February 11, 2004


Breaking news on Fox:

Wesley Clark to Quit Campaign

Posted by Tim Blair at February 11, 2004 02:23 PM

AP is also reporting that Wesley Snipes is dropping out.

Posted by: Alex Robson at February 11, 2004 at 02:31 PM

LOL at Michael Moore:


have decided to cast my vote in the primary for Wesley Clark. That's right, a peacenik is voting for a general. What a country!

I believe that Wesley Clark will end this war. He will make the rich pay their fair share of taxes. He will stand up for the rights of women, African Americans, and the working people of this country.

And he will cream George W. Bush.


Posted by: pomgolian at February 11, 2004 at 02:35 PM

Breaking News! Right wingnut Bill O'Reilly apologises about WMDs

Posted by: Rex at February 11, 2004 at 02:39 PM

... and blames Clinton-appointed Tenet.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 11, 2004 at 02:49 PM

Clark will always have Oklahoma.

Posted by: perfectsense at February 11, 2004 at 03:02 PM

A lot of people who used to think he had a good shot at it are now backing away from him. Clark? Never heard of him.

Posted by: scott h. at February 11, 2004 at 03:13 PM

More Breaking News.

Christopher Sheil has been put on suicide watch.

Posted by: Gary at February 11, 2004 at 03:21 PM

Clark quitting? Oh sure, that's what he says today.

Tomorrow, Mary will remind him that he can't possibly get elected if he quits, and he will issue a statement saying he's always been in the race, even before he thought about running.

The voters didn't fire him, they just asked hm to retire very, very early.

Posted by: timks at February 11, 2004 at 03:25 PM

He's not to be left alone with a question mark.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 11, 2004 at 03:27 PM

Quote from the article Rex links:

The anchor of his own show on Fox News said he was sorry he gave the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons program poised an imminent threat, the main reason cited for going to war.

Once again, the administration did NOT make the claim that Saddam, or his WMDs (as we assumed he had some), were an imminent threat. The point was to stop him before he became an imminent threat.

On the other hand, maybe the article means that this was the main reason O'Reilly cited . . . But in that case, it should have made the connection clear, as in "... the main reason O'Reilly cited ..."

Whatever. If O'Reilly said he'd apologize if imminently threatening WMDs weren't found, and he apologized, good for him. That would tend to negate the "right wingnut" comment, eh? At least the man is paying attention and open to the idea that he could have been wrong. Wish there were more wingnuts like that on both sides.

Posted by: tom beta 2 at February 11, 2004 at 04:09 PM

Why's he quitting? Doesn't he know he's the candidate from heaven? Why wasn't he told? Chris? Chris?!

Posted by: Fidens at February 11, 2004 at 04:17 PM

And he will cream George W. Bush.


(Am I the only one who thought this?)

Posted by: Quentin George at February 11, 2004 at 06:01 PM

Quite right, Tom, except for once*, the administration did not characterise the threat using the word "imminent". Instead, they characterised the threat as, among other things, "a serious threat", "a terrible threat", "a serious and mounting threat", "a serious and growing threat", "a real threat", "a grave threat", "a threat of unique urgency", "a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined", "an immediate threat" and "a mortal threat", all of which mean something completely different.

*Ari Fleischer was asked on May 7 2003 whether Iraq posed an "imminent threat" and he answered "absolutely".

Posted by: Mork at February 11, 2004 at 06:43 PM

Oh Quentin, I almost barfed up my toast. It's early over here.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 11, 2004 at 08:38 PM

Peace to you all.

Please stop war and let the lawyers take over.

Posted by: Arik at February 11, 2004 at 09:41 PM

Mork: None of those words mean "imminent", which indicates the timeleiness of the threat, instead they characterize the nature or severity of the threat.

Ari Fleischer's "Absolutely" quote is also a red herring; it's widely misquoted. Read the entire quote and you'll see he was answering "Absolutely" to the question "Did we go to war to deprive Iraq of chemical weapons?" and not to the question of imminence.

Christ, that CAP quote-list (which Mork undoubtedly got his quotes from, even if second-hand) is like a nest of cockroaches...stamp out one infestation and another pops up somewhere else.

Posted by: Jeepster at February 11, 2004 at 11:02 PM
None of those words mean "imminent", which indicates the timeleiness of the threat, instead they characterize the nature or severity of the threat

What about "a threat of unique urgency"? The local TV news channel (not the ABC) used this sound-bite from Bush recently as a counter-example to claims of not saying the I-word. From memory, they also used "a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible". Both quotes were used to argue that waiting was perilous, right?

Maybe there's more context to these quotes that were not reported? Like the "Absolutely" quote of Ari's mentioned above? Any debunking of these quotes appreciated.

Posted by: Jethro at February 12, 2004 at 12:23 AM

Actually I think the threat should be characterized as imminemt, although the administration did not choose to do so. Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria (possibly also Malaysia) all have been trying hard to acquire nuclear weapons. Nukes are cheap once you know how to build them and all of those countries have professed on many occasions their intent to destroy the US.

Their behavior does not indicate that they are joking.

It's either a surgical effort to correct the root causes now or a sea of glass in 5-10 years.

That's imminent enough for me.

Posted by: jonathan at February 12, 2004 at 12:49 AM

Mork, you're a reasonable sort, and you know that the various characterizations of the Iraqi menace you cite may address different aspects of the issue but are not actually contradictory. Judged on their own merits, these characterizations were and are reasonable, based on the Iraqi regime's history, resources, and disposition towards the US.

Bush famously -- except for most mainstream media, who seem to lack internet browsers or fact-checkers these days -- in his 2003 SOTU laid out in specific terms that it was not about an imminent threat, and that in fact a defensive approach built around this concept was itself impractical and/or too risky. One can argue -- with reason -- that the administration has failed to adequately present and argue this very sound central concept, but surveys nonetheless have shown Americans mostly understanding and accepting the "better safe than sorry" approach to Iraq.

It would be useful to examine the "unique urgency" formulation, as it actually perfectly encapsulates the Iraqi case -- unique in the menace it presented as the most reckless and capable rogue state since WWII, urgent not because of specific events known to be imminent, but because it was both very vulnerable to pre-emption in the short term yet very likely to slip the shackles of its "containment" and return to its indisputable WMD-building, terror-supporting ways in the longer term. And post-9/11, this probable longer term situation was deemed intolerable by Bush.

An alternative of any substance to that Bush/Blair judgement call had to concretely address that situation, and to date none has.

Posted by: IceCold at February 12, 2004 at 02:06 AM

Saying that something is a threat of extreme urgency is still not an implication that it is imminent; it's still an adjective indicating the perceived need to deal with the threat, and not an indicator of _when_ the threat is to occur, which is what the word "imminent" does. Stating that a threat is urgent no more implies its imminence than stating that an object is red implies anything about its size.

For instance, if I've been out drinking all evening, I might need to take an extremely urgent leak, but that doesn't imply that I'm going to piss myself *right now*, which is what would be understood if said leakage was imminent.

Threats can be urgent but not imminent: For instance, if I developed a pathological hatred for cricket and armed myself with every intention of kneecapping Tim the next time he posted about some test match of sticky wickets or whatever you crazy people call it, that would be an _urgent_ threat as soon as I became capable of doing so; it would only move to become an _imminent_ threat when I had my weapon of choice aimed at his patellae.

They can also be imminent but not urgent: I might threaten to hold my breath until I turn blue if I don't get a million dollars (US, please, I hate figuring out exchange rates) *right now*; I've got the means and desire to do something, but it's not that _urgent_, since who frankly gives a damn?

Or they can be both; I could be 1 second from having a massive heart attack. Or they could be neither, in which case nobody really cares.

Ari's quote is heavily redacted; here's the entire exchange:

[i]QUESTION: Well, we went to war, didn't we, to find these -- because we said that these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States? Isn't that true?

MR FLEISCHER: Absolutely. One of the reasons that we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on that front at all. We said what we said because we meant it. We had the intelligence to report it. Secretary Powell said it.[/i]

He jumped the gun. The reporter started to ask "Well, we went to war, didn't we, to find these [i]weapons[/i]?" Then changed in midstream to focus on the imminence of the threat to the US. This wasn't due to any malice on the reporter's part; I think he just thought of a better question to ask than the one he started to. Ari, however, primed himself right at the start to answer the question he _thought_ he was being asked...about whether Iraq's posession of weapons was the reason for the war. How can we know this? Look at his answer. You've got the flat affirmation of "Absolutely" (which is the only part that ever gets quoted widely), but he follows it up with by restating that we went to war because of his *possession* of weapons, not an impending use of them to attack the US. Then he says that nothing has changed on that front (i.e. we still believed the weapons existed in Iraq...at the time, things didn't look so unhopeful in the search for WMDs), and he reiterates that Sec. Powell has said the same thing. Ari's answer simply doesn't make *sense* if you take the "absolutely" statement as applying to the threat of imminence; why state something about the timing of a threat, then back it up with arguments about the _existence_ of the threat?

All these quotes you see bandied about as proof that the administration is lying now about trying to pitch the threat as "imminent" pre-war come from a list compiled by the Center for American Progress which has spread like wildfire amongst the anti-war internet corps (which sounds kinda snappy if you say it fast with the right rhythm), and they all fall into three categories:

Most are quotes of administration officials claiming an urgent or dangerous threat; these don't imply imminence for the reasons I gave above. All but one of the rest are taken heavily out of context, like the Ari Fleischer quote. In context, the meaning of the quote changes dramatically, like Scott McClellan's statement "This is about an imminent threat." -- he's talking about the criteria under which Turkey can claim assistance from NATO under the mutual defense provisions of the NATO charter, but you aren't given that information when you read CAP's lst of quotes.

The crowning grace of CAP's list of quotes is an out-and-out fabrication: Out of 5 sentences from a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, they spliced together two to make it appear Donald Rumsfeld was stating that Iraq was in a position to immediately threaten the US with nuclear weapons.

If you really really want a link to that last, I'll dig up the original transcript, but I'm lazy and tired of typing right now, ta.

Posted by: Jeepster at February 12, 2004 at 02:14 AM

I suck at figuring out which sort of HTML i'm supposed to use for which board =/

Posted by: Jeepster at February 12, 2004 at 02:15 AM

When will the people understand that being annointed by the commentariat is like being a slutty teen in a slasher flick. First the bratty loud mouth goes down screaming... Then the creepy army brat with authority-issues is smothered by a lump of alien protoplasm called Al Moore or Michael Gore or something... (In a nod to slasher tradition: the token black woman in play was knocked off early to general indifference.)

Who's next? The popular but haughty French-looking jock, who happens to have served in Vietnam? The pretty but idiotic southern belle? The president of the chess club nobody pays any attention to? The annoying ebony enchantress having a bad hair life?

Stay tuned and bring a sick bag...

Posted by: Craig Ranapia (Other Pundit) at February 12, 2004 at 07:05 AM

Right Craig. Rembember Phillip Adams wet dream about President Clark meeting with Prime Minister Crean? Talk about the kiss of death!

Posted by: Jeesea at February 12, 2004 at 08:03 AM

Craig, you forgot the token Jew!

Posted by: Quentin George at February 12, 2004 at 04:37 PM