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Lies and the lying... well, you know

Having failed to make any impact whatsoever on Bush administration policies, the left has come out strongly on the counterattack, with the biggest theme being that the whole administration is dishonest. That's to be expected in politics (both dishonesty and accusations thereof), but reasonable people need to learn the distinction between differences of opinion, mistakes, and actual lies. Most importantly, if you're going to accuse someone of lying, shouldn't you make sure your facts are correct first? It seems like a good rule of thumb. But if so, someone needs to explain it to The Nation. In a column entitled The Latest Bush Gang Whoppers, David Corn attempts to dissect Dick Cheney's weekend appearance on Meet The Press, where he cited the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague as possible evidence of ties between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

Let's start with Dick Cheney. He appeared on Meet The Press and was asked by host Tim Russert if there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. He replied, "Of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack. But we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know." This was a deceptive answer.
Now, the first thing to note is that Cheney was careful here not to make any claims of knowledge here. How can it possibly be "deceptive" to point out that this report is out there, unconfirmed, and that we don't know? Well, Corn has an answer:
Shortly after 9/11, Czech intelligence officials did say they had a report from a source--a single source--that Atta had met with this Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001. Subsequent media reports in the United States noted that the source was an Arab student who was not considered particularly reliable. The FBI investigated and found nothing to substantiate the report of the meeting. In fact, the FBI concluded that Atta was most likely in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting, and the CIA questioned the existence of this meeting. (Even if there had been a meeting, one could not tell what it meant unless it was known what was said--and no one, not even Cheney, has claimed to know what might have transpired.
Huh? Didn't Corn just repeat exactly what Cheney said? That is: there's a report of a meeting that the US hasn't been able to confirm, so we don't know. Where's the "deception"?

Oh, here it is:

Moreover, on October 21, 2002, The New York Times reported that Czech President Vaclav Havel "quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports" of the meeting. And it seemed that Atta had gone to Prague in June 2000, not April 2001. "Now," the paper noted, "some Czech and German officials say that their best explanation of why Mr. Atta came to Prague was to get a cheap airfare to the United States."

For some reason, Cheney did not share with the Meet the Press audience the information about Havel's denial.

Yes, that illustrates deception. The deception here, though, is not Cheney's, but the Nation's. The "some reason" Cheney didn't share the information about Havel's denial is because it never happened. The New York Times made it up:
"It is a fabrication. Nothing like this has occurred," [Havel spokesperson Ladislav] Spacek said about Havel's alleged phone conversation with the White House.
Oh. Yeah. Oops. Admittedly, it would have been tough for Nation to discover this... unless they read the Times two days later, where the Times admitted it.


There is, of course, serious debate about whether this meeting took place, and what it would prove if it did. The evidence for the meeting is limited to a single source, and he provides no details about the substance of the meeting. But that in no way justifies calling Cheney a liar for citing this as possible evidence of a connection, and it in no way justifies citing a fabricated New York Times story as evidence that Cheney lied.

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Comments (8)

itty:

i'm not particularly interested in the deception issue but moreso the comments of dick cheney. i just find them puzzling.

corn calls cheney's answer to russert deceptive but i call it stupid. russert asked if there was evidence and cheney said "of course" in the affirmative and goes on to talk about some report that wasn't confirmed(hearsay? rumor?). so there's no evidence?

doublespeak is what it is.

Unconfirmed evidence is nonetheless evidence. Hearsay evidence is nonetheless evidence. People often make the mistake of confusing the issue of how much weight to give the evidence with the issue of whether the evidence exists.

Consider a situation where the prosecution puts on as a witness a guy who testifies that he has identified Bob as the man he saw robbing the bank, and the defense puts on as a witness Bob, who testifies that he was home at the time of the crime.

One of the witnesses is lying or mistaken. One side's testimony is, quite simply, false. But both sides nevertheless presented evidence. We don't say, if speaking precisely, that there's no evidence of Bob's innocence; there is. Namely, Bob's testimony that he was home. We say that we don't _believe_ this evidence, which is a different statement altogether. (Or perhaps we do believe, and acquit him.)

We don't know how much weight to give our Czech informant's statements, but they do constitute evidence.


Well, seemingly everyone else in the administration, including Bush himself, says there's "no evidence."

Cheney said, "we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it." But that's simply not true. It seems like our intelligence agencies have done a pretty good job discrediting that story, as everyone except for Cheney seems to acknowledge.

Richard:

It seems like our intelligence agencies have done a pretty good job discrediting that story

Out of curiosity, how would you know that? Which agencies are you referring to? Do you have access to their intelligence reports? Or are you simply repeating what others have said. So, in other words, you really don't know.

Mark y Mark:

Out of curiosity, how would you know that? Which agencies are you referring to? Do you have access to their intelligence reports? Or are you simply repeating what others have said. So, in other words, you really don't know.

From the Associated Press today:
"There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties," the President said. But he also said, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

The President's comment was the administration's firmest assertion that there is no proven link between Saddam and September 11. It came after Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday clouded the issue by saying, "It is not surprising people make that connection" between Saddam and the attacks."

Did you see that? Both Bush and Cheney admit that there's no proof linking Hussein with 9/11, yet they continue to push the idea that there's a "connection" between Hussein and 9/11 despite the fact that there's no proof.

There are a whole grip of justifications for American actions in Iraq. These lies weaken not only these justifications, but domestic resolve as well. Basically, it makes us look like a$$holes.

E. Rey:

The idea that there is a connection between Saddam and 9-11 is already out there. The President has done the responsible thing by saying we have no proof. OTOH, to say categorically that there is no connection would be wrong, because we don't know that.

We don't know, and the President and VP have said so. What else would you have them say?

Mark y Mark:

We don't know, and the President and VP have said so. What else would you have them say?

How about they stop saying things like "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties"? Comments like that are meant to justify actions taken, but since there's no proof, it just ends up hurting our case. Already, the administration is taking heat for a lack of WMDs found. We look like liars, scrounging around for excuses and it's especially bad since we're in the process of going back to an untrusting UN to ask for money.

SDN:

"How about they stop saying things like "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties"? "

Why would they want to stop saying the absolute truth? We know (because the US and others have found the documents) that Saddam and his government maintained active contacts with various Al-Qaeda people throughout the 90's. We know that bin Laden was in favor of working with anyone, even Socialist Secular Baathists, who would kill Americans, because bin Laden said so.

Having al-Qaeda ties does not make Saddam responsible for September 11. It did make him and his government a potential sanctuary state, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Terrorists cannot function without a sanctuary. In the Vietnam War, North Vietnam (since we wouldn't invade it) and even moreso China and the Soviet Union (since we wouldn't bomb them, let alone invade them) functioned as sanctuary states where the supplies could come from, casualties treated (like the AQ leader who was in Bagdad for treatment last year), etc.

And I know that the screams will start: "Why haven't we invaded Saudi? Why haven't we invaded Iran? What about North Korea?" The essential reason we haven't attacked those states is that after the Berlin Wall fell, Democrats were eager to collect the peace dividend, and Republicans couldn't muster the will to stop them, so the military was gutted. Check Gore's Reinventing Government figures, and you will find that non-defense federal jobs went UP; all the cuts to offset that came from the military. Yes, firepower can be substituted for manpower; which of those three countries would you suggest we nuke?

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