Thursday, March 05, 2009


Outrage Bereft of Logic

Rosa Brooks' latest column in the soon to close LA Times is a hissy fit disguised as an opinion piece. I do give her high marks for knowing that Hitler, not Goebbels, is the author of the Big Lie theory (see chapter 10 of Mein Kampf), but after that intellectual gem her critical acumen nearly evaporates. Charles Krauthammer might be tempted to diagnose Bush Derangement Syndrome, if he still practiced psychiatry. Here are my nominations of the smoking guns of illogical thinking contained in the piece.

She is writing about the legal memoranda from shortly after 9/11/01, which the Obama administration recently released. She says the memos erroneously "conclude that citizens and noncitizens could be designated "unlawful enemy combatants" by the president on the basis of secret evidence." Of the memos in general she said they "mischaracterize previous Supreme Court decisions, ignore crucial legal precedents and contain gaping holes in logic."

I say there is a little projection going on there. Let's take the Supreme Court decision Ex Parte Quirin in which the Court held that a group of Nazi saboteurs could be designated unlawful enemy combatants by the president based on secret evidence, and, even though one of them had been born in America, they had no habeas corpus rights. Most of them were executed following a military tribunal. Sic semper militibus latentibus.

But there's more, however, let's start with a definition of 'lie'--it is a statement of purported fact which the speaker knows not to be true. It is not a mere mistake nor a prediction of the future which turns out to be wrong. OK, on to Ms. Brooks big examples of the so called Big Lie:

(The Big Lie theory also helps explain why other manifestly false Bush administration claims prevailed in the face of the evidence: Recall, for instance, how we were assured that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the war would be a cakewalk?)

Iraq had WMD and had used them against Iran and the Kurds, and President Bush rationally believed that Saddam Hussein retained them, otherwise why not co-operate with the UN and avoid sanctions and ultimately war, and execution? We may never know what precisely happened to the gas shells, for example, but to believe that President Bush knew there were no weapons left in 2003 yet he continued to say that Iraq had such weapons, as Ms. Brooks seems to believe, is foolishly dishonest indeed, delusional. Bush said what he believed, that WMD were there, they weren't; that's a mistake, not a lie, not even a little one.

The second, that we would defeat the Iraqi forces easily, was a prediction of the future. By definition that can't be a lie. We did walk through the Iraqi Army in three weeks with very few casualties to us. It was mistakes which later caused a multi-front insurgency which tied us down for so long until we actually used counter-insurgency tactics during the Surge and won the second part of the delayed ending of Gulf War I.

So Rosa 'Luxemburg' Brooks makes a big deal of the Big Lie theory and then uses two non lies as her only support for her application of the theory to the Bush Administration. Really good, professor. How rigorous of you. I won't make the obvious observation that Ms. Brooks lies about Bush Administration non-lies.

Oh and 2 minutes of waterboarding is not torture while a half hour of it would be. I don't think we have tortured any of the terrorists we've captured, more's the pity.


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