Skip to content

Nitpicking

September 13, 2007

The days are short and grey
It’s the hardest time of year
And she must have missed the roadsign that said
“From now on, nothing will be clear”

— Peter Mulvey “Tender Blind Spot”

It’s been a grueling few weeks at the Grecula mansion. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say the word “nitpicking” (the removal of lice eggs) has become a lot more vivid for me. Ew.

Which of course brings me again to my favorite subject: the War on Terror and the unceasing rhetorical opposition to it by the Democrats, no matter what the circumstance. Hearing some of the more outrageous “questions” – prepared statements really – aimed at Petraeus and Crocker, I just have to think: what are you looking for?

What are they looking for?

I have to say, in all fairness, it seems to me they are looking for a reason to get out of Iraq: some fact or pronouncement that puts the decision out of the moral category and into the scientific one. Not that the moral part is in question for many of the anti-war crowd; it’s just that a clear pronouncement of failure would be helpful to their cause. Petraeus and Crocker did not give it to them. Neither did they give a totally rosy picture of what’s going on or what’s next. They do believe that our objectives of a free and stable Iraq are feasible.

The vexing thing about this war I think has been that it has been so unclear from the beginning what course of action to take. In my mind at least, the decision to invade Iraq was reasonable, but in a very important sense, a choice. It may have been the wrong one, but it was at least defensible.

So why the chorus of nitpickers, day in and out? Part of the answer I think lies in Shrinkwrapped’s take on reassurance:

when people are stressed they often regress, and in a state of anxiety-provoked regression, the less mature character organization cries out for less mature responses from those who are in a parental position. While reassurance is easy, and in the short term gratifying for both therapist and patient, in the longer run it does nothing to support the person’s healthier, more mature self so that they can better adapt to circumstances and deal with difficulties now and in the future.

So beyond what I see as a childish wish to escape our duty to the Iraqis, I also see a desire to be reassured that everything is going to be all OK. And I have to say, that the bad news is it’s not going to be all OK. The road ahead for our country is hard and there will be losses and setbacks as well as victories. It’s a mixed bag. I’ve said that all along. Perhaps though in defending against the idea that Iraq is a “total” loss, “worse than before” etc. that point has been lost. Perhaps also in presenting positive stories in Iraq, the point has been lost that I think it’s a mixed bag. That’s all I’m hoping to convey. Neither side can claim conclusively will happen in the future should we continue in Iraq. What’s much clearer is what happens when we leave: genocide, chaos, and a future for the middle east that does not “make America safer”. The betrayal of the Iraqi people, whom we have promised to stand by, is also of great moral consequence to any serious person.

Shrinkwrapped concludes:

The Left loves to assert that our invasion of Iraq has created more terrorists, an assertion that can neither be proven nor disproven. The Right often wishes to assert we are safer which can also be neither proven nor disproven. Neither side seems to believe they can be honest and say there is no way to know. The Democrats insist on reassurances they would immediately denigrate and would never believe; the Republicans try to reassure the public despite the fact that such reassurance can never work. It would be nice if our politicians on occasion treated us like adults.

Unfortunately, the posturing of the Democrats especially, in contrast to the consummate professionalism of General Petraeus (the most obvious adult in the room), suggests their approach of promoting themselves as the true guarantors of safety (from both real and illusory dangers, including those over which Congress has little to no ability to effect) will not change anytime soon.

All we can say to adults who are interested and concerned, often anxious, is that we have a great many enemies, they would like to kill us, and so far those charged with our safety have been able to protect us. That will just have to suffice; anything else is a sham.

So again I say to the nitpickers: what are you looking for? What do you think the real problem is? What assurances are you looking for? If you want to believe that Iraq is a complete disaster, I think that assessment needs updating. If you think that the sacrifices required do not merit the benefits of staying, then that’s a whole different conversation. I’ll take the prospects of victory, however uncertain, to the known defeat of “ending the war now”.

The war hasn’t been prosecuted perfectly- that has never been my position- but that doesn’t mean it’s lost. The choice to go on, while not devoid of factual analysis, is largely a moral one. I’m looking for a way to win. The democrats have not convinced me that they’re not looking for a reason it would be OK to lose. (Edit on the last sentence)

Advertisements
23 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    September 13, 2007 3:27 pm

    Democrats and a growing number of Republicans (Hagel, Snowe, Warner, Smith, others…) increasingly just want our leaders to “gimme some truth.”

    What you call nitpicking, we see as pushing for real facts, real numbers, a sober picture and context for where we are in the Iraq war.

    And you have to admit, Bush nor his administration have had a good record of telling the American people the truth about this war from before day one onward….

    “Intelligence from this and other countries leaves no doubt…” about WMD, when there was plenty of meaningful doubt in the intelligence communities internal and external…”We’re turning the corner in Iraq, and we’re not turning back” mantra during the last election, 4 years ago…and that was just one of so many “corners” that we were supposedly turning. “The insurgencies are in their last thoes..” Etc, etc…literally ad nauseum.

    This is another of your post that really just slanders democrats, as does the post you quote from Dr. Shrinkwrapped. For someone who decries slander towards conservative figures you like, you have an odd habit of slandering others. You say Democrats are “unceasing” in opposing the “War on Terror.” You seem to combine that as synonymous with the Iraqi war, ignoring the initial and continued Dem support of the war in Afghanistan, counter terrorism elsewhere… And of course, Dems are “childish” looking for “reassurances” that “they wold never believe” are only looking for a “reason to lose” etc…

    To all that I increasingly say “Yawn.”

    I should also point logical fallacy of the “false choice.” It is you echoing a Bushism. All IN vs. Betray the Iraqi people.

    I quote Obama again because I think he has proposed the best plans to date from either side…and his new strategy he announce last week he says the same thing:

    “The President would have us believe there are two choices: keep all of our troops in Iraq or abandon these Iraqis. I reject that choice. We cannot continue to put this burden on our troops alone. I’m tired of this notion that we either fight foolish wars or retreat from the world. We are better than that as a nation.”

    And then he goes on to talk through the best plan I’ve seen for how to do a smart phased withdrawal and put pressure on Iraqi politicians who now have ZERO pressure to make the painful choices needed to avert catastrophe of their nation. And support Iraq from chaos and humanitarian ruin.

    You ask: “So again I say to the nitpickers: what are you looking for? What do you think the real problem is? What assurances are you looking for?”

    What we’re looking for is a real plan with real metrics for both success and failure…. Metrics I’ve tried a few times unsuccessfully to get you to spell out specifically from your viewpoint. And a fact-based sober analysis of where we are now and where our current policies are taking us.

    Quoting Obama again he pushed Patraeus on the same question I asked you:

    “And at what point do we say enough?…I don’t see, at any point, where you say, if this fails, or if that does not work, or if we are not seeing these benchmarks met or any conditions in which we would make a decision now to start drawing down our troops…. And if we’re there the same place a year from now, can you please describe for me any circumstances in which you would make a different recommendation and suggest it is now time for us to start withdrawing our troops? Any scenario? Any set of benchmarks that had not been met?”

    Patraues gave a basic answer. If things are roughly like this by next March, he’d be “hard pressed” to change course.

    Do you agree?

  2. September 17, 2007 12:55 pm

    Timmy C. You maintain as an automatic that the Bush Administration is not giving truth, and on that basis all that is said in criticism is justified. (No, that is not a false choice I am presenting. Whatever you may say in theory, the practical effect of your position is to declare all disbelief legitimate.) What if it is not the Bush Administration, but your sources of information, that is disseminating untruth? You do not seem to take that possibility into consideration.

    All else of what you say flows from that. You have started from disbelief, and mirabile dictu, you still disbelieve! Who would have thought it?

    The arguments you provide would be at least discussable if you could first establish that the Bush Administration’s opponents are a considerably more accurate source of information. You have not done this, you have assumed it and then allowed confirmation bias to flow onward. I was once a man of the left. This attitude was one of my primary reasons for leaving it. The self-congratulation that we could not be taken in, because we disbelieved the government, and the corporations, and The Man, all the while swallowing great gagging hunks of the counter-narrative, eventually caught up to me. If you are an actual skeptic, you must dig back much further than you have.

  3. September 17, 2007 1:50 pm

    Thanks for stopping by AVI.

    Let’s also consider the claim made by Tim- as he accuses me of “slander”- that Bush did not tell the truth about WMD. It’s one thing to say someone was greviously mistaken. It’s another thing to assert- as the Democrats have again and again- that Bush intentionally lied. The moral implications of that statement are staggering, yet made so casually.

    I don’t think you are really listening to me Tim. I will elaborate sholtly on metrics, but I’ve tried to make clear the whole idea of useful metrics I think is fraught with ambiguity. Some decisions are made because of values, not because success is guaranteed. Why is that so hard to understand? Why is it so hard to hold the two ideas that things have not always gone as planned, yet continuing is worthwhile given the alternatives, even though success is not guaranteed? You and most of your fellow Democrats seem to prefer guaranteed genocide and defeat over possible success. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around, especially given the supposed concern for the innocent.

  4. September 18, 2007 6:04 am

    He seems like an intelligent enough fellow, and in person, might be able to engage in the actual rules of discussion, such as “yes, I agree that x, but am making the distinction y.” This sort of intellectual sloppiness is not unknown on the Right, of course, and you can find plenty of conservatives in comments sections who make mere unqualified assertions, acknowledging not even a 1% ambiguity. But the tactic has become nearly standard on the Left these days. “Well, we didn’t find WMD’s, so…” Well what did we find, and what should our response to that be?

    I have become sadly convinced that this stems from the attitude that the only real battle is here, for the “soul of America” or some such thing. The real dangers of the world are treated as mere counters in the political game of who shall get to say they are in charge in Washington. TC, if you are reading this far, I don’t accuse you specifically of that, though you come perilously close to demonstrating it in your comment.

  5. September 18, 2007 8:56 am

    AVI-
    Tim is a good friend of mine, as gregarious and decent a person as you could ever find. We were friends for a decade before we ever discussed politics- only to find out we were on opposite sides of the spectrum, much to our mutual consternation. I have come to discover this is true for about 90% of my friends, and 99% of my co-workers in Hollywood (well duh!). I don’t talk about this stuff at work though. No freaking way. I’d never work again.

    I no doubt have moved to the right post 9/11, but I am still adjusting to the shift. That’s why when friends say I am “echoing a bushism” I just have to shake my head. If my whole milieu leans left – every friend, every co-worker, every writer and artist I enjoy- what’s happened to me? I feel like I haven’t changed that much, but the world around me has, body-snatcher style. Or I could be nuts. Thanks for commenting and helping me feel a little less nuts AVI.

  6. September 19, 2007 8:47 am

    I am glad to hear this about Timmy C.

    I feel your pain, Count. I work as a psychiatric social worker, one of the most liberal professions in the land.

    BTW, what Romanian movies should I get for my sons (they do not read for pleasure) to watch to keep up real heritage rather than popular culture? I was surprised that they had never heard of Ionesco (a favorite of mine) or of Queen Marie. I understood how that would come to be once I thought about it, but it caught me by surprise.

  7. Timmy C. permalink
    September 19, 2007 8:34 pm

    Wow, lots of stuff… I’ll have to respond in chunks:

    AVI suggested:

    “Timmy C. You maintain as an automatic that the Bush Administration is not giving truth, and on that basis all that is said in criticism is justified….All else of what you say flows from that.”

    Nope. I’m simply maintaining that Bush and team have done a poor job in the past of telling Americans the truth about the Iraq war. Even supporters have acknowledged this Administration’s mistakes in this area. Once it became undeniably obvious, they have even admitted it on rare occasions.

    (And Dave I carefully did not accuse Bush and team of knowingly lying — simply of telling untruths — one cannot get into their heads and say for sure what THEY believed about their untrue statements…Although as Dave and I have discussed privately before, I don’t see how Bush could have not known that his statement delivered right before the invasion that “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised” was false. We learned later there was PLENTY of doubt inside the intelligence community of the US and allies, including doubts in reports submitted to Bush)

    So I’m not assuming that the Administration report on the state of Iraq MUST be false simply because of it’s source.

    And I’m not justifying “criticism” of the Patreus/Crocker reports, etc…

    But rather I AM justifying a strong push to verify, question and evaluate what the White House presents as facts, to be sure they are trustworthy. What you are calling “nitpicking.”

    And Dave, I absolutely agree that the choices about going in and how to leave Iraq are/were moral choices. But I think you’d agree that moral choices can be serious skewed if the “facts” they are based on are not accurate…

  8. Timmy C. permalink
    September 19, 2007 8:55 pm

    And Dave:

    Thanks for the kind words:

    “Tim is a good friend of mine, as gregarious and decent a person as you could ever find. We were friends for a decade before we ever discussed politics- only to find out we were on opposite sides of the spectrum, much to our mutual consternation.”

    And of course: back at you, good friend.

    I’d suggest this one additional note: I think I became aware of your bent toward political conservatism a good deal earlier – in the 1996 election when Clinton beat Dole. I still remember meeting with you and Duke Ray for beers after it was clear that Bill won… and me being careful to tone down my happiness because you both were SOOO depressed….

    So I’d been aware of your pre-Count Countiness for about the last 11 years…. and actually had relatively no “consternation” about it… But that’s ok…I don’t choose my friends based on their politics, but on what kind of people they are.

    And besides, I do literally value when tough issues can be sussed out between friends who have substantial different political stances…

    Echo chambers are dangerous places.

    Your buddy,

    Tim

  9. September 20, 2007 11:46 am

    Interesting memory about the 1996 election- I don’t remember it at all. If I was depressessed, I certainly got over it quickly. And whatever your political leanings, they certainly made little to no impression.

    You won’t believe me, but in my mind I still don’t really like to think of myself as a Republican. I don’t know why- still in denial possibly. I know there is a lot of congruence between my political beliefs and conservatism, or what is called neo-conservatism, but I don’t run things through my mind that way. I try to deal with things on a human level. I’m sure you feel the same way about yourself.

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree about their being PLENTY of doubt inside the intelligence community and allies about WMD. Of course their is always a minority opinion, but THAT’S WHAT IT WAS: a MINORITY position. There was considerably more dissent regarding the aftermath of the invasion, but that’s a different matter. If I had heard more dissent based on facts, not a simple predjudice against war, I might concede you have more of a point. The fact is, there are miles and miles of videotape of speeches given by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards and the rest talking about what a threat Sadaam Hussein was- even with the WMD out of the equation. Blaming all of that on Bush mis-representing the facts doesn’t explain much of that away.

  10. September 21, 2007 1:25 pm

    Well, this doesn’t fit wo well with the shift to nostalgia, but I will plomp along anyway.

    I don’t accept in any way your premise and evidence that “the Bush administration has done a poor job in the past of telling the American people the truth about the Iraq war.” When you use the word “truth,” you must stand by it. To then retreat into evidence of admitting inaccuracy or overoptimism is to badly misuse words. I don’t know how you make your living, but in my field if the words “not truth” are substituted for “not accurate,” there is an entire different meaning.

    I doubt very much that you did not know the difference in impression when you made the statement, but are now trying to temper it. It simply won’t do. Your original statements did not suggest that the opinion of the Bush Administration should be “taken with a grain of salt,” or regarded as overspun. The statement was clearly about truth. Words have meanings.

    I am not trying to insult you, but to press you. I find that the Bush critics are often very loose in their use of words and in their reasoning, relying more on impressionistic data than grounded fact. If one turns up the fire on the ideas, a great deal of it burns away.

    And I have to be puzzled about the Count’s moving to the right. How did a Romanian, or any Eastern European ex-pat, come to be that far on the left to begin with? There must be a fascinating story there. Most of my Romanian friends take a very simple political view: we’ve seen socialism; let’s get as far from that as possible.

  11. Timmy C. permalink
    September 21, 2007 8:34 pm

    1. Dave wrote:

    “Interesting memory about the 1996 election- I don’t remember it at all. If I was depressessed, I certainly got over it quickly. And whatever your political leanings, they certainly made little to no impression.”

    Dude, you and Duke Ray were nearly ready to jump off of a bridge. And I came in almost literally dancing a jig, and after letting it be known that I thought it was a great night, I quickly saw how much of a *bad night* it was for you both, I acknowledged to the group that we were in different places politically and then just hung out and enjoyed the beers and the company.

    And AVI I agree with your point that words have meanings, but think that my use of the word “truth” as synonymous with “accurate” is in fact, pretty standard English.

    You wrote: “I don’t know how you make your living, but in my field if the words “not truth” are substituted for “not accurate,” there is an entire different meaning.”

    I was going with the English non-archaic meaning of the word “truth” according to Miriaim Webster:

    “(1) the state of being the case : FACT (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : ACTUALITY (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c : the body of true statements and propositions
    3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality

    I have been careful not to question the SINCERITY of the Bush Admin on their belief in WMD’s in Iraq, etc…

    I admit that there are times, like with Bush’s comment on there being no doubt about the intelligence gathered on Iraq’s WMD…that it *is* hard to see how he couldn’t know that what he was saying was false. Or when Cheney said “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction; there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

    Words do have meaning, like the words “No doubt.”

    Later we learn about all the internal doubt that did exist:

    * Pre-war Internal CIA doubts on “Curveball” WMD Information
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/24/AR2006062401081_pf.html

    * Prewar DIA Internal report that the Trailers were not suitable for nuclear development:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/11/AR2006041101888.html

    * Pre War Internal CIA report “No Direct Evidence of WMD Production”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3340723/

    * Pre War Internal INR Report Doubted Iraqi Nuclear Program:
    “The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment.”

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/staff/john_walcott/story/10131.html

    * Pre War Report: Airforce Doubted that UAV’s were for Biological warfare
    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-78852363.html

    * Pre-War Energy Dept Doubts on Alluminum Tubes as Evidence for Nuclear Centrifuges
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/06/iraq/main647743.shtml

    * Pre war, the CIA got Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister, and in the Sadaam “inner circle” to “flip” and give and provide secret WMD info to CIA. He reported no active WMD programs. Claims viewed as credible by the highest CIA official in Europe, and later of course, proved accurate.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/21/60minutes/main1527749_page2.shtml

    Even if many or most of the intelligence officials supported the idea that Sadaam *may* or *likely did* have had WMD, we now know there also *were* meaningful internal doubts about almost every individual piece of evidence for WMD, by the US Intelligence community.

    And two days before invading another country, we trusted our President at his word that the evidence for WMD was strong enough to leave none.

  12. Timmy C. permalink
    September 22, 2007 2:53 pm

    Bloggers over at the TalkingPoints memo sites, issued a Freedom of Info Act request to find out EXACTLY what technique the Patraeus report used to define “sectarian” violence. They are digging through it… (BTW, why did none of the “liberal” mainstream media do this?) and are checking it out. One thing that stood out immediately:

    “Interestingly, attacks against “same-sect civilians,” U.S. forces, the Iraqi government or Iraqi security forces “are excluded and not defined as sectarian attacks.” So even though Sunni insurgent groups loathe the Shiite-controlled government, insurgent attacks on it aren’t considered sectarian violence.”

    That does seem odd, given that Intra-sect warfare and (as the TPM blogger points out) violence between Suni’s attacking Shia Police or Government forces would seem to be huge parts of the low level Iraqi civil war and should be counted as such.

  13. September 22, 2007 8:39 pm

    Tim- Did you really “trust our President at his word”? I doubt it.

    Even if many or most of the intelligence officials supported the idea that Sadaam *may* or *likely did* have had WMD, we now know there also *were* meaningful internal doubts about almost every individual piece of evidence for WMD, by the US Intelligence community.

    I have always maintained that the belief Sadaam had WMD was reasonable. You have now agreed with me. You are now nitpicking the “no doubt” wording, to little effect. You are in effect excoriating the president for not following the minority opinion more closely. For one so interested in evidence, you seem to prefer the argument least supported by it.

    But then again, your opposition to the war is not really about evidence. It’s about a philosophical predisposition to war in almost every circumstance.

  14. September 24, 2007 6:03 am

    Timmy C, you are wrong on the linguistics and definition. To take another current example, just because “open-minded” is a possible definition of “liberal,” it does not mean that liberals are by definition open-minded. Definitions cannot cross number. Truth may be accurate, but inaccurate is not necessarily untruth.

    Your list of claims by the Bush administration is generally fair, though I think, overstated. The phrase “no doubt” should not have to include every technical possibility of doubt, though that is of course what it says. It should, however, refer to a pretty high level of certainty, which the administration did not, or should not, have.

    The doubts you list, though lengthy, were not in fact disregarded, but outweighed. Hindsight bias makes them look larger than they are. The presence of the Russian Sarindar team, which specializes in the disguise and removal of WMD, in December of 2002, plus the emergence of chemical weapons in the suspected neighboring countries, leads me to believe that the weapons did exist, and possibly still do, though the maintenance on such is pretty sophisticated. We did not find what we expected, but we found a great deal in the way of ongoing programs. I am unsure what people think we should have done even in hindsight, knowing now what Saddam did have in place.

    The full reports have in general supported the administrations level of alarm. Others have sought to find individual quotes and sections which show them wrong. This pattern holds for the NIE report, Clarke’s book, Woodward’s reporting, etc. Bush was basicially right, spin notwithstanding.

  15. Timmy C permalink
    September 25, 2007 1:54 pm

    Hi Dave:

    You asked:

    >Tim- Did you really “trust our President at his word”? I doubt it.

    Dave, I really did. I remember that speech to the nation very vividily, and yes I did take him at his word, that if he was that strong in that setting, then there must not be any meaningful doubts with his intelligence guys.

    I THINK AVI agrees with me, if I read him rightly:

    “The phrase ‘no doubt’… should, however, refer to a pretty high level of certainty, which the administration did not, or should not, have.'”

    How much better would a truthful (in the “accurate” sense of the word) declaration had been… something like:

    “Our intelligence communities simply cannot accurately tell how advanced Iraq’s efforts at rebuilding his WMD capabilities are. We simply cannot tell for sure. But given Sadaam’s history, we dare not give him the benefit of the doubt.”

    And how much better would that have been to garner long term support for the war for the nation?

    Also, Dave wrote: “I have always maintained that the belief Sadaam had WMD was reasonable. You have now agreed with me.”

    I mean this non-rhetorically: When did I ever disagree, that a reasonable person – prior to the inspectors finishing their work in Iraq – could come to the conclusion that Sadaam COULD have been been secretly rebuilding his WMD capacity?

    What I have said is WAS unreasonable, and bad judgment to not let inspectors do their work…and that if Sadaam didn’t open up every square inch of Iraq, then go to war WITH a just cause and with more international support.

    (But that is another argument)

    Dave also wrote:

    “But then again, your opposition to the war is not really about evidence. It’s about a philosophical predisposition to war in almost every circumstance.”

    Help me see how that statement is anything but an insult basically saying: “Tim, despite all you say, you don’t really care about facts, and your statements to the contrary are all delusion or intentional falsehoods…you are really driven by an anti-war ideology that trumps all rational argument.”

    You know that my position is not that of a pacifist. You have heard me talk over my support of Afghanistan, and the first Gulf war, and Bosnia. I didn’t really think the Spanish American war was that hot, though, but that was before my time. And you have heard me say that I think classical Catholic Just War Theory is as good a paradigm as any for judging when going to war is the least worst option we have, and an option that as a nation need to not be afraid to take.

    So I just don’t get that “almost every circumstance” comment. I’m batting supporting 4 out of the last 5 wars in my lifetime.

  16. September 26, 2007 10:45 am

    Timmy C. said “How much better would a truthful (in the “accurate” sense of the word) declaration had been… something like:

    “Our intelligence communities simply cannot accurately tell how advanced Iraq’s efforts at rebuilding his WMD capabilities are. We simply cannot tell for sure. But given Sadaam’s history, we dare not give him the benefit of the doubt.””

    When the administration did say things very much like that, what was the result? Bush actually did make many statements very similar to that. What does one do, then, when something must be done, and appealing to people’s reason has not worked? Doesn’t any rational person then start hoping and looking for a capping bit of information, a last confirmation? Then when the head of the CIA tells you it’s a slam dunk, what do you do?

    You are applying hindsight bias to your entire evaluation.

    The snide little truth = accurate comment prompts a response. You are simply flat out wrong that because words can be synonymous in some contexts that they must be accepted as synonymous in all contexts. I have enough linguistics and usage training to take up the discussion, though it seems pointless. However, your misuse – now intentional – of the word calls your own forthrightness into question. The clear intent of your original phrasing was that Bush had been repeatedly untruthful: “And you have to admit, Bush nor his administration have had a good record of telling the American people the truth about this war from before day one onward….” You have since backpedalled and squirmed, but that is where you started. Dave may be right that you’re a fine fellow, and generally trustworthy, etc, but on this you have not been.

    I submit that this has been a continuous pattern with the Bush critics – to accuse Bush of being less-than-honest, then construct arguments that are selective with the facts, sly, and misleading, because it is easier than having an actual discussion. You are by no means the worst of offenders, but it is so common in the political conversation of the chattering classes that it is no longer even perceived for what it is.

  17. Timmy C permalink
    September 26, 2007 2:11 pm

    AVI:

    Relating to the “no doubt” comment I THOUGHT you agreed with me:

    “The phrase ‘no doubt’… should, however, refer to a pretty high level of certainty, which the administration did not, or should not, have.’”

    Did I read you wrong?

    And getting back to the dictionary definitions of truth vs. “not telling the truth” –
    You wrote: “The snide little truth = accurate comment prompts a response.”

    Huh, I was going for “cute” not snide. Sorry, should have thrown in some emoticons. 😉

    Going back to Miriam Webster’s definition of “Untruth” – a word about as close to the phrase I used saying “bad job telling the truth.”

    The non-archaic definition of that word is:

    – lack of truthfulness : FALSITY
    – something that is untrue : FALSEHOOD

    What I’ve tried repeatedly to say is that I meant as listed above. Bush and team have told us “things that were untrue” about the state of the war many times over.

  18. September 27, 2007 9:13 pm

    Tim and AVI: Thank you very much for your comments. I am waist deep in work at the moment, and have not found the emotional space to respond personally.

    I especially appreciate your comments AVI, it’s easy for me to feel a bit crazy in all this. Tim, I hope you can hear his observation regarding your rhetorical twists and turns.

    This whole thread has proved my point though: what are you looking for? Tim I think has established beyond dispute that he is looking for bright lines to demarcate success and failure. “I guess you missed the roadsign that said ‘From now on, nothing will be clear”. Moreover, you use of one phrase -no doubt – in one speech is also nitpicky.

    Tim, I recall a thread at America Bug where you said something to the effect that WWII, the Civil War and maybe even the American Revolution did not conform to just war theory- a theory (or an interpretation of it) that you support.

    Whatever the case may be, you repeatedly display an egregious lack of grace for the President which makes no sense to me knowing the kind of person you are. It has a body-snatch feeling to it for me. I know you probably think similarly of me. What to do.

    I didn’t hear a lot of discussion about how Sadaam didn’t really have WMD. What I got was, even if he has them, we can deal with it.

    Any way, I too grow tired with this endless rabbit hole of factoids. It keeps me from writing about the stuff I really find interesting, which is more about what is actually happening in Iraq as well as the wider philosphical problems created by postmodern war/networked global insurgency.

  19. Timmy C permalink
    September 28, 2007 9:03 am

    Hey Dave:

    Glad work is going busy…hopefully not too much so…

    You wrote: “Tim, I hope you can hear his observation regarding your rhetorical twists and turns.”

    I do hear AVI say he thinks i subtlety called Bush a liar initially and backed off, because he feels “not good job telling the truth” must by definition imply being a liar, which I and Webster disagree with.

    You wrote:

    “Tim, I recall a thread at America Bug where you said something to the effect that WWII, the Civil War and maybe even the American Revolution did not conform to just war theory- a theory (or an interpretation of it) that you support.”

    Nope. Not even “to the effect of.”

    You wrote: “This whole thread has proved my point though: what are you looking for? Tim I think has established beyond dispute that he is looking for bright lines to demarcate success and failure. “I guess you missed the road sign that said ‘From now on, nothing will be clear…”

    Again, you are misrepresenting what I’m saying. I’m DECIDEDLY NOT expecting the military reports on the state of the war to offer “bright lines” marking success or failure.
    You are right in saying that reality especially in Iraq is often murky.

    But a blurry unclear MISSION is a different story. Where “success” is continually made lower and blurrier, and where failure is left undefined only leads to bad stuff.

    And if we can get to a clear MISSION with reasonably clear definition of success or failure, we can use that to measure what is actually going on in Iraq to this standard.

    Patraeus to his credit has offered at least one marker. If things are roughly like they are now in a year, he’d likely change course.

    In part II of metrics are you going to even try to offer an answer to what you consider even a blurry definition of “success” or a blurry definition of markers for when we’ve “failed” from your perspective?

    Timmy

  20. September 29, 2007 1:36 am

    Tim-
    You are not making sense to me. I don’t mean to be obtuse. I’m honestly at a loss to comprehend what the difference is between bright lines in the MISSION vs. “success or failure”/”the reality in Iraq”.

    The mission has been clear: remove Saddaam, leave a free and stable democracy in it’s place. The president has been like a G.D. broken record on that. You want to nitpick his rhetorical shift as of late, fine. It doesn’t make much difference to me. I never thought it was going to turn into Vermont over there.

    The cost/benefit analysis seems to be in favor staying as long as strategically needed. We have had the lowest casualty rate in over a year this month. Even if it’s the same a year from now, that’s better than abandoning the Iraqis to genocide and even worse civil war.

    Sometimes I egg you on. This wasn’t one of those times. If this was couples therapy, I’d say “I hear you saying you want bright lines to demarcate success and failure”. You’d say “Stop misrepresenting what I say honey! All I want is a MISSION with reasonably clear definition of success or failure”. Maybe AVI can play therapist here, but I would submit that you are still engaing in nitpicking hairsplitting goal-post moving obfuscation of- what? I still can’t say. But the mission is clear on many levels, and the inability to see it I think says more about you than the mission.

    All I can say is that I think muddling forward towards the goal of a free and stable Iraq is in everyone’s best interests. The result will no doubt be something that can be disparaged on some level, making “victory” as hard to declare as defeat. I think there’s a very good chance things will continue to get better in Iraq, and detractors will begin to say “well sure there’s been progress, but at what cost”? It won’t be as effective as harping on every mistake and failure, but it won’t be without a point either.

  21. Timmy C. permalink
    September 30, 2007 4:49 pm

    Hey Dave:

    Sorry to vex you on this.
    Making it simple:

    I read your original question as “what are you looking for from Patreaus and the Military Reports on the state of the war?”

    My short answer: Accuracy. Good trustworthy, relevant data.

    What I’m looking for from Bush and co: A clear definition of what “winning” “success” and “failure” of the mission means, with clear markers along the way to compare that data to.

    That simple. Everything else was me explaining questions you and AVI tossed my way.

    (And you’ve broadcast that you don’t really care, but Bush’s rhetoric on “success” has changed, defining it down.

    BTW, I think it smart to define it down, at this point …But I just think it needs to be clear to the American people on where the new bar is set.

    You are right is saying Bush has been consistent on a “Free” and “Stable” Iraq. But just what degree “Free,” how much of a Shia Theocracy vs a Democracy, and how “stable” is “stable” is all really lowering by the day to the point where I don’t know where our official stance is.

    And the closest you have come to offering me any clarity of what your personal view on such markers for success is that Iraq end up “worse than Vermont” and that if a year from now it’s just as bad as it is now, when Petraeus would likely leave, you’d stay. That is all the additional answers you’ve given me…)

  22. October 1, 2007 2:58 pm

    Tim-
    I don’t want to insult you- because I really believe that on some level you are indeed being honest with me (as least as honest as you are with yourself)- but from my perspective you are heavily engaged in dissembling with your comments. If I had to guess I’d say you just don’t want to really come to terms with what your true values are. Maybe those values are not fully articulated, or you are trying to articulate them in the most positive way.

    If you don’t think Petraeus testimony had “accurate, trustworthy relevant data”, then you are saying Petraeus is a liar. Don’t fudge it. The accusation is not innocent or small just because you use nice words.

    To feign ignorance – and that is what it looks like you are doing to me- about what “winning”, “success” and “failure” are vis-a-vis Iraq tells me you have a very legalistic way of approaching the war. I don’t, and I think you’ve failed to understand that about me.

    As for Bush- I’m really tired of parsing every last word of the Decider. You may have not noticed, but I try to steer away from President Bush, and towards the human nature of the conflict that will out last his regime. If you want to throw down with the Daily Kos/Huffington Post/Moveon.org types that’s you’re right. You get points for being a model of civility, plus bonus points for being my longtime friend. But I can’t let you continue to smuggle these innuendos about Bush and Petraeus being liars just because you are nice about it.

    Measuring progress is going to be difficult- I think we both agree on that. Blaming the ambiguities on Bush and Co., while not totally unwarranted, is not a terribly deep approach either.

    I’ll state it again: this whole search for data is merely a way for you to present your desire to get out of Iraq as a value-free decision. I don’t want to lose, it’s the only scientific option available! KInd of like global warming!

    I’m sorry for the harsh words- if we were talking it would be much easier- so try to picture it all with a bit of a smile but also a slightly worried look for a friend I’m concerned about going down the wrong path.

  23. Timmy C permalink
    October 1, 2007 6:50 pm

    Ok, I looked up “dissembling” and it turns out it IS an insult. But between friends, who cares?

    Look you’ll just have to trust me that if I really believed that bush and Patraues were liars, I’d say so. I don’t. And BTW where did I ever say I thought Patreaus was lying? I only said given the administration’s track record, verifying and pushing and questioning for accuracy was warranted.

    You’ll have to trust that if I wanted to make accusations of deliberate deception I wouldn’t hint at them, just to be “nice.”

    And this is a repeated insult too: “this whole search for data is merely a way for you to present your desire to get out of Iraq as a value-free decision. I don’t want to lose, it’s the only scientific option available!”

    See what I said before:

    Help me see how that statement is anything but an insult basically saying: “Tim, despite all you say, you don’t really care about facts, and your statements to the contrary are all delusion or intentional falsehoods…you are really driven by an anti-war ideology that trumps all rational argument.”

    I’m actually trying to answer questions you post here substantively, and raise substantive if provocative questions back… and it gets a bit boring just to get insults back… of being accused of being delusional, “feigning” my arguments, and of being a “nitpicking hairsplitting obfuscater” who is busy “smuggling innuendos” and doesn’t want to ‘fess up to my “true values.” Did I miss any?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: