Saturday, October 30, 2004


Rationales for War and Closed Feedback Loops

In this election more than any until now, partisans have been reinforcing each other with "closed feedback loops"--primarily, pseudo-information shared via email. In the past six or eight weeks, one of the popular Republican "stories" has been that everything Bush ever told us about the war was "believed by the previous administration [Clinton] and voted for by Kerry." Republicans have used this to reassure each other that Bush was not deliberately misleading the public regarding the war in Iraq.

This doesn't even begin to stand up to scrutiny. As a Senior Thesis project, Devon Largio, a student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, make a painstaking study of the incidence and timings of all of the Administration's varying rationales for war. The study is titled “Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002.” She studied all available public statements the Bush administration and selected members of Congress made pertaining to war with Iraq. She not only identified the rationales offered for going to war, but also established when they emerged and who promoted them. Largio's professor, Scott Althaus, said, “It is first-rate research, the best senior thesis I have ever seen--thoroughly documented and elaborately detailed. Her methodology is first-rate.”


Primary rationales (often used):
--war on terror
--prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
--lack of inspections
--removal of the Hussein regime ("regime change")
--Saddam Hussein is evil
--liberation of the Iraqi people (mainly used by Rumsfeld during the period when he was the most visible Administration spokesman)

Secondary rationales (frequently used)
--Imminent threat (introduced by Bush in his speech to the United Nations, then adopted by Powell, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Daschle, Lott, and found in the Congressional Record)
--"because we can"
--unfinished business
--connection to al Qaeda
--safety of the world

Remaining rationales:
--war for oil
--threat to the region
--for the sake of history
--preservation of peace
--threat to freedom
--the uniqueness of Iraq (i.e., special situation)
--the relevance of the U.N.
--commitment to the children
--gaining favor with the Middle East
--stimulation of the economy
--setting Iraq as an example
--because Saddam Hussein hates the U.S.
--Iraq’s violation of international law.

Only one of the primary, two of secondary, and four of remainder were ever even cited by Clinton--and he never specified exactly what our response would be (never specified invasion, full expeditionary army, or occupation). Kerry signed a letter calling for the use of force in disarming Saddam, but didn't specify what kind of force or what level.

Largio's conclusion is that the majority of rationales for the war were introduced by Bush, and most of the rest were introduced by cabinet officers or Pentagon officials. The idea that Bush was simply repeating what all U.S. government officials originally believed, and thus can't be held accountable for his actions, is disingenuous at best, and, at worst, is evidently intended to deflect the truth.

Try not to be shocked.

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