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Friday, August 08, 2003

The Unsurprising Arrogance Of Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore delivered a speech on the war with Iraq yesterday. The NY Times has comments buried in the back of section A, but we want to highlight the special phoniness and arrogance of Al Gore.

I'm convinced that one of the reasons that we didn't have a better public debate before the Iraq War started is because so many of the impressions that the majority of the country had back then turn out to have been completely wrong.

Citizen Gore then outlines these false impressions:

1) Saddam Hussein was partly responsible for the attack against us on September 11th, 2001, so a good way to respond to that attack would be to invade his country and forcibly remove him from power.

(2) Saddam was working closely with Osama Bin Laden and was actively supporting members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group, giving them weapons and money and bases and training, so launching a war against Iraq would be a good way to stop Al Qaeda from attacking us again.

(3) Saddam was about to give the terrorists poison gas and deadly germs that he had made into weapons which they could use to kill millions of Americans. Therefore common sense alone dictated that we should send our military into Iraq in order to protect our loved ones and ourselves against a grave threat.

(4) Saddam was on the verge of building nuclear bombs and giving them to the terrorists. And since the only thing preventing Saddam from acquiring a nuclear arsenal was access to enriched uranium, once our spies found out that he had bought the enrichment technology he needed and was actively trying to buy uranium from Africa, we had very little time left. Therefore it seemed imperative during last Fall's election campaign to set aside less urgent issues like the economy and instead focus on the congressional resolution approving war against Iraq.

(5) Our GI's would be welcomed with open arms by cheering Iraqis who would help them quickly establish public safety, free markets and Representative Democracy, so there wouldn't be that much risk that US soldiers would get bogged down in a guerrilla war.

(6) Even though the rest of the world was mostly opposed to the war, they would quickly fall in line after we won and then contribute lots of money and soldiers to help out, so there wouldn't be that much risk that US taxpayers would get stuck with a huge bill.

Now, Citizen Gore asserted that these "misconceptions" were held by "the majority of the country". I have seen polls suggesting that (1) was popularly believed; I would be fascinated if anyone could demonstrate that a majority of the country believed all six.

However, let's ask a different question: in 2000, Vice President Gore selected Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate, presumably with the belief that Sen. Lieberman was qualified to be one heartbeat away (OK, for Al only, one failed memory board away) from the Presidency.

Sen. Lieberman supported a war to remove Saddam in October 2002, and he supports it today. Is it Citizen Gore's contention that Joe Lieberman was in the grip of the various delusions presented above, or does he think that Sen. Lieberman had serious, thoughtful reasons for favoring the removal of Saddam, by force if necessary?

I will guess that Citizen Gore continues to respect Sen. Lieberman as a thoughtful and serious leader. In which case, Citizen Gore's recent speech can be re-phrased slightly:

There were serious reasons to favor the removal of Saddam by force. However, most people were too damn stupid to follow the arguments, and ended up believing a lot of rubbish...

Trust the people, Al! Almost half of them got it right last time.

UPDATE: OK, excerpts from Old Joe:

Last Wednesday, I joined with Senators McCain, Bayh, and Warner to introduce the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and I will support it against all challenges.

I did so because Saddam Hussein heads a rabid, rogue regime that is a special danger among all nations: a place where vicious tyranny, anti-American animus, weapons of mass destruction, an unmatched record of using them repeatedly, and support for international terrorism come together to create a very poisonous government.

The United Nations must disarm this dictator now. It is, after all, U.N. commitments that Saddam has consistently defied. But if the U.N. proves itself unwilling or unable to act, America will have no choice but to deploy our military as part of an international coalition to keep the world safe from Saddam. We hope that war will not be necessary, but if it is, we must be ready. We will have friends and allies who will join us. And we will succeed.

The Senator then delivers the neo-con case for toppling Saddam as a way of transforming the Middle East.

And for those looking ahead to 2008, we can deliver thoughts from Sen. Clinton, Oct. 10, 2002, as another example of the insubstantial debate of which Citizen Gore was so critical:

...In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Perhaps she was also deluded? We applaud her delivery of the Minority Report, with added emphasis. But we are also puzzled. Sen. Clinton parroting the Bush line of a link between Saddam and terrorists? What terrible hold did they have over her? Perhaps it was this Oct. 7, 2002 letter from George Tenet to Bob Graham, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

More hysteria and fearmongering, from Sept. 2002:

...Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.

That was Al Gore himself, elevating the debate. Here is more of Big AL, from May 2000, pandering, fear-mongering, and spreading the neo-con vision of Middle Eastern peace via Baghdad:

...there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein still seeks to amass weapons of mass destruction. You know as well as I do that as long as Saddam Hussein stays in power there can be no comprehensive peace for the people of Israel or the people of the Middle East. We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone.

Well, a lot changed in the intervening two years. I am sure.

UPDATE: Try for five! On delusion (5), these two polls from ABC suggest something quite different from Al's diagnosis of the American psyche. In fact, it appears that 60% of Americans thought we would still be fighting months after the war began.

Also, good links to lots of polling topical polling data can be found here.

We will annoy Citizen Gore's many supporters with this:

One poll has found a slight majority saying that Iraq was behind the attacks. In August 2002, a Gallup poll found 53% saying they believed "Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11 attacks"; 34% did not think so and 13% had no opinion. However it should be noted that this question immediately followed a question in which 86% agreed that Hussein was involved in supporting terrorists generally, so that a 'response set' may have accounted for some of this agreement with the question about September 11.

However, at the end of the section, we find this:

However, it does appear that for a significant minority Iraq's possible links to September 11 plays an important role in its support for taking action against Iraq. When NBC/Wall Street Journal asked in January 2002 whether the US should "take military action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, even if Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks," only 47% said the US should take military action in that case, while 42% said the US should not. This level of support for military action is approximately 20% lower than questions that have simply asked about taking military action. Thus it appears that were it not for this possible linkage between Saddam Hussein and September 11 in the minds of a minority of Americans, there would not be clear majority support for taking military action against Iraq. [7]

...It also appears that when the President makes an association between Iraq and terrorists this elevates slightly the support for military action.

More support for Gore provided by Jesse, who makes a strong case that the Administration promoted a link between Saddam and terrorists. Yes, sort of like Tenet did, or the Council on Foreign Relations. Whether that means the majority of the American public was under the spell Al Gore describes is not a question Jesse addresses.

Link: The President's prime-time press conference, Mar 6, 2003.

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