Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

All that news from today hangs there, waiting for a good blogging, and yet I am about to delve into the esoteric and passe subject of Dick Cheney's quote off there on the right hand side of the site. Such is my inability to strike while the iron is hot.

But a reader posed an interesting question, one I thought warranted discussion, and so here we go. Alaska Jack wrote:

The front page of your website has a quote from Dick Cheney, saying: "We know (Saddam) has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons,and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

This is, as far as I know, a completely accurate quote. On the other hand, it is perhaps the perfect example of how one can lie by telling only part of the truth.

Half the blogosphere -- and Dick Cheney's own office -- have pointed out many, many, many, many times that this was an on-air interview, not a written statement, and Cheney simply misspoke. In the context of the whole interview, he clearly mean to say "reconstituted nuclear weapons *program*." Indeed, he repeatedly refers to Hussein's *pursuit* of nuclear weapons, not his *possession* of them. As I say, this has been discussed to death, with one good example here.

So it would make sense to just drop this clearly misleading quote off your website, right? But not so fast, because it still leaves the difficult question of how you could *not have been aware of this issue*, despite the fact that it's been blogged ad nauseum.

I get the impression that you are someone who deals in good faith. I have no doubt that you're not intentionally trying to deceive your readers. But the alternative isn't exactly reassuring either."

First things first: I do aim for good faith. As readers of this blog know, my facts ain't always so hot, but they're faulty due to my softheadedness, not malice. Thanks to Jack are in order.

Having established that, let me say that I view the Cheney quote a little differently. If the Veep had just misspoken and the quote in question ran completely counter to his argument, it would definitely be bad faith to harp on it. I'd go farther: it would be deceptive and dishonest. But that whole speech was a snow job on an unsuspecting public; although the language was carefully constructed to adhere to a legal definition of not-lying, but the purpose of the speech was to give a false impression.

Let's look at what he said. He made arguments that: there was a link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq1; the IAEA was incompetent2; and that Iraq was dangerous, imminent threat3. The discussion was clearly intended to rally a country for war. What he told us and what we found were dramatically different; now we have evidence that the CIA had been trying to get the White House to stop this kind of talk for months.

The issue repeats itself with the "sixteen words." Bush argues that, well it turned out all right in the end, so what does it matter what I said about nukes? Well, it matters because, although we see that the whole argument was a sham, these are the only sixteen words we can demonstrate were false and misleading.

If the White House had made the pitch for war on good faith, then my parsing language would be silly. But they didn't. All bets are off.

1 "I have argued in the past, and would again, if we had been able to pre-empt the attacks of 9/11 would we have done it? And I think absolutely. I think the American people would have supported it. We have to be prepared now to take the kind of bold action that’s being contemplated with respect to Iraq in order to ensure that we don’t get hit with a devastating attack when the terrorists’ organization gets married up with a rogue state that’s willing to provide it with the kinds of deadly capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed and used over the years."

And later: "But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives."

And still later: "I look at President Bush and I see, for example, his setting a whole new standard about how we’re going to deal with terrorist-sponsoring states."

2 "And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past."

3"And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat."

posted by Jeff | 3:37 PM |
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