The Persistence of Stupid

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Bush Administration

So this morning I crank up the laptop and cruise over to Memeorandum to see what blog folks are talking about today, and what do I see but a big headline —

And I’m thinkin’, wow, that’s gonna crank up the righties. And sure enough, a bunch of ’em are pumpin’ their fists and dancin’ a victory boogaloo and hollerin’ YEAH! Eat that, lefties! HOO-yah!

I keep reading, and find that this is not a new discovery, but an account of some stuff found in Iraq since May 2004. And it wasn’t exactly “500 chemical weapons,” as Fox News reported, but 500 chemical weapons shells. These shells contained old, degraded mustard OR sarin “nerve agents” dating from before the Gulf War, but for some reason nobody was interested enough to analyze the stuff to find out for sure what it was. The declassified document detailing the “discovery” — released by our old pal John Negroponte, note — is artfully vague about how much toxin was actually contained in the shells and what condition the toxin was in. Or even exactly what it was.

Apparently Rick Santorum, whose Senate career is in its final throes, got his hands on a classified document from the National Ground Intelligence Center. He pulled key points out of the document and had them declassified, and then made a big whoop-dee-doo announcement that he had in his hand proof that there were WMDs in Iraq, plus a list of 205 Communist agents known to work in the State Department. And here are the key points:

Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.

Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.

Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.

The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.

The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental shortage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.

It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

Even at 7:30 in the morning my critical reading skills are acute enough to determine that this document doesn’t say shit.

“Munitions are assessed to still exist.”

We’re guessin’ there’s some stuff we haven’t found yet.

“Chemical weapons could be sold in the black market.”

We’re not sayin’ they have been sold on the black market, but ya never know.

“Possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.”

Hey, anything’s possible.

“The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.”

That or individually packaged golden spongecakes wrapped around creamy vanilla fillings made with high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings.

“The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors.”

But we ain’t tellin’ you how pure the stuff we found was. You just have to guess.

“Insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.”

And they want nukes and fighter jets and great big battleships, too. And a palace on the Tigris River. And Brittney Spears for their third wife.

I mean, who’s stupid enough to fall for this? Oh, wait …

Fox News summarized the findings for its news consumers, thus:

The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

And the righties wonder why we dump on Faux Nooz.

News Hounds (“We watch FOX so you don’t have to”) provides a blow-by-blow of the doin’s at the Un-News Network:

What a coincidence that one week after Karl Rove urged Republicans not to make excuses for going to war against Iraq and to put critical Democrats on the defensive, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), 18 points behind in his re-election efforts, and representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) suddenly came up with some report that 500 chemical weapons have been found in Iraq. Almost the entire hour of Hannity & Colmes last night (6/21/06) was devoted to this “discovery” despite the fact that FOX News’ own Jim Angle had already reported that the Bush administration said the weapons were not in usable condition and were not the WMD’s for which we went to war.

Got that? The Bush administration said the weapons were not in usable condition and were not the WMDs for which we went to war. But what the hell do they know?

The entire show was filled with “FOX News Alerts” about the report. “This is exactly what we suspected he had,” Hannity crowed, before adding, falsely, “This is only a part of why we went into Iraq.” But he never asked either Santorum or Hoekstra, both of whom appeared on the show, about the administration’s response or the likely degraded condition of the chemical weapons.

In fact, it wasn’t until Alan Colmes’ portion of the discussion that Jim Angle’s reporting was even mentioned. “Jim Angle, who reported this for FOX News, quotes a defense official who says these were pre-1991 weapons that could not have been fired as designed because they’d already been degraded and the official went on to say these are not the WMD’s this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had and not the WMD’s for which this country went to war. So the chest-beating that the Republicans are doing tonight, thinking this is a justification is not confirmed by the Defense Department.”

And speaking of coincidences — what a coincidence that John Negroponte had a hand in this! Negroponte was also behind last March’s “junk intelligence” escapade, also known as Dumbo Document Dump; see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Essentially, from time to time Negroponte pulls a toy rabbit around a track and lets the righties get some exercise by running in circles, chasing it.

I took all this in, and then made some coffee, and then sat down to consider the burning question of our time — how stupid are Bush supporters, really? This goes way beyond your average left the keys in the car stupid, which plagues the best of us from time to time. There’s something more primordial going on here. In some cases, IMO, we’re looking at simple turtle crossing an interstate stupid. You can’t really blame them for it. In other cases we may be dealing with more exotic forms of cognitive handicaps, however, such as I’m getting messages from Mars stupid, or the cookbook said to separate the yolk from the white so I boiled the egg first stupid.

By now most of the rabbit chasers have moved on to the next phase of the exercise, which is wondering why the Bush White House hadn’t said something about this sooner? Some of the results are real knee-slappers, but as I have to be somewhere pretty soon I will have to save that post for another time.

Update: Digby takes another look at stupid.

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39 Comments

  1. NeoJoe  •  Jun 22, 2006 @9:46 am

    Maha…

    I love the analogy of Negraponte letting the rabbit out so righties can chase it. Did you see the suit Ricky Santorum was wearing the other day, all fusia and pink and lilac? Not that I have anything against those colors…I’m just thinking Ricky” Easter Bunny” Santorum time.,,,off to do a little photoshopping… thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Steve M.  •  Jun 22, 2006 @10:12 am

    Why is spreading this half-truth-as-disinformation any stupider than spreading the original half-truth-as-disinformation that got us into this war in the first place? Santorum and Fox and the righty bloggers don’t have to believe any of this nonsense — they just have to send a story out that will, when it’s retold at the backyard barbecue over the 4th, be rendered as follows: “See, that’s where you’re wrong, my liberal friend. The WMDs were found. They were there. You think they weren’t found because the liberal media and the America-hating Democrats in Congress told you they weren’t. They’re the real liars. Thank God for the GOP.”

  3. Swami  •  Jun 22, 2006 @11:00 am

    9 dead today..5 in Iraq and 4 in Afganhistan.

  4. Kevin Wohlmut  •  Jun 22, 2006 @11:00 am

    “Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of nonthought.” — Milan Kundera

    Sorry, Maha, but this is absolutely NOT stupidity. This is an intentional, sophisticated, and complicated effort, as per the Kundera quote above.

    These people — from Bush, down through Hannity and O’Reilly, etc., all the way down to some of my own friends and relatives… what they desire is a simple, comforting narrative. This narrative says that the United States is the source and font of all good in the world; America is never the aggressor, always the victim of aggression, responding in a justified manner; Republican politicans are patriotic and never lie; in the long run America never makes an important mistake nor exploits nor oppresses anyone; our soldiers spread happiness and freedom wherever they go.

    As George Lakoff has pointed out, it is useless to show these people facts which contradict this narrative, because these people will go to any length they have to, rhetorically and mentally, in order to preserve this narrative. The mere acceptance of a fact that has been viewed, involves some small amount of decision, and these people will always make the decision to interpret things according to their narrative.

    The chemical weapons are one example, but another example is: their narrative says that Saddam denied access to the U.N. Weapons inspectors (when in fact he did not). Look at how far George Bush is willing to go in order to maintain this narrative:

    November 27, 2002: Saddam permits U.N. Weapons Inspectors complete access to sites of their choice in Iraq, including sites such as palaces where they were not allowed before. Inspectors find nothing significant.

    March 18, 2003: War begins.

    July 14, 2003: Bush says “We gave him (Saddam Hussein) a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

    January 27, 2004: Bush says, “And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution — 1441 — unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.”

    Presidential Debate, September 30, 2004: Bush says “And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment. … We tried diplomacy. We did our best.” (Again, Saddam would disarm and disclose — what, exactly? A bunch of rusting shells he had basically thrown in the trash?)

    March 21, 2006: Bush says, “We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did.” ( video )

    May 27, 2006: Bush addresses Annapolis: “When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime.”

    I have been showing these quotes to my Bush-supporter friends and relatives for years, and they just answer me, “Well, uh, slip-of-the-tongue, you know, Bush isn’t a liar.” I think Bush is not the only one who rewrites reality. Many Bush supporters, I suspect, simply wanted to kill Arabs after 9/11, indiscriminate of whether there was any connection — but they know they can’t get caught saying that in public, and so in order to avoid even the chance of making a slip, they re-write history in their own minds.

    (I recall several other instances of this, but I should be working right now and don’t have time to back them all up with links. Still, let’s not forget:
    March 19, 2004: Donald Rumsfeld — “In September 2002, President Bush went to the United Nations, which gave Iraq still another ‘final opportunity’ to disarm and to prove it had done so… Saddam Hussein passed up that final opportunity. Only then, after every peaceful option had been exhausted, did the president and our coalition partners order the liberation of Iraq”.
    May 16, 2005: Scott McClellan, then-Whitehouse spokesman — “Saddam Hussein was the one, in the end, who chose continued defiance. And only then was the decision made, as a last resort, to go into Iraq.” )

    This is not stupidity, this is intentional reconstruction of the narrative, and it takes great effort. Stupidity, by comparison, is very easy. These people choose to rewrite history in their own minds. They choose to see these obsolete, junked chemical detrius as proof that Bush Was Right, America Was Honest, America Acted in Self-Defense, and so on. The Narrative Was Right.

    This sort of thing lends a lot of credence to the quote from unidentified sources about how the Bush Administration {sic} believes it can rewrite reality…

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    …and, if you don’t like the way you actually performed when confronted with history — hey, create your own reality ! You’ve got a second chance ! In your own minds, anyway. Note the use of the word “We”, implying that others in the White House believe that (a) America is an Empire, and (b) The White House can modify reality in any way it wishes.

    I just hope that, in late 2008, the 22nd Amendment doesn’t simply get written out of Bush-based reality. “The Amendments skip from 21 to 23, Original Intent and all that, the Founding Fathers didn’t really mean for a successful president to get replaced simply with the passage of a few years. You were just imagining what they taught you in grade-school Civics class.”

  5. maha  •  Jun 22, 2006 @11:19 am

    simple, comforting narrative

    Yeah, I hear you. I went off on narratives a couple of days ago. But then you have to wonder how people who seem to be bright enough to dress themselves could continue to fall for the narratives, over and over again.

    This may be related to “premeditated incompetence syndrome,” or the tendency of perfectly intelligent men to forget how to run a vacuum or a dishwasher as soon as they persuade their girlfriends to move in with them. It’s a volitional stupidity, in other words.

  6. Steve M.  •  Jun 22, 2006 @11:32 am

    you have to wonder how people who seem to be bright enough to dress themselves could continue to fall for the narratives, over and over again.

    History is written by the victors. They intend to be those victors. If they crush us, as they fully intend to, all this will be the truth, as far as anyone will be able to determine.

  7. Devil's Advocate  •  Jun 22, 2006 @12:21 pm

    The DOD (!) debunked Santorum’s little story yesterday. Loudly and clearly.

    And the righties are still doing a jig? Those rubes will believe anything that is handed them. Worse, they’ll choose to believe anything that may appear to support their demented and delusional view of the world.

    What a bunch of freaks!

  8. steve duncan  •  Jun 22, 2006 @12:39 pm

    These are the same idiots that believe some ethereal supreme being knows exactly what brand of toilet paper they wipe their ass with.

  9. Swami  •  Jun 22, 2006 @1:04 pm

    Maha is right.. they are just chasing Negroponte’s mechanical rabbit around the track. Defeat in Iraq has already occurred in the domain of reality and some people, like Santorum, are still trying to resist reality’s dictates.
    Santorum is trapped in the quicksand of desperation that makes stupidity appear as a respectable option. Who was the cartoon character that used the line…”You’re pathetic”?

  10. joanr16  •  Jun 22, 2006 @1:25 pm

    Swami, was it Daffy Duck?

    I wanna see Ricky Insanitorum’s Easter-egg suit!

  11. sisyphus  •  Jun 22, 2006 @2:08 pm

    Denial is not a river in Egypt.
    It’s a powerful psychological mechanism to shield our psyche from the truth.

  12. NeoJoe  •  Jun 22, 2006 @2:12 pm

    Rickie “Easter-Bunny” Santorum http://athousandwordsworth.blogspot.com/2006/06/more-candy-from-easter-bunny-santorum.html

    Note: The suit is a Santorum original!

  13. Swami  •  Jun 22, 2006 @4:22 pm

    Regarding the here, here, here and here links…I wonder if Michelle Malkin ever raised her Army of Translators? I would have volunteered, but I don’t read or speak Arabic. I only know one word in Arabic, العراقية, it means an unhinged moonbat.

    NeoJoe..Great photoshop.

    joanr16..Thanks for remembering,..I loved Daffy,he was my favorite.. Now that you’ve brought him to recall, I can picture him saying..”quit yur slobbering!” What a great experience for our youth.

  14. Guav  •  Jun 22, 2006 @4:53 pm

    We first heard about these even earlier than May 2004, because I posted in my journal about them in January 2004.

  15. joanr16  •  Jun 22, 2006 @6:10 pm

    NeoJoe, hilarious bunnification of the Rickster!

    Swami, technically, it was more like “Quit yur thththlobbering!” if I’m remembering it right. I’m sure Daffy would say these propagandist wannabes are abtholutely pathetic!

  16. Donna  •  Jun 22, 2006 @6:13 pm

    The righties grasp at these pathetic pseudo-stories because they are terrified of being wrong. Weenies so desperate to protect their fragile egos, they wrap themselves in cellophane armor provided by Negroponte [who is obviously a Republican more focused on the upcoming election than on serving the country].
    Hey, righties, try duck tape, it is more opaque than cellophane and your weeniehood won’t be so exposed.

  17. chas  •  Jun 22, 2006 @7:46 pm

    Has anyone wondered why the religious right is SO afraid of evolution? (I am going to make a relevant point here, just hang with me for a second).

    It’s because–if Richard Dawkins is even half-right–if evolutionary
    biologists and other hard scientists go much further, they may very well conclusively disprove the existence of any kind of god as described in the Bible. God as understood by most christianists. In other words, contemporary research into evolutionary science promises to falsify the entire world-view of every nut-case christianist out there. This terrifies them, so they fight evolution as hard as they can. And no wonder.

    Same goes for GOP politicians and Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The lie has to be repeated and re-inforced, by any means necessary, or else the entire geopolitical justification for going to war goes right down the toilet. They know it. We know it. So, any lie in a storm, you know?

    also, leave us not forget: people routinely DIE for mistaken beliefs. It’s been happening ever since we crawled up out of the primordial muck and developed forebrains. Humans will die for their beliefs, all the time, and for no good reason, other than they’re too frightened of the prospect of giving up those beliefs to do anything else.

    Of course, most of the GOP now is solely interested in hanging onto power. What they believe may, in fact, be irrelevant to the much more basic drive to dominate. The GOP wants to keep on telling us all what to do, and they’ll tell any lie they have to tell, to keep on ruling. Hitler understood this well, btw.

  18. erinyes  •  Jun 22, 2006 @10:04 pm

    Screw the Iraqi vintage mustard gas shells, ask Santorum who pulled off the WMD attack a’la Anthrax pre Shock ‘N Awe!I want THAT question answered, it’s been over three years, I want a goddamned answer! They got their war, it’s gone south with over 2500 killed, over 16,000 maimed, and no end in sight. We have a congress that cares more about their corporate sponsors than their electorate. So much for the land of the free and home of the brave. Santorum is a bloody idiot. I hope the people that voted the dipshit in throw his sorry lyin’ ass out. Santorum and his butt buddies are ruining our country, ship them to gitmo for a little of their own magic.

  19. Evil Progressive  •  Jun 22, 2006 @10:35 pm

    Santorum apparently keeps a fetus in a jar on his desk. How sick is that? That is on a par with Frist’s “adopting” cats from shelters only to practice vivisection on them. And did you read the WaPo article about Frist operating on gorillas and the “testosterone-dripping”… Yikes!

    Both Frist and Santorum are very sick freaks. Not only do they not belong in Congress, they do not belong in normal society. Both these guys should be locked away for life in institutions for the criminally insane.

  20. WildMonk  •  Jun 23, 2006 @1:54 am

    Lots of venom here so I doubt that I’ll have much impact but I’ll give it a shot.

    This announcement was not touted by the administration as proof that the Iraq war was justified. In fact, it has gone to some lengths so downplay that conclusion. And yet, Kevin would have us believe that this is just another example of Bush and the right-wingers trying to “rewrite” reality as an expression of power. We’re even treated to a full length deconstruction of the Bush administrations attempt to spin a narrative that is obviously false.

    The most critical “fact” in Kevin’s timeline is that Saddam gave full cooperation to the WMD inspectors who “find nothing.” This cooperation, of course, is followed by a bellicose Bush’s refusal to acknowledge the simple fact that Saddam *had* no weapons and a determination to go to war despite that fact. Thus, the lie, the spin, and the ultimate evil of this administration.

    And when do we get treated to this timeline? When it is now clear that, indeed, Saddam was not cooperating at all. Degraded as this find may be in 2006 (remember, Saddam first kicked out the inspectors in 1998) they are nearly dispositive evidence that Saddam indeed pursued a strategy of deception. Never mind the possibility that other, worse caches of WMD may have been moved – these chemical weapon shells should have been declared and destroyed under the UN’s disarmament resolutions (and no, they were not just shells, see below).

    And yet – it is “right wingers” who are ridiculed as unwilling to face reality? Indeed, they are *so* stupid – turtle on the highway stupid – that they don’t see the obvious attempt to create a counter-factual narrative right before their very eyes?

    Look, it is clear that this is not a huge cache of WMDs. It would not have justified the invasion as even the White House has made clear. But this is not exactly the time to go all misty-eyed over Saddam. Degraded though they were, their presence indicates clearly that your fundamental narrative of an innocent Saddam being picked on by the bully Bush is just wrong. Worse yet, you ignore the overall conclusion of the Dulfer report – that Saddam was reserving, at the very least, the strategic capability to regenerate his programs immediately on the withdrawal of the US/Allied presence in Iraq.

    Unbelievably – in a piece dedicated to exposing the creative lies of the Bush administration you turn around and do the exact same thing: your explanation rewrites a key passage in the Santorum memo to make it seem that it only says that “shells” are found and not chemical weapons. That is *not* what is says as anyone with the willingness to click the link will see.

    Man, this country needs a mature and thoughtful critique of current events and all we seem to get is vitriolic name-calling and arrogant assertions of cognitive superiority. I really wish you’d all step up as a real but loyal opposition to the true right-wing threats rather than spending all of your time in conspiracy theories.

  21. zeus  •  Jun 23, 2006 @2:08 am

    Ron –
    Are you a complete idiot?

    You didn’t care about WMD’s – who cares what you think. I think the parents, wives, sons, daughters, mothers & fathers of the 2500+ that gave their lives and the thousands that will never again live a normal life give a damn about WMDs – and the lack thereof.

    Faux News – what “official” do you refer to? Did you check out your good friend Hannity last night? He blows off your premise. How can you possibly know what the guest thinks – he doesn’t allow an alternative view – the blowhard.

    You point out that Bush didn’t use this info and therefore we lied – Bush didn’t use this info because he knew it wasn’t credible. If Bush, (or the guy that tucks him at 9:00 every night – Karl ‘turdblossom’ Rove) knew that it was politically useful, you can be sure the Rovester would have blasted this all over the airwaves. But he knows better than you -he realized that advertising this dismal piece of propaganda would only bring more shame on the camp that brought death and destruction to this country.

    And if you buy into the propaganda that we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here, watch the news tonight.

    As far as the “Where Is Osama” bumper sticker. Well – where is he?

  22. maha  •  Jun 23, 2006 @8:06 am

    zeus — Ron’s post may have been the incoherent antisemitic rant I deleted late last night.

  23. uncledad  •  Jun 23, 2006 @8:13 am

    Actually there was at least one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq as recently as June 13, 2006. His name is G.W. Bush.

  24. maha  •  Jun 23, 2006 @8:34 am

    This announcement was not touted by the administration as proof that the Iraq war was justified. In fact, it has gone to some lengths so downplay that conclusion. And yet, Kevin would have us believe that this is just another example of Bush and the right-wingers trying to “rewrite” reality as an expression of power.

    The administration catapults its propaganda to fit the audience. While the White House downplays conclusions for the general public, John Negroponte throws red meat to the greyhounds to keep them in line. And you puppies fall for it every time.

    When it is now clear that, indeed, Saddam was not cooperating at all.

    The UN inspectors had said they found no significant WMDs, and what turned up in Santorum’s little memo doesn’t refute that. Some old shell casings with degraded toxins were hardly a threat to global stability.

    Before the invasion the UN inspectors also said they were getting good cooperation from Saddam and his people as far as inspecting wherever they wanted to inspect. They weren’t getting documentation of what old munitions had or had not been destroyed or stored someplace, but it appears that’s largely because the Iraqis weren’t keeping documentation. Or, if they were, the documents were destroyed in the post-invasion looting that Donald Rumsfeld didn’t plan for.

    Saddam first kicked out the inspectors in 1998) they are nearly dispositive evidence that Saddam indeed pursued a strategy of deception.

    Of course he was. He didn’t want the world to know that he really didn’t have a significant stockpile of weapons, because that would have made him vulnerable. So he played a maybe I’ve got some, maybe I don’t game. But had Bush allowed the weapons inspectors to keep working a few more months, they would have determined that Saddam was bluffing.

    And yet – it is “right wingers” who are ridiculed as unwilling to face reality? Indeed, they are *so* stupid – turtle on the highway stupid – that they don’t see the obvious attempt to create a counter-factual narrative right before their very eyes?

    You got it.

    Degraded though they were, their presence indicates clearly that your fundamental narrative of an innocent Saddam being picked on by the bully Bush is just wrong.

    Straw man. I defy you to find any thing I (or anyone on this thread) have ever written that says Saddam was “innocent.” I suspect he’s a psychopath, in fact. A nasty bugger. I remember when Saddam gassed the Kurds at Halabja, and I also remember how disgusted I was that the Reagan administration sat back and gave Saddam a pass for that.

    However, he was no threat to the United States or even to the Middle East, and he was not supporting al Qaeda at any level. On America’s list of stuff we ought to do to make the world a better place, deposing Saddam Hussein may have been number 68 or so, assuming containment stopped working. But instead he becomes priority number one, and now we’re dumping $6 to $9 billion a month in Iraq while other priorities are being ignored.

    That, son, is way stupid. You’ve got to be a flaming imbecile not to see that.

    your explanation rewrites a key passage in the Santorum memo to make it seem that it only says that “shells” are found and not chemical weapons. That is *not* what is says as anyone with the willingness to click the link will see.

    I said they were shells that contained degraded gas that might have been sarin or mustard gas, which is exactly what the memo says. Learn to read.

    Man, this country needs a mature and thoughtful critique of current events and all we seem to get is vitriolic name-calling and arrogant assertions of cognitive superiority.

    Coming from the Right, yes. That’s all one ever sees coming from the Right. But if I toss some of the crap back back now and then and you don’t like it — well, son, you can kiss my ass.

  25. D.R. Marvel  •  Jun 23, 2006 @8:56 am

    One “small” quibble, Maha…

    The Reagan administration didn’t just give Saddam a “pass” on gassing the Kurds…They gave him the goddam Gas and the means to deliver it…

    And by “gave”, I do mean gave…All the chemical weapons and the delivery systems for them – such as American-manufactured helicopters fitted with spray rigs – were “purchased” by Saddam and paid for by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture “Commodity Credits” (which are supposed to be used for agricultural products: grains, etc.) through the BCCI in Atlanta…

    These assholes have always been criminals…

  26. Kirstie  •  Jun 23, 2006 @9:19 am

    What is frustrating to me most of all is that I notice a really harmful trend-namely that republicans will latch onto a story like this. Then, another story that disproves or counters it will be completely ignored. This has been happening for over four years even at the very basic everyday level. It is frustrating because by ignoring the facts which cancel out their previously released stories, we’ll end up with history books stating that Bush was the Superman of the Middle East and that Joe Wilson was a terrorist.

  27. James  •  Jun 23, 2006 @10:52 am

    Woody Allen had it right long ago. Remember the movie Manhattan and the party scene? Can’t remember the exact dialogue but it was in regards to Neo-nazis marching in NY and the pseudo-intellectuals talking about a great op-ed piece in response to the neo-Nazis. Woody’s character pointed out that baseball bats were the only thing that worked on Nazis. Same applies to Bush supporters.

  28. Ian  •  Jun 23, 2006 @10:53 am

    WildMonk….

    From the Iraq Survey Group final report…

    “While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.”

    “ISG assesses that Iraq and Coalition Forces will continue to discover small numbers of degraded chemical weapons, which the former Regime mislaid or improperly destroyed prior to 1991. ISG believes the bulk of these weapons were likely abandoned, forgotten and lost during the Iran-Iraq war because tens of thousands of CW munitions were forward deployed along frequently and rapidly shifting battlefronts.

    As the Coalition destroys the thousands of conventional munitions at depots around the country the possibility exists that pre-1991 vintage chemical rounds could be found mixed in with conventional munitions at these locations.”

    In other words, these shells don’t prove anything at all. Accordinmg to ISG, they were abandoned, forgotton, and/or lost during the Iran/Iraq war.

    -me

  29. WildMonk  •  Jun 23, 2006 @11:18 am

    Maha –

    The first dated item on Kevin’s timeline is clearly an exoneration of Saddam; not as “innocent” of the charges of being a thug and a murderer but as “innocent” of having WMDs. Any alternative that you provide renders the rest of the timeline insensible. Worse, the entire worldview I see expressed here depends on very selective use of context: it was the consensus opinion of all major intel organizations that Saddam had these weapons. Instead of dealing with that fact, you appear to be deconstructing the entire situation in 2003 so it revolves *entirely* around the inspector’s opinions that they should keep looking. Honestly, I don’t blame you – it is an important inflection point in the history of the war and, in retrospect, it stands as an important warning of what was to come. In your rush to cast the administration as evil and its supporters as stupid, however, you gloss over a mass of facts and context that you simply don’t want to deal with.

    Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated then in the assertion that Hannity’s claim that WMD were only one part of the rationale for war was “false.” Again, you can look at just Powell’s presentation to the UN and – by blocking out everything else – make your case that WMD were the only substantive justification for war. I think that this is a bad argument – I won’t let you be that selective because the fact is that Bush’s major addresses to the Congress and the American people ALL presented on a range of reasons for war, including the liberation of the Iraqi people. I know this doesn’t fit your narrative but it is a matter of public record. The simple fact is that you are wrong when you assert that the sole rationale for war was the presence of WMDs.

    Finally, the idea that Saddam was not a threat to the region is incredibly short-sighted. Do you really believe that? Under what timeline? In the short-term, no, he wasn’t. But under longer timelines it is crystal clear that he was very likely to prove a threat. Now, I think it *entirely reasonable* to argue that limited, selective actions at key points in time would have had all the effect that we needed to keep Saddam in a cage. There was a perfectly reasonable argument to be made against this war. But there were also perfectly reasonable arguments to be made – in 2003 – for why military action to remove Saddam was the only way to create a revolution in consciousness among the Arabic peoples that would undercut the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism and to secure the region from Saddam’s future ambitions.

    I supported the war and its rationale in 2003 out of the same pro-democracy idealism that I believe that Bush pursued it (ok, pick yourself up off the floor and stop laughing…). In retrospect, I’ve come to the conclusion that the decision was, at best, a mixed bag. We did prevent a future Saddam from developing weapons, disarm Ghaddafi, and unrolled the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. We have a clearer idea of how al Queda operates and its relationship to the states and peoples of the Arab world and we’ve learned a great deal about how to operate in that environment both militarily and as a force for civil order. However, the underlying rationale – a revolution in consciousness – must be admitted a failure. While there were hopeful signs during the Cedar Revolution and the Iraqi elections, the authoritarian impulse among Islamic people appears to run wide and deep. This may simply be too big a task. Despite improvements in our operational capabilities (the civil order capabilities spoken of above), there is simply too much disorder – spawned primarily by the Shia and Kurds seeking revenge, btw – for us to bring it all under control.

    I (and others who believed as I did) may well have been way too naive about the *civil* challenges that awaited us in Iraq. And yet I don’t count the war a failure for a very simple reason – we still do not know what the long-term political evolution of the region holds in store. There is no revolution but, beneath the struggle we see played out in the news, there are hopeful signs of an evolution toward a new mind set. This is an epochal moment in history and the full measure of its effects may not be known for a century or more. It is *incredibly* short-sighted to look at the violence and disorder spawned by the release of these ethnic and religious disputes today and to simply conclude that they’ll go on forever. All of history works against that conclusion.

    Thus, the real question is: what civil framework will be perceived as legitimate in the Middle East when you and I are talking to grandkids? How will this affect the long-term balance of power and rate of violence in the world? It would be extremely presumptive to assert that you know the answer to these questions and thus extremely presumptive to assert that we’ve “failed” in Iraq.

    A closing note: first, I surf lots of right-wing and lots of left-wing sites. This one seems quite typical of the left in that you have the idea that it is perfectly ok to indulge in vile insults because “that is all the right ever does” (what was it you said to me? ah yes, I can kiss your ass – lol). Can you find anywhere that I’ve been rude to you or your compatriots? And yet you respond to me as if you are talking to an exemplar of a class rather than a live human being. I certainly see bad behavior on the right – claims of “moonbattery” and such – but it is extremely rare to see the level of vitriol and derision that I see here, DU and Kos. Think about that – and think about whether you really want your site to be a mere echo chamber where your daily contribution to the world is to reduce your fellow human beings to mere objects so that you can vilify and mob them.

  30. erinyes  •  Jun 23, 2006 @11:22 am

    Bravo to Maha and D.R. Marvel!

  31. WildMonk  •  Jun 23, 2006 @11:25 am

    Marvel –

    Do you really believe that the Reagan administration gave Saddam all the tools to gas the Kurds knowing that they would do so? This is an extremely serious charge. It is also, quite simply, false.

    Are we supposed to stop providing agricultural products to all the world because some sicko might somehow use them for evil? Jeez, cut off all agricultural exports and we’d be pilloried for starving the world. Permit them and be pilloried when something is misused to evil effect. Kind of a convenient, all purpose rationale for hating people, no? More to the point, we did *not* provide the chemical weaponry that Saddam used when he gassed the Kurds – he manufactured that himself after having received help and knowhow of the Soviets during the Iran/Iraq war.

    Truly, you should stop seeking our the political porn that stokes your hatreds.

  32. Renne P.  •  Jun 23, 2006 @12:04 pm

    Wildmonk, you’ve every right to be condescending and holier-than-thou all you want, and MaHa has every right to be short and curt to you. One thing to note however: the current right created the current left. While bloggers like dkos, atrios, digby and marshall are putting post after post of actual facts forward, the right-wing blogs of malkin, lgf and blogsforbush are calling the left unpatriotic, treasonous and traitors. If you’re not seeing the hatred and anger on the right then it’s by choice. The right chose the path of divisiveness as opposed to inclusion to obtain and keep power, and the left is responding in kind. It is regrettable that you feel like a man out of place, but if you see absolutely no cause for the current level of anger on the left, you are completely, completely out of your mind. Please spend some time on the right-wing blogs and criticize their words as well, and you will perhaps find a lessening of such words on the left in response.

  33. maha  •  Jun 23, 2006 @12:52 pm

    The first dated item on Kevin’s timeline is clearly an exoneration of Saddam; not as “innocent” of the charges of being a thug and a murderer but as “innocent” of having WMDs.

    The first dated item on Kevin’s timeline is clearly a statement of fact. Saddam Hussein *did* allow weapons inspectors in, and according to Hans Blix’s report to the UN, they found “nothing significant.” And the old cannisters listed on Santorum’s document don’t change that.

    When you use a word like “innocent” without qualifying what an individual is innocent of, you’ll excuse me if if I assume you mean “innocent of being a badass in general.” But in fact Saddam Hussein did allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq late in 2002, even though to this day Bush says he had to order the invasion because Saddam Hussein did not allow weapons inspectors in Iraq.

    Worse, the entire worldview I see expressed here depends on very selective use of context: it was the consensus opinion of all major intel organizations that Saddam had these weapons.

    You’re the one who’s being selective, dear. Although there was consensus going back to the late 1990s that Saddam Hussein *probably* had chemical and biological weapons (but not nukes), nobody knew for sure, and the UN inspectors were being allowed into everyplace they wanted to inspect and were not finding anything. So before the invasion the consensus was already beginning to waver.

    Instead of dealing with that fact, you appear to be deconstructing the entire situation in 2003 so it revolves *entirely* around the inspector’s opinions that they should keep looking.

    Hindsight shows us that would have been the right decision, and it would have been the decision supported by most of the nations of the world at the time. A whole lot of poeple around the globe believed Bush was jumping the gun, and now we know he was.

    In your rush to cast the administration as evil and its supporters as stupid, however, you gloss over a mass of facts and context that you simply don’t want to deal with.

    No, that’s what you do, as I believe I’ve amply demonstrated in this and the other posts I’ve written about the Iraq War since 2003.

    Can you find anywhere that I’ve been rude to you or your compatriots?

    You’re the one who snarked at my for snarking at righties in the original post, and I’m saying I’m not apologizing for that until all the righties who have smeared lefties over the years apologize for it.

    Now, please note that The Mahablog motto is, “I ain’t your monkey.” That means that, although I may choose to answer rightie comments up to a point, I refuse to be made to write paragraph after paragraph in a comments thread when I have a large body of work on this topic already. And you’ve gone over your monkey minutes.

    If you actually care what I think (and I seriously doubt you do), you are welcome to google the following:

    site:www.mahablog.com Iraq

    and read what I’ve already written.

  34. erinyes  •  Jun 23, 2006 @1:07 pm

    “Monkey Minutes”?
    I love it!

  35. joanr16  •  Jun 23, 2006 @1:30 pm

    WildMonk – rude, no. Incoherent, yes.

  36. Ian  •  Jun 23, 2006 @4:22 pm

    Three quick things — first, I always find it extremely weird when people try to convince me that the WMDs were not the ONLY rationale for the war, they were just a PART of the ratonale … I mean, it was only a few years ago, I *lived* through it, I REMEMBER what was said and what wasn’t… Why do these people think I’ll just disregard what I *know* happened because I was *there* at the time? Just weird … a lot of things were said by a lot of politicians, among them that saddam was a bad guy who gassed his own people, etc and so on, but these were all just flourishes to the main point, which was the WMDs. They were all “and not only that, but XYZ too, so we’re doubly good in invading!”

    Second,

    “But there were also perfectly reasonable arguments to be made – in 2003 – for why military action to remove Saddam was the only way to create a revolution in consciousness among the Arabic peoples that would undercut the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism and to secure the region from Saddam’s future ambitions.”

    Um … what? What fountainhead of Islamic terrorism are we talking about here?

    Third,
    if you really think that *this* is as vitriolic as the kind of thing you see on most rightie sites, you’re blind. Maha isn’t usually even this vitriolic, I think she’s just astounded that many righties seem to be falling for this. As for DU, well, I kinda think of them like the left mirror image of Little Green Footballs. The two kinda cancel each other out. And dkos, it’s my impression that the actual bloggers are not all that vitriolic, but the commenters can be at times. I don’t think you can really count that… But the right has us beat even there. The right has us beat in every way when it comes to hatred, ugliness, and vitriol, by a long country mile.

    Fourth,

    “Do you really believe that the Reagan administration gave Saddam all the tools to gas the Kurds knowing that they would do so?”

    Of COURSE he did, don’t be foolish. That was not, of course, the PURPOSE of giving him the stuff … we didn’t want Iran to win the Iran-Iraq war, it looked for a time like they would, so we did everything we could think of to help Iraq short of actually invading then. That included the gas. Now, we knew even then that the guy was a brutal dictator, we knew even then that he was liable to commit any and every atrocity to further his own power. We just didn’t like Islamic Iran more than we didn’t like brutal but secular Iraq. And, (and this is the important bit), the Kurds had actually revolted, had thrown their lot in with Iran, had given Iran help in the war. Given what we already knew about Saddam, what happened to the Kurds following the war was depressingly inevitable. We could have, and should have tried to prevent Saddam from taking revenge on the Kurds, but we didn’t.Saddam was our buddy at the time, so we helped cover up what was going on at the time. Really, the Shi’a who rebelled following the Gulf war should have seen how we didn’t help the Kurds, should have guessed we wouldn’t help them either.

    -me

  37. erinyes  •  Jun 23, 2006 @5:42 pm

    On top of all that Ian said, according to Greg Palast in “Armed Madhouse”, Saddam had the nerve to mess with crude oil prices by flooding the market one month and holding out the next, creating a yoyo effect which really pissed off the big oil boys.
    Between the bankers, big oil, and the neocons, Saddam sealed his fate…a more powerful and real axis of evil prevailed.

  38. WildMonk  •  Jun 25, 2006 @10:42 pm

    Maha and Ian,

    Thanks again for writing back.

    I have one central point that I hope that you’ll consider and then everything else is kind of secondary.

    Ian makes a comment that just absolutely stopped me in my tracks. He asks “What fountainhead of Islamic terrorism are we talking about here?” Well, Ian, this is *the* central justification for pressing for Democratic reform in Iraq and elsewhere in the region!! I don’t expect you to know this but it is a point that I hammered home for over a year in my blog. In the failed states of the Middle East, genuine political discourse and debate have been crushed under decades of thuggish rule. The only political expression in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia that was *not* crushed mercilessly were the calls of the radical Islamists and this was only under the condition that they be directed at Israel and the West (Egypt, Algeria and Khaddafi’s Libya took a much harder line on the Islamists – the Jordanians are a unique case). In essence, the police states not only produced the pressure of discontent, they also consciously funnelled it into anti-Americanism of a particularly virulent and, yes, Islamist bent. In Afghanistan and Iran, they took it to the point of outright material support for terrorists. Iraq was not immune to this either: there is quite a bit of philosophical overlap between the Islamism of, say, Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood and Saddam’s Baathist party. I am always amazed by those who claim that Saddam would never have anything to do with the Islamists – it simply isn’t true. Why do you think he felt the need to change the Iraqi flag to read “There is no God but Allah” in his own personal script? More importantly, the philosophical overlap is obvious: Islamism isn’t a purely Muslim expression; it’s development was strongly influenced by the radical European socialists of the time. It is right there in the founding documents of the Muslim brotherhood! And the Baathists are – say it together – Socialists with a strong Islamic bent.

    The Saudis are simply corrupt. They are, on the ideological front, the worst offenders. However, we simply have no pretext for forcing change there and little ability to do so even if we wanted to. The demographics of its people and the popularity of Wahhabism make Saudi Arabia a total mess.

    Ok – that is all background. The theory is that, by opening up the political process – by removing the pressure exerted by failed political systems – the entire system would grow far less supportive of the radical Islam. Could it work? There are reasons for doubt as I wrote above but you have to admit that it is an audacious plan: it is a direct, ideological assault on the roots of radical Islamism. It is an assertion that freedom is fundamentally preferable to oppression – even oppression justified by appeals to the Islamic faith. More importantly, after a century of “realpolitik” – of attempting to manipulate the region with cynical disregard for our own founding beliefs – it is extraordinarily bold and idealistic. Wise and effective? Maybe not. Bold? Absolutely.

    By your own statement it appears that you aren’t even aware of any of this! No wonder you are left with only the most cynical of explanations. I would strongly suggest that you learn more about the entire history of the region and the nature of the ideological battle before you go calling everyone else stupid.

    Ok – well, the rest of this is kind of minor compared to that…just details.

    My point regarding context is very simple: WMDs were an important but not the sole rationale for the invasion. Ian, you say that you “lived through” the run-up to the war and that all the rationales that you saw were based on WMD. I blogged the entire run-up so I believe otherwise. Ok – we don’t agree. So my suggestion is that you look at the Congressional Record from the debates through the authorization. Go ahead – it is a matter of public record. Remember, the important thing is not what the Press said or what you think you remember. What you’ll find is that the record affirms my point completely. You can remember differently but you simply cannot rewrite the document, my friends.

    On my own blog (now defunct) I pressed the humanitarian case and quoted Bush (as well as several Democrats) at some length to make my case. I also strongly believed (still do) that the danger wasn’t the specific stockpiles already in place but the fact that we couldn’t let a man of this nature remain in power having thumbed his nose at the U.N.’s mandate after the end of Gulf War I. Doing so would, in essence, say that “we don’t really know if you have WMDs or plans to use them against us but we’re just too weak, corrupt and distracted to do anything about it.” What kind of precedent does that set amongst people who brag about glorying in their own deaths if they can just take a few of us down with them?

    I guess we all see what we want to.

    I also find another of Ian’s statements very revealing. With respect to Saddam gassing the Kurds he takes it as self-evident that Republicans – or the Reagan administration in particular – would support the wholesale slaughter of the Kurds (“of course he did, don’t be foolish”). This is madness. Reagan (and America generally) did NOT want Iran rising to a position of dominance in the Gulf region (they were *the* dominant Islamist challenge at the time) so we did certainly provide some help to him in that war. This is a far cry from directly helping him gas his own people. It is amazing to me that people like Ian blame America when Russia and France provided far, far more in the way of material support to Iraq. Our total contribution of hardward was valued at less than 2% of the total help offered Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war and consisted almost entirely of dual use stuff. And yet, somehow, the Kurds’ blood is on our hands? Seriously, shouldn’t you at least note the corrupt hands of the old European elite before you begin blaming America? When the right decries the “America-hating Left” this is exactly the kind of thing they are talking about.

    As to whether the Right or Left does more hating, I guess that one is all a matter of perception. It certainly floored me to see the crap thrown at Clinton during the 90’s and I think a lot of this is a matter of payback. But still, I’d just like to see a lot less of it everywhere.

  39. maha  •  Jun 25, 2006 @10:57 pm

    Ian makes a comment that just absolutely stopped me in my tracks. He asks “What fountainhead of Islamic terrorism are we talking about here?” Well, Ian, this is *the* central justification for pressing for Democratic reform in Iraq and elsewhere in the region!!

    Yes, WildMonk, we know that’s the justification, but it’s a phony justification. Al Quaeda wasn’t active in Iraq until after we invaded it. Only about 7 percent of the fighters in Iraq now are from al Qaeda or affiliates; the rest are insurgents and, increasingly, Shiaa militia trying to kill off Sunnis.

    There’s a whole lot about what went on in Iraq that, obviously, you don’t know, and I don’t have the energy or inclination to educate you except to repeat my invitation to read the Maha archives on Iraq.

    Perhaps someone will be inspired to answer your comment here, but your monkey minutes are now officially up. So goodbye.

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