Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bush Lied, Logic Died

It's amazing to me that the "Bush Lied" meme has gained as much traction as it has. Roughly fifty percent of the population believe it, and it is fair to say that the belief is both unsupportable and ineradicable. In fact, if there were actually a little evidence for the belief that Bush lied about WMD, the assertion would be less believable, because the evidence would then have to be weighed against all of the other considerable evidence that the WMD existed. Thus, by actually having no evidence, the Bush-lied conspiracy theorists can imagine a secret "smoking gun" of such massive proportions that anyone who saw it would know in an instant that Saddam absolutely had no WMD. And the imagination is much more powerful than reality--especially the paranoid imagination.

The conspiracy theorists have it exactly backwards. The burden of proof should be on those who are making the accusation that Bush lied. As it stands, the accusers are getting a free ride, since they are making an ex post facto argument to the effect that, since WMD have not been found, ergo Bush was lying about them. This is such a perverse substitute for thought. In reality, of course, one must consider only the evidence that President Bush had before him at the time he made the decision to invade. Therefore, it is necessary for those who argue that Bush is lying to present us with the evidence that proves that Bush knew the WMD did not exist.

In fact, no one has identified, nor will anyone ever identify, the supposed evidence that President Bush had to have had in his possession that trumped all of the other intelligence and convinced him that there were no WMD in Iraq. For that is what the conspiracy theorists are asking us to believe. If Bush is lying, his lie is necessarily based on some evidence that only Bush and no one else has seen--not the CIA, not the UN, not any of the other intelligence agencies in the world. And it had to be extremely powerful, compelling evidence to overturn all of the counter-evidence. So where is it?

One of the problems is that politics in general, and the Democratic party in particular, is dominated by lawyers, especially trial lawyers. (Ambulance-chasing trial lawyers such as John Edwards are the largest donors to the Democratc party.) And lawyers are trained to think legalistically, not morally. More ominously, they can just as well use an argument to attack truth as a means to arrive at it. This is not necessarily their fault. It is what they do. But we should be able to see through this kind of false logic.

I have a great deal of familiarity with how unscrupulous lawyers think and behave, because I do a fair amount of forensic work in psychology. Apparently, what I would call inexcusably unethical behavior, they would call "being an effective lawyer." This would include muddying an issue rather than illuminating it, twisting logic rather than applying it, and attacking truth rather than honoring it. (Obligatory disclaimer--the field is also full of unethical psychologists, just as there are many fine and decent lawyers.)

Few cases in the field of forensic psychology are absolute "slam dunks." Rather, one takes a detailed history, reviews medical records, administers psychological tests, and conducts a mental status examination, so that there will be a wealth of different kinds of evidence and information to arrive at an opinion. Once you have been convinced that a certain opinion is true, you don't present the opinion as being fifty-one percent true, or seventy-five percent true, but as simply true. In other words, you present the argument as strongly as you can. You give countervailing arguments their due, but with logic, evidence, rhetoric and presentation, you make the strongest case you can

Clearly, this is what the Bush administration did with regard to their belief that Saddam possessed WMD. Undoubtedly there were countervailing arguments, but nothing that outweighed the mountain of evidence pointing to their existence. Therefore, just as in my job as a forensic psychologist, they made their argument as strongly as possible, based on the weight of the evidence. Bear in mind that at no point was the threshold of evidence one hundred percent, or even seventy five percent. Rather, in a life-or death situation such as this, the threshold may not even have had to be fifty percent. For example, what if someone told you that there was a twenty-five percent chance you had a brain tumor? Would you go to the doctor? Or would you wait until you were one hundred percent convinced? What if there was a twenty-five percent chance Saddam would possess nukes within five years?

But just as in my job, it is very easy for a clever lawyer with no interest in the truth to attack some small portion of the argument, so as to convey the impression that the entire argument has been toppled. You will note that this was the strategy of O.J. Simpson's diabolical legal team. By attacking this or that small aspect of the evidence, it was easy enough to sway an invincibly stupid and credulous jury that was predisposed to believe in Simpson's innocence anyway. Simpson's attorneys gave the jury "permission" to believe what they wanted to believe.

The MSM and their political action wing, the Democratic party, are using this identical strategy in putting forth the "Bush lied" meme to a dim and/or credulous population in the throes of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Everyone thinks that Johnnie Cochrane was motivated by some great love of black people and their cause. In reality, he had such utter contempt for them, that he knew that his courtroom trickery would snow them. Likewise, Democratic elites have such contempt for the intelligence of the average Democrat, that they know all they have to do is throw out a couple of bogus arguments, and they can lead them by the nose, much as they have cynically done with minorities over the past forty years.


D. Vision said...

tI once gave the analogy:

Suppose I was advocating that we investigate the fridge because I was sure there were sandwiches in it. Regardless of my actual motives, it would be foolish for me to motivate our action by asserting something I knew to be false (i.e lying) because if my lie (sandwiches being in the fridge) were accepted as truth, then the action taken (you opening the fridge) would then reveal it to be false (no sandwiches).

Of course this is totally perverse logic (logic nonetheless) and I would have to be a complete and utter idiot to lie in such a way. This is OK for democrats to accept; they've always thought that Bush was quite stupid anyway, and have no qualms about resorting to perverse logic in a vacuum and are not shy of embracing amnesia whole-heartedly.

Kerry said...

"Therefore, it is necessary for those who argue that Bush is lying to present us with the evidence that proves that Bush knew the WMD did not exist." Because journalists do not ask this question, I blame them for the perpetuation of these kinds of lies and the lunacy attending them. They have betrayed their office as keepers of the facts. Imagine the high regard with which they would be held, could we rely on them to deflate lies, derail demagogues and puncture politcal scheming by merely asking a few factually correct, logically inescapable questions.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm responding to a comment someone left on the wrong post below.

"What are we to do with the uncomfortable fact that the complete absence of WMD proves just how ethereal that “mountain of evidence pointing to their existence” was? How could the Bush-didn’t-Lie team have got it so wrong in the face of overwhelming intelligence?

--For the same reason that everyone else got it wrong, including President Clinton, John Kerry, Tony Blair, et al. Were Clinton and Kerry lying as well? What were their motives?

"Bob writes: “If Bush is lying, his lie is necessarily based on some evidence that only Bush and no one else has seen—not the CIA, not the UN, not any of the other intelligence agencies in the world. And it had to be extremely powerful, compelling evidence to overturn all of the counter-evidence.”
This is a straw man – take the most literal interpretation of something, and firstly demonstrate that it is extreme, unsubtle, and illogical.

--Yes, I am taking the charges that President Bush lied literally. To make the charge there must be evidence. What is the evidence that proved to Bush that there were no WMD? Surely it must exist?

"Secondly, imply a simplistic dichotomy: in this case, either Bush lied, or he acted honourably and in good faith.

--This is the dichotomy the Democrats are presenting us with. They are saying that he lied.

"Then, the untenability of the former gives the impression of supplying evidence for the latter. And that move, while logical, does not necessarily yield a true conclusion.

--Is your point that Bush acted dishonorably but didn't lie?

"And that may be: Bush et al believed the intelligence because he/they wanted to believe the intelligence, and failed to deal with it with the degree of intelligence and seriousness which a pending invasion of another nation morally requires.

--That's just speculation, to which you are of course entitled.

"In other words, not that Bush knowingly lied to the American people and the world, but that perhaps he didn’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, didn’t admit how much we wanted it to be true, or even that he lied to himself (as we are all liable to do when we want something badly enough).

--Then we agree: he didn't lie. And why on earth did he "want it so badly?" This is another leftist meme that is tossed out with no supporting evidence.

"There’s no supportive evidence that shows that the way the Bush administration acted was the equivalent of the way a forensic psychologist puts together a case.

--I'm just highighting the difference between arriving at your conclusion and presenting your case, two very different things.

"Furthermore, Bob’s argument about the percentages of having a brain tumour is disingenuous. I’d want to be pretty damn sure that I do have a tumour before I allow some surgeon to cut my skull open.

--You're missing the point, the point being that in the post 9-11 world we cannot afford to wait for one hundred percent certainty, any more than the federal marshall could have waited today to determine if that man really had a bomb.

"As for the paragraphs devoted to politics and lawyers, I have to ask: what’s the point?

--The point was a gratuitous swipe at trial lawyers, whom I detest as a class.

"What all this suggests, it seems to me, is that some a priori sympathy is at work, some unacknowledged feeling, which predisposes the writer to adopt a certain view, a bias, rather than take an unprejudiced look at the data. And I find myself asking, what’s Bob really up to? For all his trumpeting of logic, evidence and truth, is he too ruled by his unconscious feelings (for George, perhaps)?

--What is going on is my support for the liberation of Iraq. I was always in favor of it for very long-range geopolitical and world-historical reasons, not because of the WMD which, after all, was one of only about twenty reasons in the resolution presented to congress.

jwm said...

Did we just surprise Sadam in the middle of the night, or did He have a clue that the Americans were coming?

In fact we telegraphed our arrival in Baghdad, and the reason for going there pretty much every day for over a year.

And we found no large stockpiles of contraband weaponry. What a surprise.

If the DEA conducted business this way they wouldn't uncover many large caches of illegal drugs.


Alexandra said...

All Things Beautiful TrackBack 'A Democrat Lies This Republican Doesn't Die'

Anonymous said...

Republicans are Idiots. The World is Changing, Get used to it. Its not the 40's anymore.

cousin Dupree said...

Leftists are Idiots. The world is changing. Get used to it. It's not the '60s anymore.