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Broder’s Misinformation

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Two big doses of misiniformation in David Broder’s column this morning.

The first is a sin of ommission:

There are students of the border, far more expert than I am, who say that the idea of a barrier — physical, electronic or human — along those miles of desert is unrealistic. Their cautions deserve attention.

How can we give attention to the unnamed “students?” We can’t, of course, which is the beauty of the anti-fence slam. But I have spent quite a lot of time interviewing experts and posting their remarks so that silliness like this at least has a rebuttal. Fences do work, and serious students of the border agree that in the urban and “near-urban” areas they are essential.

Broder’s bigger sideswipe is this one:

The second question is even more basic: Is the assumption that it’s possible to “seal” the border at all realistic? This is where the Iraq parallel becomes even more pertinent. We invaded that country on what turned out to be a false premise — that Saddam Hussein had a threatening cache of weapons of mass destruction. The folly of that assumption has shadowed the whole war.

Broder, and all other proponents of the single bullet theory of Iraq invasion motivation, should revisit Nicholas Lemann’s New Yorker article, “After Iraq,” from the February 17/24, 2003 issue, which begins:

Has a war ever been as elaborately justified in advance as the coming war with Iraq? Because this war is not being undertaken in direct response to a single shattering event (it’s been nearly a year and a half since the September 11th attacks), and because the possibility of military action against Saddam Hussein has been Washington’s main preoccupation for the better part of a year, the case for war has grown so large and variegated that its very multiplicity has become a part of the case against it. In his State of the Union address, President Bush offered at least four justifications, none of them overlapping: the cruelty of Saddam against his own people; his flouting of treaties and United Nations Security Council resolutions; the military threat that he poses to his neighbors; and his ties to terrorists in general and to Al Qaeda in particular. In addition, Bush hinted at the possibility that Saddam might attack the United States or enable someone else to do so. There are so many reasons for going to war floating around'”at least some of which, taken alone, either are nothing new or do not seem to point to Iraq specifically as the obvious place to wage it'”that those inclined to suspect the motives of the Administration have plenty of material with which to argue that it is being disingenuous. So, along with all the stated reasons, there is a brisk secondary traffic in “real” reasons, which are similarly numerous and do not overlap: the country is going to war because of a desire to control Iraqi oil, or to help Israel, or to avenge Saddam’s 1993 assassination attempt on President George H. W. Bush.

Yet another argument for war, which has emerged during the last few months, is that removing Saddam could help bring about a wholesale change for the better in the political, cultural, and economic climate of the Arab Middle East. To give one of many possible examples, Fouad Ajami, an expert on the Arab world who is highly respected inside the Bush Administration, proposes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that the United States might lead “a reformist project that seeks to modernize and transform the Arab landscape. Iraq would be the starting point, and beyond Iraq lies an Arab political and economic tradition and a culture whose agonies have been on cruel display.” The Administration’s main public proponent of this view is Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who often speaks about the possibility that war in Iraq could help bring democracy to the Arab Middle East. President Bush appeared to be making the same point in the State of the Union address when he remarked that “all people have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny'”and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.”

Even those suffering from justification fatigue ought to pay special attention to this one, because it goes beyond the category of reasons offered in support of a course of action that has already been decided upon and set in motion. Unlike the other justifications, it is both a reason for war and a plan for the future.

Broder invents experts and rewrites history in two paragraphs.

Nice work if you can get it.


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