Conspiracies, bunkum and the Paranoid Style in American Politics

Bunkum floats

A bit of a role reversal this week: Charlie Sheen fronts for 9/11 conspiracy theories while Sting labors to bring a strip club to New York. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? (Columnist Marina Hyde in the Guardian Unlimited has great fun with this, and manages to get a dig in at Tom Cruise as well).

It’s too easy to mock the Hollywood and rock stars who fall prey to the lastest bunkum conspiracy theories. The continuing appeal of these paranoid fantasies, however, does not bode well for the American body politic. The Internet has fueled the spread of wild rumors and theories, and “evidence” of any given conspiracy (the assassinations of JFK or RFK; 9/11; Bush and fabricated WMD intelligence) can be found on numerous websites. More disturbingly, there are signs in national polls that popular attitudes and beliefs are being formed by some of this bunkum.

For example, the “Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction (WMD)” meme has become accepted Gospel for many on the fringe left ­and, sadly, many closer to the Democratic mainstream ­who argue for a “multifaceted conspiracy that included not only as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice, but also Colin Powell, then serving as secretary of State; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; the CIA; British intelligence; and even the Clinton administration, all of whom maintained that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD.”

What are the facts? As Patrick Chisholm pointed out in a recent Christian Science Monitor piece, the claim doesn’t hold up:

“The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, the Robb-Silberman Commission report, and Britain’s Butler report found that the Bush administration did not lie, distort, or prod intelligence agencies to alter their findings on WMD. Robb-Silberman concluded that it was “the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments.”

It is not hard to find fault with the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy (want the list? do you have all day?); yet it is not necessary to assume the worst–­a conspiracy to lie the U.S. into war, or some nefarious plot to wrest oil riches from Iraq. An even more unappetizing version of this particular paranoid fantasy, recently surfaced by an unlikely provocateur, the dean of Harvard’s JFK School, floats the idea that a small cabal of neoconservatives and the “pro-Israel lobby” are controlling American foreign policy and had steered the U.S. to attack Saddam to protect…Israel.

As the historian Richard Hofstadter pointed out in his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, a reflection prompted by the Age of McCarthy, those who fabricate convoluted conspiracy theories do not let the facts get in the way; their fantasy world becomes satisfyingly coherent, “since it leaves no room for mistakes, failures, or ambiguities.”

Hofstadter had focused on the far Right of 1950s, but his observations were timeless. He looked back at the paranoid style in American political history (including the anti-Masonic, anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic movements, and elements of abolitionism, etc.) and at the anger of the fringe Right after World War II and concluded:

“The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest–perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demand–are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed.”

Sound familiar? Now it is the angry American Left that has seen its favored national candidates defeated, its favored social and economic policies ignored or rejected, and has been shut out of power. Thus the turn to the paranoid style.

Hofstadter also noted that those who adopt the paranoid style are convinced of their own righteousness and see themselves as “the Elect, wholly good, abominally persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph.” He concluded that “to see the world in this way may be a persistent psychic phenomenon, more or less constantly affecting a modest minority of the population.”

Real conspiracies

Conspiracies do exist. They can be kept secret (although usually not for too long). They involve small groups of dedicated people, are commonly limited in scope and time, and are most successful when focused on a single, or discrete, action or outcome.

Examples? Iran-contra. Soviet espionage efforts to steal A-bomb secrets in the late 1940s. Watergate. The attempt on Pope John Paul’s life. What distinguishes real conspiracies from the paranoid conspiracy theories is their simplicity.

Real conspiracies conform to Occam’s Razor, the principle of parsimony: they are not complex, following the idea that “one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.”

In contrast, the conspiracies dreamed up by conspiracy buffs are rarely simple. They tend to be global, all-encompassing, complex. They explain the major shifts in history as a function of plots by the powerful or hidden-hand conspiracies. A fundamental flaw in this thinking: it presupposes that large numbers of people will go along with (usually) illegal, immoral and covert activities and remain silent.

Take the Area 51 conspiracy: the idea that the U.S. government has covered up its knowledge of UFOs and aliens for more than 50 years. How could a secret of that magnitude be kept for that long a period of time? In today’s tabloid world, wouldn’t the lure of a big-money book and movie deal loosen the lips of those in the know about the aliens? (As an aside, why do UFOs only show up in lonely and remote places? Are aliens anti-social? Why don’t flying saucers ever buzz Times Square?).

Another example: the idea that the U.S. government, Mossad, the “international Jewish conspiracy,” the CIA, or other “nefarious” organizations somehow staged 9/11, and that they have been able to keep this monstrous deed quiet, is absurd. A few weeks ago Porter Goss, head of CIA, complained in the New York Times that, ­in essence,­ the U.S government couldn’t keep anything secret because of leaks and these disclosures were hurting the war on terror. How could a conspiracy of the size and scope imagined by the “9/11 Truth” groups remain secret? (Unless, of course, “everyone” is in on the cover-up. That sort of paranoia calls more for treatment than debate).

Conspiracy theorists overestimate the competence of the supposed conspirators, both in carrying out their plots and in their ability to keep them secret. As Hofstadter noted, more likely explanations ­which might involve human error, stupidity, incompetence, or chance ­are always discarded in favor of the overarching and elaborate theory.

Is there any long-term danger with this? That a sizeable minority of the American electorate might cling to explanations that rely on fantasy and paranoia for events and policies they don’t like is troubling. This worldview may satisfy certain psychic needs, as Hofstadter suggests, and it may provide great material for late-night comics to mock the latest Hollywood ignoramus, but it doesn’t make for sound political debate, or a healthy Republic.


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Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
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12 thoughts on “Conspiracies, bunkum and the Paranoid Style in American Politics

  1. When you say Bush didn’t lie about Iraq’s WMD, are you forgetting his state of the union speech wherein he claimed Saddam was attempting to procure nuclear material from Niger?

    What about Cheney’s claim that, “There is no doubt Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear program.” Meanwhile there was plenty of doubt from what I’ve read. Just last week NBC broke a story saying Iraq’s foreign minister told the CIA through the French that Saddam had no active nuclear program. That sounds like doubt to me.

    And Condoleeza claimed the aluminum tubes could “really only” be used in a nuclear program. The reality was most American experts thought the tubes unsuitable for use in a centrifuge. At a minimum, there was significant debate, a debate left unconveyed to the American public.

    If you feel better telling yourself they didn’t lie, so be it. But the preponderance of evidence (not the least of which is their failure to find WMD) suggests they did in fact lie.

  2. Asserting something, and being proven wrong, doesn’t make one a liar. It makes one wrong.

    There is ample evidence to suggest that Bush, Cheney, et. al. assumed the worst about Saddam’s WMD. They based their assumptions on U.S. and British intelligence. There is no doubt that they were eager to find evidence to back up this position.

    I would direct anyone who wants a blow-by-blow account of the aluminum tubes story to the following radio interview on Democracy Now with the New York Times reporter Michael Gordon:

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/17/160232

    Here’s a key segment of the interview:

    ***************
    AMY GOODMAN: The article, the Times could have challenged President Bush and Tony Blair, saying that a new IAEA report had showed that Iraq was six months away from building nuclear weapons, when in fact it didn’t come out with such a report. And instead, the Times came out with a front-page piece that very weekend, which was yours, talking about Saddam Hussein getting nuclear weapons, the aluminum tubes.

    MICHAEL GORDON: I have an interesting thought for you to ponder, along with the information I’ve introduced to you to on David Albright. Larry Wilkerson, who I think — you probably have interviewed him. He’s a quite well-known figure. He was Colin Powell’s chief of staff, right? You may have encountered him. Anyway, he’s a very vocal person, and he’s highly critical of the neo-cons and of the Cheney staff, and I’ve interviewed him anyway for my book, if you haven’t. And he’s also spoken publicly in press conferences. He’s no friend of the administration, to be sure.

    Well, Larry Wilkerson went with Colin Powell to the C.I.A. when they got briefed before Secretary Powell went to the United Nations to make his presentation. And Larry Wilkerson has publicly talked about this in press conferences, before liberal groups in Washington and also to myself. Larry Wilkerson believed that the tube evidence was persuasive after he got briefed by John McLaughlin and other people at the C.I.A., and Colin Powell — right? — who did have reservations about going to war, also believed the information was persuasive after he was briefed at the C.I.A., even though his own experts in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research were challenging it.

    So, all I can tell you is that there was a very strong view in the American government, in the C.I.A., that persuaded Colin Powell and Colin Powell’s chief of staff, the man who said a “cabal” was running our government, if you remember that comment he made some months ago. That same individual believed Iraq had W.M.D. based on the briefings he got at the C.I.A. Now, I didn’t create these briefings, I’ve never—they don’t call me to the C.I.A. to give them to me; I haven’t, you know, participated in any of that. But, you know, all I can tell you is that there was a, you know, a lot of confusion within the American intelligence community about what was happening in Iraq, but that the principal policy makers, including the man most skeptical about the reason to go to war, was ultimately persuaded about this and argued with ElBaradei and the Security Council about it.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Michael —

    MICHAEL GORDON: But I believe it’s now — but I agree with you to the extent that I now believe, whether the C.I.A. has retracted this or not, I think over time, based on what we now know, because we’re in Iraq, we’ve debriefed the scientists, you know, we’ve—we actually know a lot more than we knew before the war. We now—I believe that the C.I.A. analysis is wrong.

    And I’m going to throw out one last fact for you to ponder. Saddam Hussein wanted the world to think he had W.M.D. We also know that. Saddam’s concern was Iran. Saddam—he had fought a bloody war with Iran for eight years. Both sides used chemical weapons. Saddam wanted to comply with the letter of the U.N. inspections but he had a policy called “deterrence by doubt.” He didn’t want the Iranians to know his cupboard was bare, because he was concerned that would make him vulnerable to some sort of Iranian action. So he was walking a very fine line, and I understand what his political strategy was from Iran’s point of view, but it certainly was misinterpreted back here in Washington.

    ***************

    As to the question of the yellowcake intelligence, this Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com from July 2004 piece covers that well-worn ground.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005354

    Here’s the opening to the piece. (You can find excerpts from the Butler Commission and from the Senate Intelligence Committee reports here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110005353)

    ********

    So now the British government has published its own inquiry into the intelligence behind the invasion of Iraq, with equally devastating implications for the credibility of the Bush-Blair “lied” crowd. Like last week’s 511-page document from the Senate Intelligence Committee, the exhaustive British study found some flawed intelligence but no evidence of “deliberate distortion.” Inquiry leader Lord Butler told reporters that Prime Minister Tony Blair had “acted in good faith.”

    What’s more, Lord Butler was not ready to dismiss Saddam Hussein as a threat merely because no large “stockpiles” of weapons of mass destruction have been found. The report concludes that Saddam probably intended to pursue his banned programs, including the nuclear one, if and when U.N. sanctions were lifted; that research, development and procurement continued so WMD capabilities could be sustained; and that he was pursuing the development of WMD delivery systems–missiles–of longer range than the U.N. permitted.

    But the part that may prove most salient in the U.S. is that, like the Senate Intelligence findings, the Butler report vindicates President Bush on the allegedly misleading “16 words” regarding uranium from Africa: “We conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that ‘The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa’ was well-founded.” (Click here for more excerpts.)

    *********

  3. I think the conspiracy theorists theories are better explanations for 9/11 than the government’s explanation. If we assume that the simplest conspiracy theory wins, then the idea that the 9/11 terrorists had lots of help from the inside makes more sense.

    I do strongly disagree with those who say the victims did not die. We have so much evidence of their families who did not have a chance to say a final goodbye to their loved ones. Saying the jets weren’t hijacked and didn’t crash is very insensitive. But saying that the 9/11 hijackers had plenty of help from inside the US Government is casting an accusatory finger at those who financially benefitted from the attacks. That’s very healthly for any society.

    Likewise, when senior administration officials failed to scrutinize bad intelligence or failed to qualify their statements about it, then they were negligently overstating its validity. What value is there in people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell if they cannot tell truth from lies after decades of service inside government?

  4. A free monthly newspaper here in Vancouver just published an extensive interview with a prominent 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and presented his theories as if they were fact.

    Dismayed at the state of humanity’s critical faculty I started searching for some answers online, and found this which finally goaded me into reading Hofstadter. Thanks for the post, it was just what I needed.

  5. Thank you for responding in depth to my comments, Mr. Flanders. You draw a distinction between being wrong and lying, and I agree that such a distinction to make.

    But I wonder if you still haven’t found any evidence that would cause you to question the veracity of the President and others in the administration regarding the run-up to war in Iraq.

    I direct you to a ‘Frontline’ transcript describing the President’s question following a CIA briefing on Iraq’s WMD…
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/etc/script.html

    CARL W. FORD, Jr., Dir. State Dept. Intel. 2001-2003: The president had said, “Is this all we got?” And the answer should have been, “Yes, sir. Unfortunately, that’s all we got.” His instincts were right. He saw that there wasn’t a lot there. But I guarantee you, that’s everything we had. We gave him our best shot, and the president said, “I don’t­ is that all you got?”

    So, Mr. Flanders, after getting the CIA’s WMD briefing on Iraq, the President’s response was, “Is that all you got?” Later, as we all know, he and others in his administration acted as though the case against Saddam was rock solid. I don’t know about you, but I call that lying.

    They were less interested in accurately conveying information to the citizenry, than in manipulating public opinion to bolster support for a war that had already been decided on. See Richard Clarke’s book “Against All Enemies,” and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil’s book “The Price of Loyalty” for more on Bush’s desire to attack Iraq.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/09/60minutes/main592330.shtml

    Then there is CIA station chief Tyler Drumheller’s account of alerting CIA upper echelons about the absence of Iraqi WMD programs.

    You may find interesting this NYTimes article on the aluminum tubes…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/international/middleeast/03tube.html?_r=1&oref=login&pagewanted=all&position=&oref=slogin

    To quote from the article briefly…
    “Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America’s leading nuclear scientists, an examination by The New York Times has found. They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of nuclear experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.”

    Still think they didn’t lie, Mr. Flanders?

  6. Mr. Flanders, I inadvertently left out some key words in my first paragraph. Would you mind replacing it with the correct version below? Thank you.
    Tom

    Thank you for responding in depth to my comments, Mr. Flanders. You draw a distinction between being wrong and lying, and I agree that such a distinction is an important one to make.

  7. Dear Mr. Shire,

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    If anything, revelations over the past several years suggest that President Bush sincerely believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD—and while he wrong on this, was not lying (i.e., telling the American public something he knew was not true). Consider the following:

    1. President Bush continued to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD before the war despite the failure to find such weapons afterwards, a belief he clung to in 2006. Robert Draper’s book on the Bush presidency, Dead Certain, has this enlightening passage:

    Bush, for his part, was not disposed to second-guessing. Throughout 2006, he read historical texts relating to Lincoln, Churchill, and Truman — three wartime leaders, the latter two of whom left office to something less than public acclaim. History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well. Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs. [p. 388]

    2. A somewhat different argument is that Bush should have known there were not WMD in Iraq. Yet most intelligence agencies, including the Italian, French, British and Israelis, thought that the Iraqis had them. In fact, Saddam’s own generals thought that he had WMD in 2003 up until months before the US invasion. From the New York Times: http://topics.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/international/middleeast/12saddam.html

    The Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction, and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation’s defense.

    If Iraq’s military thought there were WMD, why should George Bush have believed anything different?

    3. I’d recommend that you read either Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine” or Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” to see how the Bush-Cheney administration’s decision to invade Iraq was based on a doctrine of preempting “rogue nations” who MIGHT pass on WMD to silent terrorist partners. You need a very low threshold of evidence to trigger action with this approach.

    So, no, I don’t think that President Bush knowingly lied about WMD in Iraq. His CIA director told him it was a “slam dunk” that those weapons existed. Humint sources, later proved to be false, confirmed these assumptions.

    Jefferson

  8. Is it possible, Mr. Flanders, that you have an aversion to calling a duck a duck?

    No one is denying that Saddam was thought to have WMD. But please deconstruct that statement. You did (a little) when you quoted a New York Times story describing “demoralized” Iraqi generals who “had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation’s defense.”

    Notice the glaring absence of nuclear weapons in that statement. Yet it was not the specter of mustard gas that Bush and his administration used to scare Americans into backing an invasion.

    It was Condi Rice talking about not wanting the “smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” It was Dick Cheney talking about the certainty of a nuclear Iraq. It was Bush himself using bogus information about supposed Iraqi uranium purchases from Africa.

    Chemical and biological weapons, though ugly and frequently deadly, pale in comparison to the threat of nuclear in the WMD triad. I seriously doubt many Americans would have supported the push into Iraq if all we were talking about was chemical weapons or anthrax. That is why the Bush administration purposely played up the nuclear threat, even though there was little or no evidence to support it.

    If you want to concentrate so mightily on a distinction between whether Bush knowingly lied versus perhaps refusing to face facts, then you might want to start examining the distinctions between chem/bio weapons and nuclear devices. To put it simply, chemical and biological weapons are not strategic threats. Nuclear weapons are.

    So lets be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that statements like ‘everyone thought Saddam had WMD, even his own generals’ are devised more to muddy the waters than to impart a clear understanding of what the Bush administration accomplished when it shaped the storyline justifying the invasion of Iraq.

    It wasn’t about telling the truth, Mr. Flanders. It was about selling a war. Check out the following article by James Bamford for another piece of the puzzle. You may find it illuminating…

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/8798997/the_man_who_sold_the_war

    Regards,
    Tom

  9. Dear Mr. Shire,

    I’ll call a duck a duck, but I won’t call a duck a horse.

    The Bush Administration gave multiple reasons for the invasion of Iraq, including Saddam Hussein’s refusal to adhere to numerous UN resolutions. (Regime change, it should be noted, was also the policy of the Clinton Administration.) Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs did loom large, but not only nuclear WMD potential.

    Bush, Cheney, et. al. were deeply concerned about an al-Qaeda plot to use chemical weapons in the New York subway. (See: Ron Suskind’s account “The Untold Story of al-Qaeda’s Plot to Attack the Subways” at http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1205478,00.html).

    The Bush Administration believed (wrongly) information extracted from captured al-Qaeda leader Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who claimed Iraq had trained al Qaeda members in biological and chemical weapons. (See: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/09/politics/09intel.html?_r=1).

    So it was not just nuclear WMD concerns involved. Colin Powell specifically cited the alleged Iraqi bio/chem training of al-Qaeda in his speech before the United Nations.

    We know now that the intelligence was wrong. The CIA, MI6, Mossad, Italian intelligence, etc. got it wrong about Saddam Hussein’s WMD capabilities. And as I have written repeatedly, the Bush Administration assumed the worst and was guilty of accepting some very flimsy claims.

    Yet if you accept the One Percent Doctrine there was more than enough “evidence” to justify intervention.

    Finally, there is some irony that you are raising the nuclear WMD question because it highlights another U.S. intelligence failure — over Iranian intentions — in a 2007 NIE.

    From the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-fg-usiran12-2009feb12,0,3478184):

    Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

    In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

    So who is right? President Obama, or the CIA and NSA “experts” who wrote the 2007 NIE? Is Obama “lying” by asserting that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons? Or is he relying on the imperfect and subjective intelligence all American presidents must rely on?

    Jefferson Flanders

  10. Indeed, the Bush administration did give multiple rationales to justify the invasion of Iraq, but (reasserting a point I made previously) none of them amounted to a hill of beans without the existential threat of a mushroom cloud; perhaps twinned with an operational connection between Iraq and al Quaeda.

    Those claims were the most tenuous of all the pre-war claims, yet that didn’t stop Bush, Cheney, Rice and others from making them with a degree of certitude that they did not deserve (again, as I previously discussed).

    But here is the key statement in your last reply to me, Mr. Flanders:

    “… if you accept the One Percent Doctrine there was more than enough “evidence” to justify intervention.”

    That is one big ‘if,’ Mr. Flanders. Let’s explore this doctrine that you believe justified (for the Bush administration) the invasion of Iraq…

    In his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” author Ron Suskind quotes then-Vice President Cheney as saying, “If there’s a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.”

    Think about that, Mr. Flanders. A one percent chance is all it takes to require a lethal response. Perhaps Cheney is using an extremely small number just to make a point. He probably didn’t mean literally that all that was necessary to act was a one percent chance that someone was about to commit the most heinous crime imaginable. Though if he was being literal, it is important to ask if such a standard meets the evidentiary threshold for invading another country.

    But more importantly, lets note two things about Cheney’s example:

    1) It involves the existential threat of a nuclear weapon. Nuclear. Not chemical or biological.
    2) The basis of his statement is that he does not need to possess incontrovertible evidence. Never mind incontrovertible. In Cheney’s hypothetical example, he doesn’t need anything even suggesting a preponderance of evidence.

    You see, Mr. Flanders, fundamentally, the One Percent Doctrine does not require evidence.

    But don’t take my word for it. According to a review of Suskind’s book, Cheney himself fleshed out his doctrine by asserting, “It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.”

    Don’t gloss over it, Mr. Flanders. Read the two sentences in that last quote again. Put yourself inside Cheney’s mindset (if you aren’t already there).

    Better yet, read the entire book review and/or book, and then tell me Bush, Cheney, et al didn’t lie.

    http://www.salon.com/books/review/2006/06/23/suskind/

    The evidence revealing their lies is ironclad at this point. Cheney himself all but says it right to our faces. He subtly states that he doesn’t need any evidence. Yet since most Americans probably wouldn’t agree with him, the case for WMD, including the all-important nuclear component, was assembled for public consumption.

    As for your assertion that the Bush administration was merely “guilty of accepting some very flimsy claims,” you neglect to incorporate into your analysis the administration’s decidedly active role in producing and shaping allegations about Iraqi WMD and al Qaeda links.

    Have you seen Frontline’s “The Dark Side” which documented the process used by Cheney and his loyalists to make the case for war?

    Here’s a taste:

    “In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet’s CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. But when Tenet insisted in his personal meetings with the president that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet. Through interviews with DoD staffers who sifted through mountains of raw intelligence, FRONTLINE details how questionable intelligence was “stovepiped” to the vice president and presented to the public.

    From stories of Iraq buying yellowcake uranium from Niger to claims that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, “The Dark Side” dissects the now-familiar assertions that led the nation to war. The program also recounts the vice president’s unprecedented visits to the CIA, where he questioned mid-level analysts on their conclusions. CIA officers who were there at the time say the message was clear: Cheney wanted evidence that Iraq was a threat.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/etc/synopsis.html

    Again, the evidence that the Bush administration manipulated and misrepresented the case for war is compelling. It might be reassuring to believe on some level that somehow nobody lied and it was all just a big mistake. But a dispassionate reading of the facts forbids such a conclusion.

    1. Dear Mr. Shire,

      To continue our sporadic conversation.

      There’s no questions that the neo-cons in the Bush Administration sought as much evidence as they could find or massage to make and bolster the case for the invasion of Iraq. Yes, they took the most dire view of Saddam Hussein’s capacity for WMD.

      But as I stated earlier, they believed in these threats. They were wrong in doing so, and they did (in my view) overreact by adopting the One Percent Doctrine, but they could point to the assessments of virtually all of the intelligence agencies in the West.

      BTW, for what is worth I reject the One Percent Doctrine as a basis for US foreign policy. I have long always maintained that the Weinberger Doctrine is a more rational approach to the use of force by the U.S. As I have written in the past, the Bush adventure in Iraq never met the key tests of the Weinberger Doctrine and was, consequently, a mistaken overreach.

      Jefferson

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