2005/08/17

Gauging truth of statements

Caught this from Media Matters. It's a statement from the August 11 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

I can tell you for a fact that the soldiers there [Iraq] are saying that we are winning the war, precisely because the insurgency miscalculated back in January that the elections would be as successful as they were. They made a terrible mistake, and now they know that they have to derail the upcoming elections, constitutional referendum elections, that are this month and again in December.

To my eyes, this is an indisputably false statement. First off, the Bush Administration has, time and again, tried to make it seem as though the insurgents are very, very concerned with what American plans for their country are. Time and again, the Bush Administration has presented their plans as being of tremendous importance to the insurgents and they are continually trying to "derail" or defeat the latest plan, whether it be to "turn sovereignty over" or hold elections or whatever. This is a line that the Bush Administration has repeatedly taken.

In terms of being able to independently verify what the Administration is saying, it's useful to remember that Rumsfeld made a similar comment shortly after the war officially started.

We know where they [the WMD] are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.

Note that Rumsfeld's statement is completely unverifiable. This is information that only our intelligence agencies would have been aware of and A look at the map shows that Tikrit and Baghdad are nearly 100 miles apart. From the Southern tip of Iraq, Basra to the Northern tip, Mosul is only about 500 miles, so the area from Baghdad to Tikrit constitutes are very substantial chunk of the country. People who were informed on the situation knew that UN inspectors were all over Iraq in early 2003 looking for WMD, so if Rumsfeld was correct, the question then was: Why didn't the US point out to the inspectors where the missing WMD were?

On 6 March 2003, Bush asked a good question:

The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441, or has it not?

His answer was:

Iraqi's dictator has made a public show of producing and destroying a few missiles, missiles that violate the restrictions set out more than 10 years ago. Yet our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles.

No such missiles were ever found, of course. But it would have been difficult to make the case as, again, the only people who would have known for sure would have been members of US intelligence agencies.

Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors. In some cases these materials have been moved to different locations every 12 to 24 hours, or placed in vehicles that are in residential neighborhoods.

Again, this charge is completely unverifiable and, surprise, surprise, turned out to have been untrue as well.
Bush then concludes:

These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming. These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful charade. These are the actions of a regime that systematically and deliberately is defying the world.

Problem was, all of his "evidence" was crap. Bush cited what Iraq was "doing", but never told us how he knew any of this. Bush never said what his source of information was, besides referring vaguely to "intelligence". The woman speaking in the paragraph about the insurgents being disappointed, etc., cites similar "evidence": "...soldiers there are saying " appears to be her sole source. A group of anonymous soldiers, so deep-cover, we don't even get any idea as to their rank.

In short, the statement that begins this piece is crap, just like many of the statements that preceded the war.

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