Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Wednesday, September 25, 2002


War and Gore (Al, not the other kind)
So, Al Gore gives a speech, and as Bob Somerby notes, all the cool kids want to know is, "Did he do this to gain a political advantage?" Aside from the insipid "mind reading" of the various pundits (Noonan and Kelly in particular), there has been a great deal of blogorrhea about whether or not he "lied", as many are so fond of saying (I am sure you can see where I am going here). Tim Noah has a pretty sharp rebuttal of the claim that Gore has changed his tune on "regime change", noting that he seems mostly concerned with whether attacking Saddam will disrupt the war on terror by alienating our Arab "allies", as well as Germany and France, who have been helping us capture Al Qaeda members around the world. This seems like a pretty good argument, if a bit complicated for our sound-bite infested news cycle. The "Crooowing" started relatively quickly, attempting to find some bit of "lying". The final result was this passage (via Jay Caruso)

Henry Hanks rules. He found the information I was looking for. Here again, is what Gore said the other day:


Now, back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War, and I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration's hasty departure from the battlefield even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, groups that we had, after all, encouraged to rise up against Saddam.

And here is what he said in 1991:


"I want to state this clearly, President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein's survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus that the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop."

He can't even tell the truth about something like this, and we're supposed to take seriously the criticism he has leveled at the President?

Pretty damning, right? He clearly was not that upset in 1991, and now he is claiming that he was. Leaving aside the equally poor memories of Bush (Harken, Rangers) and Cheney (Halliburton selling to Iraq), is this pair of quotations fair? Fortunately for Gore's supporters, Hesiod is on the case. A full reading of Gore's April 1991speech, from which the above quote was ripped, brings some context.


"In my opinion, Madam President, and...

I want to state this clearly, President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein's survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus that the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop.

That is also why, after it became apparent that Iraqi forces were being routed, pressure mounted rapidly here and abroad to proclaim a cease-fire.

If it was a mistake to believe that Saddam Hussein would be a prompt political casualty of the war, as the debacle it turned out to be for Iraq, that his rule would end shortly after the defeat of his armies, then that was a mistake widely shared throughout our country.

But only the President could speak on behalf of the United States to suggest that Saddam Hussein ought to be overthrown, and only the President could decide on behalf of the United States to permit the use of Iraqi combat helicopters to suppress rebellion, in clear violation of the understanding of the conditions agreed to at Safwan. The President's appeal was, therefore, arguably a factor in stirring up rebellion.

The President's decision not to ground the Iraqi combat helicopters conferred an important, perhaps decisive, advantage to Saddam Hussein in overcoming rebellion and then in generating the mass, panicked flight with which we are now confronted.

There have been published reports that the United States took other steps to encourage rebellion. I do not know whether that is the case or not. We should know.

Certainly, I am prepared to accept that the President, as an individual, is as shocked and angered at what is happening before our eyes as any American. I believe, however, his initial refusal to act was the result of a conviction he has held and continues to hold about basic American interests in this situation."


This sort of makes it sound like Gore was pretty upset at GHWB, dontcha think? Like maybe that we should have supported the rebellion in Iraq by the Kurds and Shiites that we instigated to some degree, instead of allowing Saddam to put that rebellion down. We had, at that time, total control of the airspace over Iraq. If we had said "No helicopters", that probably would have been it. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if there were good reasons for GHWB's decision, such as pressure from neighboring Arab states, and possibly even Israel, to keep from falling to pieces. Just as an example, it was surmised that the Shiite population of Iraq (~60%, mostly in the south, I believe), might wish to join Iran's theocracy, destabilizing the political balance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran (I am probably oversimplifying). Also, the Turkish opposition to a Kurdish separatist movement may have (almost certainly did) play a role. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Gore can hardly be called a "liar" in this context. He certainly does seem to have been upset that Saddam was not removed from power.

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