The purity problem, part II: The "clean hands" fallacy

Yesterday, the “impure motives” boogeyman raised its ugly head again.

Now, the world isn’t black and white. Events seldom have a single cause. It’s usually a confluence of circumstances that lead to thir occurrence.

One example I cited recently was the W. Mark Felt/Deep Throat story. A great deal of fuss was made about his motive for leaking the information to the Washington Post. It was my contention that there was no single reason why, but a combination of factors that led to his decision to do so.

Another is the “reason we went to war” silliness. What was THE reason we went to war with Iraq? This is usually done by the war’s opponents, who want the supporters to tie all their arguments behind a single point, that the critics than can scrutinize attack, dissect, and discredit to “invalidate” the entire war. The problem is, as I said a while ago, there were numerous reasons to go to war.

I have a bit of a story teller in me. Often, when I feel the need to make a point, I will do so in the form of a satirical account that, I feel, expresses my thesis better (and in a more entertaining fashion)than a long, drawn-out argument. It’s a technique that’s served me well.

So, I’m going to go back and rewrite history again. This time, it’s going to be a Presidential news conference, where President Bush spells out his reasons for going to war. I’d like to thank Dan Rather and CBS for giving me the wonderful phrase “fake, but accurate” to describe the following:

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“…and so, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see by the handout, we have numerous reasons why at this point we believe that we have no choice but to remove Saddam from power by force. Are there any questions?”

“Mr. President, you have given us quite a list here. Are these in any particular order of importance?”

“No, they are not. We don’t consider any of them any more or less significant than the others.”

“But some of them must be more urgent than others. Which would you say is the most compelling reason?”

“I wouldn’t.”

“How about this one about Weapons of Mass Destruction? Do you believe that Saddam poses a clear and present danger to the United States?”

“I said in my State of the Union address that he does not, and that has not changed.”

“But does he possess WMDs? Do we have conclusive proof that he does?”

“No we do not. But that is irrelevant.”

“Mr. President, how can that be irrelevant? How can he pose a clear and present danger to the United States — one serious enough to justify a war — if he doesn’t have WMDs?”

“As I just said, he does not pose a ‘clear and present danger,’ but that very uncertainty is in itself a cause for military action.

One of the conditions of the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War was that Saddam verifiably destroy all his WMDs, and submit to inspections afterward to prove he has not resumed the production and stockpiling of new ones. He has repeatedly failed to do so.

Think of Saddam as a convicted felon on parole after the first Gulf War. One of the terms of his parole was that he submit to periodic drug tests. Now, he’s repeatedly refused to submit to tests, set his own conditions on taking those tests, and he’s been caught several times trying to use a “whizzinator.”

Further, he’s not supposed to have any weapons, and to allow the police to search his home every now and then to verify that. He’s blocked officers at his door, he’s demanded that they leave certain rooms alone, that they call ahead and make appointments, and obstructed it in other numerous ways.

Now, as Saddam’s parole officer, we don’t try to find a way to “catch” him with weapons or arrange for him to take a drug test that he might fail. We toss his ass into jail, and THEN go looking for drugs or weapons. Whether we find them or not is irrelevant; his offense was failing to cooperate with the terms of his parole.”

“So, Mr. President, what will you do if we don’t find WMDs in Iraq? Won’t that invalidate the entire war, and shouldn’t you resign in disgrace?”

“Oh, go ahead and write whatever you want. You were going to do that anyway.”

Three cheers for the flag burners!
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  1. wavemaker June 9, 2005
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