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Ben Witherington has a great post on singleness, marriage, and divorce. I don't ultimately agree with every point, but he's certainly an expert on this topic and has some thoughts worth considering.

At this late date, Factcheck.org takes on the Bush Lied myth. This flatly contradicts almost all of the major statements anyone has ever given against the honesty of Bush and his administration regarding the Iraq conflict.

Finally, Sam has posted three sets of pictures that I hadn't gotten around to linking to yet. First is a paper plate that Ethan painted his hands onto. There's a long story to this one. Basically, as I was getting to leave for the evening and Sam was upstairs rehearsing a dance solo, Isaiah had gotten into the bathroom downstairs, but the noises I heard sounded to me as if she was giving them a bath upstairs. When I figured out that something else was going on, I went into the bathroom to clean it and him, and while I was doing that Ethan decided to get the paints out and paint the kitchen floor. The paper plate was just one thing he did in the process. Suffice it to say that both of them were confined to their rooms until bedtime, at which point they were still confined to their rooms.

There's also a series of shots of Sophia walking and another one of her walking around with the jiggly bell wrap thingy Sam wears when she dances, with a shot of one of Ethan's building projects in the last picture.

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Factcheck took on the 'Bush lied' claim and said that all that we know for certain is that the things he said were systematically false and unsupported by solid intelligence. Since you can say for just about any lie that all we know for certain is that it was a false claim, this is a pretty smally victory, no?

Actually, they're quite a bit more positive about it than that. They say categorically that Bush had every reason to believe anything he was saying that turned out later to have been unsupported, because the intelligence community was saying the same things. They didn't point out that all of Bush's political opponents who got the same intelligence reports believed them as much as he did, and wherever he went wrong was not unique to him. It's dishonest to claim that Bush misled us into war when any faulty information Bush received was just as much believed by people like John Kerry and Dick Gephardt who were making the claim that Bush lied.

They also quite clearly point out a number of things that Bush said that have been pointed to as lies were in fact true statements borne out by intelligence that proved reliable in the end. The connections with al Qaeda (which weren't cooperative ventures but were indeed connections, as Bush said), the fact that Saddam had the infrastructure for WMD (which he did have, as the 9-11 Commission and Senate investigation showed, though sanctions prevented research progress), and the attempts by Saddam to purchase uranium from Niger (which he did do; they just didn't go for his proposal) are the most obvious ones. All three of those were true, and some people have claimed Bush to have been saying more than that, but his actual statements were limited to what turns out to have been true. That seemed to me to be the main point of this article. It's not just that Bush believed these things were true. Some of them indeed were true.

I'm not seeing this part of the report:

Actually, they're quite a bit more positive about it than that. They say categorically that Bush had every reason to believe anything he was saying that turned out later to have been unsupported,

Perhaps there really is good reason to think Bush & his admin were massively & tragically mistaken in their own beliefs, rather than intentionally lying. Hard to evaluate. But it makes one wonder:

In that case, the level of incompetence is so high that one might rationally prefer that our nation be led by liars.

First of all, it's not just the executive branch. This includes congressional Democrats, including John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, and most of the most prominent Democratic leaders in both houses. They all believe these things. They later pretended Bush had concocted it all, even though they were on record saying the same sorts of things. They claimed he'd said things he hadn't (e.g. that it would be an easy invasion with a perfect and non-resistant populace in all senses among all groups, which the quotes in this article prove wrong) or not said things he had (e.g. the humanitarian/liberation goal of attacking Iraq, which was in his speeches from the very beginning but just not emphasized when the U.N. was involved due to the U.N.'s already being on record opposing such motivations in situations such as Kosovo).

This is the thing that makes me angriest about the "Bush lied" nonsense. It really is infuriating how a whole house of cards about Bush has been construted on a historical fiction, and then it's claimed that Bush based his arguments on a house of cards of his own creation. He didn't base his argument entirely on anything false, some of the more important things claimed to be false were very much true, and the ones that were false were probably unknown to be false by anyone involved, including Saddam himself.

As for the stronger claim that I remembered them saying, I think I must have been remembering what they said about the State of the Union speech in the article linked to at the bottom. They say quite clearly that Bush had reason to say what he said in that speech. Since I read both articles at once, I was confusing them. I guess they don't say that in this piece, but they do point out that a few of the items said to be lies are even true. They just fail to mention that in their summary statements at the beginning and end.

"it's not just the executive branch. This includes congressional Democrats"
//

Yes, to their great shame, others were saying some of the same things. [By the way, we should of course add to this Hall of Shame the bulk of the U.S. news organizations who really let us down by (to put things WAY too mildly) not being sufficiently critical of what the Bush Admin was claiming in making the case for the war.]
//

But this is a very different situation. Though Congress exercises oversight, the intelligence
organizations work for the President. When he is misled by them, he's being misled by those who work for & report to him, and he is much more responsible for the situation.
//

This is a bit like this imagined situation. Suppose the CIA director botches things and uses bad intelligence from the CIA, and apologists for him try to deflect blame from him by pointing out that, say, some local law enforcement officials, who trusted the CIA reports, were making the same statements. Well, OK, maybe these local officials should have been more critical, too, but this isn't the same thing. The CIA director in this situation is using false intelligence that he himself is responsible for. Likewise, the President is responsible for the lousy intelligence he trusted to an extent that no member of Congress (in either party) is. (Though I would think that members of the Congressional intelligence committees are more culpable than other Congresspeople are.)
//

A bit more speculatively: Though it's still cloudy, a basic picture is emerging of a White House that was aiming for a war with Iraq for a long time and (emanating esp., but not exclusively, from around the Vice President's office) was creating an environment that promoted intelligence that favored going to war & resisted intelligence (and anything else) that pointed the other way. The picture is still cloudy enough to be deniable (though it's getting hard to deny
with a straight face), but I think it would be quite naive at this point to bet that instead the White House did nothing to create an environment that would skew the intelligence in that way, were acting reasonably, and were just honestly misled into a massively mistaken view. (Things are likely to remain cloudy until after Bush leaves office, since many will probably wait until at least then to publically say what they're going to say. My greatest hope here is
that Powell will write a book that tells the whole truth. But whether he's inclined to do that, I don't know.)
//

But in any case, even if Bush & Co were quite honestly & innocently misled, it was by folks who worked for & reported to him. This is not
to excuse the congressional democrats of whom you speak, who were not sufficiently critical and said things they had no business saying. But it is to point out the crucial difference in the situation.

It's shameful to believe the intelligence reports of our best intelligence agencies?

The point wasn't that it's ok because they also did it. The point was that the most prominent of the people saying he was lying had been presented with the same information he had and believed it the same way he had. That's simply immoral to paint him as a liar for saying things they would have said at the time. So their saying he was lying basically amounts to lies on their own part.

Some of that cloudiness is from some straightforward and plausible reports (plausible because the people saying it have nothing to gain by doing so) that portray Bush as resisting the suggestions of others that they should pursue attacking Iraq, even after 9-11. These reports flat-out contradict those of people who clearly have an axe to grind. I don't remember any of the details on this, but it got buried by the mainstream media.

Some of the cloudiness also stems from Bill Clinton's support for just about all of the justifications for attacking Iraq well into the summer of 2003, long after it was looking unlikely that we'd find stockpiles of WMD anywhere in Iraq. That makes me think he had enough of a sense of the state of intelligence that he understood that he might have done the same thing. Some of his speeches from his 1998 dealings with Saddam Hussein sound remarkably like Bush's in 2002 and early 2003. That's why it seems really stretching the evidence to think of this as something particular to the Bush Administration, even if some who have wanted to portray the administration in a negative light have wanted to give that impression.

So there's some counter-evidence and a plausible motive that could explain such reports as suspect given their source. Maybe this environment was there, but I don't think the state of the evidence is that it's converging on such a situation. I'd say the reverse. It's getting more cloudy the more I hear.

It's shameful to believe the intelligence reports of our best intelligence agencies?

If you're asking about the people in Congress, perhaps I am being a bit too hard on them: It depends on how reasonable they were in not being suspicious.

But if you're asking about the White House, which was ultimately responsible for the state of the intelligence, then when the intelligence is that shoddy, your answer is yes.

I think "that shoddy" is a bit of an overstatement, when the intelligence suggested some basic things that turned out true but have been pretended to be not true (e.g. infrastructure to continue developing WMD, desire to continue to do so, some actual WMD in possession, contacts with al Qaeda, motivation to cooperate with al Qaeda, the unpopularity of Saddam Hussein among the majority of his people, Saddam's attempts to purchase uranium from Niger), along with some things that were additional edifices on that structure that we have no clear evidence about one way or the other (whether there were actual WMD in larger numbers that have been sent elsewhere) and one or two things that seem to have turned out wrong (e.g. how far along nuclear progress was, how willing the Iraqi people as a whole would support the U.S. liberation effort, Niger's willingness to sell uranium to Saddam).

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