Democrats & Liberals Archives

Logical Fallacies

My colleague in the Third Party column has already talked eloquently about the smoking gun found by a British reporter. In this article, I’d like to examine the claims that have so far been used on this site to try and defend the Bush administration against this.

First, here’s the original quote from Colin Powell, from February 2001:

He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

To use the words in Stephen Van Dyke’s article: “the whole lie just went up in flames and this is the gasoline that will get the big media’s attention.”

So, how could someone on the right possibly defend this?

  1. Prove the quote's genuine!
    It's right here, on the State Department web site.

  2. You can't trust that reporter! He's biased!
    Er, yes, he is. He describes himself as the "anti-war, anti-globalization correspondent for the The London Daily Mirror", which is a British paper that has taken an anti-war position.

    But bias is not relevant to this argument; Powell said, in February, there are no WMD in Iraq. That is not something that can be 'spun' by bias; merely highlighted.

  3. The paper he works for is just as biased! It can't be trusted!
    Yes, the Mirror is a tabloid, but it's a reputable national one. For those who aren't familiar with the British tabloids; the Sun, Britain's most popular paper (also a tabloid), is staunchly pro-war - but then, they're owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News.

    The Mirror is staunchly anti-war - you can see some of their front pages during the lead-up to war. They are both reputable papers. It's a strange arrangement, but it works.

  4. He didn't present both sides of the argument! There was no reply from the administration!
    I say again: questions of bias are not relevant to this argument. Pilger is biased. That's been established. It does not change the contents of the tape.

  5. This was all before 9/11! The world changed!
    But the sanctions on Iraq that Powell said "had worked" didn't. And even if Saddam had attempted to build WMDs in that short amount of time - a foolhardy decision at best - it would have left a lot more evidence than has been found.

  6. But that was two years before the war! He could have got WMDs!
    Surely, getting WMDs that fast would have left more traces for the UN weapons inspectors, or for the satellite photography and spy planes?

    And are we really to believe that Saddam went all out to get WMDs... then, as President Bush claimed in an interview on Monday, "dispersed them ... hid them" when the time came to actually use them?

  7. But this is just Colin Powell's opinion, anyway!
    Er, yes, Colin Powell. The Secretary of State. One of the most powerful, and presumably, best informed people in America. Oh, and lest we forget? It was also Condoleeza Rice's opinion two months later:

    We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.

Let me summarise:

  • The tape is real.
  • The quote is not out of context.
  • The journalist's bias is irrelevant.
  • This was the opinion of both Powell and Rice, one of whom briefs the President every morning.
  • Surely, getting WMDs that fast would have left evidence - and if Saddam did get them, why did he "hide" and "disperse" them?

Any other arguments - from either side?

Posted by Thomas Scott at September 24, 2003 8:19 AM