Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Preemptive leaking

Did you by any chance hear that Cheney (the puppet master jerking the Jerk) is thinking about bombing Iran? With tactical nuclear weapons? If you didn't, I'm sorry you were in a coma and hope your recovery will be swift, because I doubt there was a news outlet that wasn't publicizing these stories based on some "leaks."

The media are offering two choices concerning the leaks—if I may paraphrase: (Door #1) that they represent the Administration's attempt to bluff Iran; (Door #2) that the principals in the Bush Administration are quite mad and that more "moderate" voices are trying to rein them in.

The Washington Post's media critic Howard Kurtz surveyed the blogs and found, apparently to his amazement, that "some liberals are taking the leaked Iran threat quite seriously." Finally Kurtz helps his readers cut through the fog by quoting from the appropriately named blog—Right Wing Nut House (RWNH)—whose author clearly believes that the truth lies behind Door #1.

"Military action to take out Iranian nukes is self-defeating. But don't tell the Iranians that. In fact, the more uncertain President Ahmadinejad is about our intentions, the better.

"This little stratagem about keeping the Iranians guessing about our intentions seems to be lost on our rabid dog left wing who have swallowed what is almost certainly a deliberately planned leak on our military options against the mullahs and regurgitated the most hysterical nonsense this side of the Scooter Libby story."

Door #1 or Door #2?

The problem with most people, even those in right-wing nuthouses, is that they can't conceive that others, especially those in authority, only avoid derision and institutional commitment by virtue of their wealth and power (the Naked Emperor Effect). So when right-wing nutter RWNH notices that "military action to take out Iranian nukes is self-defeating," he naturally assumes that that can't possibly be the course the Administration is pursuing, because that would be insane.

I know this because I made the same mistake in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. And I am thoroughly ashamed. My only excuse is that the idea was so irrational that I didn't pay enough attention to the people behind the idea. I didn't notice how crazy they really are.

But I have studied the mischief-makers of this Administration long enough now to know that sanity is not one of the inputs into their decision-making. Let's consider Bush's responses to the "leaks." Peter Baker of the Post tells us that—

Bush dismissed yesterday talk of military action against Iran as "wild speculation" ....

You should presume this to be a lie. Bush seems to have risked so little and told so many. (See "They lie, they lie again ... and then they lie some more.") On the other hand, Seymour Hersh, the chief purveyor of the leaks, has an impeccable reputation as a journalist, risks everything if he gets it wrong and will certainly be destroyed by the right-wing attack machine if he has a comma out of place.

Now notice how nutty Bush really is—

I know here in Washington prevention means force," he said in response to an audience question after a speech at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. "It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy."

This is a U-turn away from reality. Nobody in Washington thinks that prevention means force, with the likely exception of George Bush's own controllers.1

Another important reason for assuming that an attack on Iran may be imminent is that the psyops—the "psychological operations" (a part of which is propaganda)—have already begun. Only last week, and before reporter Hersh dropped his load of leaks, I wrote about the bizarre piece of propaganda that appeared in the Daily Telegraph—"Iran's spies watching us, says Israel." Be on the lookout for more of these.

A preventive or a preemptive leak?

If you thought the "doctrine of preemption" was insane, you ain't seen nothing yet. Bush has now announced a "doctrine of prevention"—

Bush's new National Security Strategy, which was released last month, cited Iran as the most serious challenge to the United States of any country and reaffirmed the president's doctrine of preemption, first outlined in 2002. In yesterday's comments, Bush used the phrase "doctrine of prevention" rather than preemption. Some scholars distinguish the two -- preemptive war in this view refers to striking when an enemy is an imminent danger, whereas preventive war suggests attacking an adversary even without an urgent threat.

We must conclude, if we are to follow this scholarly distinction, that the leaks that warn of an imminent attack on Iran are preemptive rather than preventive. Surely the Bush Administration has proved itself by now to be an urgent threat.

If the United States (or Israel) attacks Iran, Fox News will lead a chorus of cheers and the NY Times and the Washington Post will issue somber reflections on this war crime without judging it in any way. But such an attack may also be the moment for that other attack that some of us have feared—the final attack on American representative government, nullifying the need for further elections.

We Americans love a good TV war, since it reminds us of football, but ticket prices are going through the roof. Within a few days of those bomb hits, we'll be seeing gas prices double—if we're lucky. And you have to wonder if Chávez of Venezuela would continue to sell oil to the U.S. If he doesn't, what then? Do we invade Venezuela?

With the collapse of the American economy and the likelihood of internal disorder here at home, American democracy just may be more than the Administration has time for.

Related posts
They lie, they lie again ... and then they lie some more (3/9/06)
Israel said to be feeling nostalgic for Syria (4/6/06)


1Oh, you may object, Bush isn't crazy. He's just using the "straw man" device recently exposed by Jennifer Loven of the AP. The problem—and even Loven seems to sense it—is that for Bush this is no rhetorical device; it is simply the truth. Which is what we mean by "nutty" here at Simply Appalling.

Here is Loven's analysis, which stunned everyone when they realized it was actually published by the Associated Press—

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, Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Mr. Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."


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