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November 25, 2005

The Power of Ridicule

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Tony found an old cartoon a few days ago, and I think it's pretty indicative of how most people were thinking in late 2002:


There's a couple things to be said here about how the Bush Administration got Senators to vote for the Iraq War.

I've never worked in a Senator's office before, so I don't know how incoming information is handled there.  But I can't imagine that Senators are significantly insulated from public attitudes.  When an opinion is publicly ridiculed and maligned -- as the opinion that Iraq didn't have WMD was -- I'm sure that the ridicule makes Senators less likely to accept it.  This process need not even involve Senators imagining the ridicule that would be heaped on them, if they accepted it.  It's just a fact about how people think that once everybody says "Oh, it's crazy to think that Iraq doesn't have WMD" you stop giving serious consideration to the contrary hypothesis.  You stop digging for information about that question and start taking "Iraq has WMD" as an assumption. 

Now, this isn't a good thing by any means -- it's the kind of thinking that leads to disastrous wars.  This explanation for Senators' false beliefs isn't one that puts them in a positive light.  But it seems like a pretty plausible explanation, particularly for Senators whose primary focus wasn't Iraq.  I'm guessing that the administration's more official acts of deception -- for example, in withholding contrary evidence from Senators -- wasn't quite as effective in misleading them as its actions in creating an environment in which anybody claiming that Saddam had no WMD would be ridiculed. 

Of course, this wouldn't have been ridicule about some inert issue either.  We had in the previous year been hit by a humongous act of domestic terrorism, and then there was the anthrax coming out of nowhere.  Terrorists can make the world look terrifying, and the public was willing to believe the worst about what Saddam had.  The public simply wasn't ready to believe that the world was so unthreatening as to contain a defanged Saddam.  Anybody who publicly argued for further consideration of the issue would've been disbelieved by the mainstream media and treated as a defender of a murderous and threatening dictator by Fox News.

A good and wise president would've seen this situation, cautioned his aides to refrain from stirring up people's fears in a way that could lead to horribly misguided foreign policy, and shared both sides of the evidence with Senators.  Instead, we had an administration that saw public credulity about foreign threats as a circumstance to exploit in pursuit of war. 

November 25, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink


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...and who exactly ARE the terrorists who sent that anthrax all around?

Because the FBI has been *so* all over that and we've caught them, right?


No hints, quickly silenced, from the BBC that it was one of our own bioweapons scientists trying to start something, nothing at all like that has been memoryholed, right? Nor the curious absence of speculation over who such a wierd "random" string of attacks would possibly benefit, in the throwing of Beltway residents into formless terror...

Dog that barked in the night.

Posted by: bellatrys | Nov 26, 2005 9:51:05 AM

This strikes a nerve. A co-worker challenged me in February 2003 as to whether we would find WMD. When I said "No" he went ballistic. He would not even go so far as to think I was just misinformed and wrong. Clearly in going against what everyone "knew" I had an anti-American and even pro-Saddam agenda. Those were lonely days.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Nov 26, 2005 10:43:14 AM

I always figured we'd find WMDs because I figured that if they couldn't find any they'd plant some. I'm actually amazed that they either didn't try to plant some or that they failed at planting them, if you must know the truth.

Posted by: NonyNony | Nov 26, 2005 10:51:04 AM

So, public opinion caused Democratic Senators to vote for the war? Kerry, Hillary, Rockefeller? And these are the people you want to lead the country? The majority of the people once believed blacks shouldn't be considered full citizens and shouldn't have full civil rights. What if these Democrats were in charge then? Oh, wait. Robert Byrd, the filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights bill...... But I digress.

You also insinuate the Democratic Senators never saw any evidence contradicting the evidence Saddam had or was seeking WMDs.

"I'm guessing that the administration's more official acts of deception -- for example, in withholding contrary evidence from Senators",

Welp, let me get out my magic quote finder.....

Fox News Sunday, 11/14/2005

WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, I want to play another clip from your 2002 speech authorizing the use of force, this time specifically on the question of Saddam's nuclear program. Here it is.


"ROCKEFELLER: There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years, and he could have it earlier.


WALLACE: Now, by that point, Senator, you had read the National Intelligence Estimate, correct?

ROCKEFELLER: In fact, there were only six people in the Senate who did, and I was one of them. I'm sure Pat was another.

WALLACE: OK. But you had read that, and now we've read a declassified...

ROCKEFELLER: But, Chris, let's...

WALLACE: Can I just ask my question, sir?


WALLACE: And then you can answer as you choose. That report indicated there was a disagreement among analysts about the nuclear program. The State Department had a lot more doubts than the CIA did about whether he was pursuing the nuclear program. You never mentioned those doubts. You came to the same conclusion the president did.

ROCKEFELLER: Because that — first of all, that National Intelligence Estimate was not called for by the administration. It was called for by former Senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dick Durbin.

We didn't receive it until just a couple of days before we voted. Then we had to go read it and compare it to everything else that we thought we'd learned about intelligence, and I did make that statement. And I did make that vote.

But, Chris, the important thing is that when I started looking at the weapons of mass destruction intelligence along with Pat Roberts, I went down to the floor, and I said I made a mistake. I would have never voted yes if I knew what I know today.

WALLACE: Well, but a lot of people are not — that's not the point of the investigation, Senator.

ROCKEFELLER: Chris, it is always the same conversation. You know, it was not the Congress that sent 135,000 or 150,000 troops to...

WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?


WALLACE: You're not?

ROCKEFELLER: No. I'm responsible for my vote, but I'd appreciate it if you'd get serious about this subject, with all due respect. We authorized him to continue working with the United Nations, and then if that failed, authorized him to use force to enforce the sanctions.

We did not send 150,000 troops or 135,000 troops. It was his decision made probably two days after 9/11 that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of. And yes, we had bad intelligence, and when we learned about it, I went down to the floor and I said I would have never voted for this thing.

WALLACE: But my only point, sir — and I am trying to be serious about it — is as I understand phase two, the question is based on the intelligence you had, what were the statements you made.

You had the National Intelligence Estimate which expressed doubts about Saddam's nuclear program, yet you said he had a nuclear program. The president did the same thing."

Wait a minute, I thought Bush didn't share evidence that contradicted evidence that Saddam had WMDs?


Do you think Rockefeller is the only Democrat to see evidence that suggested Saddam wasn't seeking nuclear weapons and still voted for the war? He said the evidence was unmistakable.

The Democrats can't say they they didn't see evidence from both sides of the argument now. I guess the only excuse they have left is that they were ridiculed into voting for the war.

Wow, the Democrats are reduced to saying peer pressure pushed them into authorizing a war. Peer pressure caused Democrats to vote for a war that has cost thousands of American lives.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 2:11:05 PM

"Exhaustive and authoritative examinations of the prewar intelligence, by the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004, by the Silberman-Robb commission in 2005, and by the British commission headed by Lord Butler, have established that U.S. intelligence agencies, and the intelligence organizations of leading countries like Britain, France, and Germany, believed that Saddam Hussein's regime was in possession of or developing weapons of mass destruction--chemical and biological weapons, which the regime had used before, and nuclear weapons, which it was working on in the 1980s. To the charges that Bush "cherry-picked" intelligence, the commission cochaired by former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb found that the intelligence available to Bush but not to Congress was even more alarming than the intelligence Congress had. The Silberman-Robb panel also concluded, after a detailed investigation, that in no instance did Bush administration authorities pressure intelligence officials to alter their findings. Much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. But Bush didn't lie about it."

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 26, 2005 2:45:01 PM

Barone? You're kidding, right?

Posted by: evilchemistry | Nov 26, 2005 5:39:09 PM

"Barone? You're kidding, right?"

You can't refute the facts so you attack the source? Why didn't you question the FoxNews link? I mean, after all, it is FoxNews, the media wing of the Bush administration.

Do you have any specifics as to why Barone isn't credible?

He doesn't have the credibility of Dan Rather and CBS News, but who does?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 6:15:50 PM

Barone isn't quoting from the bipartisan section of the report. After the bipartisan section, there's partisan stuff written by Democrats and by Republicans. He's quoting from the partisan stuff and making it look like it's from the bipartisan section.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 26, 2005 6:24:37 PM

Mobile bioweapons labs, aluminum centrifuge tubes, unmanned flying vehicles, mushroom clouds, etc. All refuted. You're right, they didn't lie about a damn thing. The White House admitted the Niger claim was false, blamed it on the Brits, who didn't give them this "intelligence" in the first place.

Read this and this

Question: What was excluded from the NIE that was provided to the Senate just before the war?

Answer: The internal dissent!

Michael Barone is an administration shill, Clownhall columnist that writes shit like this:

"Any indictment of Rove or Libby brought by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury, which is scheduled to go out of existence on Oct. 28, would in my opinion be a grave injustice. It would hurt the administration by depriving it of the services of one or more very talented and dedicated officials. But it would also set a bad precedent by creating a precedent that would obstruct the flow of information from government to the press and the people."

Perjury and outing covert CIA WMD operatives are ok if you are in Bush's White House.

Posted by: evilchemistry | Nov 26, 2005 7:00:01 PM

"Mobile bioweapons labs, aluminum centrifuge tubes, unmanned flying vehicles, mushroom clouds, etc. All refuted."

So did Rockefeller, Gore, Kennedy, and Clinton all lie?

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002


"Perjury and outing covert CIA WMD operatives are ok if you are in Bush's White House."

Who in the White House was indicted for outing a CIA agent?

Joe Wilson outed his wife.

"A retired Army general says the man at the center of the CIA leak controversy, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, revealed his wife Valerie Plame's employment with the agency in a casual conversation more than a year before she allegedly was "outed" by the White House through a columnist."

As far as the Niger claim and Wilson's credibility, well...

"Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address."

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 7:50:26 PM

So did Rockefeller, Gore, Kennedy, and Clinton all lie?

No, they were lied to, and repeated the lies they were told by the malAdministration. Next question?

One for you, CT, do you like World Nut Daily for the baldness ad cures, the offers to learn how to talk to women, or just the overall nutiness quotient?

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Nov 26, 2005 9:37:32 PM

Allow me to register my displeasure with the degeneration of this comment thread.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 26, 2005 9:58:14 PM

"No, they were lied to, and repeated the lies they were told by the malAdministration. Next question?"

Really? How do you explain these lies?

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998.

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998.

"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998.

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

Can't blame these lies on the Bush administration.

I am sure you will try.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 10:16:44 PM

Just out of curiousity, was Clinton lied to by the same people that lied to Bush?

Where the senators listed -- who have access to much of the same intelligence that the President sees and that are charged with the RESPONSIBILITY of actually declaring war -- lied to by the same people?

Is being wrong the same as being lied to?


Posted by: m | Nov 26, 2005 10:19:11 PM

"World Nut Daily"

Attack the source if you can't refute the facts.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 10:22:14 PM

One funny thing, Toke, is that the very top quote by Clinton actually suggests that Iraq doesn't have WMD.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 26, 2005 10:32:52 PM

"One funny thing, Toke, is that the very top quote by Clinton actually suggests that Iraq doesn't have WMD."

In the second quote, Neal, Clinton states Saddam has a WMD program.

Wow! Within two weeks, under Clinton's watch, Saddam went from maybe having no WMD to having a WMD program!

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 10:41:49 PM

Excuse me, Neil

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 26, 2005 10:45:52 PM

Toke totally misses the point.

What wasn't shared was the intelligence that pointed out what was shared was full of shit. AKA, lies of omission.

No ammount of irrelevant quoting and info-spam can change that.

As for Clinton, you seem to miss the very important point that there was no weapons program, and that Clinton didn't take us to war.

there are many terrible regimes, evil dictators, fascist movements, and effective genocides around the world today. What makes Saddam special enough to invade? What makes Saddam special enough to fuck up Afghanistan? What makes Saddam special enough to ignore bin Laden?

Posted by: Sandals | Nov 27, 2005 1:37:59 AM

Just to add to Sandals' point, opportunities for double-checking were offered to the Bush Administration in early 2003. Working more closely with Hans Blix would've resulted in us learning that there was no WMD after all. I'm pretty confident that Clinton or Gore, feeling no great rush to invade, would've taken advantage of these opportunities. But they were swiftly passed up by the Bush administration.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 27, 2005 2:08:51 AM

So...all one need do for this crowd is simply give more palatable sources than the evil and known shills USNews and World Report for the Silberman-Robb commission in 2005 and the British commission headed by Lord Butler. That about it? Because no one refuted what these commissions concluded.

Lemme know and I will provide you with sources that won't make you whine.

Facts is facts, Jack.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 27, 2005 8:21:40 AM

Well, heck. Try these sources....

Silberman-Robb commission

Lord Butler Commission

Great! Now that that's out of the way, perhaps you would like to argue how these commsiions are all bullshit.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 27, 2005 8:45:17 AM

The Silverman -Robb comission never interviewed the Iraqi defector known as "Curveball" or the German intelligence officials, 5 senior members of which warned our intelligence sources that he couldn't be trusted.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Nov 27, 2005 12:08:21 PM

"The Silverman -Robb comission never interviewed the Iraqi defector known as "Curveball" or the German intelligence officials, 5 senior members of which warned our intelligence sources that he couldn't be trusted."

What about Clinton's statements about Saddam's WMD?

Well, the Democrats on the comission signed off on the report, so I guess they thought it was complete.

Face it, the Germans, French, Russians, the UN, Saddam, the Bush administration, the Clinton administration and Democrats in congress thought Saddam had WMD. There were lots of dissenters as far as Saddam having WMD, but there were a lot more sources saying he had WMD. Jay Rockefeller said "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons", he said that after he heard evidence saying Saddam was not pursuing nukes. For him to say that without being absolutely certain is not Bush's fault. Nothing was hidden, if you have proof Bush hid something, put it out there. But the fact is that Democrats made stronger pro-war statements than the President did.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Nov 27, 2005 5:14:42 PM

The Silverman -Robb comission never interviewed the Iraqi defector known as "Curveball"

Ya' know, you should read the GODDAM REPORT next time before running your mouth.

What about Clinton's statements about Saddam's WMD?

Clinton always gets a pass...Hillary, Kerry..they all get a pass and they all voted for war.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 27, 2005 6:09:31 PM

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