Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fisking Field Marshall Dame Eleanor, First Countess Clift of Clift

Summary:

        If dishonest reporting was a crime, Eleanor Clift would spend the rest of her life in jail.  And if illogic was a crime, she’d be on Death Row. 

  • In her latest Newsweek column, “Murtha’s Moment,” most of her alleged facts are wrong, and her arguments are imbecilic.

  • Contrary to her opening paragraph, it’s no surprise that Rep. Jack Murtha is calling for a pullout from Iraq.  He opposed the war before he voted for it before he called for a draft and reinforcements or an immediate pullout.  Now he wants us to leave, except for the ones who stay, and to settle things peacefully, until we go back to killing people.  In other words, to return to the Clinton Administration policy of bluffing at every opportunity.

  • Force, by the way, is the last resort of the incompetent — only the incompetent always wait to the last resort to use force, by which time it’s usually too late for anything, even prayer.  (H. Beam Piper)

  • And when the incompetent do get around to using force, they botch it the way they botched everything they’ve already tried.  (Stephen M. St. Onge)

  • The Administration said Murtha was “endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.”  Clift terms that an attack on Murtha’s patriotism.  I’ll take her word for it that the extremely liberal should automatically be considered unpatriotic.

  • Clift drags President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Secretary of Defense Robert ‘the Strange’ McNamara into things.  They were informed that the second Tonkin Gulf incident probably didn’t happen.  They believed that it hadn’t, but lied about it to the public.  Bush was informed by the CIA, perhaps incorrectly, that Iraq definitely had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Bush believed it, and repeated what he’d been told.  In Clift’s eyes, there’s no difference between the two Administrations.

  • Clift says that the Democrats were misled, which I agree with: after so many years of Clinton backing down after talking tough, W. deceived them by talking tough, leading Donks (and probably Saddam) to believe he’d back down too.  But the fact that they couldn’t believe Bush was telling the truth about his intentions doesn’t mean he wasn’t telling what he thought was the truth about Iraq.

  • In a paragraph so illogical I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it, Clift tells how Democratic Representative Shelley Berkeley was worried that Saddam would repeat his 1991 missile attacks on Israel.  Cheney allegedly told her they knew where the missiles were, and would destroy them before they launched.  The Rep., thus reassured, voted for the war resolution.  Clift wants us conclude that the Berkeley voted for the war “in part because of false information.”  And if the Rep. had been told ‘Saddam doesn’t have such missiles yet, but he’s working to get them,’ she’d have done what?

  • By the way, Clift never mentions the conclusions of the Duelfer report: Saddam was determined to obtain such missiles, and WMDs too.  Including nuclear warheads.  She also fails to mention that Israel was NOT attacked by Saddam.  Or that, thanks to the invasion, it won’t be.  Ever.

  • Oh, if Berkeley voted for the war “in part” because of false information, what was the rest of her vote based on?  And why didn’t Clift tell us about that remaining motivation?

  • Clift closes by saying that Bush should give a speech ‘conceding’ a bunch of things that aren’t true, and then defend his actions from that standpoint.  This leaves me wondering why she indulges in such transparent and futile lying?  I hypothesize a form of insanity seen the First World War.

        During the Great War, the tactics used made no sense, if the overiding goal was to win.  But the most important military goal was not victory, but rejection of a future that would be intolerable to the officer corps.  Clift, and the rest of the MSM, tell peddle pathetically weak falsehoods that make no sense if the idea is news reporting or successful deception, but their most important motivation is to reject an intolerable future in which they don’t contol information, and through it, voters.  But that future will come despite them.

At Length, Very Great Length:

        Eleanor Clift of Newsweek has a piece about Rep. Murtha, and, as you’d expect if you’ve encountered her work, it’s 100% nonsense.

        Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha is a burly ex-Marine with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts who rarely speaks to the press.  But he came out of the shadows Thursday to call for a complete pullout from Iraq within six months.  “Our military has done everything that’s been asked of them. It is time to bring them home,” he said. Murtha’s hawkish record on military matters made his announcement all the more surprising. “It’s like George W. Bush saying he wants to raise taxes,” says Lawrence Korb, a defense analyst who served in the Reagan administration.

        Horseshit.  James Taranto had a nice post on Murtha’s shifting positions on the war.  He started by opposing it, and he’s continually changed his mind since 2002.  The Blogfather sums up Murtha’s attitude towards the war as something:
        which he opposed before he voted for it, only to call for more troops before calling for a pullout.

        Getting back to Eleanor the Liar:
        Democrats gave Murtha a standing ovation behind closed doors, but most kept their distance in public.  “It’s a trap,” explained a Democratic strategist.  “If the party comes out for a unilateral six-month withdrawal, that would become the issue for ’06, and they [Republicans] would kill us again.”

        Well give the lady a seegar, she got one thing right.  The Donks won’t say ‘Cut and Run,’ because they don’t dare.  But they want to cut and run, as does Clift.

        Administration officials were less reticent.  A White House statement said Murtha was “endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.” Indeed, the election campaign tactics are back in all but name, with the president and the vice president attacking critics by questioning their patriotism.  The strategy may rally some of the Republican base.  However, the broader public has made up its mind about this administration’s credibility, and Murtha isn’t the only member of Congress paying attention.

        The bias and slander is typical of Clift.  She finds it perfectly appropriate for her and her allies in the Party to say the Administration deceived them (which is true; Bush told them the truth, but in such a way they thought he was lying like Clinton (hmmm, catchy phrase there: ‘lying like a Clinton’ feel free to use it).  Bush’s truthful tough talk suckered the Donks into playing along with him till it was too late).  But let the Administration point out that Murtha is endorsing Michael Moore’s position, and they’ve attacked his patriotism.  Apparently we’re supposed to forget that Mikey was an honored guest of the Democratic Convention who ended up seated next to former President Peanut.  And we’re now to regard the once proud description “liberal” as equivalent to “traitor”.  Well, the extreme liberal Clift said it, not righty me.

        My greatest political regret ever is that I was born 26 years too late to vote for Harry Truman as President.  I wondered, reading Clift, what he’d have done if heard her.  Then I remembered Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party.  Faced with Democrats who weren’t patriotic, Harry ran them out of the party, including a young man named George Mcgovern.  The modern decline of the Democratic Party began when McGovern, returned to the fold, managed to take the Party over and — but I digress.  Back to Clift’s lies.

          We learned in Vietnam that in a democracy you can’t sustain a war without public support, and time is running out for the Iraq war.  Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to demand accountability on the progress of the war, a meaningless gesture in the sense it requires the administration to do nothing other than supply quarterly reports.  But it signals the first cracks in the Republican coalition, and it emboldens Democrats to keep up their drumbeat assailing the credibility of the leaders who took us into a war we can’t win and don’t know how to end.


        Clift, of course, wants time to run out on the war, which she’s opposed all along.  The stuff about the Republicans “coalition” cracking is her usual wishful thinking, and as for her military expertise, you can assess it here, here, and here.

        By the way, to translate from the liberal, “a war we can’t win and don’t know how to end” is, in English, ‘a war we liberals were opposed to and which isn’t turning out the way we’d like, in defeat for Bush and the U.S.’  As for democracies and war, we learned Clift’s lesson in the Revolution, and had it repeated in the War of 1812, the Late Unpleasantness, and the Korean War.  Your ignorance is showing, Eleanor.

        Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, for example, defends the right of critics to question and criticize their government and its policies.  Hagel served in Vietnam, which he says was “a lie at the beginning.” He explained in an interview aired last weekend on C-Span how his views about Vietnam were altered when he learned how his government falsified information in order to win congressional approval for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Lyndon Johnson the authority to prosecute the war unchecked.  “And so we have now pretty much come to the same place,” he said, meaning our government committed us to military action based on bits and pieces of evidence that bolstered its case for war.  Hagel did have qualms about the invasion, but he voted for the resolution that gave President Bush a blank check for war with Iraq.  Now that we’re there, he says, “We cannot allow this to become a 1975 when we took the last remnants of our influence out on a helicopter on top of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.”

        More horseshit.  Bush has been acknowledging that his critics have the every right to criticize him, but says they don’t have the right to rewrite history.  Of course, if that were enforced Clift wouldn’t be able to write.

        There is a parallel with Vietnam in the falsehoods advanced by government to rally congressional support and public opinion for war.  Take the ongoing controversy over exactly what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964.  Although analysts on the scene radioed back to Washington that there was no cause for alarm, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara glossed over doubts about a second attack on American ships and trumpeted the alleged expansion of the war by the North Vietnamese to rally Congress and the American people to escalate a war that had been losing public support.  Sen. William Fulbright, one of only two senators to oppose the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, said in a speech on the Senate floor, “We will rue this day.”

        By now, your flower beds ought to be well fertilized.  Lyndon Baines Johnson lied repeatedly about the war in Viet Nam and what he intended.  W. has told the truth he thought he knew it about Iraq and his intentions, but clucks like Clift were too stupid to figure out they were NOT being lied to.  (There is, by the way, no “ongoing controversy” about the Tonkin Gulf.  Almost all historians agree the daylight attack happened, while the reported night attack was an honest mistake by the Navy.)

        Johnson and McNamara perpetrated an untruth for the larger good of increasing American firepower in the war, which they believed would deal a decisive blow to the enemy.  Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers lost their lives in that senseless conflict.  Does the fact that their political leaders thought they were acting in good faith at the time excuse the deception?  President Bush and Vice President Cheney accuse Democrats of “rewriting history” by objecting to a war they voted for and claiming they were misled.  But the information presented to lawmakers was selective, and efforts to learn more were stymied.  Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkeley recalls being invited to a pre-war briefing at the White House with Bush and Cheney.  When she expressed concern about Israel’s security in the event of a war, Cheney told her not to worry, that the administration knew where the missiles were that could reach Israel, and the U.S. military would go in and get them first thing.  Using a pointer, he showed her the location on a map.  Berkeley voted for the war in part because of false information.

        By now, I’m finding this funny.  The idea that Robert the Strange and Lyndon the Vulgar thought they were acting in “good faith” by lying to the public is too bizarre to bother with.  The question of whether the Viet Nam war was senseless is another discussion, but it was part of the ongoing struggle with the late Soviet Union (all together now: ‘OOH!  Fat Steve just LOVES to type “late Soviet Union!”’).  I’d ask if she thinks we should have surrendered, but she wouldn’t answer.

        As for the “selective” information, she doesn’t say what was left out, or mention that the U.S. and all major foreign intelligence communities were certain Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  As for efforts to “learn more,” who was attempting to learn more about what?  Clift won’t tell us that, either.

        What’s left is an anecdote from one source, of unknown accuracy, saying Rep. Berkeley was worried that Saddam would attack Israel with missiles, and that she was assured by Cheney the U.S. would destroy them before they could be launched.  This Clift terms “false information,” partially responsible in part for Berkeley’s vote in favor or the war resolution.  Clift would apparently like us to believe that if Rep. Berkeley had been told ‘Don’t worry, Saddam is working on missiles that he can use to attack Israel, and intends to arm them with nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads, but he doesn’t have any at the moment.  We’re going to destroy his regime, and then he’ll never be able to attack Israel,’ well, Rep. Berkeley would have gone back to the House and voted against the resolution, to give Saddam a sporting chance to murder Jews.  If illogic was a crime, Eleanor Clift would be on Death Row.

        Was this conscious deception?  Should Bush and Cheney get a pass because they believed a show of strength in Iraq would serve U.S. interests?  If Bush wants to retrieve his credibility, he should call off the attack dogs and make a televised speech to the American people conceding that the certainty he presented about weapons of mass destruction was not there, and that the administration relied on a single source, aptly named “Curveball,” who was later discredited.  Bush can then present his case--what he saw, why he acted, and why he still believes he did the right thing.

        By now, I’ve gone beyond hilarity, into fatigue.  Was what conscious deception?  Telling Berkeley that the U.S. could take out Saddam without Israel being endangered?  It appears to have been what the Administration believed, and it was in fact true.  Or does Clift mean that telling her the United States knew where Saddam kept his long-range missiles was deception?  To answer that, we’d have to know what the “Intelligence Community” told the Administration about that particular point.  Or perhaps Clift thinks agreeing with Berkeley that Saddam had long ranged missiles was the deception?  In fact, everyone did seem to think that.

        As for the speech Clift wants Bush to make, it would be a lie.  Clift completely distorts the history of the intelligence effort and what was reported to the administration.  The facts, briefly (trust me, this is the brief version): Every intelligence service that keeps track of such things believed that Saddam kept WMDs after the 1991 Gulf War cease fire — certainly all the members of the U.S. intelligence community did, as did former UNSCOM inspectors (see here, here and here).  After the UNSCOM inspectors left in 1998, everyone in intelligence thought that Saddam was increasing his WMD stocks.

        “Curveball”, an Iraqi chemical engineer, defected to an unidentified foreign country in 1999.  Allegedly, he claimed to have worked in Saddam’s biological weapons program, and offered information on it, saying that Iraq had “mobile fermenters” that could move from place to place producing biological weapons. 

        The intelligence service of the still anonymous foreign country passed this information to the U.S. and at least one other country, claiming it was true, although they never verified what they claimed he told them, wouldn’t back his alleged statements publicly, wouldn’t allow the CIA direct access to Curveball, and refused to provide transcripts.  (<sarcasm> Isn’t Bush a horrible person for failing to cooperate with our “allies”?</sarcasm>)

        As time went on, some in the CIA developed doubts about Curveball’s reliability.  By the beginning of Feb. 2003 some CIA analysts thought he’d made it all up, but others still believed him, especially in the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC).  Curveball’s information was used in Powell’s UN speech, despite Powell’s repeated insistence that anything in the least doubtful be excluded.

        After the invasion, the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found much information that cast doubt on Curveball’s allegations, plus travel documents that showed that Curveball had lied about his whereabouts at times between 1995 and 1999.  In March of 2004 the foreign intelligence service finally allowed the CIA direct access to Curveball.  The CIA then decided that Curveball was a liar, and recalled all intelligence reports based on his information.

        So, a foreign intelligence service told the U.S. something untrue, and the U.S. intelligence community believed them.  Clift’s claim that Curveball was the only source reporting that Iraq had WMDs is nothing but a particularly outrageous lie.  And her implication that Bush personally decided that Curveball was trustworthy is almost as bad.

        We are, thank God, at the last paragraph of Clift’s nonsense:
        Bush won’t give that speech because he can’t tolerate ambiguity.  It’s part of his personality.  He gave up drinking cold turkey, and it’s all or nothing.  He demands simplicity, and he equates dissent with disloyalty.  The result is a White House that has become dysfunctional.

        Bush can’t tolerate ambiguity?  It was Clift who found it necessary to ignore facts, lie in all directions, and blame everything on the sinister White House.  I don’t know about Bush’s personality, but I think it’s obvious that Clift’s personality can’t stand ambiguity or complexity.  Everything must be reduced to a simple story about how the big bad Administration lied.  The errors of the intelligence community were all his fault, and the fact that almost all the people in the intelligence community were either career military/civil service, or Clinton political appointees is beside the point.  The pre-invasion assessment of the spooks was that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  And even after the invasion, the best the ISG could do was conclude that Saddam probably didn’t have any WMDs when we invaded.  It was still possible that the WMDs were there, but too well hidden to find, or moved out of the country.  In fact Fareed Zakaria predicted the UN inspectors would find nothing at the time they went back in.

        The one thing the Iraq Studies Survey Group was sure of was that Saddam would have restarted his WMD program once the sanctions were lifted or sufficiently eroded.  Saddam had no intention of ever complying with the UN resolutions demanding his disarmament, and always intended to be the dominant regional power in the Mideast.

        We’re at the end of a column that is mostly false in its details, and is wholly false in it’s overall thrust.  It isn’t hard to find this stuff out.  Some googling, a bit of reading, and you’ve got it.  And after Rathergate, it should be obvious that we will do it.  So why does the MSM continue its futile attempts to snow us?  Surely they can lie better than this?

        I offer a psychological hypothesis.  Let us delve into military/social history.

        In the years before World War I, the growing firepower of infantry and artillery weapons had made it obvious to any thoughtful person that bayonet and cavalry charges were obsolete.  For the unthoughtful, the high casualties suffered in frontal assaults during the Boer War and Russo-Japanese War showed what awaited.  H. G. Wells, after looking at those results, promptly suggested that what was needed was “land ironclads”, or as we call them now, tanks.  The War Office’s reaction was “The man’s mad”.  The tank idea had to be reinvented during the conflict, with the Royal Navy and it’s head, a chap named Winston Churchill, being the first to see the need.  Bayonet and cavalry charges proved almost useless, while the machine gun became the dominant battlefield weapon.  The British Army created a special Machine Gun Corps to use them, and a Tank Corps for the new armored fighting vehicles.

        After the war was over, the British Army High Command tried to kill the Tank Corps, which they proclaimed a waste of money.  It did succeed in killing the Machine Gun Corps.  But horse cavalry it wanted to keep.  There’d always be a place on the battlefield for good cavalry, said Field Marshal Sir Douglas, First Earl Haig of Haig, who had used the years 1915, 1916, and 1917 to kill Britain’s soldiers by the hundreds of thousands in unsuccesful frontal assaults.  It’s obvious that military behavior like this had nothing to do with the ostensible goal of winning wars.

        Things become somewhat understandable (though still insane) when you consider the social history of Britain.  Until about 1750, Britain was like almost every society in Europe for almost a millenium and a half, with around 80% of it’s people engaged in food production.  Farmers can’t pack up and leave suddenly, making them easy marks for rule by hereditary aristocrats who rode horses (expensive beasts the common people couldn’t afford).  All power was provided by wind, water, or muscle, almost all communication was by voice.  People were kept in their “proper stations”, and follow the orders of their social superiors.  The Industrial Revolution made changes in that pattern that had been constant since the begining of recorded history.

        But the British Army was still a reflection of pre-industrial society.  The officer corps was from the upper classes, with the high command being almost all cavalry men.  The enlisted men were looked down on, and were discouraged from showing initiative.  In battle, the enlisted men had to stay in tight formation, so the subalterns could keep track of them at all times and tell them what to do.  Only the higher officers were to think for themselves.

        What the modern battlefield required was that the officers get rid of their beloved horses, and embrace noisy, smelly machines.  The enlisted men had to be dispersed, under the immediate command of sergeants and corporals, and the junior officers had to be able to make the decisions the colonels and generals used to make.  The British Army commanders recoiled in horror.  The tactics, operations, and strategy they took into the Great War, and tried to keep after it, were a rejection of an intolerable future.  Better to lose than to win by such methods.

        The rest of Europe was much the same.  If Fascism and Communism were mistaken for “the wave of the future” post-war, it was in large part because they rejected the past, while Europe’s other political movements sought to preserve it.

        The MSM’s tactics, operations, and strategy are also a rejection of a future.  They can’t stand the idea of a society where they don’t get to control us by restricting the flow of information (remember that Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in 1984 was based on the BBC, where he’d worked during WWII.  And think about the phrase “the fourth estate.”)  It should be remembered that the modern idea of journalism as a profession, with graduate schools and such, arose around the turn of the last century, a period when individual liberty was under attack throughout the Western world (note the rising popularity then of Marxism, F.W. Taylor’s “Scientific Management,” and Freudianism).  The period was also the first in which wire services, transcontinental railroads, and wireless communication made it practical for a few to set up national magazines, newspaper syndicates, and broadcasting networks that would reach the entire country.  But it was only practicle if you had quite a bit of money, and the market could only support a limited number of them.

        For over a century, reporters and editors thrived in that environment.  Being so much better educated and smarter than the hoi polloi, they’d tell the proles how to live and vote.  Not openly, because then they’d resemble the old politically partisan press too closely.  They’d do it by being “flappers”, deciding what we would see and hear.

        No, no, we needn’t thank them for taking the burden of citizenship off our shoulders.  Such generous, big-hearted altruists were happy to do our thinking for us.  Noblesse oblige and all that.  Our lords knew we peasant scum couldn’t survive without them.

        Except that we can, and increasingly we do.  They can no longer decide what we see, hear, and read.  I have no idea where you readers of my blathering live (why not leave a comment and tell me?), but by being on the ’Net I can be accessed all over the world.  Cost to me: pennies for electricity — I had a computer and ’net access anyway, for other reasons, and the Blogger account is free.

        I think the ’Net is why the MSM is full of such egregious and pathetic lies as Clift’s column.  The MSM used to be able to afford subtlety.  The vast majority of what we heard is what they said was the news, what they said was important.

        But now the Old Media finds its audience declining.  It knows it can only control the information of those who stay off the web and don’t listen to Fox News or Uncle Rush.  They have been driven to despair.  Only the stubborn refusal to acknowledge inconvenient facts, and the incessant repeatition of blatant falsehoods will do to manipulate voters.  With their backs against the wall, they shout that War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom, and Ignorance is Strength.

        In military history, one of the most contemptible figures of all time is Field Marshall Sir Douglas, First Earl Haig of Haig, knighted and ennobled for his services to Britain’s “victory” in the First World War.  No matter what he and his cavalry cronies did, they couldn’t find a way to make war using infantry in close formation, or cavalry charging forward with lances and sabers.  And they wouldn’t abandon the cavalry and close infranty formations, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of troops died for nothing.  Haig & Co. left the British military of World War II afraid to fight Germany, and put wounds in the British soul that still haven’t healed.  Clift and her ilk will go down as the ‘British Cavalry Officers’ of the media age, desperately trying to find a way to produce and distribute selective news that controls the voters.  And like Haig and Co., they will fail in every attempt.  A nice person would feel sorry for them, seeing their world crumble unexpectedly around their ears.  I’m not a nice person.  I only feel sorry for the public, being forced to put up with such lousy dishonest reporting.

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