A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Thursday, March 11, 2004 :::
Cast your mind back a few months ago. There was widespread pressure to increase troop levels in Iraq. The Administration said the solution was Iraqi police officers, because the Army is the Army and police are police. Friend Eddie over at One Good Turn made an entirely reasonable point: why not just say that this is the kind of war we are going to fight and train the troops to do the job properly?

A very good question, but the Pentagon was, at the time, in spin overdrive, as was easy to detect. The higher the pressure got, the larger the number of Iraqi police being trained "according to official reports."

The spin spun the wrong way when The Weekly Standard pointed out that, to even vaguely get near these wholly incredible targets, new "policemen" were being turned out in two weeks.

If graduation ceremonies, it should be remembered, were not interrupted by fatal explosions.

The Journal a few days ago ran a long article on how badly many of those police are actually trained. (This was a feat of unexampled investigative journalism, of course, not, but at least somebody had to the guts to print the story.) And today brings an interesting revelation from Iraqi Governing Council member Abu Ayad. It is in the fourth paragraph of a very trenchant articleon National Review Online. Apparently, we have put known insurrectionists into the police force.

And yet, you see, if you question the war, or its execution, you are a defeatist. This spate of unhappy news about the Iraqi police makes this writer think a real defeat is in the offing, and unless the Right changes its attitude and its tactics now, it is all but inevitable.

With gas prices set to go through the roof and the undeniable recovery still producing very few jobs, this writer has to think that somebody in the White House is getting nervous, or he hopes, at least, that somebody is. He also knows of no one outside policy wonk circles who thinks anything other than that (1) we went to war over WMD and (2) there were no WMD. Absent any effective rejoinder to the notion that "Bush lied," the vectors, as the social scientists like to say, are pointing in one direction.

Even many of the best conservative commentators are still putting scare quotes around words like "unprepared." Worse, they are treating the Kay findings as if they were merely a statement of his feelings and they seem to feel he can be ignored by invoking an alternate reality where there is a cave somewhere--which no Iraqi scientist or military leader was ever told about--simply brimming with the vilest weapons conceived by man. As long as we don't have all 54 of the Deck of Cards, perhaps there is hope. And hope springs eternal.

It also leads to lost elections.

Karl Popper draws a distinction between certainty and truth. Science, he says accurately, seeks truth. Certainty interferes with the search for truth, because certainties must be defended, not subjected to tests, to stand or fall depending on the correspondence to the facts. It seems that something like that is working here: conservatives were certain that WMD were there; it makes it almost impossible to admit that something might be wrong.

But the WMD are not there. The chances are very high that David Kay is 100 percent correct. But, in clinging to their precious certainty, conservatives and Republicans have lost 6 precious months in any attempt to counter the "Bush lied" lie. The Weekly Standard has been almost alone in seeking ways to restate the case for the war, but even they say that David Kay "made statements." He did not, in that sense; he found facts. Still, the Standard has been brave in its willingness to say the Emperor has no clothes, even if they try and hand him a tattered washcloth to cover up the most embarrassing parts.

George Tenet's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday was devastating. You will remember that you are supposed to be silly and illiterate if you say that the President said the threat was "imminent." In the famous State of the Union address, you see, there is even a paragraph saying "we should not wait until the threat is imminent," which was true, and it is true that he said that. But if one reads any statement by the Administration at the time, including the rest of that very speech, they certainly went out of their way to say it was an urgent problem. What W.& Co. tooketh away with one hand, they gaveth back with the other. And now Mr. Tenet has testified--no doubt truthfully--that he warned Vice-President Cheney about two claims that the Administraiton was making in his public statements. While Mr. Tenet insisted manfully that the Administration had not misused the intelligence, those little factoids are getting butchered, as are some unfortunate body language used unconsciously by Mr. Tenet.

Mr. Tenet's testimony received very little attention on most conservative websites, but it did not go unnoticed elsewhere. John Stewart made devastatingly funny use of it on the Daily Show. Jay Leno, no doubt, had a field day. Senator Kennedy certainly did.

And John Kerry certainly will.

There is this interesting sidelight: on his very, very late night show (whose name slips the mind, and that may have to do with staying up that late), Colin Quinn did a very funny routine based on an accurate reading of Kay's factual findings. He did a bit about an Iraqi weapons scientist bragging to his wife about how he conned Saddam into giving him $10 million. Aside from showing that Mr. Quinn follows the news very carefully, it also shows that the Kay factual findings can be summarized and put across easily. If done on a larger stage, that would put the President in a better light. Why very few are even trying to do it is anyone's guess. But probably nothing much will be done until everyone kisses their precious certainties good bye and embraces the truth.

George Tenet and David Kay are not the only thing the Right is generally silent about. Nearly everyone over here is also silent about the one poll number that really matters, the one that shows that most Americans no longer trust George Bush. The public's estimation of his character, as Peggy Noonan pointed out long ago, has a lot to do with why the public used to support him even when they disagreed with him. He has lost, in other words, his biggest asset. A Democrat crowed about that on some website a few weeks ago, but this writer cannot recall seeing it anywhere on this side of the street, at least not in any major way.

But, my, oh, my, do we ever hear about all those other, irrelevant poll numbers. The endless chatter has little to do with the distinction between truth and certainty. The most accurate term for it, one suspects, is "whistling past the graveyard."

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:49 PM



Post a Comment


A Related Website on Christian Spirituality
The Fullness of Him
The Easiest Way to Keep Up With the News:
Best of the Web
Links to Web Friends
One Good Turn
A Dog's Life
Power Line
Rambles and By-ways

What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Powered by Blogger