Jewish World Review July 25, 2003 / 25 Tamuz, 5763

Bob Tyrrell

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They underestimate not only the president, but the American people | About the time two of the world's most repulsive bullies were being handed over to Allah with the compliments of the 101st Airborne, another of the Democrats' hapless presidential contenders endeavored to demonstrate his foreign policy perspicacity.

Addressing the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Hon. Richard A. Gephardt, derided the Bush administration for its "chest-beating unilateralism." "Foreign policy," he pronounced, "isn't a John Wayne movie, where we catch the bad guys, hoist a few cold ones and then everything fades to black." He droned on about President George W. Bush's "utter disregard for diplomacy." Meanwhile, the news was that Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay (known to contemporary wags as Ebay and Amway), had been cornered and dispatched John-Wayne style.

Gephardt's ill-timed outburst has its historical parallel. On Dec. 7, 1941, just as the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor, an anti-war senator rose up to address a huge meeting at Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Speaking to the isolationist America First Committee, Sen. Gerald P. Nye savaged President Franklin D. Roosevelt for creating hostile relations with Japan and siding with the British, whom he called cowards, unwilling to endure casualties. Halfway through his speech, Nye was informed that the Japanese had an hour before announced "a state of war between it and the United States and Great Britain." Unfazed, Nye simply rattled on against Roosevelt. When asked afterward about the Japanese declaration, Nye responded, "It sounds terribly fishy to me."

Increasingly, the actions taken by the Bush administration in the war on terror sound "terribly fishy" to partisan Democrats and to their friends in the media. The critics are particularly suspicious of the White House's use of intelligence.

The media's inflamed stories show once again their lack of proportion and, for that matter, memory. They also show that so pathetic is the condition of many Democrats they will exploit American foreign policy for their own partisan gain. On the face of it, the stories that Washington and London doctored intelligence estimates are preposterous. Who can believe that the Bush administration made false claims about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction to justify sending in an army that would inevitably find there were no weapons of mass destruction? Who can believe that the administration would confect a scheme that was bound to be exposed?

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Apparently, Dr. Howard Dean believes it. So, apparently, do some of the other born blanks now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. But then, they also believe that President George W. Bush is as stupid as President Ronald Reagan. Yes, Reagan too was accused of putting intelligence to political purposes, namely to end the Cold War. So, Bush mobilized the nation to send in an army to find weapons that he knew were not there. Apparently, Dr. Howard Dean believes that Bush expected the American people not to care if the weapons were not discovered. Is the Hon. Gephardt this far out?

The campaigning Democrats underestimate not only the president but also the American people. The story that Bush doctored intelligence estimates is another of those news stories that we call a Black Cat News Story. A Black Cat News Story is a shocking new story that crosses a politician's path supposedly to jinx his career forever. It is almost always a story without substance, but through constant fortissimo repetition, it hexes the politician.

It is also a story that pleases partisan opposition. The story puts me in mind of the horror stories created after Pearl Harbor by the likes of Sen. Nye. According to these fantasies, President Roosevelt left the Pacific fleet vulnerable to Japanese attack so that he could join the British in World War II. Historians found that this story, like the Black Cat News Story now being used against the Bush administration, was without substance. Nonetheless, cranks still believe it, and those who believe President Bush knowingly relied on false intelligence to send hundreds of thousands of pilots, sailors and soldiers halfway around the world on a false mission are cranks.

Intelligence estimates are rarely totally factual. They always contain error. That is the nature of intelligence. We shall not know what happened to Hussein's weapons of mass destruction for a long time. We do know that he had the grisly stuff and that he used it on Iranians and on his own people. We have evidence right now that he possessed contraband weaponry. The United Nations arms inspectors even admit it. The burning question raised now is precisely what the American and British intelligence community developed as unassailable fact. It is an ignorant question.

The distinguished British historian Paul Johnson avers that intelligence information is always shaky. "One never gets to the bottom of such estimates," he tells me from his London library. "It includes assertions and counter assertions" from one intelligence bureaucracy to another. "Reading intelligence reports is like reading a detective novel containing no final chapter. All you can do is weigh intelligence reports and guess. You can never be absolutely certain that the reports are completely sound."

Of course, Johnson is right. Yet we certainly have enough information even now to recognize that our overthrow of Hussein was justified. All the cranks are achieving is the discrediting of a thoroughly admirable effort. The Bush administration acted properly with the support of a prudent citizenry. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose politics I generally oppose, acted heroically without much support at home. He is the first politician I have seen in years who carried out the dictates of his conscience to the peril of his political career. His achievement will be honored by history.

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JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.

07/18/03: The irascible, bigoted Harry Truman was a product of his times
07/11/03: A grand affair of hot colors and surprisingly sedate audience participation
07/04/03: In search of anti-Americanism and the perfect bullfight
06/26/03: Calling on London
06/20/03: Too upsetting for the evening news?
06/12/03: Rain(es)ing Clintoon myths
06/05/03: Hillary-ous is pathetic
05/29/03: Shakedown
05/22/03: End of the last great persecution of the 20th century?
05/15/03 :‘Grey’ turns to grim at Times
05/08/03: The only intellectual force in Western history to gain moral superiority by being wrong
05/01/03: Dinning with Tom Wolfe: More lessons in nusual aspects of American life, hitherto ignored
04/28/03: Ambuscade at scholarly frontier
04/21/03: Stars in search of a galaxy
04/10/03: Baghdad Bob and Tom Daschle
03/31/03: When the media itself becomes the story
03/20/03: Revealed! Estrada is a gifted linguist -- a Japanese-American fluent in Spanish
03/14/03: Genuinely in charge
03/10/03: Stalin and Saddam
03/05/03: They just cannot stomach a protracted alliance with the Bushies
02/25/03: Identity gridlock
02/18/03: People calling Dean a fruitcake are underestimating his political savvy
02/13/03: The new political establishment
01/30/03: The time is now
01/27/03: Witnessing self-love by people completely incapable of self-criticism
01/21/03: Of course our kiddies are depressed
01/13/03: Why is it that Official Washington still believes that a tax reduction means a revenue reduction?
01/02/03: Missing Moi
12/27/02: The grizzled and menacing-looking senator in Confederate drag is a Dem
12/24/02: Uprooting Christianity in the Holy Land
12/20/02: Under fire, Lott showed an ignobleness that is embarrassing
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11/07/02: I muffed up
10/31/02: Is the American university turning its back on change, on progress?
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09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
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03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
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02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies . Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The G-dphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy

© 2001, Creators Syndicate