Monday, July 18, 2005

Myths and Misconceptions

Let's debunk a few of the current "it's so good it HAS to be true!" mistakes flitting across the web.

"Joseph Wilson's wife sent him on that trip to Niger!" - False. She did recommend him (and Mr. Wilson had claimed she didn't have anything to do with the selection) but she didn't have the authority to send him. This is a difference - anytime you recommended a friend for something, you weren't necessarily actually hiring them. And of course, saying she sent him just adds to the whole suspiciousness of the deal...somehow, anyway, to those who believe this.

"The Downing Street Memos prove Bush lied about WMDs!" - False. It's plainly apparent that officer who wrote the memos thought - as did everyone else - that Saddam had WMDs. There's even a "what if he uses them on the first day of the war" question in there. However, the memos do offer strong proof that Bush had already made his mind up to invade long after he was claiming all options were on the table, and that the case for war was weak. "The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." is an exact quote from the memos. (italics added) One also must remember that this is all the opinion of the writer, Mr. Rycroft. It does offer proof that Bush wanted to go to war, that the case was weak, and that people believed that Saddam had WMDs, but none of it conclusive. Either side that states their side is vindicated by it is wrong.

"Wilson said Cheney sent him to Niger, an obvious lie!" - False. He has stated that Dick Cheney's office was concerned about Niger, yellowcake and Iraq, and talked to the CIA about it, who then sent him. He has made this line pretty clear many times - although, given his misstatements (my wife had nothing to do with the trip) and lies (see Powerline) we have to be careful to state AS FAR AS WE KNOW. However, most people who push this theory usually alter what he said, using creative ellipsis.

"The Niger story was proven fake!" - False, although I add some caveats. First of all, the 16 words mentioned Africa, not Niger in particular. Second, the report per se isn't false - supposedly, an Iraqi person approached a Niger official and mentioned expanding commercial relations. This part is true. Of course, everyone assumes this meant yellowcake, which is to me a rather large flaw. So the report itself is true - what the report means is still up in the air, although supposedly it bolstered the CIA conclusion somehow. Here's the actual report link, for those who want to go to the horse's mouth. However, the report isn't false - perhaps the conclusion from the reports are.

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