Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Whack: Who said: "Truth is unimportant and subordinate to tactics and psychology"? 

We'll get around to that.

Mark Danner's essay on The Downing Street memo (back) is terrific. Some of the salient points:

The memo, which records the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's senior foreign policy and security officials, shows that even as President Bush told Americans in October 2002 that he "hope[d] the use of force will not become necessary"—that such a decision depended on whether or not the Iraqis complied with his demands to rid themselves of their weapons of mass destruction—the President had in fact already definitively decided, at least three months before, to choose this "last resort" of going "into battle" with Iraq. Whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, the President's decision to go to war had long since been made.

This passage [from the memo] is worth quoting in full:

C [head of MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

That September the attempt to sell the war began in earnest, for, as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card had told The New York Times in an unusually candid moment, "You don't roll out a new product in August." ... Though "the UN route" would be styled as an attempt to avoid war, its essence, as the Downing Street memo makes clear, was a strategy to make the war possible, partly by making it politically palatable.

In the United States the Downing Street memorandum has attracted little attention. ... The war continues, and Americans have grown weary of it; few seem much interested now in discussing how it began, and why their country came to fight a war in the cause of destroying weapons that turned out not to exist. For those who want answers, the Bush administration has followed a simple and heretofore largely successful policy: blame the intelligence agencies. Since "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" as early as July 2002 (as "C," the head of British intelligence, reported upon his return from Washington), it seems a matter of remarkable hubris, even for this administration, that its officials now explain their misjudgments in going to war by blaming them on "intelligence failures"—that is, on the intelligence that they themselves politicized.

[This] calls to mind an interesting observation that an unnamed "senior advisor" to President Bush made to a New York Times Magazine reporter last fall: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

Though this seems on its face to be a disquisition on religion and faith, it is of course an argument about power, and its influence on truth. Power, the argument runs, can shape truth: power, in the end, can determine reality, or at least the reality that most people accept... The last century's most innovative authority on power and truth, Joseph Goebbels, made the same point but rather more directly:

There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be "the man in the street." Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.

But I hear the torchlight parade after was fabulous!

Please refer all complaints about this post to the (newly created) Department of It Can't Happen Here!

NOTE Sorry about the crass formatting, but I'm just trying to get someone, anyone to pay attention

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