As I reported yesterday, Bob Somerby has been absorbed by The Rove Collective. His normally reasonable and analytical mind has completely broken down. In the second part of today’s Daily Howler Bob demonstrates the standard inability to See the forest for the trees that typifies the weakness of The Rove Collective Mind.
Bob is actually focusing on two trees. One tree is the infamous sixteen words in Bush’s SOTU speech. The second tree is Joe Wilson’s N.Y. Times editorial. Bob ignores thousands of acres of surrounding forest. He takes a very technical look at the sixteen words in Bush’s speech and concludes that it is impossible for Joe Wilson to know to an absolute certainty that President Bush was lying to the American people.
Bob is so focused on the possibility that Bush could have been telling the truth, as he knew it at the time, that he ignores all of the signals of intentional deceit.
First, Bob ignores the fact that the very same statement had already been removed from previous Bush speeches. Do we know for a fact that Bush was aware that this phrase had been removed from his previous speeches? No. Does that make any difference? No. A President of the United States is uniquely responsible for the veracity and accuracy of statements made in a State of the Union Speech.
Bob ignores the fact that Bush’s infamous sixteen words were not a casual reference made in a press conference or uttered casually to a reporter as he boarded Air Force One. The President of the United States has a higher obligation when he makes statements that mislead the American people into war, than someone giving a Friday night speech to their Toastmasters Club.
The infamous sixteen words were a set up to his entire administration spam blasting the American media and the American people with the image of a mushroom cloud. There is a slight chance I am wrong, but I do not believe anyone in the Bush administration mentioned a mushroom cloud until after Bush’s SOTU speech. It was the threatening image of a mushroom cloud repeatedly suggested by Condi, Rummy and Cheney that created the imptetus for invading Iraq.
Second, much of Bob’s analysis is based on the fact that it is impossible for Joe Wilson to have known to an absolute certainty that Bush was lying when he uttered his sixteen words. Wilson and others had plenty of reason for suspicion and it turns out they were correct. In Bob’s weakened mental state, as a result of being absorbed by the Rove Collective, Bob ignores the broad background of what was known about Bush’s tendency to lie. How many books have been written about Bush’s lies? I don’t know. Maybe Bob can tell us when he recovers.
Third, Bob makes an incredible assumption that Joe Wilson was as ignorant about Africa, before he visited Niger at the request of the CIA, as Bob himself is. The reason Joe Wilson was selected was not solely because his wife Valerie suggested he could do a good job. If Valerie Plame had recommended her husband Joe, who had never stepped foot in Africa, the CIA would certainly had selected someone else. It was because Joe Wilson had extensive contacts and background knowledge about the entire continent of Africa that top level CIA managers, who presumeably wanted an accurate report, decided to send Joe Wilson.
Now for a point by point refutation of Bob’s shoddy analysis of the Niger yellow cake issue. Bob made four major points today.
(1.) Bush didn’t say a transaction took place; he only said a transaction was sought.
Technically true and meaningless. Bob chooses to ignore the fact that the carefully calibrated sixteen words in Bush’s speech were not carelessly inserted, but demonstrate intent to deceive. Bob also chooses to ignore the fact that Bush has been proven wrong. Nobody has demonstrated that there was ever at attempt by Saddam to purchase uranium ore. For some reason Bob is ignoring the factual inaccuracy of Bush’s statement under the assumption that it could have been true, if only it hadn’t been false.
(2.) Bush described an attempt to purchase uranium “in Africa.”
Again, technically true, and meaningless. Bob again ignores the fact that even if Bush had said “somewhere on the face of the earth,” it would have been a false statement. Saddam never attempted to purchase uranium anywhere on the African continent. Bob’s analysis is based on the slim reed that it was impossible for Joe Wilson to know to a certainty that Bush was lying.
Is it impossible for Joe Wilson to absolutely rule out the possiblity that Bush was talking about some other African country? Yes. Was it a reasonable assumption for Joe Wilson to make that Bush’s sixteen words were related to his trip to Niger? Absolutely.
Is it also possible that Joe Wilson’s extensive background knowledge about the African continent could have allowed him to make the reasonable assumption that Bush’s statement was as false about the entire continent of Africa as it was about Niger? Yes. Do either Bob or I know to a certainty what was in the heart and mind of either Bush or Wilson? No. So what. We all have to make reasonable assumptions about the world and the people in it every time we leave the house.
It is peculiar that the fact that Bush’s statement was wrong, and Bush had probably been alerted more than once that the statement was not accurate, does not enter into Bob’s analysis. How can Bob ignore the fact that the very same statement had been removed from prior Bush speeches, because it was known to be highly questionable?
(3.) Bush was referring to British intelligence that no one in the US had ever seen
Another completely irrelevant point. This is Bob’s most bizarre and completely illogical argument. What difference does it make if no one had seen factually false intelligence? Is there a process of intel alchemy that transforms false British intelligence into accurate intelligence if no one in the U.S. has seen it? Is it a point in Bush’s favor that neither he nor anyone in his adminstration had seen the intelligence his statement was based upon? The fact that Bush uttered his infamous sixteen, words based on unseen as well as unverified British intelligence, may be the most damning fact about the entire situation. When you consider the gravity of a SOTU and the seriousness of the claim Bush made, his sixteen words are made even more indefensible by this point.
(4.) a statement the Brits still say is well-founded
This statement is actually technically false for being over broad. It is not the “Brits” that say their statement is well founded. It was a [British Government Commission http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butler_Review] and Tony Blair who continue to insist their intelligence was well founded. Bob should have been more precise about which Brits “still say [their intel] was well founded.”
There are many Brits that are very suspicious that the Butler report was a whitewash, exactly like the discredited British Hutton Report and our own half finished and half baked 9/11 Commission Report as well.
Does Bob Somerby believe that the British government never lies to the British people? It is hard to believe Bob is that naive. Of course Tony Blair and official British government spokespeople claim their intelligence was well founded, even though it has proven completely false. To this day it has never been demonstrated that Saddam ever tried to arrange a purchase of uranium from anywhere on the continent of Africa.
Is it still possible that Saddam may have at some point attempted to arrange a purchase of yellow cake from some country in Africa? Sure. It is also possible that Bush will announce his resignation for misleading America into an immoral war. I’m not going to hold my breath.
Just as I did yesterday, I wish Bob a speedy recovery from his absorbtion by The Rove Collective Mind.