crypto and public policy

When is a Lie Really a Lie?

Filed under: General September 12, 2004 @ 8:02 pm

Bush and his team claimed that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and thus that Saddam threatened the US. That was a lie, as we know now. But that’s okay, says the Right, because Saddam was a really bad guy, and we needed to get rid of him. So the lie about the WMDs, not a big deal. The end is what matters: we needed Saddam out, and anything needed to get there – including lying – is okay.

Meanwhile, documents have surfaced claiming Bush got significant preferential treatment during the Vietnam War when he was assigned to the National Guard, then shirked his duties as a National Guardsman. “One Big Lie!” says the Right wing. Well, actually, that’s not quite what they’re saying. They’re saying the documents are fake, and they’re going on and on about the details of how fake these documents are. Interestingly enough, they’re not denying the actual claims, only a small subset of the documents.

So, let’s think about this one. In the first case, we should ignore the lie and focus on the claim – even though the claim amounts to little given the lie. In the second case, we should ignore the claim and focus on the lie – even though the supposedly-fake documents are not the only proof of this claim.

Yep, that’s consistent. The Ends Justify The Means, as long the ends are, you know, stamped with the Bush seal of approval.


  1. Arnold F Williams:

    Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    That was based on the best information available, and is well documented in UN reports. A lie is a statement tendered with the intent to decieve: to have someone else believe something which is not true. WMDs in Iraq was, pre-invasion, pretty good intelligence according to France, which feared the repercussions should Saddam use them.

    The case to invade Iraq is easily documented and not difficult to understand. WMDs were not the core of it to those of us who were after the root causes of September 11th.

    That the documents are fake presented by CBS is interesting to us because we don’t like people influencing elections by presenting fakes as news. With regard to what they portray, who cares? Think for a moment about that: from our perspective EVEN IF THE DOCUMENTS WERE TRUE, they’re not terribly useful in evaluating Bush. Four years ago, we heard all about the young, wild, irresponsible guy who changed his life at 40. Anything you report on the National Guard stint is pre-40 years old, and so, literally, just “old news” — yeah, he was a screwup when he was younger, yeah, he drove drunk, etc. But we are evaluating him for a job now. Bush’s credentials for the job is 4 years of performance, and that’s all that counts: the reason that we are stuck in Vietnam and other obscure locales with Kerry is that he has no comparable executive experience, and he’s trying to use these as a proxy for it, to give us a “feeling” for how he would do on the job. The National Guard stuff would have been more interesting 4 years ago. Now, it’s a yawn.

    In a parallel way, knowledge that Saddam had “shot his bolt” on wmds with his prior use would have been very useful before the invasion, though harder to establish, given the prevailing wisdom otherwise. It wouldn’t have stopped us from invading Iraq.

  2. Donald Larson:

    I stand behind President Bush’s war policies. Keep up the attacks on our enemies wherever they are.

    As for what happened in the Vietnam War by Bush or Kerry, it is not related to the situation America faces today. Most Americans realize that. A few people (Leftists) want to make “Custer’s Last Stand” over it, but I’m not one of them.


  3. Mike Watkins:

    “Bush’s credentials for the job is 4 years of performance, and that’s all that counts”

    Indeed, exactly correct.

    I’m surprised that the Democrats don’t just focus on Bush’s last four years, its all the indictment required.

    Is it really neccessary for me to remind you that 9/11 happened during Bush’s watch? Some record.

    The inattention to al Queda and the Bush dynasty’s focus on Iraq to the exclusion of all else — before 9/11 — proves quite simply that Bush is not up to the job.

    Yes, forget his record of years ago, focus instead on the screw ups he and his administration made in the more important present. And “root” causes of terrorism, LOL, do go on.

  4. Ole Eichhorn:

    Q. When is a lie really a lie?
    A. When the person telling the lie knows it is a lie while they’re telling it.

    To show something is actually a lie, you have to 1) show someone said something false, and 2) show they knew it was false when they said it.

    In regards Bush and Iraqi WMDs, I don’t think we’ve actually shown (1), have we? And we certainly haven’t shown (2).

    The reason we invaded Iraq was because of Saddam’s refusal to cooperate with eighteen U.N. resolutions demanding access for nuclear inspectors. Virtually the entire U.S. Senate backed this and approved miltary action in the event Iraq did not comply. Why does everyone forget that now? Whether or not Iraq had WMDs was not part of the rationale for miltary action, either then or now.

    In regards to Dan Rather and the forged Killian memos, there is little dispute about (1). The interesting thing is (2). Did Dan know the documents were forged? And there is a related question, if he didn’t know, should he have (in other words, should CBS have done more homework)?

    BTW, I am not an ardent Bush supporter. I voted for Gore and although I support the action in Iraq, I’m not a fan of Bush in general. I sure wish we had a better option this time around than Kerry….

  5. Michael:

    “Is it really neccessary for me to remind you that 9/11 happened during Bush’s watch? Some record.”

    And is it necessary to remind you, Mike, that 9/11 was preceded by the Cole, by the Khobar Towers, by the Embassy Bombings, and by the earlier attack on the World Trade Center.

    And what did the Clinton Administration do about these events? Not a great deal, since they considered it primary a law enforcement matter. But they did issue an indictment that among other things stated:

    In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

    It would seem to me that focusing attention on Iraq did not begin when Bush took office.

  6. Patrick Giagnocavo:

    Rather a simplistic analysis. Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry all claimed that SH had WMDs too. I suppose Karl Rove manipulated them into making those statements, hmm?

    The CBS/Killian documents ARE a fake, and you would think someone with even a small amount of computer knowledge would know this, much less someone like you, educated at MIT weren’t you? And who ran his own tech company for a few years?

    Alternatively, tell me how you get kerning and flawless centering of proportional spaced type from a 1970s era mechanical device, when the typist is someone who “didn’t type” according to his own family.

  7. Gideon:

    to lie: (verb) “To intentionally allowing someone else, who has a right to know the whole truth, believe (trough action or inaction) something else then the whole truth.”

  8. Cog:

    It would be a lie to say that Saddam complied with 1441. It would be a lie to say that Saddam complied with the Safwan peace agreement to stop the first Gulf War. It would be a lie to say that $25000 checks for suicide bombings does not equal Saddam support for terrorism. It would be a lie to say that Saddam did not rape/murder/torture countless thousands of Iraqis.

    I think you need to take another look at who exactly is not telling the truth. Your argument is so filled with logical fallacies it really is a non-starter for any responsible discussion.

  9. Ben Adida:

    Well, I have to say, many of these comments reflect exactly my point. CBS documents, bad kerning, person couldn’t type, they’re clearly false documents! Iraq, Saddam, bad guy, doesn’t matter about WMDs, doesn’t matter what was said, read this other explanation instead, no matter what Bush said repeatedly on TV!

    I know and understand that many people won’t change their minds. I just wish that instead of these bogus ad hominem attacks and strawman arguments, we had a real discussion. You know, things like:

    1) yes, Saddam is a bad man, but was going to war entirely necessary and were there any other options? Let’s DEBATE this, not just ignore it.

    2) how are we going to deal with other threats, now that we have alienated most of our allies?

    3) is Bush a person we can trust?

    My blog entry was meant to point out how we are all arguing about process instead of issues. It would be nice if we went back to the issues.

  10. Mike Watkins:

    Going after Saddam appears to be a Bush family agenda, and a Pearle / Rumsfeld / Wolfowitz wet-dream (new bases for US troops and a country to have real control over in the M.E.).

    If the administration was serious about tracking down terrorism, why was the security and intelligence community rebuffed when they tried to communicate to the administration how real the threat was? Clearly documented.

    If the administration is serious about tracking down terrorism, why are they going after a state (Iraq) instead of focussing even 1/4 of the billions and lives spent on Iraq on to the real target, tracking down state-less terrorists and helping other countries around the world accomplish same?

    Yes, Saddam was a bad, bad man. Guess what, the US has had, has, and will have, business relationships with equally bad people without blinking an eye. Saddam was was evil and deserved to be removed, no one disputes that. But now was not the time (given the focus should have been on international terrorism, not a national/regional problem like Saddam) and a unilateral invasion not the approach.

    Great sums of money, lives and political capital have been wasted on Saddam when containment was working (for now). Instead, they efforts should have been focussed on tracking down and isolating those who know no borders.

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