Terrance Heath

Seriously: How Do We Even Talk?

Filed By Terrance Heath | June 24, 2012 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, Iraq war, Republican polling, speak the same language, WMD

Do ever have one of those moments when you realize that you and the person you’re arguing with, even though you’re both speaking English, don’t actually speak the same language? That’s Michael Tomasky’s reaction to a poll that says that bigstock-People-Talking-25125962.jpgthe vast majority of Repbulicans still believe Iraq had WMDs. Still.

How misinformed are Republicans about world affairs? If presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia is “without question our number one geopolitical foe” is any indication, then the answer would appear to be very.

A new poll supports that theory.

The poll, constructed by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2, found that fully 63 percent of Republican respondents still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. By contrast, 27 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats shared that view.

Jim Lobe, chief of the Inter Press Service’s Washington bureau, reported the finding in his blog on Wednesday.

Thus causing Tomasky to throw up his hands in exasperation.

GoodbyeYou saw the poll, I’d imagine, that 64 percent of Republicans still think Obama was born in another country, and that 63 percent still think Iraq had WMD before the invasion. What can one say? As Andrew put it yesterday, it’s an “ideological hall of mirrors.”

Doing a simple Google search of the phrase “where did wmd go” shows very quickly how so many can take up residency in this hall and stay there, believing only the images they see inside it. Pajamas Media and Free Republic and Michelle Malkin, none of which I’ll link to, kept this thing going for a long time. Seems to have mostly petered out now, but I found articles up through 2010 and 2011 latching on to some new piece of “evidence” that “proves” that Saddam’s arsenal ended up in Syria. The official posture of the US government, by the way, in the form of the report led by Charles Duelfer, is that Iraq had no WMDs.

The important question before us is, what can ever make Republicans accept a government conclusion (reached by a Republican-appointed commission, no less) or the plain existence of an obvious authentic birth certificate. The answer, I guess, is nothing.

It’s enough to make you despair of anything ever getting done in Washington again. But you can’t say we weren’t warned.

It is, to say the least, revelatory. I kept trying to find a passage to quote, but there were so many that stood out to me. But here's the one that I ended up reading aloud to the hubby to give him an idea of what it had to say.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: "Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you." When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, "Look, I'm not going to debate it with you."

One thing occured to me as I was reading it, and that was the number of people who would only speak "off the record." Why is it still forbidden to say just how little clothing the emperor (after all "we're an empire now") is wearing? How do we get out of the mess we're in if nobody points out that we're in it.

It seems futile to rehash it all, but as a progressive and a member of the “reality-based community” who’s written tons about Iraq, I just can’t resist repeating myself.

And before any conservatives start repeating that “Wikileaks documents show WMDs found in Iraq” (the title of a Hot Air post that I, like Tomasky, refuse to link to), the small number bioweapons found does not “prove” that Iraq had WMDs after all.

Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells "that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. "The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance." Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, "the rounds tested positive for mustard."

In WikiLeaks' massive trove of nearly 392,000 Iraq war logs are hundreds of references to chemical and biological weapons. Most of those are intelligence reports or initial suspicions of WMD that don't pan out. In July 2004, for example, U.S. forces come across a Baghdad building with gas masks, gas filters, and containers with "unknown contents" inside. Later investigation revealed those contents to be vitamins.

But even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. "These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time."

A small group -- mostly of the political right -- has long maintained that there was more evidence of a major and modern WMD program than the American people were led to believe. A few Congressmen and Senators gravitated to the idea, but it was largely dismissed as conspiratorial hooey.

The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.

But there I go with “reality” again.

(People talking clipart via Bigstock)


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