the UN on board, but the French insisted on playing the role of spoiler. They made it clear that there was nothing that could be done to appease them. In fact, they saw the situation as an opportunity to set up an anti-US coalition led by France. Their dream is to restore France to pre-eminence in Europe and the Third World. I won't mention their extensive financial ties to the Saddam regime.

General Powell tried patiently to deal with the French, since he was eager to work out a solution other than a US invasion. But the French insisted on pulling the rug out from under him.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 15, 2003 12:30 PM

Joe's "but Saddam is evil" fallback excuse is running pretty thin. If I think invading Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, etc. etc. is maybe a bad idea, its not because I love Kim Jon Il or whoever. To me, the decision for any kind of military action is whether the benefits outweigh the costs. In the cold hard world of my interest trumps your interest, I don't place a lot of importance on whether the Iraquis are better off or not. The question is whether WE are better off.

In regards to Iraq, the big problem I had with this war was that I thought Iraq was ungovernable unless it was led by a dictator who could keep its ethnic groups in line through fear. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I didn't think it was wise to find out. To me, I was willing to live with strong sanctions and inspections rather than risk a disastrous occupation that would cost a fortune and tie down a huge percentage of our military. And I thought this when I thought THEY HAD WMDs.

Granted, the WMD issue is a BIG issue for the world, but unfortunately, we've got two likely options to prevent the spread of WMDs, start a lot of wars, or start an international political/economic carrot and stick approach to stop it.

Posted by: John McKinzey on September 15, 2003 12:31 PM

Reply to John McKinzey

I think that Saddam's government was second only to that of North Korea is oppressiveness. (See the current New Yorker for an account of the genocidal regime in north Korea.) But invading North Korea is so costly that we have to try to deal with them another way.

I am under no illusion that the US invaded Iraq for humanitarian reasons. But the humanitarian effect is there and is a good reason to support the invasion.

The real reasons for the invasion have to do with changing the political and psychological architecture of the Islamic Middle East. I think the strategy makes sense and is in the interest of both this country and the countries in the region. It's not a matter of imposing American democracy on other cultures. It's about giving the progressive forces in the region a bit of much needed assistance.

You may disagree with this strategy, but it is easier to criticize it than to come up with a better one.

To reduce the debate to whether Bush is a good guy or not is to trivialize it. Let's try to look at the big picture instead of getting into a Democratic-Republican food fight.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 15, 2003 01:00 PM

Joe can spew the insults with the best of them, but he really, really, hates it when you comment on his iron butt.

But man! How can you not?

Posted by: zizka on September 15, 2003 01:41 PM

I remember a line in an interview with Paul Wolfowitz in which he replied to the question why people in other countries disagree with the US assessment of the situation that "leadership matters."

Posted by: Tobias Schwarz on September 15, 2003 05:51 PM

Joe W displays all the breadth of vision his ideology allows : -
"I think that Saddam's government was second only to that of North Korea is oppressiveness"

Incredible. It's as if Rwanda, the Congo, Liberia and for goodness' sake Burma never existed. But Pappy didn't have a stake in thos charming locales.

Posted by: dave heasman on September 16, 2003 08:02 AM

"go listen to a real Iraqi:..."

www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com

This would be a real Iraqi who wrote, on Tuesday, August 26th, "Whether you loved Saddam Hussein or hated him..."

???

Well, Riverbend, if "you" loved Saddam Hussein you loved a murdering tyrant. In my book, that either makes "you" phenomenally ignorant, or a bad person. And whatever else Riverbend is, I don't think she's phenomenally ignorant.

P.S. Perhaps this was just a careless poor choice of words. But if Riverbend truly doesn't see any moral problem with people who aren't phenomenally ignorant loving Saddam Hussein, that doesn't speak very well for Riverbend.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 16, 2003 03:27 PM

Jonathan King writes, "The original question was whether there is any relationship between Sadam Hussein and the planning and execution of terroristic acts on September 11. There isn't, but you wouldn't know that by casually listening to people like Dick Cheney."

I agree that it's bad for Dick Cheney to imply a link, unless he has evidence for such a link. And I don't think he has. (And I DEFINITELY don't think he should bring up the Atta-in-the-Czech-Republic angle, unless he's virtually certain it's accurate...which I don't think it is.)

However...I find it VERY interesting that there apparently WAS a link between Saddam Hussein and the 1993 bombing of the WTC. It appears from this account that Saddam Hussein shielded one of the perpetrators from prosecution.

If that man was ever formally indicted by a U.S. court, and Saddam Hussein protected him, I think that's VERY significant.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 16, 2003 03:39 PM

Like many people, Dave Heasman asks why Iraq rather than other countries where human rights are being violated. The answer is that the invasion of Iraq is of strategic importance in the war on terrorism and that Iraq and several of its neighbors have a lot of a certain commodity on which the American and world economies are dependent.

In this mean old world strategic and economic considerations necessarily come first. But the fact that the people of Iraq no longer have to live under a ruler who gets his jollies raping and killing and torturing people and using the wealth of his people to build kitsch palace is a nice side benefit.

I agree that the US should do anything it can to help in Liberia and the Congo. A question is why don't the UN and the French don't take over that job. They keep telling us how they know better than we do about nation building. Instead we have Kofi Annan asking *us* to take over in Liberia.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 16, 2003 06:58 PM
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