Saturday, February 17, 2007

A case study in dishonesty

It is a case study in dishonesty and deception, the runup to the Iraq invasion. Fortunately, the public seems be having little of the Bush administration's reprise of its Iraq strategy now focussing on Iran.

Scooter Libby awaits closing arguments in his perjury trial over his part in the Plame affair. Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans has been discredited. Richard Perle and other prominant war promoters quoted in Vanity Fair have already abandoned Bush's ship of state, hoping to avoid culpability for the Iraq debacle and to live to make war another day. And Iraq War architect and World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz? He has holes in his socks.

The Vulcans never believed their own propaganda. It was merely a means to an end. They tossed aside each succesive justification for war as soon as it was debunked or lost traction in the twenty-four hour news cycle. Watching the president go through pro-war talking points is like watching a football fan go through a plate of chicken wings at the sports bar during Monday Night Football. Bearing little meat, each bone is tossed onto the empty plate as soon as it's stripped, then it's on to the next. When he runs out, he points to the pile of bare intelligence "bones" and says, "See!"

How many justifications for Iraq have there been? How many measures of victory?

There still remain some unshakeable believers, though, too feverish of faith or desperate to snatch their charred reputations from the prye they have ignited in Iraq to admit their errors. Or like their leader, too addicted to the big gamble to cut their losses and go home without doubling-down one last time.

Count former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, Frank Gaffney, among them. His Tuesday editorial in the Washington Times (taken down today) reprised the war critic as traitor theme. It opened with this quote:
"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." — President Abraham Lincoln.
That Lincoln never said it is no reason not to use it to sell the product. If discovered, there are more lies where that came from and brand new news cycles to dominate with any half-truth or falsehood that gets the job done. It's just, when you need somebody to back up your lie -- and George Washington we know never did -- what winger can resist using Lincoln?

Editor and Publisher quotes Brooks Jackson of on the popularity of this particular quote which appeared last August. E&P found over 18,000 references to it in its Web search.
He reported: "Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime 'are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.'

"Republican candidate Diana Irey used the 'quote' recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

"But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor [at the magazine Insight] for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote."
Honest people making honest mistakes? Perhaps. And perhaps not. Phony quotes get around quickly in the Internet age, and are often established truths by the time they are debunked. The problem is, anyone caring about truth and accuracy can just as quickly establish via the Internet the veracity of questionable quotes from such notables as Lincoln or Churchill (another right-wing favorite).

But why bother? Facts have such a way of messing up good propaganda.

In reply to Gaffney, Queequeg went looking in the Library of Congress -- not right wing blogs or Moonie newspapers -- for real Lincoln quotes and found some from Lincoln's time in Congress, during a House debate over the Mexican War. Queequeg finds
Lincoln brought up three issues, all of which are found in the debate over the occupation of Iraq: funding of the occupation, deception about the reason for war, and predictions about the ease and brevity of the fighting. On all three issues, today's Democrats echo Lincoln's arguments.
[h/t Digby]

Thus, they won't be widely linked by Bush supporters:
"As to the mode of terminating the war, and securing peace, the President is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemy's country; and, after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the President drops down into a half despairing tone, and tells us that "with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a government subject to constant changes, by successive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to secure a satisfactory peace." Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and trusting in our protection to set up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace; telling us that "this may become the only mode of obtaining such a peace." But soon he falls into doubt of this too; and then drops back on to the already half abandoned ground of "more vigorous prosecution." All this shows that the President is, in no wise, satisfied with his own positions. … His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease.

"Again, it is a singular omission in this message that it nowhere intimates when the President expects the the war to terminate. … As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity!"
Or this, from a letter to William H. Herndon, February 15, 1848:
"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'

"The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."
None of this has any effect on supporters joined to the president at the hip. We've lost count of how many different reasons they've put forward for why they embarked on this fiasco.

But they are creative. Give them that. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama came up with one this week few of us had heard before. TPM reports:
We invaded Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from being able to say that he'd won the 1991 Gulf War.
Seriously. They'll break a hundred reasons yet.

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