Occassional reflections of a moderate (hey at least I think I am)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Revisiting Revisionism

Prof. Reynolds is once again decrying “historical revisionism” in an Editorial by a MSM. In this case the culprit is this editorial over at the NYTimes (is there any more MS in the MSM?). Prof. Reynolds proclaims that the “claim that democratic transformation was some sort of new rationalization is, not to put too fine a point on it, an out-and-out lie.”

Here is the offending passage from the editorial:
The only plausible reason for keeping American troops in Iraq is to protect the democratic transformation that President Bush seized upon as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious. If that transformation is now allowed to run off the rails, the new rationale could prove to be as hollow as the original one.(emphasis in Prof. Reynolds’)
As I have said elsewhere
Anyone who says that the liberation of Iraqis was not a justification given by the administration going into the war is one or more of the following (a) forgetful, (b) unaware of their surroundings as they existed then, (c) illiterate or (d) a liar.
So where do I put the NYTimes editorial? Either (a), (d) or none of the above. To paraphrase a former President: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘seize’ is?”

If one reads the “seize upon” language to mean “seize upon a justification that was not previously given”, then I would agree with Prof. Reynolds that the editorial is in error. I think the best justification for this reading is the use of the article “a” (“seized upon as a rationale”) by the editorial. If this is what the editorial means, then they are either liars or forgetful.

If on the other hand, one reads the “seize upon” language to mean “seize upon a justification that was not previously the primary justification” then I would not contend that the editorial is guilty of historical revisionism. Of course if that is what it meant they should have said “seized upon as the primary rationale” (or words to that effect) rather than “seized upon as a rationale.”

As an aside, I will confess that I started out writing this to point out that I think that Prof. Reynolds and others are too quick to lambaste media outlets for such “revisionism”. I think that in this instance, his criticism is well put. The way the editorial is drafted demonstrates forgetfulness or deceit. I am left to ponder how Prof. Reynolds would react if a media outlet pointed out that the democratization/liberation of Iraqis was not the primary justification given going into the conflict.

[UPDATE: Over at The Mudville Gazette , the author observes
Perhaps there's a certain percentage of the American population that had to have the fear of their own death via a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack made clear to them before they would give their personal approval to sending someone else's kids off to defend them in a war.

If he needs an example of this sentiment, I would point him to Paul Wolfowitz who noted in May, 2003:
there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. . . . The third one by itself . . . is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

OK so they are not on all fours but it is clear that Mr. Wolfowitz was cognizant of the fact that many Americans would not support the effort solely based on the liberation/democratization of Iraqis.

Look anyone who says that the liberation/democratization of Iraq was not a reason or one of the primary reasons for the military action is not right. At the same time, anyone who says the liberation/democratization of Iraq was the reason or even the primary reason given to the American people for the military action is not correct either. It may have been (and I suspect it will prove to be) the best reason but without the WMD angle and/or links to Al-qaeda style terrorists the military action would not, initially, have been supported by a majority of the American people.

With regard to the Gazette’s observation that the NYTimes’ editorial could be read to support the “nuclear option” with respect to Senate filibusters, I will tell you what. I will write a letter to the editorial staff there demanding that they take such a position if the Gazette if the Gazette writes to Senator Isakson (.mov file) and demand that he take to the Senate floor and support the filibuster here as he does in Iraq. Let me know.]


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