August 7, 2006

Half of US Stubbornly Refuses to Believe Media Propaganda...

Hatched by Dafydd

...And it's an outrage!

Read this AP piece, the whole thing; I'll stand here humming obscure Elizabethan counter-tenor ditties until you finish.

Amazing, what? No further comment is necessary. (Goodness, what a short post.)

Oh, all right; I reckon I should say just a soupçon more. You've got the thumbscrews on me.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

First, let's look at the way disputed claims are introduced as proven facts that everyone agrees about:

The reality in this case is that after a 16-month, $900-million-plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight. That finding in 2004 reaffirmed the work of U.N. inspectors who in 2002-03 found no trace of banned arsenals in Iraq.

Here are a few quotations from the final report of the ISG, September 30th, 2004. See how closely they match AP's characterization above. On Hussein's non-cooperation with and his ongoing deception of UN inspectors:

Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period....

Baghdad reluctantly submitted to inspections, declaring only part of its ballistic missile and chemical warfare programs to the UN, but not its nuclear weapon and biological warfare programs, which it attempted to hide from inspectors....

The abortive efforts to outwardly comply with the UN inspection process from 1995 onward slowly shifted to increased efforts to minimize the impact of the inspection process on Regime security, military, and industrial and research capabilities. Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.

On Hussein's future plans for WMD retention and resumption:

The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions....

The suspension of cooperation with UN inspectors ushered in a period of mixed fortunes for the Regime.This transitional phase was characterized by economic growth on the one hand, which emboldened and accelerated illicit procurement and programs....

Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists....

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.

Whether or not Saddam retained WMD as late as 2003:

ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but the available evidence from its investigation -- including detainee interviews and document exploitation -- leaves open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq although not of a militarily significant capability.

A recovered 2002 document outlines the Iraqi evacuation plan to protect key military industries and equipment from Coalition air strikes or threats. The former Regime developed these concepts in response to lessons learned after Desert Storm and Desert Fox. The report outlines the importance of utilizing a properly concealed Iraqi railroad system along with trucks and pre-equipped trailers to move important laboratories, equipment, and machinery....

If Iraq possessed WMD Saddam may have concluded, given his perception of the Coalition threat, he would not need to use WMD. Military commanders consistently over-reported their combat capability and Saddam had concluded most Iraqis would fight to defend the country. He may not have realized that his Regime could not be saved until it was too late to deploy CW from existing storage areas to operational forces....

If WMD existed, Saddam may have opted not to use it for larger strategic or political reasons, because he did not think Coalition military action would unseat him.... Based on his experience with past coalition attacks, Saddam actually had more options by not using WMD, and if those failed, WMD always remained as the final alternative.

Note the huge discrepencies between the AP "article," written by Mr. Charles J. Hanley -- a Bush hater and anti-war baiter from long back -- and the actual Duelfer report:

Hanley says "the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight."

But the final report of the ISG says:

  • They found no evidence of WMD... yet they hold open the possibility of legacy WMD;
  • That Hussein obstructed and impeded inspections and hid materials from inspectors;
  • That Hussein always harbored the intent to resume WMD production the moment sanctions were lifted (which, absent the invasion, would have been right around the corner);
  • That to this end, Hussein retained all the capacity to restore and reconstitute his WMD programs.

And in fact, at least "a trace" of the banned arsenal -- about twenty loaded chemical shells -- were found before Charles Duelfer's final report of the Iraq Survey Group; and nobody knew then (or knows today) how many such "legacy" chemical weapons still existed in 2003 and still exist today (though the Pentagon now admits that number is in excess of 500; see below). Yet Hanley flatly states that nothing at all has been found... "no trace."

Let's return to Hanley's assertions of supposedly uncontroversial "reality." He discusses here the chemical munitions that we have, in fact, found in Iraq -- and why they don't count:

But the Pentagon and outside experts stressed that these abandoned shells, many found in ones and twos, were 15 years old or more [I recall reading "up to" 15 years old, not a minimum of 15], their chemical contents were degraded [but it's in great dispute just how degraded they were... some severely, but some only minimally], and they were unusable as artillery ordnance [Hanley disdains even to mention the possibility that, while unusable as artillery shells, they may well be usable as chemical IEDs]. Since the 1990s, such "orphan" munitions, from among 160,000 made by Iraq and destroyed, have turned up on old battlefields and elsewhere in Iraq, ex-inspectors say. In other words, this was no surprise.

Note the yawner at the end: "no surprise." Does the fact that we knew they were there mean, therefore, that they were not dangerous? Rather, I think it severely undercuts Hanley's point above that "no trace" of Hussein's "banned arsenals" existed, as 500 chemical munitions is more than "a trace."

Back to Hanley:

And Bush himself, since 2003, has repeatedly insisted on one plainly false point: that Saddam rebuffed the U.N. inspectors in 2002, that "he wouldn't let them in," as he said in 2003, and "he chose to deny inspectors," as he said this March.

The facts are that Iraq - after a four-year hiatus in cooperating with inspections - acceded to the U.N. Security Council's demand and allowed scores of experts to conduct more than 700 inspections of potential weapons sites from Nov. 27, 2002, to March 16, 2003. The inspectors said they could wrap up their work within months. Instead, the U.S. invasion aborted that work.

Actually, the "facts" are that Hussein was caught repeatedly moving materials around from site to site, delaying inspectors for days, and that there appeared to be leaks from within UNMOVIC that enabled the Iraqis to know, sometimes days in advance, what site inspectors were going to look at and what they thought they might find. UN seals were several times found broken, and the inspectors themselves admitted that Iraq was not fully cooperating with the inspections regime.

From the ISG final report:

In 2002 and 2003, SSO minders accompanied many inspection teams because of the requirement laid down by UNSCR 1441 to provide immediate access to all facilities, including presidential sites. They also served to warn Saddam Husayn’s security personnel that inspectors were approaching presidential locations....

Between August 2002 and early January 2003, the Iraqi military had taken measures to prepare for an anticipated US military attack on Iraq, according to a former IIS official. These measures included the movement and hiding of military equipment and weapons. Army leaders at bases throughout Iraq were ordered to identify alternate locations and to transfer equipment and heavy machinery to off-base locations, taking advantage of farms and homes to hide items.

Far from being "plainy false," the claim that Hussein was still "rebuff[ing] the U.N. inspectors" was plainly accurate.

Send the Rabble Back to Their Homes

Second, look at the dismissive, even belittling way Hanley describes those benighted souls who still believe that Iraq posed any danger at all prior to the March, 2003 invasion:

Half of America apparently still thinks [that Iraq had WMD], a new poll finds, and experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die-hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq.

This sets the tone: if you actually think that Iraq had WMD or even WMD programs in 2002-2003, then (pick one or more):

  • You've been brainwashed by talk radio or "die-hard bloggers;"
  • You've been brainwashed by Bush's propaganda;
  • You've been made a fool by badly written headlines that leave the mistaken impression that things have been found since the invasion that might indicate the most dovish position in 2002 was not completely correct;
  • You're a stupid patriot who thinks "my country, right or wrong!"
  • You have a psychological need to expiate your guilt by believing the delusion that Bush might have been right after all.

Missing from this list of explanations for why people might believe Iraq really did have WMD is this one: because recent information and finds indicate that Iraq really did have WMD in 2003.

People tend to become "independent of reality" in these circumstances, says opinion analyst Steven Kull....

"I'm flabbergasted," said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03.

"This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence," Massing said.

This is the psychology meme more fully expressed: those who think Iraq had WMD in 2003 have a psychological need, "independent of reality," to believe such a ludicrous thing. Of course, for any of this to make sense, we have to assume from the outset that there is no logical way for anyone to believe that the answer to the question "Did Saddam Hussein's government have weapons of mass destruction in 2003" could be "Yes." But wait...

Timing may explain some of the poll result. Two weeks before the survey, two Republican lawmakers, Pennsylvania's Sen. Rick Santorum and Michigan's Rep. Peter Hoekstra, released an intelligence report in Washington saying 500 chemical munitions had been collected in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Hm... if a fellow were aware of that report -- which the Pentagon itself has confirmed -- and if he were asked whether "Saddam Hussein's government [had] weapons of mass destruction in 2003," wouldn't his answer have to be that it obviously did?

The only alternative is that old Iraqi chemical weapons had been smuggled into Iraq after 2003; but if that were true, then they had to exist outside of Iraq prior to that point (since one cannot manufacture items in 2003 that date back to 1991) -- which buttresses the idea that Iraq removed its arsenal to another country!

It's one or the other for anyone who knows about the report. Thus, for someone to believe, as Hanley clearly does, that there was "no trace" of WMD in Iraq, he would have to conclude that a chemical weapons from 1991 was not really a "weapon of mass destruction."

This is the Mark Steyn position: "No matter how many WMDs are found in Iraq, they're always the wrong kind.

A former Iraqi general's book - at best uncorroborated hearsay - claimed "56 flights" by jetliners had borne such [WMD] to Syria.

Has Hanley actually read the book? Or even a summary? Or did he say to himself, "I needn't bother reading that thing, for it is nothing but uncorroborated hearsay at best." Rather than attempt to debunk the claim, Hanley is content merely to denounce it.

"For some it almost becomes independent of reality and becomes very partisan." The WMD believers are heavily Republican, polls show.

The third meme: it's all just politics. How can you take seriously those who think there was WMD in Iraq? For Pete's sake, they're all Republicans!

The Lurkers Support Me In E-Mail

Finally, note that Hanley interviews not a single commenter who disagrees with his central thesis: that any American who thinks that Iraq had any "trace of banned arsenals in Iraq" is either terminally ignorant and stupid, is driven by deep psychotic impulses so frighteningly antisocial, he should probably be locked up, or is perhaps even a Republican.

Nearly all of those commenters he interviews have a pre-existing animus against Bush or against the war; it's hard not to suspect that's precisely why they find themselves quoted in this hit-piece:

  • "People tend to become 'independent of reality' in these circumstances, says opinion analyst Steven Kull."

Kull is an "analyst" at the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), a very left-wing survey group that produces push-polls with questions like this:

Suppose the US has detained an individual in Afghanistan who is not suspected of having any involvement in terrorism, but the US suspects this person might have useful information about a terrorist group. Suppose, when asked, he denies having such information. Do you think the US does or does not have the right to put this person in prison indefinitely as a way of putting pressure on him to talk?

(Anti-war groups such as al-Jazeera and frequently turn to Kull for authoritative-sounding quotes to back up their stories.)

  • "'I'm flabbergasted,' said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03."

From Wikipedia:

Michael Massing is a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. Michael Massing received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and an MS from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He often writes for the New York Review of Books concerning the media and foreign affairs. He has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly. He was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 1992. He has written on the War on Drugs in his 2000 book The Fix and on American jounalism [in] Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq.

'Nuff said.

  • "'These are not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,' said Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine who was a U.N. inspector in the 1990s. 'They weren't deliberately withheld from inspectors by the Iraqis.'"

For some inexplicable reason, Hanley neglects to mention this tidbit about Mr. Ritter:

Ritter has been criticized for the financing of his 2000 documentary In Shifting Sands: The Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq.

Detroit businessman Shakir al Khafaji, an American citizen of Iraqi descent, gave Ritter $400,000 to produce his film. Al Khafaji later disclosed to media sources that he had profited from the sale of oil allocations distributed by the Iraqi government under the Oil-for-Food programme run by the UN. [Financial Times, April 13, 2004] Some commentators have speculated that Al-Khafaji's fianancial support of Ritter's film may have been part of a quid-pro-quo with the Iraqi govenment, since the film supported the official Iraqi claim that WMD capabilities had been eliminated. Ritter has stated that at the time, he accepted Al-Khafaji's personal assurance that the money was not connected to the Iraqi regime.

(Shakir al Khafaji is a naturalized American citizen, having immigrated from Iraq in 1975.)

I would think such a connection between Ritter and Saddam Hussein's government, even indirectly, might possibly color the reader's perception of Ritter's objectivity and should have been disclosed. But then, I'm not a member of the elite media, with all of its multiple layers of checks and balances... so what do I know?

  • "'I think the Santorum-Hoekstra thing is the latest 'factoid,' but the basic dynamic is the insistent repetition by the Bush administration of the original argument,' said John Prados, author of the 2004 book Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War."
  • "As recently as May 27, Bush told West Point graduates, 'When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity.'

    'Which isn't true,' observed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a scholar of presidential rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania. But 'it doesn't surprise me when presidents reconstruct reality to make their policies defensible. This president may even have convinced himself it's true, she said.'"

  • "'As perception grows of worsening conditions in Iraq, it may be that Americans are just hoping for more of a solid basis for being in Iraq to begin with,' said the Harris Poll's David Krane."

Prados' position on Bush and the Iraq war is obvious; Jamieson, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, has argued for years that all politicians are liars and cheats.

David Krane, Senior Vice President of Media, Public Relations and Public Policy Research and project manager for Harris Interactive, is the lone commenter who doesn't start with an obvious axe to grind against Bush and the war; on the other hand, his quotation can only be presumed from context to support Hanley's position.

Sitting separately, it reads more like a general comment simply about Americans hoping to be reassured that we went into the war for good and valid reasons -- not specifically about the oddity that a majority of Americans believes that WMD existed in Iraq, merely because we have subsequently found existing WMD in Iraq.

Hanley does not trouble to intervew, even for a pull-quote, anybody who disputes his thesis, arguing that Iraq did indeed retain either WMD itself or at least the capability to quickly reconstitute it the moment the sanctions and inspections regime collapsed: no Laurie Mylroie, no Rick Santorum or Peter Hoekstra, nobody involved in translating the Iraq IIS and military documents that have been released recently, no Iraqi defectors, and none of the analysts who have recently cast doubt upon the CIA characterization of those mobile labs as part of Hussein's urgent program, on the eve of war, to protect Iraq's vital weather-balloon facilities.

Evidently, like global-warming fanatics, he wants us to believe that 100% of all experts back his position.

All the News That's Fit to Be Tied

Suffice to say that the entire Hanley piece, from soup to nuts, is a propaganda paeon to anti-war activists, Arabs, and the Democratic Party. Yet it was published and distributed in the regular AP news feed via Given such efforts, it's a wonder that "half of America" is still able to see through the snide inuendo, the condescending pop psychology, and the insulting dismissal of views contrary to the vision of the anointed antique media.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 7, 2006, at the time of 1:07 PM

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The following hissed in response by: heldmyw

OFF TOPIC - for which I humbly apologize, but please check this out:

TITLE:VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: "Just once, let them fight till someone loses".

This is one to share, and if I could have found the 'tips' function here at biglizards, I woulda.

Sanity come home. Read and revel.

The above hissed in response by: heldmyw [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 7, 2006 1:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

Pitiful, really. Any one think Hanley et al might be...projecting?

Actually, I'm being entirely too generous. Hanley and his gang absolutely know the truth - how could they not? But you see, Bush=Hitler. And that makes the rest of us simply the mindless masses yelling "Sieg Heil!" So it is absolutely crucial that they, in their higher understanding of these things, prevent us from knowing the truth about Iraq.

Or the alternate scenario. There were many apologists for Hitler and Stalin who lied about them, not because they supported their policies, but because they did not want the U.S. to go to war for any reason. They suffered from moral and perhaps physical cowardice, but hid it within a cloak of moral superiority. Hanley probably falls into this group.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 7, 2006 4:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

Reuters, AP, NYTimes, the rantings of the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton, what difference does it make? If you read something in the newspaper, see it on TV or the internet, your reaction must be:

That is very interesting, I wonder if it is true.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 7, 2006 9:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I think the weapons were there for the simple reason that it was easier to move those weapons than it was for Saddam to fool so many people for so long. Because the truth is if Saddam did not have the weapons, the really liar/screw up is Clinton. After all, where do these guys think Bush got his information?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 7, 2006 9:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Patrick Chester

Ah, the Goldilocks Criteria for WMD. 500-plus weapons found, but none of them are juuuuuuuuust riiiiiiiight for the MSM.

The above hissed in response by: Patrick Chester [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 8, 2006 10:23 AM

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