Re-election is the right to say that 2 + 2 = banana

Does showing the falsity of the factual premises underlying the invasion of Iraq prove that we were right to invade Iraq? Apparently it does, in Bushworld.

Let’s see if I have this straight:

1. The invasion of Iraq, and its timing, were justified by the risk that, if we waited, Iraq would acquire and stockpile more WMDs and more delivery vehicles, or alternatively supply them to terrorist organizations.

2. The chief U.S. weapons inspector has now reported that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, had no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and no capacity for producing any, but that Saddam Hussein remained intent on procuring them once sanctions were lifted.

3. No one was in fact proposing lifing sanctions at the time of the invasion.

4. After the release of the report, the President of the United States says that “There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks.”

5. The Vice President of the United States says that the report shows that “delay … was not an option.”

Right. There was a real risk that Iraq would give things he didn’t actually have to terrorists. And the finding that SH had an intention of doing something in the future when and if sanctions were lifted meant that leaving the sanctions in place and waiting before invading “was not an option.”

I’m no Krauthammer. I don’t lightly offer psychiatric diagnoses as a substitute for political arguments. But whatever the mental states of the two men offering them, the arguments themselves are certifiably schizophenic: so divided from reality as to pose a threat to anyone who believes them, and to others.

It doesn’t much matter whether Bush and Cheney are sincerely insane or infinitely cynical in putting forth these obviously nonsensical propositions.

(Or perhaps they really are so post-modern in their thinking as to deny the existence of objective reality and to insist on their right to choose whatever “discourse” and “narrative” best suits their projects, without reference to external fact. Orwell’s “Newspeak Dictionary” is very good about the ways in which systematic political lying can be embodied in an ontology and epistemology, though he doesn’t seem to have imagined that “values” could be erected into primary realities to which facts are subordinate.)

The practically relevant question is whether Bush, Cheney, and their handlers can induce the mass media, and through them the public, to enter into a looking-glass world in which arguments are proven by facts that refute their premises. If so, they may achieve re-election.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com