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Thread: Misleading the Public

  1. #1

    Default Misleading the Public

    June 3, 2003

    Standard Operating Procedure

    By PAUL KRUGMAN

    The mystery of Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction has become a lot less mysterious. Recent reports in major British newspapers and three major American news magazines, based on leaks from angry intelligence officials, back up the sources who told my colleague Nicholas Kristof that the Bush administration "grossly manipulated intelligence" about W.M.D.'s.

    And anyone who talks about an "intelligence failure" is missing the point. The problem lay not with intelligence professionals, but with the Bush and Blair administrations. They wanted a war, so they demanded reports supporting their case, while dismissing contrary evidence.

    In Britain, the news media have not been shy about drawing the obvious implications, and the outrage has not been limited to war opponents. The Times of London was ardently pro-war; nonetheless, it ran an analysis under the headline "Lie Another Day." The paper drew parallels between the selling of the war and other misleading claims: "The government is seen as having `spun' the threat from Saddam's weapons just as it spins everything else."

    Yet few have made the same argument in this country, even though "spin" is far too mild a word for what the Bush administration does, all the time. Suggestions that the public was manipulated into supporting an Iraq war gain credibility from the fact that misrepresentation and deception are standard operating procedure for this administration, which to an extent never before seen in U.S. history systematically and brazenly distorts the facts.

    Am I exaggerating? Even as George Bush stunned reporters by declaring that we have "found the weapons of mass destruction," the Republican National Committee declared that the latest tax cut benefits "everyone who pays taxes." That is simply a lie. You've heard about those eight million children denied any tax break by a last-minute switcheroo. In total, 50 million American households including a majority of those with members over 65 get nothing; another 20 million receive less than $100 each. And a great majority of those left behind do pay taxes.

    And the bald-faced misrepresentation of an elitist tax cut offering little or nothing to most Americans is only the latest in a long string of blatant misstatements. Misleading the public has been a consistent strategy for the Bush team on issues ranging from tax policy and Social Security reform to energy and the environment. So why should we give the administration the benefit of the doubt on foreign policy?

    It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters a group that includes a large segment of the news media obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

    If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent who supported Britain's participation in the war writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

    It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

    But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted. *


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default Misleading the Public

    > In Britain, the news media have not been shy about drawing the
    > obvious implications, and the outrage has not been limited to
    > war opponents.

    This is not exclusive to Britain, and the criticism is hardly limited to war opponents here in the States.

    Bill O'Reilly is the number one news comentator on cable TV in the US. He is also a conservative and a supporter of the war, and he's was one of the earliest and most vocal in criticizing the Bush administration about the absence of WMDs in Iraq.

    I'm going to preface this... Even among Bush's detractors, few believe Saddam was a swell guy. Much the way few outside (or for that matter inside) Nazi Germany really knew what was going on with the extermination of the Jews, likewise few outside (or for that matter inside) Saddam's Iraq knew the extent of the ethnic cleansing going on in Iraq until we got there. New mass graves with hundreds and thousands of bodies are being found every few days. This is unfortunately only getting light coverage in the US media, and almost no coverage what so ever in Europe. That is a shame... Still, this will not gloss over the absence of WMDs.

    While I supported the war, I had reservations early on in the way the Bush administration chose to put all its eggs in the WMD basket. They expected to find massive human rights violations, mass graves, torture chambers, and WMDs. The found all of the above in spades, except the WMDs. Of course, the pretext for war was not just that they pocessed all of this, but that they pocessed all of this in an area of vital national interest to the West (oil) in the middle of a very volatile region that is a lynch-pin for instability around the world. Iraq violated 17 UN security council motions and the solution of the other UN security council members was, let's make another motion. By having a past history of aggressive war, UN sanctions, past use of WMD, etc. made Iraq the weakest target of American's enemies, and the easiest point of entry to introduce a democratic state to the region (Israel is the Middle East's only democracy)... certainly not because Iraq was the US' toughest Middle Eastern opponent (that would be Iran). Someone close to Bush falsely made the conclusion that WMD would be the best position for selling the war to the public. For whatever validity all the other points may have had, they could mostly be appeased away by arguments of sovereignty, and the real fact that several other boogie-men around the world could legitimately be charged with such crimes. The reality is, those other boogie-men (not counting Iran & North Korea) don't disrupt Western interests in general, or American interest specifically. (And before some hypocrite chimes in about the US only taking an interest in bad guys where they have a money interest, show me where ANY other nation, France, Germany, Russia or otherwise takes it upon themselves to rid the world of bad guys where they have no economic interests).

    I don't know whether WMDs will ultimately be found or not. I'm inclined to believe that the weapons were there, though I thought the accusations were surely exaggerated to make their point, and had great potential to backfire. I think that eventually, in some small quantities they will find some WMDs, or at the very least evidence that they were moved to maybe Iran or more likely Syria.

    Consider that BinLaden has not been found, Saddam has not been found... nobody is saying, 'these two have not been found, therefor they never existed'!!!

    I also do not believe there was an intention to mislead. I think the Bush administration really, honestly believed they were going to find these weapons in some appreciable quantity. The troop deployment, equipment they were sent with, the great expense, the safeguards the military went to with full bio-suits for all the troops, etc. They obviously took it very seriously... Not to mention the blow to their credibility should the weapons not be found.

    Regardless, the damage to credibility is done. There is much much more evidence of Iran's advanced nuclear program than any WMDs in Iraq (Thanks in large part to Israel, for having bombed the nuclear power plant the French were building for Saddam in the 80s), but the absence of WMDs in Iraq, hugely weakens America's hand in selling a tough policy on Iran to the rest of the world. The Bush administration's indifferent attitude towards its allies (and some so called allies) hasn't helped.

  3. #3

    Default Misleading the Public

    Doesn't this duplicate your other thread?:

    http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/to...&topic=119

  4. #4

    Default Misleading the Public

    This is a broader topic about a behavior pattern of the Bush administration.

  5. #5

    Default Misleading the Public

    Someone close to Bush falsely made the conclusion that WMD would be the best position for selling the war to the public.
    This isn't about favorable reviews to boost movie ticket sales. The people being asked to put their lives on the line
    at least deserve the dignity of truth.

    Much the way few outside (or for that matter inside) Nazi Germany really knew what was going on with the extermination of the Jews,
    Not really relevent to this discussion, but that is simply not true.

  6. #6

    Default Misleading the Public

    1st point:
    There were a multitude of reasons to go to war. Everything has to be sold. Someone felt that WMD was most relevant or had the most merit. Sorry if you don't like my choice of words. As I also point out, I also think they truely believed it.

    2nd point:
    What is not true, that Germans were exterminating Jews, or that it was or was not known to all?

  7. #7

    Default Misleading the Public

    1st point: Selling does not imply caveat emptor. There are reports that contrary intelligence was ignored by the administration. Your choice of words was accurate; that's what I didn't like.

    2nd point: If you understand your own statement, then what I meant by not true is obvious. Also, since you stated
    few, all should be replaced by many.

  8. #8

    Default Misleading the Public

    August 11, 2003

    OP-ED COLUMNIST

    The Art of the False Impression

    By BOB HERBERT

    Al Gore slipped into Manhattan last week and gave a rousing speech downtown before a very young audience at New York University. He got some coverage, but Mr. Gore has never been mistaken for an entertainer. In the superamplified media din created by the likes of Arnold and Kobe and Ben and Jen, it's very difficult for the former vice president, a certified square, to break into the national conversation.

    That says a lot about us and the direction we're headed in as a nation. You can agree with Mr. Gore's politics or not, but some of the points he's raising, especially with regard to President Bush's credibility on such crucial issues as war and terror and the troubled economy, deserve much closer attention.

    "Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country, and that some important American values are being placed at risk," said Mr. Gore.

    Keeping his language polite, the former vice president asserted that the Bush administration had allowed "false impressions" to somehow make their way into the public's mind. Enormous numbers of Americans thus came to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks and was actively supporting Al Qaeda; that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were an imminent threat, and Iraq was on the verge of building nuclear weapons; that U.S. troops would be welcomed with open arms, and there was little danger of continued casualties in a prolonged guerrilla war.

    The essence of Mr. Gore's speech was that these corrosive false impressions were part of a strategic pattern of distortion that the Bush administration used to create support not just for the war, but for an entire ideologically driven agenda that overwhelmingly favors the president's wealthy supporters and is driving the federal government toward a long-term fiscal catastrophe.

    What if Mr. Gore is right? There's something at least a little crazy about an environment in which people are literally stumbling over one another to hear what Arnold Schwarzenegger has to say about the budget crisis in California (short answer: nothing), while ignoring what a thoughtful former vice president has to say about the budget and the economy of the U.S.

    Voters with children and grandchildren who may someday have to shoulder the backbreaking debt that is being piled up by the Bush crowd might want to carefully examine some of the points Mr. Gore is raising. The Bush administration would have you believe he is talking nonsense. But what if he's not?

    "Instead of creating jobs, for example, we are losing millions of jobs net losses for three years in a row," said Mr. Gore. "That hasn't happened since the Great Depression." He then looked at the audience and deadpanned, to tremendous laughter: "As I've noted before, I was the first one laid off."

    Credibility is the Bush administration's Achilles' heel. If the public comes to believe that it cannot trust the administration about its reasons for going to war, about the real costs of the war in human lives and American dollars, about the actual state of the nation's defenses against terror and about the real beneficiaries of its economic policies, the Bush II presidency will be crippled, if not doomed.

    This is an administration that is particularly sensitive to light. It prefers to do business behind closed doors, with the curtains and shades drawn. Enormous taxpayer-financed contracts are handed out to a favored few without competitive bidding. We still don't know what went on at the secret meetings between Dick Cheney and top energy industry executives at the very beginning of the Bush reign.

    "It seems obvious," said Mr. Gore, "that big and important issues like the Bush economic policy and the first pre-emptive war in U.S. history should have been covered more extensively in the news media, and better presented to the American people, before our nation made such fateful choices. But that didn't happen, and in both cases reality is turning out to be very different from the impression that was given when the votes and the die were cast."

    The Bush administration has managed to dodge the hard questions and benefit from an atmosphere in which the media and much of the public would rather contemplate Jennifer's navel and Arnold's fading pecs than pursue a possible pattern of deceit at the highest levels of government. *


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  9. #9

    Default Misleading the Public

    The fact is Saddam murdered millions of his own people. Supported terrorist groups. At one point definately had WMD. Invaded Kuwait, where Iraqi soldiers killed and raped thousands. Gassed the Kurds in the North. His hate for the Kurds compares more similarly to how Hitler hated Jews than your other comparison. If you want another comparison to WWII, its like how "Old Europe" dismissed Hitler as not being a threat. Luckily, this time we didn't have to wait to find out what the maniac would do.

  10. #10
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    Default Misleading the Public

    Quote: from Freedom Tower on 2:53 pm on Aug. 11, 2003
    The fact is Saddam murdered millions of his own people. Supported terrorist groups. At one point definately had WMD. Invaded Kuwait, where Iraqi soldiers killed and raped thousands. Gassed the Kurds in the North. His hate for the Kurds compares more similarly to how Hitler hated Jews than your other comparison. If you want another comparison to WWII, its like how "Old Europe" dismissed Hitler as not being a threat. Luckily, this time we didn't have to wait to find out what the maniac would do.
    I agree. The problem here is that, as I have been saying ever since the "war drums" started last year, the weapons shoul dhave been down played by the administration. They were dealing with, in most cases, information that was 10 years old, and, at worse, second hand information from questionable sources.

    Saddam was a nuisance and a threat... and possibly trouble waiting to happen. The problem has been solved. Now there is a whole new one. Since the delcared end of major combat, there has been an average of almost one soldier killed per day, most by hostile forces. If this were not the case, the weapons issue would have faded, at least in the States, a long time ago.

    By the way, Saddam did not kill his "own people." Why most of our fellow citizens cannot understand this is at the core of the misunderstanding, at least in the general populace about Iraq.

  11. #11

    Default Misleading the Public

    Yes, you're right Kurds aren't his "own" people. However, they were citizens of Iraq, I think that is the point I was trying to make. However, killing anyone is bad, not just citizens of your own country. So it makes little difference, although yes, you are right, they are not "his own" people.

  12. #12
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    Default Misleading the Public

    Quote: from Freedom Tower on 12:29 pm on Aug. 12, 2003
    Yes, you're right Kurds aren't his "own" people. However, they were citizens of Iraq, I think that is the point I was trying to make. However, killing anyone is bad, not just citizens of your own country. So it makes little difference, although yes, you are right, they are not "his own" people.
    Okay FT, I understand the point you were making. I am not sure it does not make a larger difference. To the Sunni and many others in the Middle East, and the larger world, it does make a difference... not as a means of justification, but as it relates to context. Most *Americans do not realize this but nationality and citizenship are not necessarily monolithic. Most countries have this as a fact.

    To us in the States makes a difference. Saying that he "killed his citizens" does not sound...hmm " sexy". It does not have the emotional impact, even if techinically correct, as saying "his own people".

    So in a sense, I agree and in another I do not.

    But is it not too bad that President Bush does not get enough credit for what has been accomplished in Iraq. He has to do something about the constant killing, Iraqi infrastructure ( and the economy ) or he better start filling out that change of address card now.

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