Today on Blogcritics
Home » BTC News at the White House

BTC News at the White House

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Dan Froomkin has a story on BTC News and our White House writer, Eric Brewer, in his April 5 “White House Briefing” column in The Washington Post. Aside from providing some very positive coverage of Eric’s White House work—and that’s what it is—Froomkin took Scott McClellan’s response to Eric’s question and Googled the various phrases and sentences to see how many times McClellan had used the same words and phrases prior to Friday. We were so taken with our own image that we didn’t really pay attention to that masterwork until Shawn at The Liquid List noted it.

Say what you will about McClellan (and of course we won’t lest we lose the opportunity to not get more questions answered), he’s consistent.

What Eric asked was whether the Robb-Silberman report on the generally pathetic state of US intelligence on Iraq before the invasion (and Iran and North Korea now) had had any effect on the doctrine of preventive war.

McClellan replied by invoking 9/11 and the earth-moving the Administration would have done had they known it was coming (which was pretty much irrelevant to the question), and added that the costs of doing nothing were just to high to contemplate.

Eric followed up by asking about the costs of doing something based on bad intelligence, which McClellan rightly understood to be about Iraq, and which he answered in such a fashion as to indicate that massive intelligence failures leading to unnecessary preventive wars and the concomitant loss of lives and dollars and credibility was better than not doing anything so long as you could point to something positive (Saddam Hussein is no longer in power) about the exercise.

In other words: “No. Why should it?” Which makes sense, in a way, because the purpose of preventive war is to preclude the possibility of something bad happening—never mind that in this instance the invasion wouldn’t have prevented anything anyway, given our inability to secure the places the banned weapons weren’t—so it doesn’t actually matter if the possibility is real. Either way, in theory, you’ve prevented it. If it wasn’t real, blowing it up will keep it that way. So there’s not much reason to change the policy even if, as Don Rumsfeld might say, there are things you know you don’t know and one of them is whether you really know that the things you do know are true.

Powered by

About BTC News

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    By
    The
    Curlies?

    You have listed here the best book EVER on politics and national media, 1980 on.

    Fallows here nails it in every single sentence. Cokie Roberts comes off like the media whore she is (which isn’t to say she’s always wrong, but when she bashes “the media” in her columnsm, well, I always remember this book)

    The money cycle he details – even back then – are eye-opening and bowel-emptying.

  • http://www.sphinxmontreal.com SphinxMontreal

    Basically, what the White House is saying is they went into Iraq for all the right reasons, regardless of the faulty intelligence.

    Obviously, the weapons of mass destruction angle was used for initial entry, because it was probably the only explanation which would work in rallying the public behind the war.

    This is probably a very rare instance where faulty intelligence actually played into the USA’s favor. Instead of the media criticizing the faulty intelligence, they should be blessing it.

  • http://www.btcnews.com/btcnews weldon berger

    Yeah, boy howdy! It is indeed a rare blessing when faulty intelligence ropes one into spending a half-trillion dollars, liberating a hundred thousand or so civilians from this mortal coil, maiming tens of thousands of American soldiers, killing thousands of others and creating a theocratic republic to boot.

    By the by, Chuck Robb and Larry Silberman, the authors of the report remarking that, surpise surprise, the intelligence on Iraq was “dead wrong,” are not the media; they’re a couple of conservative Republicans—ultra-conservatve in Silberman’s case—who, despite doing everything they could to avoid criticising the administration, produced a report detailing an executive branch so completely blinded by ideology that they ignored every suggestion that things might not be as they wished them to be, and then, after it was quite clear that the intelligence was as bad as the administration’s intentions, rewarded the steward of that shoddy product the Medal of Freedom.

    Sorry, but I don’t feel blessed.

  • gonzo marx

    weldon deserves…

    /golfclap

    thanx for the nice read…i’ll have to look into the book now…as if i don’t have enough things on THAT list…

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I can send you a copy Gonzo. I have it.

  • gonzo marx

    most appreciated Temple…

    >bows, hand over fist<

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.sphinxmontreal.com SphinxMontreal

    Do you really think it was just some faulty intelligence that roped this administration into war? And since the GOP was re-elected into the White House, it seems they played their hand well.

    In the 1900’s there was a major war every 15-20 years. Why? What would be the current population of the earth if the 1900’s was a peaceful decade?

    Without certain population control measures, like wars, diseases, natural disasters, etc., human life on this planet would not be sustainable. A limited amount of resources just cannot keep pace with unlimited human population growth.

    Kind of ironic that we have all this unlimited space in our universe, however, we are unable to utilize it as our living space.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “It is indeed a rare blessing when faulty intelligence ropes one into spending a half-trillion dollars”

    Untrue.

    “liberating a hundred thousand or so civilians from this mortal coil”

    Untrue.

    “maiming tens of thousands of American soldiers”

    Probably an exaggeration.

    “killing thousands of others and creating a theocratic republic to boot.”

    Where’ the Iraqi “theocracy”?

    Methinks it was a typo, and you meant IRAN…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Also, Chuck Robb ain’t a Republican…

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Liked your way of thinking there Sphinx. Interesting and different.

    Do we really want the whole universe tho’ :-) Think of the bureaucracy.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Hey, those crab-people from Barsniff 5 are great typists! Why, we could even outsource some secretarial jobs there, and save a few bucks… ;-)

  • http://www.btcnews.com/btcnews weldon berger

    Sphinx, I’m sure you’ll agree that electoral success is not the best measure of whether something was a bright idea or not.

    RJ, you’ll see the theocracy – it’ll be a theocratic republic – as the constitution develops and the civil code is replaced by sharia. It’s what Sistani wants and so far, when he wants something he gets it.

    We will be in Iraq for at least another five years, at the end of which we will have spent more than the half-trillion I mentioned. As for civilian casualties in Iraq, the lone reliable study, the one published in The Lancet, puts the figure in the 100,000 range. The only rebuttal anyone has offered is that it isn’t true, which isn’t what you would call an authoritative response.

    More than 1500 American soldiers have died already, and one can be fairly certain that another thousand at least will be dead before we’re out of there. More than 11,000, according to the Department of Defense, have been wounded in action, many of them suffering lost limbs and severe brain trauma; more than 15,000 others (only 20% of whom return to their units) have been evacuated from Iraq with non-combat injuries, disease or mental health problems; suicides among service members account for 10% of non-combat deaths, and, again according to DoD, nearly one in five returning soldiers require some sort of mental health treatment.

    That’s to this point, and we’re nowhere near getting out of there.

    In addition to the casualties of war, the crime rate in Baghdad – non-political murders, kidnappings, robberies and assaults – is up something like 800% in the two years since we invaded. Documented attacks on women by religious fundamentalists, many tens of thousands of whom demonstrated in Baghdad this weekend against the occupation, are on the rise.

    Kurds control the police and security forces in Kirkuk, which is the scene of a mini-civil war between Kurds on the one side and Turkmen and Iraqi Arabs on the other; the fundamentalist Dawa party – headed in parliament by the new Prime Minister – controls the police in Basra and other southern cities; the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which I’m sure you’ll agree has something of a theocratic ring to it, controls the police in the religious centers of central Iraq and provides security for Sistani.

    Both Dawa and SCIRI have strong ties to Iran – their leaders spent most of the past two decades there – and al Sadr, although he doesn’t have that Iranian connection, vocally embraces the Iranian model of government. SCIRI and Dawa are the two largest parties in the UIA, the Sistani-endorsed electoral list that captured a simple majority in the parliament. So the tension in the majority parties is between those who favor religious dominance over the entire government and those who favor religious dominance over only civil matters, rather than between secularists and theocrats.

    The war has torpedoed recruiting for the Army and National Guard, and even the Marines, who have traditionally been immune to recruiting woes, are having trouble meeting their quotas.

    More than 40% of the troops in Iraq are National Guard, which is intrinsically not a good thing because they simply aren’t trained and in many cases equipped as well as regular-duty troops and because Guard members are over-represented in civic service professions such as policing and firefighting, which has a great impact upon their communities.

    Our troop rotations are all screwed up because we don’t have sufficient forces to keep the rotations to a tolerable length, and our recruiting woes guarantee no quick remedy for the problem.

    Those are just our physical problems. Americans are blissfully ignorant of the impact the Abu Ghraib scandal, the scuttling of the rule of law in Guantanamo and the revelations of our torture outsourcing practices have had upon our image not only in the Middle East, but around the world as well.

    Our allies are falling all over themselves to get their troops out, which means ours will not be leaving in any numbers anytime soon. Among the reasons they’re fleeing is that they’re under immense political pressure to do so. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi just got creamed in local elections, in no small part because of his support for the war, and the Eastern European governments are facing similar pressures.

    And of course the troop pullouts of our friends have a direct impact upon our own troop rotation and recruiting problems mentioned above.

    The one thing you are right about is that Robb is a Democrat. Mea culpa.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “Our allies are falling all over themselves to get their troops out, which means ours will not be leaving in any numbers anytime soon.”

    Read this:

    U.S. Commanders See Possible Cut in Troops in Iraq

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “RJ, you’ll see the theocracy – it’ll be a theocratic republic – as the constitution develops and the civil code is replaced by sharia.”

    I don’t see it now!

    Anyway, recent polls suggest that most Iraqis do not want anything resembling a theocracy.

    So, we will have to see…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “We will be in Iraq for at least another five years”

    Oh, I’m sure we’ll have some number of forces there for a long time to come. But we won’t have 100 thousand plus there for too much longer, as long as we continue to train the good Iraqis to properly fight and kill the bad guys…

    “at the end of which we will have spent more than the half-trillion I mentioned.”

    MAYBE, it’s possible. But we haven’t yet…

    “As for civilian casualties in Iraq, the lone reliable study, the one published in The Lancet, puts the figure in the 100,000 range.”

    Ask Dave Nalle for the numbers. I’m pretty sure it’s in the low five-digits. I don;t know his source, but I DO know that a large number of these were killed not by the Coalition, but by the terrorists…

  • http://www.btcnews.com/btcnews weldon berger

    RJ: US military commanders have promised to draw down the number of troops at least four times since the invasion, including the initial cheery assessment that the number would be down to perhaps 30,000 by the end of 2003. You’ll perhaps forgive me if I remain a bit skeptical that another promise to reduce the number of troops in eight or nine months will be the one that’s actually fulfilled.

    Dave Nalle gets his figures from Iraq Body Count, which gets its figures from deaths reported in the English-language press. If a death isn’t reported in such an outlet, it doesn’t exist. Nalle also repeats the standard dismissal of The Lancet study, ignoring that no reputable epidemiologist has or will quarrel with the methodology. In particular, he repeats the canard that much of the data derive from the most dangerous areas in Iraq, while the fact is that Fallujah was excluded, despite that the surveyors risked their lives in going there, precisely because so many households reported violent deaths (backed up by death certificates) that the researchers knew it would skew the results, just as data from the Kurdish north was excluded because that autonomous region was not involved in the conflict and would have skewed the results in the other direction. He also misunderstands the significance of the range of possible deaths suggested by the survey.

    There are other problems with Nalle’s assessment, but chief among them are that the lead researcher has used the same methods in other countries, including Rwanda and the Congo, and produced reliable results, and that the epidemiology profession regards his methods as sound.

    Until someone comes up with a more substantive refutation of the study than “it isn’t true,” I’ll stick with the professionals.

  • JR

    In the 1900’s there was a major war every 15-20 years. Why? What would be the current population of the earth if the 1900’s was a peaceful decade?

    Possibly less. The developed countries have been the most effective at slowing population growth. War tends to hinder develoment.

    Without certain population control measures, like wars, diseases, natural disasters, etc., human life on this planet would not be sustainable. A limited amount of resources just cannot keep pace with unlimited human population growth.

    So the way to preserve those resources is to waste them on building expensive machines that burn fossil fuels to destroy one another?

    Again, the countries with the most stable populations are those where war, disease and natural disasters have very little impact. Counter-intuitive, but there it is.