March 4, 2003
One of These People Has to Be Lying

There is an old logical parable involving two villages. It goes something like this. The people of one village always tell the truth. The people of the other village always lie. You come across a person on the island where both villages are situated. He must come from one of the two villages. He can tell you how to get off of the island and save yourself. What question can you ask him to determine which village he comes from?

The reason this comes up is because of Eric Alterman's quotation of some analyses he found on some other weblogs. These weblogs engage in sophisticated examinations of the "intelligence" set forth as hard fact supporting the conclusions that the administration claims to have drawn about 's weapon plans and its intent to use its weapons aggressively.

The problem is one of credibility. In order to support the war, we have to credit Bush's claim that it is necessary to do so. This is difficult because the administration's proffered explanations for the need forcibly to depose Saddam Hussein have shifted from time to time. Sometimes the reason is regime change. Sometimes the reason is to "install" democracy and stabilize the Middle East (and bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians, too). Sometimes it is because Hussein will give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, particularly to al Quaeda. Another reason has been that if Saddam Hussein gets nuclear weapons he is going to use them to blackmail us to look the other way (threatening to nuke Israel if we intervene) while he takes over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

It is also hard to credit the Bush Administration because they are the most secretive government in the history of U.S. politics. This does not inspire trust. If they want the people to trust them, then they should be more open. A lot more open. Secrecy is the enemy of a democracy. Information wants to be free. People deserve to know upon what information their representatives are basing their decision. Not some of the truth, but the whole truth. ( For god's sake, will Dick just give us the list of the people he met with on that energy commission, already? It's just a list of names. Not what they said even.) The failure to disclose suggests that they do not trust the American people to come to the "right" conclusions about the material, and suggest a patriarchal "we-know-better-than-those-kids" attitude toward the people who have empowered them. (Unless you take into account that we didn't elect them, but that's another story.)

So now the meat of this entry. Via Eric Alterman, via Atrios, comes this fine examination of the intelligence the administration has set forth as proving 's evil intentions and their nuclear program: Unqualified Offerings. Problem is, the intelligence comes from two individuals (Kamel and Hamza), one of whom says the other is a big liar. They can't both be right. A says X and B says Y and also A is a liar. This has been presented to us as X and Y are true. As Jim Henley points out:

1) [These two informants] can't both be telling the truth.

2) Quoting Hesiod again: "The Bush admninistration, and its pro-war allies, have been hyping the information provided BOTH from Khidir Hamza and from Hussein Kamal. The problem of them has to be lying."

3) But there's one more problem. Pollack too touts both defectors to support his case, just as the administration does. And since Pollack was, after all, "a former analyst of the i military at the C.I.A.", who has written an entire book on since (supposedly) leaving the Agency, he must have known that Kamel and Hamza conflict.

He's talking about Keven Pollack, the man who wrote the book "The Threatening Storm: Why We Should Go To War With ," and who also made the most convincing case I had yet heard for the war -- summarized best in Ira Glass's interview of Pollack on This American Life (and noted elsewhere on this page.)

What this boils down is that there are huge gaping holes in the arguments supporting a war against which center on the lack of credibility of those urging its necessity. As I recently noted, there have been reports that Hussein is not nearly as dangerous as has been claimed, and that his ambitions have been successfully curtailed by inspections and sanctions over the past twelve or more years -- that containment works.

All of this supports the conclusion that Bush and his pals want to invade for another reason: not because he is dangerous but because it would advance U.S. interests to occupy the country and have a base of operations in the Middle East that we controlled -- in an area that includes a large supply of oil. The Heritage Foundation has been flogging this as a strategic goal of U.S. foreign policy for many years. See this 1991 document for examples. It advocates, among other things, that we "[m]ake the ouster of i dictator Saddam Hussein the top short-term U.S. policy goal in the Persian Gulf." This is because no goal is more important than

preventing hegemony by Iran, , or any other hostile power over the Persian Gulf. Nor [is any goal]as critical to America as maintaining access to Persian Gulf oil or militarily assisting Israel.
I've seen many a conservative dismiss antiwar demonstrators "No War for Oil" signs as being insane leftist rhetoric. But how can you say it's crazy when conservative think tanks have advocated the importance of getting control of Middle East oil as fundamental to United States security?

That's why many of us oppose the war. We can't just take people's lands and resources because we need them, and because we have the power to do so. That's why this war with is imperialistic and colonialist in nature. It's not preemptive. It's aggressive. And it's wrong. (And the rest of the world knows that it's wrong, too.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:31 PM in