Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Kerry should accept accountability for statements on Iraq WMD 

THE CAPITOL BUILDING, Washington, DC, approx. 2/2/2003: "Everybody now, all together! Ooooooh, Saddam, he's got them W.M.D / And he's a threat to you and me ..."

The reason every elected leader who stated as fact that Iraq had WMD should apologize is simple. We need to rebuild confidence in present and future statements. America needs assurance that what we hear "the next time" has has more thought put into it - accountability should not go out of style when politicly expedient. If we're we hold our leaders responsible for silly mistakes like being unaware of microphones - certainly we should expect accountability for statements which informed the country during our decision between war and peace. Even if - especially if - they thought what they were saying was well-founded at the time.

I don't care if Kerry or anyone else painstakingly qualified the implications of their statements in some way: the fact is most Americans trusted the statements and simply plopped them on to their "war or not" scales. The NY Times has issued their apology. Bill O'Reilly has said he was wrong. Some members of Congress have articulated their mea culpas. Tonight is an opportune moment for Kerry to unambiguously enter the words into the record: "I was wrong."

A few of us made efforts on our own to verify the veracity of what we were hearing. But we shouldn't have to do that - it's not our job to evaluate intelligence. The White House and The Hill are wired for the Internet - that's all that was needed to determine the statements should have been more like "We think that Iraq may have threatening WMD" instead of "We know that Iraq's weapons threaten us." Just two examples:

Many politicians referred to "poison factories." With an Internet connection, everybody had the ability to read the reports and statements of inspectors that stood inside the facilities. The inspectors - which included American personall - found the buildings to be "inoperative" (1/17/2003), "dusty and destroyed", or "employed in legitimate uses" (10/29/2002). After this information became available, we should have heard from our leaders, "Uh, you know those poison factories I spoke of? Well, as at turns out, at least some of them ..."

We were told of aluminum tubes seized in transit to Iraq which were definitely intended to be used to refine uranium. The inspectors - which included American personnel - failed to find "any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets." (3/7/2003) After that information became available, we should of heard "About those aluminum tubes. Now, at least some people now think ..."

Kerry's statements generalized: that Iraq's WMD were a threat, that we couldn't allow him to have these weapons, etc, but the concept is the same.

It was correct to be unsatisfied with anything less than 100% certainty about what was going on in Iraq, but the confidence level at which the claims were made was farcical. Authoritative information was available to us that at best cast some amount of doubt on the urgency of the threat.

We need to be confident in the leadership we send to the White House and Capitol. Democrat, Republican, it doesn't matter. Almost all of them said these things and few of them have returned to issue corrections on the confidence levels at which they were stated.

Even if Kerry feels he was mislead, which he certainly does, he should then apologize for allowing himself to be mislead.

I believe an "I was wrong" from Kerry would score points with most Americans. It will show he holds himself accountable. It will also force Bush to make a choice: do the same thing, which would be damaging for those still trying to believe this is an honest administration - or choose not to, which would make a nice contrast between him and an incumbant who shuns accountability.

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