Monday, November 14, 2005

# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IF THE DEMOCRATS ARE LYING, THEN THEY REALLY ARE UNPATRIOTIC": That is the basic argument that Glenn makes here, and that Tom Maguire has aptly summed up by observing that

I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".
I agree with this argument in the abstract, although I don't think that it justifies what George Bush said. For Bush to be in the right, it should be transparently clear that his opponents are lying. I would argue that while the Democrats may not be telling the truth, it is not intentional. Instead, they have succumbed to confusion, short-sightedness, and unthinking resentment of the President.

Now I recognize that numerous conservatives see the case against the Democrats as black and white. Even according to Kevin Drum, who has lashed out at Glenn for slandering the Democrats' patriotism,

Liberals, for their part, need to accept the obvious: in 2002, virtually everybody believed Iraq had an active WMD program. The CIA believed it, as their October NIE made clear:
Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons....Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons....has largely rebuilt missile and biological weapons facilities.... has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX....most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.
The British believed the same thing. The Germans and French believed it. Former Clinton administration officials believed it. Lots of Democratic members of congress believed it. They were all wrong, it turned out, but they weren't lying. The simple fact is that virtually everyone who had access to the full range of classified intelligence at that point in time thought Iraq had an active WMD program.
Kevin adds that Bush lied in order to make his argument more persuasive, but that is secondary (and debatable). The key point is that leading Democrats supported the war because the evidence said Saddam had WMD. As Kevin pointed out long ago in an excellent post, opponents of the war argued that invading Iraq was a bad idea in spite of Saddam's possesion of WMD. For the Democrats to argue now that they supported the war because they were tricked is disingenuous at best.

Even Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, the WaPo correspondents whose "Analysis" column distorted the President's statments, admit in that selfsame column that

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.
So what am I holding out against? When not just conclude that the Democrats are lying and therefore unpatriotic? I guess it turns on the Democrats' precise words. John Edwards wrote in yesterday's WaPo that
The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda...

The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.
Going back to another post from Kevin, I think it's fair to suggest that the administration may have withheld certain information and/or misrepresented it. This missing information wouldn't have done much to disrupt the overwhelming consensus that Saddam had WMD, but it justifies saying that we didn't have the "whole story".

So what Edwards is doing here isn't lying, but rather relying on rhetorical sleight-of-hand. He points to the missing information, but totally ignores the overwhelming evidence which suggested Saddam had WMD and which was the basis of his support for the war.

This is playing dirty, but not lying. Or am I just splitting hairs? I guess where I come down on this whole issue is that attacking an opponent's patriotism is so serious that it shouldn't be done unless the case for the prosecution is open and shut. Period.
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