Skip to comments.Congressman Billybob Sez: Sixteen Little Words
Posted on 07/18/2003 6:07:08 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
No, the sixteen little words are not "I love you" repeated five times, followed by "maybe." They are a single sentence in President Bush's State of the Union Address in January of this year. There is now a carefully generated flap about that sentence in which the President said that "British intelligence" had reported that "Iraq is trying to purchase uranium from Africa."
Let's put that in context, take it apart brick by brick, and see what we have.
Niger is the leading producer of uranium in Africa and also has very limited security concerning the sales of that product. Iraq already had some raw uranium, most of it from Niger. Iraqis are already suffering medically from that uranium because looters sold them the uranium barrels, and people used them to wash their and their children's clothes. Plus, an Iraqi nuclear scientist has already turned over the pieces of a centrifuge (used to refine uranium ore for use) from its directed hiding place under his rose bushes.
Also, the UN inspectors had already reported, before they were thrown out by Saddam Hussein, that Iraq had an incipient nuclear program a decade ago. Yet none of this background appears in most of the current "sixteen words" stories. Seeking to buy more uranium is a minor story seeking to buy the first uranium ever would be a major story. As I write this, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain has just stated in a press conference that Iraq previously purchased "750 tons of uranium from Niger." That's enough, if refined and put in weapons, to destroy all of America's twenty largest cities. To the press: Do your d*mned homework before you write a story.
Assorted Democrats are now claiming that they "wouldn't have supported the war against Iraq" had they known that this one sentence was inaccurate. Helloooo. According to my calendar, October, 2002, when Congress voted to approve war powers against Iraq, occurred three months BEFORE January, 2003, when the sentence in question appeared in the State of the Union Address. To the press: If you don't have history books, you do have calendars, don't you?
The standard of accuracy in intelligence cannot ever be that it must be 100% accurate. If that were the standard, intelligence would be useless. We would know for sure we were in danger only when bombs started exploding in American cities. Consider the flap over the "failure of intelligence prior to 9/11." Other than a few kooks, some of them unfortunately holding elected office, no one is seriously suggesting that there was a plan in writing somewhere, saying where and how the attack on 9/11 would be made, which the CIA should have found. The argument is only over whether there were indications somewhere that the CIA and others should have found, before 9/11. To the press: you HAVE heard about the alleged "intelligence failure concerning 9/11" haven't you? If not, do your d*mned homework.
The proper standard for intelligence is the best available information, at the time it is needed. Even just a single report from a dubious source that Admiral Yamamoto was headed for Pearl Harbor with a Japanese fleet should have been followed up aggressively. There are books out now which claim that President Roosevelt had exactly such a warning from a single dubious source. The claimed source was a double agent in Holland. No action was taken on that single source, and most of the American Pacific Fleet was destroyed at anchor in Pearl Harbor. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
What is the overall accuracy of President Bush's State of the Union Address? It contains 5,494 words. Of those, sixteen were possibly not accurate, or not sufficiently sourced to be presented as accurate. That amounts to 99.71% accuracy. The State of the Union Addresses by President Clinton were longer (he was a long-winded cuss, wasn't he?). Measured by the same standard, were Clinton's various speeches 99.71% accurate? There is that little problem of the bombing of the Sudanese aspirin factory. How about the legendary "that woman" speech? How about the "campaign contributions did not influence" speech on the Loral money for the Chinese missile exemption? Don't get me started. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
How have all American presidents made use of intelligence in time of war? In every case, beginning with James Madison under whom we declared (and nearly lost) the War of 1812 against Great Britain, the answer is the same. Each president has held in confidence most of the military intelligence that he received. Each has revealed publicly only the tip of the iceberg in intelligence only when it was essential in communicating with Congress, or in the modern era in speaking directly with the American people.
We even began one particular war based on intelligence we believed at the time, but shown to be false more than a century later. We started the Spanish-American War based on the belief that the USS Maine was blown up by saboteurs while at anchor in Havana. As a result of that war, both Cuba and the Philippines were freed from Spanish domination and became independent nations. But undersea archeological research in recent years has pretty well established that the Maine was not attacked but sank because of a sadly common occurrence, an explosion of coal dust in one of its bunkers. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
The saddest part of this whole flap is the few but strident people who are claiming that "President Bush lied to the American people" in order to promote the war on Iraq. This one sentence was not based solely on the forged documents (a very interesting question is whether our good friends, the French, were involved in that forgery). There were additional sources. No legitimate charge can be made that anyone "lied" unless there are reasons to believe that he said something, knowing it to be false. Since there are several sources for this sentence, the only question is whether the sources were solid enough for the President to have mentioned it. There is no basis to conclude that the President "knew this was false" and said it anyway. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
More than any other Chief Executive of any other organization on the face of the planet, the President of the United States of necessity relies on staff work to produce the information he uses in all his public presentations and decisions. Does the press actually think that George Bush is up at 3 a.m. with headphones clamped over his ears, listening to and translating intercepted cell phone calls conducted in Arabic? To the press: Apply a little common sense here.
Now we turn to the current situation in Iraq. The press is accurately reporting the deaths of American, and allied, soldiers in that occupation and various acts of sabotage. But what are they not reporting?
Has America ever occupied another nation after defeating it in war, and then created there a stable democratic government to replace its prior dictatorship? Why, yes, we did that in Germany and Japan after World War II. (It was in all the papers.) Did American soldiers die in both places during those occupations? Yes.
The death rate in Japan was quite low, because the Japanese still held fealty to the Emperor and the Emperor had urged them not to resist. The same was not true in Germany. Shortly before the fall of Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, created an organization known as the "Werewolves." They were directed to kill American soldiers and German collaborators with the occupation, and to sabotage public facilities and utilities. How many Americans were killed? How many attacks took place? How do the histories of occupied Japan and Germany compare to the current events in Iraq? To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
And if the press were really on their toes, they would compare the death rates of the young men and women in Iraq with the rates for the same number of civilians of the same age on American highways. And with the death rates for the same age groups in major American cities. The short of it is, our soldiers are safer in Baghdad than in Washington, D.C., and only slightly more at risk than on American highways. It's called comparative risk analysis. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
The most shrill and absurd criticisms of the occupation in Iraq are that we should be finished and get out within months. In both Japan and Germany, the "nation-building" was not complete for about two years. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
And now we turn to Saddam Hussein and the latest purported tape from him a week ago, urging Iraqis to "kill the invaders and drive them out of Iraq." Assume that the tape is genuine and that Hussein is still alive. It was six months after the Allies found the two burned bodies outside the bunker in Berlin that forensic analysis and other evidence led to the conclusion that Adolf Hitler was definitely dead. Until that point, the "Werewolves" could claim that they were acting in the cause of their Fuhrer who was still alive. To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
Were the die-hards who fought against the prior American occupations, the very few in Japan and the few in Germany, either "regrouping," or gaining strength, or in any way capable of sustaining a "guerilla war" against the Americans? They were not. They were killed, or captured -- or captured, tried and executed -- with dispatch. But that didn't happen instantaneously. What does that suggest about the future of the occupation in Iraq? To the press: Do your d*mned homework.
The best way to separate the sheep from the goats in any political debate not just on questions of war and peace is to look for consistency. Which critics have been consistent in their statements and their votes? Which ones have flip-flopped in both ways on the subject of the Iraq War, based not on perceived facts but on what position seemed marketable at the time to various constituencies? Those engaging in hypocrisy can be exposed by setting forth their prior statements and actions. Those who have been consistent must be forced to answer this question: "Should Saddam Hussein have remained in power, and continued to fill mass graves with the bodies of murdered women and children?" To the press: Do your d*mned homework, and ask the obvious questions.
If it's too much trouble to insist that the press get and read history books, there's an easier route to the same end. Go to your nearest video store. Get the movie MacArthur, starring Gregory Peck. Pay attention to the portions of that plot which deal with the occupation of Japan. And while you're at it, get the movie Patton, starring George C. Scott. Pay attention to the portions of that plot which deal with the occupation of Germany. In other words: Do your d*mned homework.
Everything in this column was accumulated by a country lawyer in a farm house deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. All it took were access to the Internet, the ability to frame the necessary questions, and the ability to type. If that can be done by an unpaid journalist in the middle of nowhere, why can't it be done by full-time reporters knocking down significant salaries in the hearts of major cities? All it takes is logic, and the ability to follow the facts wherever they lead. Is that too much to ask?
In the larger scheme of things, President Bush's sixteen little words "don't amount to a hill of beans," as Rick said to Ilsa on the tarmac of that fog-shrouded airport at the end of Casablanca. In the midst of a war, it's especially important to distinguish what is really important, from what is not. Maybe the American press should rent that movie, also.
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John Armor is an author and attorney. He specializes in appeals cases, filing his 17th brief in the Supreme Court last week in the campaign finance case.
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(C) 2003 Congressman Billybob. All rights reserved.
Another brilliant Republican(motto: we could teach the French a thing or two about pre-emptive surrender!)analysis!
At best Fox is "fair and balanced", meaning no more conservative than liberal. But in fact if you take the standard of what is the best prediction of what will seem important in a hundred years from now, almost nothing "liberal" is likely to make muster. And if that's the situation with Fox, what is the situation with CBS!
Bump. The Future is now. Be afraid, be very afraid. The 'twofer' is coming again...
Hell, they have been playing at GOAL-LINE STAND ranges for the past three weeks.
No kidding! RAT George Tenet was the worst offender. Is there any possiblity he did this whole admission thing ... on his own (perhaps with encouragement from his old boss) ... without the Prez and his Brain Trust signing off? And once having done so, they are uncertain how to deal with him, so wedded to their bi-partisanship insanity as they are?
I am convinced that Hillary will be running in '04 now for sure, and that it was primarily due to this huge political blunder by GWB and his inner circle. He could have FIRED Tenet promptly. Showed some guts. I can't imagine that this crowd did it deliberately, as I sure don't think they would want to be up against the Clinton's head-on again. Even Limbaugh is making noises now reversing his prognostications, admitting the possibility of Hillary in '04.
I only hear Limbaugh in small bits and pieces, I know he recently called the W Presidency "Nixonian" not Reaganesque.
Reason Magazine or (Human Events?) gave Nixon demerits for his growth of Big Government including such gems as the EPA.
I don't think Conservatives will "get it" until they see the concertina wire and smell the cordite.
Insanity-it is not just for DemocRATs anymore!
The exact same thing can be said of the "Cold War." Who surrendered? What treaty was signed?