“I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing”

I tend to be a “reactive” thinker. Most of the time, I get my best thoughts as an instinctive response to something someone else says, when their words catalyze something in the back of my head and bring it to the forefront.

That happened last night, when I was reading through the discussion of the John Doe Protection Bill Kim posted yesterday.

In the comments, “jim” repeatedly lauded the defeat of the measure, while others defended the necessity of it. I heartily agree with those people who argued with jim, but I read both sides of the argument — and came to an insight.

Whenever I get into a discussion of politics, an underlying presumption lies under my thoughts and arguments — that the other party is just as interested as I am in a serious conversation, that they are serious about the matter at hand and will engage in principled arguments and honest debate.

And I am often proven wrong in that presumption, as the discussion will often degenerate into personal attacks, diversions, and other underhanded moves.

I haven’t surrendered those beliefs of mine, as I find more often than not that there are more people who can disagree without being disagreeable, who aren’t so much interested in victory at any cost as finding truth, who can admit error — and graciously accept when others make that admission.

The core of that principle was crystallized in me in that debate about the John Doe thing, when Robin Roberts actually quoted the amendment. The relevant portion:

1) IN GENERAL.-Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion, makes, or causes to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under Federal, State, and local law for such report.

This part is the part that is so often overlooked not only in the argument about the John Doe Amendment, but in so many other things.

My colleague Paul touched upon that yesterday, when he discussed a certain video that is making the rounds. It shows statements by various members of the Bush administration discussing Iraq and the War On Terror, making statements that events have proven to be misstatements, mistaken, unfounded, or just plain wrong. The conceit of the video is that these are all deliberate falsehoods, deceptions, and out-and-out lies, all in furtherance of a grand conspiracy to con the American people.

I’ve always operated under the theory that a crucial element of a lie is intent — that the speaker has to know that their words are false, and speak them anyway. That there is a distinction between being wrong and lying.

In one of the comments on Paul’s piece, Synova brought up a Michael Moore statement:

I saw Moore on television (I’m sure it was by accident) talking about “Bush Lied.” I don’t remember who he was talking to but the interviewer asked him flat out, “Is it a lie if, at the time, you believe it is the truth.”

Moore said absolutely it was a lie even if you thought you were right when you said it. And he said something about 7 year olds knowing that.

Moore seems to be summarizing a lot of the anti-Bush thinking.

I see things differently.

In 1991, Saddam admitted that he had a great deal of WMDs, materials, and research. He also agreed to destroy them in a verifiable manner. And then he spent 12 years avoiding that as best he could.

As late as 1998, it was the official policy of the United States government that Saddam had not complied with those terms, and in fact was in such gross violation of that that we made it our official policy to support removing him from power and actually did carry out military strikes on his facilities.

I have not seen a single conclusive piece of evidence that those strikes destroyed all his WMD material, nor any accounts that after those attacks, he complied completely with the terms of his 1991 surrender.

Saddam had no right to the presumption of innocence. Normally I don’t like comparing the War On Terror to a criminal proceeding, but there is a nearly perfect metaphor here.

In 1991, Saddam pleaded guilty to major felonies. Part of his sentence involved probation, and a condition of that probation was that he account for and verifiably destroy his WMD programs. The presumption was that he was guilty, and he had to prove his innocence — much like a parolee might have to repeatedly submit to drug testing in order to keep free.

Saddam kept resisting and refusing to submit to the agreed-upon testing. Period. He continued to sponsor terrorism around the world. Period. He tried to assassinate a former president of the United States in revenge for deeds that president had carried out as part of his duties of office. Period.

In brief, Saddam violated numerous terms of his 1991 surrender — and one of the possible results of violations of terms of surrender is a resumption of the original war. Sometimes the consequences of such things are overlooked and indulged, such as the violations of the Treaty Of Versailles. And other times, such violations are taken seriously.

In 2002, President Bush chose to take those violations seriously. And a sizable majority of Congress — including several of the leading Democratic presidential candidates — agreed with him.

I believe that Bush acted in good faith, on the best intelligence available. And I believe that the majority of Congress also did — both those who voted for and against the Authorization of Use Of Military Force.

Where I find the lack of good faith today is in those who have chosen to repudiate their 2002 vote. Their explanations would be entertaining, if the subject wasn’t so damned serious. I think my favorite is Hillary Clinton’s, who has put forth numerous rationales for her vote and change of heart. The best one has to be the time she said that she thought the bill was just a demand to allow the weapons inspectors back in. Apparently The Smartest Woman In The World didn’t read the title — ” To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq” — or Section 3 of the resolution:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) Authorization.–The President is authorized to use the Armed
Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and
appropriate in order to–
(1) defend the national security of the United States
against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions regarding Iraq.

If the Congresscritters were serious and sincere about ending the war, they would not be assing around with moves like “non-binding resolutions” and “deadlines” “impeachment” and cheap, sniping attacks. All it takes is a simple move: repealing the AUMF. It’s that frigging simple. And their refusal to actually do the one thing that would put some teeth to their words speaks volumes: they don’t want to actually take a stand to end this “illegal, immoral, based-on-lies, fraudulent war,” but just want to look like they’re doing something.

That’s why I have a modicum of respect for Senator Obama and Representative Kucinich. I think Obama’s an empty suit and Kucinich is just plain nuts, but they have been principled and consistent in their opposition to the war. John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Christopher Dodd all voted in support of the Resolution — and now are desperately running from that vote.

I will continue to presume my opponents in debates are arguing in good faith, until they prove otherwise. A single mantis is worth at least 12,000 Lee Wards — who, as recently demonstrated, has no problem shooting his mouth off when he’s completely in the wrong, and (once proven beyond the slightest shred of a doubt) will admit he was wrong, but is nowhere near adult enough to apologize to those he slandered.

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