Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bush Lied!!! Er, actually, no, he didn't

Norman Podhoretz has written a readable, common sense refutation of the Bush Lied!!! mantra entitled "Who Is Lying About Iraq?." Commentary magazine released it today in advance of the December issue. It's good to have an authoritative debunking on the record.

Judging from early blogosphere reaction, this won't convert many people. Most of those who link to it already agree with the premise, and the few lefties who link to it are doing their darnedest to debunk Podhoretz's debunking.

Essentially, Podhoretz's debunking is compelling but doomed. Certain things we know to be true even though our senses tell us otherwise. We have taught ourselves to overrule our senses because, well, that's what you do in these circumstances. The Earth is round. Doesn't look round, doesn't feel round, but it's roundtrust me.

And to vast swaths of the interested public, Bush Lied!!! is true We just know it.
  • We know that, evidence to the contrary, Bush knew there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq, but he lied to us. Sure Democratic leaders and foreign governments thought the same as Bush, but we can overrule that line of thought in service of the greater truth, which is that Bush Lied!!!
  • The Scooter Libby indictment may appear to be, as the prosecuter said, about perjury and obstruction of justice, but we know it's really manufacturing and manipulating intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the President (to borrow a phrase from Sen. Harry Reid)—because that serves the greater truth, which is that Bush Lied!!!
And so on. Podhoretz more or less anticipated this reaction:

What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.


What puzzles me about the Bush Lied! mantra is that, to me anyway, it weakens the anti-war crowd's arguments. A great preponderance of the evidence (and yes, I've read evidence on both sides of the issue) suggests that Bush did not in fact lie. So if you base an anti-war stance on Bush's lying, you're already losing the argument.

I have much more patience with those who are against the war for legitimate reasons (e.g. our intel was not strong enough to use in a pre-emptive war scenario, we should have had more/fewer/different troops on the ground, our post-invasion planning was flawed). Each of these arguments has some merit and is certainly superior to the Bush Lied! line of reasoning. While these cases are not strong enough to convince me that we do not belong in Iraq, I can still respect them.

While we're on the point, for those wondering if we belong in Iraq, let me remind you of a piece Podhoretz wrote last year, "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win," which is still the most compelling case I've read on the topic.

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  • For an example of the Bush Lied! mantra, refer to CJR Daily managing editor Steve Lovelady's letter to Jim Romensko discussing "the lies at the heart of the Iraq invasion," which I mentioned a while back and Mediacrity discussed in more detail.
  • I have a related post here.