More on Rumsfled

I was quite struck by two features of this AP article, Rumsfeld Is Confronted by Antiwar Protesters, on Rumsfeld’s encounter with Ray McGovern.

Consider the first three paragraphs:

ATLANTA, May 4 — Antiwar protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech Thursday, and one man, a former CIA analyst, accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

“Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?” asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.

“I did not lie,” shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.

First, note that neither here nor elsewhere in the article does the reporter note that McGovern read Rumsfeld his own statement. The result is to suggest the trading of accusations, not the allegation of a fact and the failure to respond to it.

Second, and most shocking of all, the reporter seems utterly unfazed by the idea that asking a tough question in a public meeting might suffice as grounds to have security wrestle McGovern away. Only Rumsfeld’s indulgence, he ‘waved off security guards’ saved him.

How have we come to this?

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20 Responses to More on Rumsfled

  1. Thomas says:

    There continues to be confusion on the point. The statement read wasn’t a “prewar” statement on intelligence, but, rather, a statement made on the basis of prewar intelligence well after the war had begun. The statement wasn’t true, but that doesn’t make it a lie. The accusation wasn’t that Rumsfeld said things, based on the information he had available, that subsequently proved not to be true. That’s a trivial accusation. The accusation is that he lied, and the statement given isn’t evidence of that–it doesn’t even fit the motive offered (there’s no reason to lie to get us into a war after the war has begun, is there?)

    Further, as additional context, it would be nice for news reports to mention that McGovern is a believer in a popular antiSemitic 9/11 conspiracy theory. That’s the sort of person who works at the CIA and the sort of person who is a public opponent of the war.

    As for having the questioner wrestled away by security: it seems to me it was an overreaction, but one must keep the context in mind. The fact that so many opponents of the war are incapable of civil behavior was demonstrated time and again during the speech. Security was relying–wrongly, in my view–on that repeated pattern of behavior. They should have let McGovern keep talking–and talking, and talking. It wouldn’t be long before he got to “Israel is the source of all evil.”

  2. Sid Fish says:

    Nice ad hominem attack, Thomas. All opposition comes from anti-Semitism, therefore no opposition is legitimate. And “The statement wasn’t true, but that doesn’t make it a lie”? Wow! That is double plus good! Your next promotion in the Ministry of Truth is a slam-dunk.

  3. talkloudsaynothing says:

    “During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq the Bush administration disregarded the community’s expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.”

    Says who?

    PAUL R. PILLAR is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. Concluding a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency, he served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

    Where?

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060301faessay85202/paul-r-pillar/intelligence-policy-and-the-war-in-iraq.html

  4. Thomas says:

    Sid, I’m not sure how to help you. I didn’t say all opposition comes from antisemitism, but it’s pretty clear that in the particular case it does. (Even that might not be right: Maybe it’s more fair to say that whatever causes McGovern’s belief in antisemitic conspiracy theories also causes his opposition to the war–it seems to me entirely possible that McGovern isn’t entirely in control of his faculties.)
    As for the more pedestrian point on what it means to lie: As I said, it’s clear that the intelligence Rumsfeld relied on was faulty, and thus that the statements he made in reliance thereon are false. But in the English language we do not typically assert that every false statement is a lie, and that every time someone says something that isn’t true they’re lying. See, e.g., the first dictionary.com definition of lie: “To present false information with the intention of deceiving.” To the extent that Rumsfeld believe the information given to him to be true, he couldn’t have had the intent to deceive. As I said before, it’s a trivial accusation to say that the statements weren’t true–that’s not new. There’s no additional evidence provided to show that Rumsfeld “lied”, which we’d expect to see if we were taking the charge seriously. Something to show “intention to deceive” would be relevant.

  5. Half says:

    2003–
    Rumsfeld: “We know where they are.”

    (This was given in response to a question about why no WMD had yet [end of March] been found by US troops. After averring that none had yet been found simply because troops were not in the area where WMD had been ‘dispersed,’ Rumsfeld proclaimed “We know where they are.” And he proceeded to name the areas of Iraq where WMD were, but hedged that we might not find them anyway since the Iraqis might’ve moved them.)

    2006–
    McGovern: “You said you knew where they were..”
    Rumsfeld: “I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were…”

    Well, if “We know where they are” wasn’t a lie (arguable), then “I did not” certainly is.

    Yes, Michael, we are indeed at the point where asking tough questions is grounds for ejection.

    We’re at the point where we can debate whether proclamations of *certainty* (“We know where they are”; “High-quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs”; “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought…” ) when there was anything but certainty around the issues count as a lies.

    Well of course, these examples were all lies. In each case the speaker (Rumsfeld, Rice, Bush) issued a statement that conveyed the sense that was no doubt about the issue (“know,” “only suited,” “learned”) — when the facts in each case are that there was strong doubt.

    Our leaders have been in the habit of saying they know things that they merely believe, or wish to believe, or wish others to believe. They adopt this rhetorical style in order to convince. But claiming knowledge when you are in doubt is lying.

  6. LACJ says:

    Oh, that is so great, Thomas, let me see if I have this right:

    The statement was made 10 days after the war began and therefore was not a pre-war lie and no proof whatsoever that there were any pre-war lies.

    Anyway, it wasn’t a lie because Rumsfeld actually believed it, because the CIA told him. Its all the CIA’s fault you see.

    Why would he lie anyway? The war had already begun (again, 10 days earlier) so there is absolutely no need to maintain the pretense any longer.

    Oh and the accuser is an anti-Semite and therefore everything he says and does should be ignored or mistrusted.

    And even if the security guards were overzealous, that is the fault of the rude behavior of opponents of the war. The fact that McGovern waited his turn and asked a question without using any rude language does not mean that the guards were wrong to assume he should be removed from the venue. One must keep the context in mind, you know. Hold on, they might have been wrong, but their behavior is not surprising given the context.

    Wonderful stuff, that.

  7. LACJ says:

    Nice work, Half, I didn’t see your post until mine was in the process of submission.

    Thomas, you are truly the gift that keeps on giving. To the extent that Rumsfeld knew the intel he was spreading as fact was highly questionable and/or patently false, he committed a crime against the American people. In the English language we typically call this type of behavior ‘traitorous’. In Chinese its completely different of course.

    In the English legal system we typically gather evidence of an ‘intention to deceive’ by a government official through hearings, collection of evidence and subpoenas rather than inferences and unsubstantiated beliefs. 😉

  8. ac says:

    If you want a lie, look at the statement about intelligence. Rumsfeld said, “I’m not in the intelligence business.” Undersecretary of Defense Cambone described the DoD as “the largest provider and consumer of intelligence.” DoD has oversight of NSA, NGIA, NRO, DIA, NIMA, and the intelligence operations of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Rumsfeld fought the DNI proposal to keep control of intelligence operations in the Pentagon. Rumsfeld most definitely is in the intelligence business.

  9. Thomas says:

    This is almost amusing.

    Let’s take another pre-war statement and analyze it along the same lines:

    “As Blair has said, in war there will be civilian was well as military casualties. There is, too, as both Britain and America agree, some risk of Saddam using or transferring his weapons to terrorists. There is as well the possibility that more angry young Muslims can be recruited to terrorism. But if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance, there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam.”

    That’s Bill Clinton, for those who don’t recognize the voice, writing on March 18, 2003. Now, Clinton said there was “some risk of Saddam using or transferring hs weapons”, clearly referring to chemical/biological weapons. Since, as it happens, Saddam didn’t have chemical/biological weapons, there was, in fact, no such risk. Further, Clinton said that “if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons” there will be additional risks, clearly suggesting that Iraq did have such weapons and that risks flowed from that. Again, there were, it turns out, no such weapons. Note that Clinton had access to classified information for 8 years, continuing until January 2001, and likely continued to have access to some information through his relationships with Blair and Senator Clinton.

    Did he lie? We’ll let Half dive into that, holding Clinton to the same sort of epistemological standards for knowledge and justified belief that he’d hold Rumsfeld to.

    While I wait for that, I must say that I’m surprised at the continued attack on the security guards. These aren’t high-level agents of the government, for goddsakes, but simply security guards responding to a situation in which your political allies showed themselves, as a general matter, to be incapable of civil behavior. The guards were wrong to assume that the general principle governed the specific case without more evidence. Ok. So what? Is there really some point about America that we know now that we didn’t before? What would that be?

  10. rachel says:

    Thomas,
    It was a public meeting with a question/answer session.
    how is it rude or inapropriate to ask questions of a public official in such a situation about his behavior or knowledge of events?
    I have not seen the video but the articles indicate that he did wait for the question/answer session.

  11. Thomas says:

    I didn’t say that McGovern was rude or acted inappropriately. I said that the guards likely assumed that he would, given the behavior of his ideological allies at the same meeting. The video I’ve seen shows heckling and shouting during the speech.

  12. half says:

    So, Thomas,

    What, if anything, were you able to find fault with in my analysis of Mr. Rumsfeld’s statements?

    I’m really unable to make sense of your apparent claim that I’d hold Rumsfeld and Clinton to different standards. It almost sounds like you’re trying (unsucessfully) to change the subject.

  13. Thomas says:

    Half, Ithink the problem is your insistence that to “know” means just what you’d have it mean.

    But most people don’t use “know” to mean that no one could doubt what’s known, even as they claim that they don’t doubt it. For example, when Al Gore in 2002 said “We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power”, I would think that this means Al Gore believes and personally does not doubt that Iraq has biological and chemical weapons, not that Al Gore was claiming that this assertion was beyond doubt.

    But perhaps I’m misinterpreting Gore’s statement. Was he lying? By your standards, it sure looks like it.

  14. Half says:

    Yes, by my standards, if, when Gore said that, he was aware of intelligence that cast doubt on his statements, he was lying to state that he “knew” it.

    Now that you have that ‘admission’ from me, it doesn’t help your case much.
    Rumsfeld remains a liar.

    You wish I thought “knowing” means “no one could doubt.” Naturally, nothing I’ve said points to that. Rather, to me, as to many, knowing means “Everything I have seen points to this conclusion. Nothing I have seen contradicts it.” In that sense,”knowing” is always open to falsification, but only externally.

    If you say you “know” something when in fact you are aware of material doubts to your stated position, there is only one word for you: liar.

  15. Thomas says:

    Half, I can’t say I agree with you on the meaning of “know”, since you think that not doubting something means one hasn’t seen anything that might cause one to doubt it.

    But, in any event, I’m happy to hear that you think Don Rumsfeld and Al Gore have something in common here. We can go through the pre-war statements of most every prominent Democrat, if you think that’d be helpful, and I’m confident that we can find that most all were, in your view, liars. In a world where everyone is a liar, I’m not sure what good it does to call that name, but so be it.

  16. seaan says:

    > I’m happy to hear that you think Don Rumsfeld and Al Gore have something in common here.

    Not so fast. Al Gore had been out of office for two years. Even when he was in office, as a VP he would not have much access to intelligence as a Secretary of Defense (who as noted above, is responsible for managing more than half the US Intelligence apparatus – based on budget).

    Also don’t forget the intelligence on Iraq dramatically increased just before the war started, because the inspectors were systematically demonstrating that the US’s pro-WMD information was “trash”.

    In short, it is totally ridiculous to compare Rumsfeld knowledgeable lies to statements made by people who did not have access to the current intelligence. This is always the point Bush administration apologists like to bypass – Bush and company had up to date information that the WMD claims were false, but lied anyway because that knowledge was politically inconvenient.

  17. seaan says:

    > I’m happy to hear that you think Don Rumsfeld and Al Gore have something in common here.

    Not so fast. Al Gore had been out of office for two years. Even when he was in office, as a VP he would not have much access to intelligence as a Secretary of Defense (who as noted above, is responsible for managing more than half the US Intelligence apparatus – based on budget).

    Also don’t forget the intelligence on Iraq dramatically increased just before the war started, because the inspectors were systematically demonstrating that the US’s pro-WMD information was “trash”.

    In short, it is totally ridiculous to compare Rumsfeld knowledgeable lies to statements made by people who did not have access to the current intelligence. This is always the point Bush administration apologists like to bypass – Bush and company had up to date information that the WMD claims were false, but lied anyway because that knowledge was politically inconvenient.

  18. anon says:

    Ok seaan, I think you’ve made your point already!!!!

  19. Thomas says:

    Seaan, I think it is absolutely bunk to suggest that a VP has less access to intelligence than a Secretary of Defense. On the question of whether Gore lied, I think you’re going to need to have that debate with Half, not with me. It’s quite clear that he did lie, on the standards that Half has given us.

  20. LACJ says:

    A former VP has as much access to up-to-date intelligence as a current Secretary of Defense? Do you really believe that Thomas? That is quite beyond the pale.

    Do you think anyone briefed Gore on the policy of carefully selecting intel that supported the goals of the administration, a policy which had been implemented between 2001-2003? Your assertion is that Gore was told all about the stovepiping policy prior to making that comment?

    Even if you were right, which you are most certainly not, its of no consequence: As a member of the current administration, Rumsfeld has certain duties and obligations to provide honest and careful assessments to the public. As a common citizen (although a former VP), Gore has no such obligation.

    Once again you avoid addressing an issue and seek to change the focus of the debate to avoid the fact that you are defending the indefensible. Nice try; but again you are fooling no one except maybe yourself.

    Seaan is absolutely right, “it is totally ridiculous to compare Rumsfeld(‘s) knowledgeable lies to statements made by people who did not have access to the current intelligence.”

    Half is absolutely right, “If you say you “know” something when in fact you are aware of material doubts to your stated position, there is only one word for you: liar.”

    How will you attempt to re-frame the debate this time? I am eager to see…

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