2006/08/29

Cheney's statements

"Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada.

Dan Froomkin of the WaPo quotes a reporter who explains how the Bush Administration uses the rhetorical device of the "straw man":

Jennifer Loven , in a bold departure for the Associated Press, wrote a whole story on Saturday about Bush's extensive and generally unchallenged use of straw-man arguments.

"When the president starts a sentence with 'some say' or offers up what 'some in Washington' believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

"The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

"He typically then says he 'strongly disagrees' -- conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

"Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed 'critics,' is just as problematic."

Just search the White House Web site for those phrases, and you'll find wonderful examples of Bush's straw-man use of " some people say ," " some say " and " some people in Washington ."

So it's pretty obvious that Cheney is using a "straw man" here. No one in America is on recod as suggesting anything that even remotely sounds like a desire to appease terrorists. Many members of the press corps are referred to as "stenographers" because they appear to be in the habit of simply writing down whatever they're told without stopping to ask how reasonabl or credible the statement is. John from AmericaBlog is correct in putting Patricia Wilson's designation as "reporter" in quotes, as her following statment isn't just that of a stenographer, but of a complete press whore:

Cheney did not use the word "Democrats," choosing instead the anonymous "some"

This statement not only fills in the blank that Cheney left open, it suggests that there actually are people who have made statements suggesting that they want to appease terrorists. Further on, Wilson accurately relays the story about Bush denying that Iraq had anything to do with 9-11:

When Bush answered a question about Iraq last week by raising Sept. 11, a reporter asked him "What did Iraq have to do with that?" The president replied, "Nothing," and added, "Nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack."

But prior to the U.S.-led invasion, Cheney suggested that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers met in Prague before the attacks with an Iraqi intelligence agent. The bipartisan Sept. 11 Commission found no evidence such a meeting took place.

The puzzling part about the second paragraph is that it begins with "But." The word "But" suggests that the "Mohammed Atta in Prague" story has some substance to it, that the repetition of the story stands as some sort of rebuttal to the "Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11" statement. By March 2002, the Atta story was regarded as highly dubious, if not ouright false. So it's difficult to see why this statement was even included.

While Cheney's statement that 9-11 occured before the US invasion of Iraq and that therefore violence in the Mideast cannot be blamed exclusively upon the invasion of that country, it's nevertheless true that the number and intensity of terrorist attacks has increased exponentially since then. No, the Mideast was not a happy, idyllic and peaceful place prior to March 2003, but that hardly means that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been irrelevant. Instead of acknowledging this, however, the reporter of the piece simply goes on to the next bullet-point. She apparently felt that quoting Cheney's less-than-complete analysis was sufficient to comprehensively cover the subject.

Cheney then finishes off with still more straw men and our reporter obediently repeats these accusations as though it was not the job of reporters to check out alleged "facts," as though it was not a reporter's job to provide some context.

Cheney said terrorists wanted to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, "to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States."

Our reporter then records that Cheney was contemptuous towards those who disagreed, that his critics were naive. About the desire of people in foreign countries to do these terrible things, there is no doubt. But, and as a REAL reporter would have asked, do these terrible people have the capability to do these terrible things? Sure, the British arrested a group of people who wanted to blow up several planes over the Atlantic, but considering that many of them had not even obtained passports yet and that binary explosives are considerably trickier than the action movies suggest, it's not at all clear that they were a real threat.

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