The Disinformation Age
March 4, 2003
By Dennis Hans
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking January 19 on ABC's Sunday morning political show "This Week," offered the media splendid advice on how they should handle in their broadcasts and articles a leader who lies:
"Well, first, Saddam Hussein is a liar. He lies every single day. . . . He is still claiming that he won the war. His people are being told every day that they won. It was a great victory in 1991 when he was thrown out of Kuwait and chased back to Baghdad. Now, it seems to me that almost every time you quote something from him, you should preface it by saying 'here's a man who has lied all the time and consistently'" (link).
Actually, that's no longer necessary with Saddam. Nothing he says has been taken at face value since the 1980s, that golden decade when he was committing his worst human rights abuses with the blessing and support of Saint Colin of Powell and presidents Reagan and Bush - not to mention Reagan's special emissary to Baghdad, a chap named Donald Rumsfeld.
There is a lying leader, a bit closer to home, to whom our news media should apply Rummy's good advice. Not only does the leader lie, but so too do his top aides. And the news media, with rare exceptions, routinely pass along their lies as fact. The result is that the people of America are out of touch with the people of the world. Thus we're far more willing than any other populace to launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq. Whereas the German and French people - and the populations ruled by governments siding with Uncle Sam - are reasonably well-informed and overwhelmingly opposed, Americans are reasonably well-disinformed.
If Brokaw, Rather, Jennings and Lehrer have an ounce of integrity, they'll apply Rummy's remedy to the pronouncements on Iraq by George W. Bush and his top aides. I recommend this pre-interview and -soundbite preface:
"Here is a president [secretary of defense, secretary of state, national security adviser] who, when it comes to Iraq, repeatedly lies, exaggerates, misrepresents, deletes crucial context, or states actual facts in a manner cleverly designed to leave a false impression. Viewer beware."
How the media enable and enhance White House deceit
For an administration headed by a purported plain-spoken straight shooter - a Texan who will look you in the eye and tell it like it is - it sure has mastered an awful lot of techniques of deceit.
The techniques of deceit I describe below are simple and transparent. It requires but half a brain and an ounce of courage to expose them. We should praise the too-few exposers and ridicule and badger the countless facilitators of flim-flam. We should single out the latter by name and demand they clean up their act or get out of the profession.
Not being privy to the brains of individual journalists, I can't say why any particular one behaves as he or she does. Clearly, many factors, both institutional and personal, help to explain why Bob Woodward, Wolf Blitzer and John McWethy are war-team toadies while Dana Millbank and Glenn Kessler are solid reporters. I don't know why columnists Nicholas Kristof and Richard Cohen continue to believe that Bush is an honest man, or why Paul Krugman has done more than all of the network and cable "news" operations combined to expose the president as a brazen serial liar. I do know, however, that the current ratio, which I estimate at 100 gullible Woodwards for every competent Krugman, is disastrous for democracy.
What I can explain are five media tendencies that "enable" administration lying and enhance its effectiveness:
Bestowing unwarranted credibility. When you routinely present a liar as a truth-teller, you become that liar's accomplice. Viewers - particularly those under the ridiculous impression that network anchors are feisty, fiercely independent and maybe even left-leaning - will place greater credence in an unchallenged lie than a challenged one.
Demonstrating real or feigned gullibility. The first indicates journalistic incompetence, the second journalistic corruption. Either should be a firing offense, but in our twisted media world it's a ticket to the top. Self-respecting "news" organizations don't retain, let alone promote, people such as Bob Woodward and Ted Koppel, or any of the Rumsfeld groupies "covering" the Pentagon.
Failure to keep a lying score. A number of administration lies have been exposed, though the exposure is brief and often comes weeks after the lie has racked up millions of "frequent liar miles." A reputable editor, publisher, anchor or producer would be troubled by this and would rectify the situation by regularly publishing or airing a running tally of administration lies.
Failure to impose a penalty for lying. Why does Bush systematically lie? Because the lies help him to win support for his policies - on economic and other issues as well as Iraq - and the media impose no penalties on those rare occasions they belatedly catch him. Imagine how much robbery we'd have if the only "penalty" for getting caught was a brief mention you were caught. Just as Bush can keep telling the lie, you get to keep the TV or SUV you stole. Not much of a "deterrent."
No institutional memory BY DESIGN. In a healthy media environment, experts on the patterns, techniques and history of foreign-policy disinformation campaigns would be valued assets. In our present media environment, such people are shunned and staffers are discouraged from developing their own expertise. TV can hire scores of generals to provide expert analysis, but they won't hire experienced disinformation exposers Robert Parry, Peter Kornbluh, Norman Solomon, Edward Herman or Noam Chomsky.
The two-faced Washington Post
Bush is a con man who directs his cons at the very people most inclined to trust him: ordinary Americans who've been raised and taught by patriotic parents to put their faith and trust in the president of the United States. And here's the ugliest secret of all: His most bullish media boosters know it!
I speak of the jingoistic, pro-war and exceedingly creepy editorial board of the Washington Post. Commenting on the "misleading" numbers Bush uses to sell to regular folk a tax-cut designed for the rich, the Post editorialized recently, "Mr. Bush must know how phony his 'averages' are. Any time a salesman has to resort to such deceptive tactics, the customer ought to be wary about what is being sold" (link).
An unsigned editorial represents the collective wisdom of the men and women on the editorial board. It is not the view of a "rogue editorialist" shooting off his mouth. The Post's editorial braintrust KNOWS that Bush is a grifter.
Non-booster Krugman of the New York Times goes the Post one better, telling Terri Gross, the host of NPR's "Fresh Air," that the Bush administration's "level of irresponsibility and dishonesty is unprecedented" (WMNF-FM, Tampa, Feb. 26).
More and more Americans are beginning to see just how crooked our straight-shooting president is. To further this awareness, and to caution citizens inclined to follow him into war, I review below 23 "techniques of deceit" of Bush and his foreign-policy team. Some of these techniques I address at greater length in "Lying Us Into War" (link).
I'll start with Powell's techniques before moving on to Bush.
Powell and Bush's "techniques of deceit"
1) Telling with a straight face the "Mother of All Lies," so as to lend credence to a bunch of small ones:
"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." That's what Colin Powell told the U.N., in the course of his now-discredited presentation of bogus tales based on discredited defectors, tortured captives, photos and tape recordings that proved little or nothing, wild speculation, a "fine" British dossier built on plagiarized essays with 12-year-old "revelations," and so on.
I'll cite a few specifics below. Readers interested for a damning dissection of each of Powell's 44 claims can read this analysis by Dr. Glen Rangwala of Cambridge University, England's leading expert on U.S. and U.K. claims about Iraq's WMD programs.
2) Bait and switch:
As Rangwala noted in his initial analysis, posted the day after Powell spoke,
"[Powell] makes strong claims about Iraq's retention and development of non-conventional weapons, but the claims that he provides substantive evidence for are either tangential or the evidence is ambiguous. An example would be how Powell claimed: 'We know that Saddam's son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam's numerous palace complexes ... We also have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities. . . .'
"However, instead of providing proof of any of those claims, Powell instead produced photos of al-Taji ammunition storage facility that shows a small shed and a truck adjacent to the bunker. Powell claimed that these are 'a signature item' for chemical bunkers. This seems on the face of it to be a wholly implausible claim: a picture of a truck and a shed by themselves reveal nothing about the contents of the adjacent bunker.
"In summary, Powell didn't provide evidence for the stronger claims that he made, instead displaying a satellite photo that reveals very little. This would indicate that the evidence for the stronger claims is either non-existent or contentious."
3) Putting incriminating words in Iraqi mouths that you - or at least your State Department - know to be false:
In "Powell's U.N. report apparently contains false information" in the Feb. 24 Sarasota Herald Tribune (link), Gilbert Cranberg, former editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register and George H. Gallup Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa, notes the following (I quote directly from the author):
He [Powell] also played the tapes, in Arabic, of two intercepted conversations, which the State Department translated. Powell referenced the conversations and commented on them. In the first cited conversation, between two Iraqi military officers discussing how to conceal from U.N. inspectors a certain "modified vehicle," Powell's account of the conversation squared with the State Department's translation. Powell's version of the second conversation, however, departed significantly from it.
This conversation, about possibly forbidden ammunition, was reported by Powell to be between Republican Guard headquarters and an officer in the field. When Powell referred to this conversation, he quoted one of the parties as ostensibly saying, "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."
The State Department's transcript of the actual conversation makes it evident that Powell had embellished the quote to make it appear much more incriminating. Instead of being a directive to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas and the abandoned areas," as Powell claimed, the transcript shows the message from headquarters was merely "to INSPECT [emphasis added by Cranberg] the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The damaging admonition that Powell said he quoted, "Make sure there is nothing there" is not in the transcript and appears to be an invention.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, the State Department's press and public affairs offices said I should study Powell's presentation posted on the department's Web site. Instead of clarifying or explaining the discrepancy, the posted material simply confirmed the disparity.
Cranberg, after pointing out other problems with Powell's so-called evidence, observed that "columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post accepted everything Powell said without a smidgen of skepticism, calling it a 'masterful indictment' (James Hoagland) 'that would convince any jury' (William Safire)."
4) Exploiting an undeserved reputation for integrity to get unsuspecting people to accept flimsy evidence as fact - based on your say-so:
Despite Powell's boast, most of his "evidence" was reed-thin. For viewers who noticed that, "trust" came into play in a big way. Listen to Richard Cohen, perhaps the most gullible of the Washington Post's lame, tiny contingent of real and fake liberals:
"The clincher, as it had to be, was not a single satellite photo or the intercept of one Iraqi official talking to another. And it was not, as it never could be, the assertion that some spy or Iraqi deserter had made this or that charge - because, of course, who can prove any of that? It was the totality of the material and the fact that Powell himself had presented it. In this case, the messenger may have been more important than the message." (link)
A week later, as Powell's "evidence" continued to unravel, the same gullible columnist acknowledged the unraveling but still couldn't come to grips with the fundamental dishonesty of his hero and the president. Cohen addresses Powell directly:
"Sir, in his kiss-and-not-tell book, David Frum, the former White House speechwriter, tells us about George W. Bush's insistence on honesty - on refraining from even politically acceptable exaggeration. I accept what he has to say. Yet it's apparent that when it comes to making the case for war with Iraq, both Bush and his aides have tickled the facts so that everything proves their case. . . . I sleep better knowing that you are in this administration - making policy, I hope, and not propaganda." (link).
Bush's "insistence on honesty"? Powell "making policy, . . . not propaganda"? Welcome to the fairy tale world of a respected Washington Post pundit.
5) Withholding the key fact that destroys the moral underpinning of an argument.
Powell condemned Saddam's "use of mustard and nerve gas against the Kurds in 1988" that killed "Five thousand men, women and children." True, but he did so with the blessing at the time of many Reaganites who now serve Bush - including Powell. In 1988, "Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds," says former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith in the Boston Globe (link).
6) Trumpeting the testimony of defectors who you know or highly suspect aren't credible:
According to the recent Newsweek story "Spies, Lies & Iraq," (link)
"Iraqi defectors who offer themselves to the CIA are put through strenuous interrogations and lie-detector tests. The credible ones are given new identities and homes in America or Germany. The rejects are cast loose to fend for themselves. Some of them are nonetheless embraced by the [Iraqi National Congress] - and, according to CIA officials, recycled to the more sympathetic (and more credulous) hawks in the Pentagon. Their stories are then worked over by Wolfowitz's special intelligence unit-and passed on to the White House. The CIA, in turn, is asked then to rule on the credibility of information provided by defectors the agency has already deemed to be incredible. . . . Now, unsurprisingly, the CIA has little use for almost any intelligence emanating from the Kurds. The agency has acronyms for various types of intelligence, like HUMINT and ELINT (for electronic intelligence). At Langley, intelligence that is junk is jokingly called KURDINT."
Powell cynically used KURDINT and other intelligence "junk" for his U.N. "facts" and "conclusions."
7) Exploiting the fact that the U.N., unlike the U.S. military you served for most of your life, doesn't have a Code forbidding lying:
Activist Jimmy Walter (walden3.org), who has taken out full-page "Powell Lied?" ads in the New York Times and other publications, reminds Powell what could have befallen him if he had been an active-duty general when he addressed the U.N. Walter cites Section 907, Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which addresses "False Statements":
"Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent to deceive, signs any false record, return, regulation, order, or other official document, knowing it to be false, or makes any other false official statement knowing it to be false, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
It's a good thing Powell is retired. But what about his boss, Commander-in-Chief Bush? Is the man who gives orders to the generals free to lie? Is he as immune from military justice as he appears to be from media justice? We now turn to Bush's techniques, noting that Powell used some of these as well in his U.N. presentation.
8) Generalized "certitude":
Bush confidentally asserts that the al Samoud2 missiles, recently ruled by Hans Blix to violate limitations on the distance that Iraqi missiles are allowed to fly, are merely the "tip of the iceberg" of Iraqi's illegal arsenal. How does he KNOW this? The charitable answer is he doesn't.
Even Hans Blix doesn't "know" what, if anything, remains of Iraq's WMD. As Fairness and Accuracy in Media reports, "while Blix said he could not certify [to the U.N.] that all of the proscribed materials Iraq once possessed had been destroyed, neither did he find evidence that any remain. In private, some inspectors do not rule out the possibility that Iraq truly is free of banned weapons [this was prior to Blix's ruling on the al Samouds]: 'We haven't found an iota of concealed material yet,' one unnamed UNMOVIC official told Los Angeles Times Baghdad correspondent Sergei Loiko (12/31/02), who added: 'The inspector said his colleagues think it possible that Iraq really has eliminated its banned materials.'"
FAIR also cites this analyis of Rolf Ekeus, who headed the UNSCOM inspections from 1992 to 1997: "I would say that we felt that in all areas we have eliminated Iraq's capabilities fundamentally," he told a May 2000 Harvard seminar (AP, 8/16/00), adding that "there are some question marks left."
Unless Bush is withholding evidence of Iraqi WMD - evidence that 1441 requires him to provide to inspectors - then he couldn't know more than Blix. If Bush is in violation of 1441, what would be the appropriate "serious consequences"?
When Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei address the U.N., it's clear from the tone and substance of their reports that they are honest experts who use words to inform, not to mislead. Being real experts, they're not ashamed to acknowledge when they can't make a definitive judgment about a particular matter. When Bush and Powell address the U.N. or the American people, they do so not as honest experts but as shady nonexperts. They pretend to know all, and they use words not to inform but to deceive.
Bush's certitude is contagious and has infected much of the mass media. My local paper, the putrid St. Petersburg Times, editorialized Feb. 26 that "Bush is correct" in his "iceberg" declaration. Readers will have to trust me on this one, but I GUARANTEE that no one on the SPT editorial board, headed by the dimwitted, uncurious and contemptible Philip Gailey, has a clue as to what remains of Iraqi WMD capabilities.
9) Specific "certitude" - Stating as fact what are allegations, often dubious or subsequently disproved ones.
WMD labs in remote Kurdistan (disproven), mobile WMD labs (unproven, even though inspectors have been searching for years and some are skeptical of the practicality or existence of such labs) - these are just two of many dubious or false charges presented as fact by the Bush team. See Rangwala, my "Lying Us Into War," and the analyses of the Institute for Public Accuracy at www.accuracy.org for dozens of examples; here I'll address one.
Bush boldly declares that "From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them."
What we "know" is that defectors make this unproven claim. We don't know if they were paid or coached to make the claim, or volunteered it on their own. Rangwala notes that one defector made no mention of the labs in his first press conferences. It was several months later, after "debriefings" by the U.S. and the Iraqi National Congress, that he started talking about mobile labs. Hans Blix told the London Guardian he has seen no evidence that these mobile labs exist. Acting on tips from the U.S. about labs disguised as food-testing trucks, he investigated. "Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing has been found," he said. Those mobile labs, a propaganga theme pushed hard by the administration because it supports the theme that inspections can never work: A former senior UNSCOM inspector told the Los Angeles Times last September that his inspection teams searched for the labs from 1993 to 1998. "I launched raid after raid," he said. "We intercepted their radio traffic. We ran roadblocks. We never found anything. It was just speculation." (link)
Blix, the cautious and honest expert, doesn't rule out the possiblity that mobile labs exist. But it is absurd for Bush to assert this as an established fact - and the media to allow him to get away with it.
10) Delegated lying/Team lying.
Using disinformation "affiliates," such as Richard Perle, Ken Adelman and former Clinton administration CIA director James Woolsey, to push damning, highly effective lies for which there is no credible evidence, such as the Saddam-9-11 connection. This way, when the story loses steam and credibility, the president and his top advisers don't wind up with egg on their faces. The president will have gained considerable public support for an Iraq attack in the months the story percolates, and, quite perversely, his credibility will be enhanced in the "minds" of credulous commentators because he never PERSONALLY pushed this particular lie!
11) Passive lying (doing nothing to prevent what you know to be a vile slander from lodging in the brains of unsuspecting citizens as truth):
a) Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, made the following important point a few weeks back (click here for transcript), addressing retired general William Perry Smith:
"According to the [January 2003] Knight Ridder poll . . ., the people that know the most about the situation in Iraq are least supportive of the war. The ones who are most ignorant, particularly those who believe that half the people who attacked us September 11 included Iraqi citizens, are for the war. So isn't 'more education' something that stops support for the war, General? I mean, the president is not winning on the facts. He's winning, according to the polls, on those who don't know the facts.. Well, don't you think the president ought to make the case, General, that the American people, tell the American people, 'You're wrong, half of you out there who think that there were Iraqis who attacked us September 11. They weren't Iraqis. I've got some other reason why I want to attack Iraq.' He's never said that. Should he? Or should he allow himself to benefit from people's ignorance?"
Straight-shooting Bush prefers to benefit from the people's "ignorance," though "ignorance" is not quite the correct word. People are misinformed because they've been deceived by the Prague Connection lie countenanced by Bush and spread by his henchmen.
b) Powell not saying squat about Bush's repeated declarations that the only purpose for those aluminum tubes Iraq has been trying to buy is to build centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Powell knew there were plenty of doubters in the Energy Department and his own State Department, but the "reluctant warrior" never corrected the president. He allowed Bush to build public and congressional support for war with an outright lie. (If you know there is a valid non-nuclear explanation for a tube, and you tell Americans there is only a nuclear use, that is a lie. For details, see the tubes section in this article of mine.
12) The pot calling the kettle black:
See the comment by Rumsfeld at the start of this essay and the steady stream of comments by Bush and others calling Saddam a liar and labeling the Iraqi strategy "cheat and retreat." Every time Bush or one of his aides correctly calls Saddam a liar (which is not to suggest he tells nothing but lies), reporters should shout back at the speaker, "Takes one to know one!" If reporters shout it in unison, they'll be less likely to suffer reprisals from the childish thugs who control access to administration officials.
13) The pot calling the WHITE kettle black (dishonest people stating or implying that honest people or an uncorrupted process can't be trusted):
Administration officials have cast doubt on the integrity of the inspectors and/or the inspection process so as to justify NOT providing them with information with which the inspectors can prove or disprove administration allegations of proscribed weapons or WMD activity.
The Bushies know they can keep an allegation alive and productive so long as it has not been disproven. On several occasions in the recent past, the administration has provided inspectors with evidence of possible nuclear or other proscribed activity at a variety of sites. The inspectors have then visited the sites and found no evidence of such activity - and no evidence that such activity had taken place in any recent time. In most instances inspectors have the technical means to figure this out, so it's not like Iraq can get wind of the inspection and quickly shut down the operation and remove all the equipment, as well as the evidential residue that would tip off the experts. So now the administration is taking a new tack, claiming that it is withholding evidence because the INSPECTORS can't be trusted! U.S. officials say the Iraqis have infiltrated and thus corrupted the inspections process. Such charges accomplish two things: (1) They support the argument that inspections can never succeed (as does the probably-bogus claim of mobile weapons labs), which undermines any proposal that features inspections. (2) They undermine the credibility and value of the inspectors in the eyes of people who take administration pronouncements at face value - which encompasses virtually all of the U.S. news media and a large chunk of the citizenry.
14) "Intentional ignorance" as a tactic to sustain an accusation you know or highly suspect is false:
Bush and Powell have built the latest alleged Saddam-al Qaeda connection partly on the activities of an anti-Saddam Islamist group, Ansar-ul-Aslam, based in Kurdish Iraq, which is beyond the control of Saddam's Baghdad-based government. Among the charges the U.S. has made is that Ansar was operating a chemical and biological weapons lab in its territory. U.S. senators repeatedly asked why the administration doesn't simply bomb the cite and never got a satisfactory answer. Here's the REAL answer: Despite what the administration said for public consumption, it was between 99.9 and 100 percent certain that there was no such weapons lab. If they bombed the town and drove the group out, then the media would come in and verify that there was never was any WMD lab. Not only would the allegation no longer be available in the propaganda campaign, but the administration would be proven to be wrong, dishonest or both. After Powell again made the charge at the U.N. on February 5, Ansar invited journalists to their rudimentary headquarters and demonstrated for all to see that there was no WMD lab or the high-tech infrastructure a WMD lab requires. The allegation has been put to rest, though not before it gave weeks of useful service.
15) Passive voice:
Matthew Rothschild, editor of the magazine The Progressive, noted that Bush, in his Feb. 26 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, "repeated his favorite passive phrase, 'If war is forced upon us.'" As Rothschild aptly comments, "No one's forcing you, George!" (link)
16) Projecting sincerity that is fraudulent and espousing values you don't cherish:
Bush excels at making eye contact with the camera or a human and projecting sincerity - whether he believes in what he's saying or is knowingly selling snake oil. In his Feb. 26 American Enterprise Institute address, Bush spoke about his desire to bring democracy to the Middle East, starting with Iraq. But Bush didn't take office Feb. 26; he's been president for 25 months. His government has had substantial leverage over any number of allied regimes in the Middle East, leverage which he could have used to press for democratic reform. To date, he's shown scant interest. So we're supposed to believe he's caught the democracy bug just in time to use it to sell an unpopular war? Last year he welcomed a coup that temporarily displaced the elected president of Venezuela and endorsed crooked elections in Pakistan. He has looked the other way or given the thumbs-up as countless allied governments have exploited 9-11 to crush dissent and tighten the squeeze on democratic foes. In Afghanistan, he promotes rule by warlords. Even before 9-11, Bush was running the U.S. as if it were his own corporation and he was its authoritarian, secretive, scheming and duplicitous CEO. Bush has strong anti-democratic tendencies, the worst of which is his continuous brazen lying. It would be foolish indeed to take at face value his latest sales pitch: war as a means to democratize the Middle East.
17) Talking out of both sides of your mouth:
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), referring to Bush's reported $26 billion inducement to the Turkish government to disregard the 95 percent of Turks opposed to war and allow Turkish territory to be used as a staging ground, said this: "In the very week that we negotiated with Turkey, the administration also told the governors there wasn't any more money for education and health care." (link)
On Sept. 7, 2002, Bush claimed that the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report in 1998 that Saddam was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon. No 1998 IAEA report made any such claim. Then a presidential spokesperson said Bush had referred to a 1991 report. Wrong again. Here's what the IAEA actually reported in 1998: "There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance" (link).
19) Withholding the key fact that would alert viewers that the purported grave threat is non-existent.
Bush said in his October speech that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that could target the United States. The president neglected to tell Americans that Saddam would have to transport these limited-range UAVs - undetected - across the ocean all the way to our coast. The odds of that happening start at a billion to one.
20) Creating in the public mind an intense but unfounded fear:
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." (October speech) No nukes, no long-range missiles, no Saddam-delivered "mushroom cloud" over America.
21) Using mistranslation, misquotation and context-stripping to plant a frightening impression that is the exact opposite of what you know to be true:
"Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahedeen' - his nuclear holy warriors" (Bush's October speech, repeated by Powell).
Here Bush exploits two fears of the public: of Islamist holy-warrior terrorists and nuclear weapons. In "Counter-Dossier II", Dr. Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University professor who is the world's leading authority on U.S. and U.K. claims about the Iraqi regime, observes that the speech Bush is referring to was delivered by Saddam "on 10 September 2000 and was about, in part, nuclear energy. The transcription of the speech was made at the time by the BBC monitoring service. Saddam Hussein actually refers to 'nuclear energy mujahidin,' and doesn't mention the development of weaponry. In addition, the term 'mujahidin' is often used in a non-combatant sense, to mean anyone who struggles for a cause. Saddam Hussein, for example, often refers to the mujahidin developing Iraq's medical facilities. There is nothing in the speech to indicate that Iraq is attempting to develop or threaten the use of nuclear weapons."
22) Straw man:
"The risks of doing nothing, the risks of assuming the best from Saddam Hussein, it's just not a risk worth taking." Who advocates "doing nothing"? Not France, Russia and Germany. Not Jimmy Carter (link). Who?
23) Mixing yourself up with the American people, thus pretending that you and we are one and the same.
"This nation," says the president, "fights reluctantly, because we know the cost, and we dread the days of mourning that always come." But Bush also says that because he's the president, he gets to decide. By no stretch of the imagination is Bush a "reluctant warrior."
George W. Bush and Colin Powell simply cannot be trusted. Rather than follow such men into an unnecessary and unprovoked war, we'd be better off working to ensure that they don't occupy the White House post-January 2004.
Dennis Hans is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Post (Canada) and online at TomPaine.com, Slate and The Black World Today (tbwt.com), and his media critiques appear regularly at TakeBackTheMedia.com. He has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, and can be reached at HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu.