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Catfish and Cod
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Can we distinguish the issues here?
(Link path: Talking Points Memo)

Josh Marshall's still beating the Bush, hunting for the signs that pressure was applied to reinforce the Administration's aggressive policy on Iraq. But there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what issues are really in question here. Howard Dean is only one of many, many people who can't seem to keep the controversies seperate. So let's go through the issues, "McCatfish Group" style.

Issue One: The Sixteen Words! The press corps has been snorting "BUSH LIED!" vapors as deeply as they can on the drag of Nigerien uranium. But we must be careful to examine precisely what was said. And, as Prime Minister Blair pointed out this afternoon, that assertion is still conisdered true, unless you are openly questioning MI6's veracity. Even George Tenet can't bring himself to accuse his fellow intelligence servicemen of lying.

Issue Two: Spin by the Administration! A wholly seperate charge against the Administration is the spinning of intelligence reports towards the most alarmist possible interpretation. Josh Marshall is right to point out that the NSC and OVP on the one hand, and the CIA and State Department on the other, were at odds over data interpretation. The Administration is far more vulnerable on Issue Two. Most people had some sense that the data were being spun during the run-up to war, a sense relieved only by the authoritative presentation by Colin Powell before the Security Council. The poor treatment of CIA personnel in the process has led to the current CIA/White House political breach. It may be that the sense of vulnerability on spin is what led the White House to unnecessarily surrender ground on Issue One.

Issue Three: No WMD! Adding to the sense of Administration vulnerability is a by-now thoroughly hashed topic: we still haven't found any smoking guns in Iraq. Oh, we've found evidence that the programs were in hibernation, and the raw materials were still stockpiled; we have had inconclusive proof, but nothing unquestionable. As long as no weapons are found, the Administration position looks dodgy. And even if we do find weapons, or evidence thereof, I have no doubt that Administration critics will insist the Iraqi arsenal was too small to be a threat.

Issue Four: The Case for War! Despite the affirmative votes in Congress, many on the left are still unconvinced of the validity of the war. If they base their conclusions solely on WMD claims, they're right; and if Bush had put forth WMD as the sole legitimate cause for war, then Bush would have misled them. But it was the left , along with France the World Power (TM), Germany, and Russia, that insisted on WMD as the test of the war. Bush had plenty of other arguments ready, including al-Qaeda ties, humanitarian and human rights. But no one at the DNC or the UN wanted to listen to those.

Who knows what the real reason for the invasion was? Who knows what plan lurks in the heart of the Administration?

The Shadow knows. But so does Tony Blair:

There is a myth, That though we love freedom, others don't, that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture. That freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values or Western values. That Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban. That Saddam was beloved by his people. That Milosevic was Serbia's saviour.

Ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, any time, ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship. The rule of law not the rule of the secret police.

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defence and our first line of attack.

Just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea and that that idea is liberty. We must find the strength to fight for this idea; and the compassion to make it universal. Abraham Lincoln said: those that deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves. It is a sense of justice that makes moral the love of liberty...

Can we be sure that terrorism and WMD will join together? Let us say one thing. If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.

(all emphases mine)