ChuckB's blog

Christmas in Cambodia

From an opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle by Lee Cearnal, special projects editor at the Chronicle and a former Marine helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam:

The same news media that demanded George W. Bush release his National Guard records — and went over them with a microscope — have shown an appalling lack of interest in John Kerry's military service. And as it turns out, there are far more legitimate questions about the latter than the former.

Kerry has made his four months and 11 days in Vietnam the central theme of his presidential campaign. This is entirely understandable given his 20 years as the Senate's leading dove. He needs the cover that Vietnam can give him.

Just last week, one of his more fatuous claims came a cropper. Beginning in 1979, with an op-ed for the Boston Herald, Kerry has claimed repeatedly that he spent Christmas Eve of 1968 on a secret — and illegal — mission in Cambodia aboard his swift boat.

Cearnal notes that Kerry has been caught out in a lie, one that he has repeated over the years. In 1986, he claimed that the memory of being in Cambodia on Christmas 1968 was seared in his memory. I find the piece's conclusion to be telling:

To those of you who say such questions are unseemly, consider that John Kerry's principal claim on the presidency is that he served four months and 11 days in Vietnam. OK, fine. Let's examine the records — all the records, which, unlike Bush and contrary to popular perception, Kerry has not released — and have a debate. We would be if it were George W. Bush. The media would see to it. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

First, note that Bush has released all records of his military service. Second, note that Kerry has not. Third, note Cearnal's point: if W had misrepresented his service in the way Kerry has, the media would have ensured that there would have been a public debate. Do you disagree with Cearnal on this? If you do, please explain. If you don't, you must ask yourself why the media seems inclined to treat GWB differently from JFK.

Via Instapundit.

Reference question: solo in "Reelin' in the Years"

Who played the guitar solo in Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years"? I've heard it attributed to Elliot Randall (sitting in on Can't Buy a Thrill) and to Jeff Baxter (member of the band at that time). I recall reading somewhere that Jimmy Page thought Randall had done it, and he cited it in passing as one of his favorite guitar solos (personally, I think you can hear echoes of the "Reelin'" solo in Page's own solo on "Fool In The Rain"). Anyone have the real skinny on this one?

Cool website: DNC speech transcripts and streaming video

If you go to the Speaker Schedule page of the Democratic National Convention website, you can click on the names of most of the speakers to be taken to pages with links to streaming video and transcpripts of their speeches. That's cool. I hope the Republicans do the same kind of thing.

Vote for Bush, sez alleged al Qaida affiliate

From the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the pre-election Madrid bombings:

Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation.

Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

I think the Islamicist terrorists are dead serious when they invoke intellectual and cultural arguments as justifications and motiviations for their policies and actions. Yes, they are angry about the U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Yes, they are angry at U.S. support for Israel. Yes, they are angry about the loss of Moorish Spain in the Middle Ages. However, I allege that these are not the foundation of their movement. The heart of Islamofacism and Islamicist terrorism is the determination to destroy the possibility that Western democracies and their cultures could ever have any deleterious effect on the purity of Muslim nations. If they have to destroy Western democracies to ensure that they have no effect on Muslim nations, they will do their best to do so.

Hat tip to an anonymous commentor in the thread depending on this posting at Eamonn's Rainy Day.

What if Kerry is elected?

Win or lose life will still go on much the same for most of us.

The above is a quote from a comment by Blake in a thread under my previous journal entry. I may disappoint some of my fellow conservatives in saying this, but I agree pretty much with Blake's thought there. Has the Bush administration screwed up some in its anti-terror and war efforts? Yes. Will the Kerry administration (if there is to be one) screw up some? Yes. Who will have ended up screwing up more often and worse in the end? I don't know, and I don't think any rational person can claim to know with any certainty, though we all have our suspicions.

Keith Burgess-Jackson, who blogs as the AnalPhilosopher, put it this way:

Whatever you think of him, John Kerry is a responsible adult. As president, he will be responsible for defending the American people—and he will discharge that awesome responsibility by using whatever military force is necessary. His liberal supporters have no such responsibility. When President Kerry stands up to America’s enemies, they will turn on him in an instant, which might lead to a challenge by the pacifist Howard Dean in 2008. You heard it here first.

I think Kerry is a responsible adult when it comes to national defense. I may end up thinking he's going about the right things in the wrong way, just as he thinks Bush is going about the right things in the wrong way, but I do not for a moment think he will take his responsibilities in protecting the U.S. lightly. And, despite what he says, I think he is perfectly aware just what the assistance of many of our European allies is worth.

Quote quiz

Who said the following?

"[I]t is something that we know-for instance, Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and there is some evidence of their efforts to try to secure these kinds of weapons and even test them." (CBS's Face The Nation, 9/23/01)

This same person criticized the Clinton administration for being too easy on Saddam Hussein:

"[I] think we ought to put the heat on Saddam Hussein. I've said that for a number of years, Bill. I criticized the Clinton administration for backing off of the inspections, when Ambassador Butler was giving us strong evidence that we needed to continue. I think we need to put the pressure on, no matter what the evidence is about September 11 ..." (Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor, 12/11/01)

"I am way ahead of the commander in chief, and I'm probably way ahead of my colleagues and certainly of much of the country. But I believe this. I believe that he has used these weapons before. He has invaded another country. He views himself as a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar. He wants to continue to play the uniting critical role in that part of the world. And I think we have to stand up to that." (ABC's This Week, 2/22/98)

He also expressed certainty that Saddam Hussein could and indeed would rebuild his stocks of WMD:

"[H]e can rebuild both chemical and biological. And every indication is, because of his deception and duplicity in the past, he will seek to do that. So we will not eliminate the problem for ourselves or for the rest of the world with a bombing attack." (ABC's This Week, 2/22/98)

Location, location, location

From the Perth Sunday Times:

A PERTH abortion clinic objected to plans for a childcare centre on a neighbouring property because the sight of children might upset its patients.<
br>

Marie Stopes International Australia, which operates the clinic in the eastern suburb of Midland, objected to the development of the childcare centre on an adjoining block.

In an objection lodged with the City of Swan, the clinic operators said the sight and sound of children playing in a neighbouring property might cause emotional strain for women considering terminating a pregnancy.

Tim Blair suggests a compromise (don't read if you are easily offended).

Alan Brain, commenting on Blair's post, has some interesting remarks:

A Tough one.

I'm anti-abortion (after the first trimester) based on the uncertainty as to where the dividing line between 'disposal of a clump of cells' and 'infanticide' should be drawn. I'm pro-abortion even late in gestation in cases where the kid won't live long, mother in danger etc. I'm not religious at all, this is a secular ethical issue to me.

I have a few friends who have had abortions. Every one of them has regretted it, some still in emotional pain from it 20 years later. But I'm sure there are many to whom it was just a massive relief, and remember, pregnancy is tough on the mother, physically and emotionally. A young kid, still in her early teens, with no parental or partner support, yes, motherhood would be bloody hard on her.

Maybe it's because my wife and I had 5 miscarriages before we finally hit the Jackpot (Andrew turned 3 a few days ago) that my felling - as opposed to thinking - is that those stupid women don't know how fortunate they are, and that there are childless couples who would give their right arms to be able to conceive.

So yes, having a childcare centre next door would be very appropriate: it wouldn't affect some, but those like my friends who bitterly regret decisions made decades ago, yes, it could stop them from making the same mistake.

Jewish Holy Books On Display at the Alexandria Library

From MEMRI, on a library-related topic:

Recently, a manuscript museum opened at the new Alexandria Library, which was renovated by the Egyptian and Italian governments via UNESCO. In the November 17, 2003 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbu', correspondent Jihan Hussein reported [1] that the museum had added "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the display case of the holy books of the monotheistic religions, next to a Torah. ... The following is an interview with the museum's director, Dr. Yousef Ziedan, in which he explains why he decided to add the "Protocols" to the exhibit:

"When my eyes fell upon the rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to place it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law, [and] their way of life. In other words, it is not merely an ideological or theoretical book.

"Perhaps this book of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it… It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."

Heard on Palestinian Authority television

From "the Friday sermon of March 12, 2004 in the Sheikh 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza was delivered by Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, an employee of the Awqaf (Religious Affairs) ministry of the Palestinian Authority."

The Jews today – there is no doubt – are avenging their ancient forefathers, the sons of apes and pigs. Some of the extremist Jews are demanding today their property in Al-Madina. There are even those who have requested to be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When the one-eyed Dayan was on his deathbed, he instructed that he be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When asked why, he said, 'So that I will be close to Al-Madina.' This is the extremist tendency of the Jews. They are the extremists, they are the terrorists. They deserve death, and we deserve life, because we are the people of Truth.

Lest we think this valiant struggle merely a contemporary matter, Sheikh Ibrahim informs us how deeply rooted in history it is:

When [Muhammed] investigated the cause of these civil wars, he found that the Jews were behind them. The most grave thing the Prophet saw was the war raging between the Aws and Khazraj tribes. When he investigated the cause of this great war between the two largest tribes, he found a Jew behind it. A Jew named Shas sparked the fire of civil strife between the Aws and Khazraj....
The Prophet received an instruction from the Lord of heaven and earth, Who knows the nature of the Jews, who forever live off the fire of civil strife and disseminating their venom among the brothers, Muslims, and friends. Allah ordered him to forge his plan to take care of the Jewish existence in Al-Madina.

This preacher is, as noted above, an employee of the PA. I wonder if his sermons come with those little disclaimers we sometimes see on emails: "Does not reflect the views of my employer".

Vietman and Election 2004

Lawrence Kaplan on Kerry's Vietnam record:

To Kerry supporters who argue otherwise, is it really necessary to point out that Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt never saw combat before going on to become America's greatest wartime strategists? Or that the very men who dispatched Kerry to Vietnam were themselves decorated veterans? To be sure, politicians who have served in war have an essential understanding of the horrors of war. But what does it tell us about their strategic wisdom or their fitness to be commander-in-chief? In truth, very little. None other than George McGovern boasted, accurately, that he was "a decorated combat pilot in World War II," while his opponent "was stationed far from battle." Did this make McGovern "stronger" than Nixon on national security? For their part, Senators Chuck Hagel, John McCain, and John Kerry all served in Vietnam. How did it shape their foreign policy views? In completely different ways: the first ended up a traditional realist, the second a virtual neoconservative, and the third a conventional liberal.

The legacy of Vietnam in contemporary politics does not have a single valence. To suggest that it does, as the Kerry campaign thus far seems to, is an oversimplification. The issue needs to be unpacked further, and if Kerry truly is a man who appreciates complexity and nuance, he will demonstrate that by unpacking it further.

Kaplan contrasts:

Earlier in the evening, for example, Joe Biden sketched out a truly heroic foreign policy vision, insisting that Kerry understands the need to promote liberty abroad. He was followed by Joe Lieberman, who said we could count on Kerry to liberate those living under "murderous tyrannies." As for the candidate himself, he uttered nary a word about democracy promotion, nor even a banality or two about promoting freedom abroad. There was no heroism here. Only what Kerry defended as "complexity."

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Progressive Taxation: Practical Pitfalls

Quiz: in 2001, according to the IRS, what percentage of the highest-earning Americans paid 50% of the individual income tax dollars collected by the federal government?

  1. The highest earning 5% of Americans paid half of all income tax dollars in 2001.
  2. The highest earning 10% of Americans paid half of all income tax dollars in 2001.
  3. The highest earning 25% of Americans paid half of all income tax dollars in 2001.

Sorry, it's a trick: the answer is "none of the above". The highest earning 4% of Americans as measured by adjusted gross income paid half of all the individual income tax in 2001 (IRS spreadsheet here). By the way, the cut-off income for the top 4% was $140,721. If we jump down to a cut-off income of $56,085, we find that the wealthiest 25% are covering 82.9% of individual income tax receipts.

So you're not going to run out and have a pity party for these high-earners, who are also probably among the wealthiest Americans. I understand. My point is actually about pragmatics rather than fairness.

I think that those who favor both progressive tax rates and redistributive government spending face a dilemma that is seldom, if ever, acknowledged. To the extent that a person

  • favors progressive tax rates,
  • doesn't want to cut government spending,
  • doesn't want to finance government spending by borrowing, and
  • doesn't want to increase the tax burden on the middle and lower classes,

that person is committed to hoping that the highest earners continue to earn at least as much in the future as they do now. If the highest earners fail to earn as much in the future as they have thus far, then at least one of the above points must be sacrificed. It seems counter-intuitive that "progressives" would have to root for the wealthy, doesn't it? But the unavoidable fact is that those who earn the most are the cash cow that gets milked to provide the butter and cheese for entitlements.

There's another way to look at this problem as well: by depending on the highest earning 4% of Americans for 50% of government revenues from income taxes, we make the federal government highly vulnerable to a downturn in the fortunes of the wealthiest people. I heard or read that a large part of California's fiscal woes stemmed from precisely this problem: steeply progressive state income tax rates made the state government dependent on the wealthiest individuals. The .COM bust hit this group of people extremely hard, such that they earned a good deal less and hence payed less in taxes. Thus, the state government suddenly had much lower revenues than they had been used to. I don't have a source for this assertion at hand, so I await confirmation or rebuttal from someone who knows the score (Walt?).

I'll be curious to see similar files for 2002 and forward, to see what impact the tax cuts had on these percentages. Of course, Bush has obviously sacrificed the point about avoiding not financing government spending with debt.

Commercials I hate (1)

(Strictly on a de gustibus non disputandum basis.)

All truck commercials I have seen in at least the last five years, whether for Ford or Chevy or GM or Dodge. The worst are those that try to associate their models with Texas (where I live), as if the trucks somehow embodied the special virtues of this state.

Do truck ads in other states do this? Do people in Iowa see ads about how a certain pickup is especially suited to Iowa?

Really, automobile ads in general are pretty awful. But truck ads, in Texas at least, are the worst.

Corruption in Israel and Palestine

On a more serious note, I find that that American media regularly report on the corruption allegations that dog Israeli politicians. This is as it should be. If Israel truly is an open, democratic society, then it can tolerate balanced investigation of its problems. And if the citizens of any other nation have reason to be interested in the domestic politics of Israel, then surely Americans do.

What I practically never see, however, is reporting in any detail on corruption in the Palestinian Authority. It is sometimes mentioned briefly and without detail when discussing other problems (as it is in reports of the present conflicts in the Gaza Strip, here, here, and here).

I know I can probably turn to one of several conservative news magazines and find something on this topic, but I would really, really like to see some in-depth coverage of it in the mainstream media.

Free Palestine! bumperstickers

I recently saw a bumpersticker on a car that read something like this:

  Ariel Sharon = Adolph Hitler   F R E E   P A L E S T I N E !

In my view, a more accurate, meaningful bumpersticker would read something like this:

  Yassir Arafat = Al Capone   F R E E   P A L E S T I N E !

Clinton on Iraq &amp; WMD

In a previous entry, I noted that Al Gore believed that Iraq possessed WMD, and that this belief was indeed a cornerstone of one of his critiques of the Bush administration. Perhaps we've forgotten that Bill Clinton also believed in Iraqi WMD:

Former US president Bill Clinton said in October during a visit to Portugal that he was convinced Iraq had weapons of mass destruction up until the fall of Saddam Hussein, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said.

"When Clinton was here recently he told me he was absolutely convinced, given his years in the White House and the access to privileged information which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction until the end of the Saddam regime," he said in an interview with Portuguese cable news channel SIC Noticias. (The Age)

In an interview on July 14 with the BBC, Clinton reiterates this view:

But I think it’s important for people here [in the U.K.] you can second guess Blair if you like, but, and it’s clear in our country according to our own Senate, the Intelligence was not what it should have been. But at the time nearly everybody thought there was probably a stock of chemical and biological weapons there and it was vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands, either by design or by corruption within Saddam’s regime. And essentially the French and the Germans said we still don’t care. Now as I understand it a lot of people in the world, because Saddam himself could not pose a direct threat, he wasn’t going to attack anybody because he was too weak. So that left the prospect of what we all believe was a substantial amount of material there. Had the final UN resolution passed there’s a good chance that war could have been avoided, that’s what Blair was trying to do. When the French and the Germans moved away from him and the Chileans and the Mexican’s didn’t go along he then basically had to go back to their position or go on with Bush’s position, he was in an impossible position really.

(Note also the jabs at the French and Germans. Also, the part about the fear of Iraq's weapons falling into the wrong hands echos Gore's critique I cited in the earlier journal entry.) To be sure, he offers a more "nuanced" view on the matter earlier in the interview, and he says he thought the policy of containing Saddam's Iraq was working. Perhaps he was right. However, the threat from Iraq was serious enough, in Clinton's view, that he could see his way clear to sign the Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the explicit policy of the United States.

I am not offering these facts as vindications for Bush's war in Iraq, or to suggest at all that Clinton would have invaded Iraq. It is rather because, as I noted in the Gore/WMD thread, the dominant narrative of the Iraq war seems to paint Bush and his cronies as a lone band of idiots/lunatics/fanatics/cowboys who thought Iraq possessed substantial stocks of weapons and who thought Iraq a serious enough danger to the U.S. to seek his overthrow (whether de jure or de facto). We may say that they are
idiots/lunatics/fanatics/cowboys for actually invading Iraq, but to act as if no-one else thought Iraq had WMD, or as if no-one else thought Iraq a serious threat to the U.S., is simply revisionism.

Hat tip to Redstate for noting the BBC interview with Clinton.

Florida 2000 Recount Revisited

In a previous journal entry, I cited a passage from a Newsday review of F9/11 that discussed the recount in the Florida presidential election in 2000 and its depiction in the movie. The upshot of the passage was that several major news outlets studied the issue and concluded that Gore would not have won under the recount scenarios he was seeking. In a comment, Rochelle pointed to a page at FAIR that took issue with the reporting of that story.

One aspect of the Florida voting mentioned neither in the Newsday piece (which was critical of Moore) nor in the FAIR piece was the question of the purge of voter rolls before the election by Data Base Technologies. F9/11 presents the purge essentially as part of Bush's election strategy:

Second, make sure the chairman of your campaign is also the vote count woman. And that her state has hired a company that's gonna knock voters off the roles who aren't likely to vote for you. You can usually tell 'em by the color of their skin. Then make sure your side fights like it's life or death. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

As the Palm Beach Post and David Kopel (scroll down to "Deceit 4") point out, and as Moore's film fails to note, the purpose of the purge was to remove the names of convicted felons from the voting rolls. The Palm Beach Post claims that about 1,100 law-abiding voters were incorrectly identified as felons. However, the story also notes:

Skeptical of the [list of felons's] accuracy, elections supervisors in 20 counties (including Palm Beach) ignored it altogether, thereby allowing thousands of felons to vote.

Kopel points to a study on the voting patterns of felons:

When allowed to vote, felons vote approximately 69 percent Democratic, according to a study in the American Sociological Review. Therefore, if the thousands of felons in the non-purging 20 counties had not been illegally allowed to vote, it is likely that Bush's statewide margin would have been substantially larger.

Thus this aspect of the fallout from the botched purge (felons being allowed to vote in 20 counties) seems to cut against Bush. The Post story continues:

Since the election, the felon purge has become a public-relations nightmare for the state.

Civil rights groups saw it as a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise black voters: Blacks accounted for 44 percent of those removed from the rolls, though they make up only about 11 percent of Florida's voters.

The list was a major issue in post-election hearings before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and it's being challenged in an NAACP lawsuit.

But a review of state records, internal e-mails of DBT employees and testimony before the civil rights commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted.

Blacks make up nearly 49 percent of the felons convicted in the state, according to the FDLE, so any purge of felons would include a disproportionate number of blacks.

Records show that DBT told the state it would not use race as a criterion to identify felons. The list itself bears that out: More than 1,000 voters were matched with felons though they were of different races.

If indeed blacks account 49% of the target population of the purge (Florida felons), but they made up 44% of those wrongfully purged, then they were disenfranchised in disproportionately small numbers. That is of course exceedingly small comfort to those who were disenfranchised in the 2000 election, and I for one cannot in the least blame them for being well and truly pissed about it, whatever their politics. However, if this aspect of the Post story is true, it too cuts against Bush and not for him. It also shows Moore's suggestion that people were purged because of the color of their skin to be base demagoguery (as well as factually incorrect).

I still think it is difficult to know how the vote in Florida "would have turned out". What is the net effect of the pro-Gore disenfranchised, the pro-Bush disenfranchised, the wrongly-enfranchised (and ostensibly mostly pro-Gore) felons, and the questionable over- and undercounted ballots? I don't think that the FAIR piece gives a complete picture of the matter (it doesn't even address the question of the voter purge), though it does add some information to the recount scenario question. Based on what I have read so far, the notion that Bush stole the election seems to me rather hard to defend, whether or not you think he won. There were too many factors bearing on the election that were under no-one's conscious control to make that claim very plausible to me at least. I am, however, convinced more than ever that Michael Moore is a master of distortion and manipulation.

Courtney Love

Who?

Personal rehabilitation

From the Washington Post:

BEIJING -- Chinese military and security officials are forcing the elderly physician who exposed the government's coverup of the SARS epidemic to attend intense indoctrination classes and are interrogating him about a letter he wrote in February denouncing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The officials have detained Jiang Yanyong, 72, a semi-retired surgeon in the People's Liberation Army, in a room under 24-hour supervision, and they have threatened to keep him until he "changes his thinking" and "raises his level of understanding" about the Tiananmen crackdown, said one of the sources, who described the classes as "brainwashing sessions."

That's one way to achieve solidarity.

For an explanation of the subject of this entry, see my previous entry.

The Cold War and the American Left

(This entry is a bit of a follow-on to this journal entry of mine.)

The Spring 2004 issue of The Claremont Review of Books includes a review by William Rusher of Monica Charen's book Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First. Like everything else I've read in the CRB, it is well-written and cogently argued. I hope you will read this review.

Here is a sample:

Lenin reputedly referred to these Western intellectual defenders of Communism as "useful idiots," and this is the sobriquet Mona Charen confers on them in the title of her book chronicling their statements and activities....
Her book does not contain, alas, the remarkable statement that constituted my own first introduction to a useful idiot. It blazes in my memory across the 58 years since it was uttered. It was 1946. The Cold War was just beginning, and I was listening to a radio debate on the subject between Clare Boothe Luce and Rev. Harry F. Ward, former chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union and an ornament of New York's Union Theological Seminary (professor of Christian ethics there, I believe), who was already famous as an apologist for Communism. Mrs. Luce made a scathing reference to the Soviet Union's "concentration camps," to which Dr. Ward promptly responded, "Those are not concentration camps. They are personal rehabilitation camps, and they have done those people a world of good!" It is testimony to the impact that piece of idiocy had on me that I remember every word, and am prepared to bet money that my quotation of it is practically verbatim.
[emphasis mine--ChuckB]

Personal rehabilitation: doubleplus good!!!

I realize that there were many on the left who did not admire the USSR and its satellites, or the PRC, or other soviet and communist regimes. I could find no sympathy with the regimes I saw in the East Bloc, but of course I wasn't a particularly well-tutored member of the left (just look how I turned out!). I do not mean to paint the whole left with a broad brush, but I also think this chapter in our history contains some important lessons that must not be forgotten.

Al Gore on WMD, &amp; a challenge

UPDATE: be sure to read the clarification at the bottom of this post.

From Al Gore's speech to the Commonwealth Club, given on September 23, 2002. To be fair, I must mention that this speech is fundamentally critical of the Bush '43 administration. However, note the facts that Gore states as if they are established beyond doubt:

Nevertheless, all Americans should acknowledge that Iraq does indeed pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf region, and we should be about the business of organizing 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....
What makes Saddam dangerous is his effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction....
Here's why I say that; we know that he has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country.
[emphasis mine--ChuckB]

In fact, so certain is Gore that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that the paragraph containing the last excerpt above is a sustained argument against the danger of conquering Iraq easily and then abandoning it too soon, thereby making it a simple matter for Islamicist terrorists to acquire the weapons:

What if in the aftermath of a war against Iraq, we face a situation like that because we washed our hands of it? What would then happen to all of those stored reserves of biological weapons all around the country? What if the Al Qaeda members infiltrated across the borders of Iraq the way they are in Afghanistan? Then the question wouldn't be, Is Saddam Hussein going to share these weapons with the terrorist group? The terrorist groups would have an enhanced ability to just walk in there and get them.

So why is Gore so certain that Saddam's Iraq possessed WMD? Could it be that he was duped, along with Congress, into believing the Bush administration's lies? That's hardly plausible, considering that he spent 8 years as Bill Clinton's VP: an intelligent man with access to the fruits of the world's best (we thought) intelligence services. The only plausible source I can see for these convictions is his knowledge of our intelligence while in the Clinton Administration.

To anyone who thinks Gore would have made a better president than Bush--let's grant for the sake of argument that he would have handled 9/11 better than Bush: I challenge you to give a plausible account of Gore's certainty about the existence of and the threat posed by Iraq's WMD in 9/20002. Had he won the election, would Gore the President have held a different view about Iraq's WMD in 9/2002 than Gore the private citizen actually did in 9/2002? If he would have held a different view, tell me what you think would have changed his mind.

I make this challenge not in the expectation that it cannot be answered. If someone can answer it plausibly, then perhaps I can learn something. In any case, it does seem to me that if Gore was rational in expressing such certainty in 9/2002 that Iraq possessed WMD sufficient to pose a serious threat to U.S. security, then Bush was also rational to express (and to believe) the same in 9/2002. If Bush was lying about Iraq's WMD in 9/2002, so was Gore.

(Note that this is not the tu quoque fallacy, since I am not arguing against Gore's views or trying to vindicate Bush's views based on the fact that Bush & Gore both thought Iraq had WMD. I am simply asserting that either (a) Gore & Bush both formed their views either by consuming the same intelligence data, or (b) they both lied.)

Hat-tip to Third Superpower for turning me on to the Gore speech.

CLARIFICATION: I realize now that the points I'm trying to make in this posting are not all that clear--my apologies. I'm not trying to vindicate Bush's policies or decision to go to war. I am content to let history be his judge, and it is not at all clear to me at this point how kind or harsh she will be. I am not suggesting that Gore supported Bush's policies or his decision to go to war. As I briefly noted, and as Blake's comment makes clear, the Commonwealth Club speech is quite critical of Bush, and he may well turn out to be right on many counts. I'm not arguing that the Bush administration did not exaggerate the threat Iraq posed--they probably did. I'm not saying that Gore considered Iraq an immanent threat to the U.S. Nor do I wish to suggest at all that Gore is unpatriotic for criticizing Bush or opposing the War in Iraq. Furthermore, Gore obviously had at that time vastly more experience in foreign affairs than Bush did. I'm not even arguing that Bush is a better president than Gore would have been.

My chief point is that, in September 2002, Gore felt warranted in saying that "we know" that Saddam Hussein has WMD scattered all over Iraq. Why did he feel warranted in saying this? If he wasn't persuaded that he had adequate reason for asserting this, he had no business saying it. I am certain he felt quite warranted in saying that "we know". And if he was warranted in maintaining this (however different, and possibly better, his strategy for tackling the problem), then so was Bush. And if you have any doubt about "what everyone knew", consider this page.

The fact that Gore said these things in a speech criticizing Bush's policies only strengthens my contention. If he had any substantial doubts about WMD, would he not have used those doubts as a further means of undermining Bush's position and possibly deterring him from a dangerous course of action?

That is the salient point I am making. The wider point concerns what seems to me to be a sort of revisionism that posits that Bush and his folks were the only ones who thought Iraq had WMD, and that no-one else suffered under that delusion. This view, is, it seems to me, untenable, and it is harmful insofar as people make judgements about the political future of this nation based on it.

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