Thursday, February 15, 2007

Oh, those lying neocons

[Apologies for the delay, but part II of "Democracy, its spread, and the neocons" will be coming tomorrow.]

Commenter TC asserts in yesterday's thread on neocons and democracy that neocons lie for strategic reasons, and that Paul Wolfowitz actually admitted to lying to the American people about the reasons for the Iraq War:

You might recall...that it was Paul Wolfowitz's own admission that the WMD story was simply the most 'convenient' one available - and that regime change, preventative (imaginary) war-was the real rationale.

In the above comment, TC is backing up this earlier comment of his in the same thread, in response to a challenge by commenter Ariel to come up with a specific instance of neocon lies:

It's neoconservative doctrine--Wilsonian stuff--'lying for the survical of the state'.

If you don't know that than you don't know anything about neoconservatism--for the neo-con's the ends jusfify the means.

I don't need to do research for you.

This is a common meme, and one of its favorite illustrations is the Wolfowitz interview statement that TC references, which was widely characterized by the MSM as an admission that the WMD argument for the war was only used because it was "convenient," not because it was believed or was important.

Of course, as it turns out, if one actually does do the research for oneself, that is not what Wolfowitz really said.

Fancy that.

Even though this is very old news, I bring it up now because I think it's both instructive and typical of the sort of distortions I've spoken of so often, and it's also relevant to the series I'm writing at the moment.

Here's a discussion of the issue at Patterico, and here's the acerbic Christopher Hitchens's take on the mischaracterization of Wolfowitz's remarks.

What did Wolfowitz actually say (and see the full transcript of the Wolfowitz interview if you have the patience to wade though the entire thing, which I freely admit I have not done)? This is the statement involved:

The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason.

It is crystal clear that Wolfowitz was saying something quite the opposite of the MSM characterization of his remarks--and that either journalists have no reading comprehension, no ability to express themselves in English, or are purposely distorting his remarks; take your pick.

Wolfowitz is not saying WMDs were a cooked-up excuse or a meaningless one or even--in the widely disseminated headline about his remarks--a merely "convenient" one. He was saying that, in a bureaucracy in which many different departments with understandably different emphases are trying to make a policy statement together, it makes sense to emphasize the policy statement on which they all agree--and in this case it was WMDs. It was a real and important reason at the time (although subsequent events have made it clear that the intelligence relied on was deeply flawed), so real and so important that all involved happened to agree on it. Perhaps it was even the one reason on which they all did agree (and, by the way, count the Clinton administration and most of the world as in on that agreement).

We can--and have--argued about WMDs ad nauseum. The evidence is that Saddam didn't have them, but the evidence is that he wanted to, and that he had the power and the plans to reconstitute his WMD programs as soon as sanctions were lifted. But that's not the point here; the point is what Wolfowitz actually said in his interview and how this reflects on the issue of purported Machiavellian neocon lies.

It's a meme that will not die, and it's both connected to and symptomatic of the demonization of, hatred towards, and misunderstanding of neocons. It also illustrates the typical sloppiness of the work of the MSM, and the use made of that sloppiness by polemicists such as TC in spreading the word.

And now I'm going to quote Winston Churchill again. Yes indeed, I'm sure that, as another commenter pointed out, there are many who despise the man. I don't admire everything he ever did, but I most definitely greatly admire many things about him, and one of them is his way with an aphorism. And it was Churchill who made the following wonderful statement, as true today as it ever was when he first said it:

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

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