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« Presumably, Prof. Bainbridge disapproves of Gen. Frank's criticism of John Kerry | Main | Here's a litigation reform you won't see proposed by either party »

October 11, 2004



As much as I hate to say it (it's cliche), doesn't this election feel like something from Kafka? Every time I think Senator John Kerry is the biggest loser in the world, President Bush one-ups him. Then Kerry does Bush one better. And back and forth.


Wait a second...lets look at the source - the LA Times? You've got to be kidding me. All evidence to the contrary on the ground, in which US and coalition forces are putting it to the insurgents pretty hard - and the LA Times talks to some disaffected "senior official" to figure out what is occurring? If they had named the official, I would take it more seriously. Considering that major operations are going on all the time in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm not exactly sure how these "Pentagon and administration" officials are in a position to speak to this issue. Not that I would ever accuse the LA Times of making up a story to try to influence a political campaign (like a governor's race?), but this doesn't seem to pass the "make sense" test. There are some Pentagon officials (and journalists) that still haven't figured out we're at war, and we've been at war for the past three years. Every time Al Sadr claims victory and says its time to "negotiate" is when we've killed off half his active followers - and that point doesn't get brought out too often. So...I wouldn't put too much stock in this article...


Further to Brian's comment above, I would like to hear from the author of the original post, or from someone knowledgeable about journalism, how we can have any reason for believing that the story is true. Certainly an anonymous statement like this would never be admitted in court, nor would it be allowed in a scholarly work of history. Since there is no way to evaluate the reliability of the person making the statement, why would anyone rely on it?

Kevin Jon Heller

"All evidence to the contrary on the ground, in which US and coalition forces are putting it to the insurgents pretty hard"

And you base that claim on what? I don't think you're in Iraq -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- so all your information comes second-hand, as well. So why should I believe your sources when you don't believe one of the best newspapers in the world -- and the newspaper, along with Knight-Ridder, that did the best job challenging Bush's lies about Iraq? If you can point to inaccuracies in their coverage of Iraq, please do.


Notice how "Bush Administration" is conflated somehow in the mind with "Bush." Yet reading the article makes it clear that the Pentagon and the State Department have differing views. As far as I can tell, it's the Pentagon who is not rushing to attack before the elections, without any input from Bush himself. So disagree with the policy positions, but don't kid yourself that this is an example of a Bush flip-flop.

Kevin Jon Heller

"Certainly an anonymous statement like this would never be admitted in court, nor would it be allowed in a scholarly work of history."

You're right as far as your comment goes. There is always more reason to doubt anonymous sources than identified one. But journalism isn't history or the courtroom. Without anonymous sources, there would be no journalism -- at least no investigative journalism. Remember Deep Throat? If Woodward and Bernstein had been required to identify their source before breaking Watergate, Nixon would served out the rest of his term in peace.

The point is, when high-level officials criticize their government, they have to do so anonymously. That's true with all administrations, none of which -- understandably -- like to be criticized by the people they employ. But it's particularly true of the Bush administration, which has perfected the art of character assassination -- see, e.g., Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke...

Tung Yin

I think consideration of the source is an important factor. If it were, say, CBS News & Dan Rather that had reported this story, there would be very good reasons to be skeptical of it, based on recent history. However, the L.A. Times, while somewhat "liberal," has not been known (as far as I am aware) of misusing confidential sources.


Well, I don't read the LA Times: maybe it is reliable in a way that other newspapers aren't. But I do read the New York Times, and the anonymously sourced stories are all over the lot: we're winning, we're losing, we're being aggressive, we're holding back, whatever. It isn't just Iraq, for 30 years now I've learned that the contras are winning, the contras are losing, the Soviet Union is stable, it's on the brink of collapse, we expect heavy casualties in Iraq, it'll be a cakewalk etc. If you follow any issue closely, and make clippings and review them after the fact, as I have done on several issues over the years, you will see that the anonymously sourced stories aren't reliable. And this result accords with what we know about human nature, which is that you can find a person who will say pretty much anything if he knows he won't be cross-examined or held accountable. That is why, pace Osborn Elliott, newspaper accounts are not the first draft of history, they are fishwrap.

Tung Yin

By the way, for a different view of things, a friend of mine in Iraq disagrees with the L.A. Times story. I'll wait to see. The political machination is not inconsistent with past moves by Bush/Rove, such as claiming to be for free trade yet seeking steel tariffs to benefit Pennsylvania in time for the 2002 mid-term elections.


I'm more inclined to believe the major offensive that no one knows anything about was delayed for this reason moreso than political expediency:
Militia to disarm in Sadr City peace deal

Of course, that's good news. So, you're not going to see it on CBS, CNN is not going to brag about it on their talk shows, and, since a cease fire doesn't cause horrible deaths and atrocities and is a major step towards ending all those atrocities, there has to be some negative connotation attached to it, as some people just can not under any circumstances accept the fact that something good is happening under Bush's watch.

And, if you keep reading the article, it speaks of a major air offensive against Falluja.

We've got a major offensive in Falluja, and a cease fire in Sadr City. Now, how would you propose winning the war? The first thing I would suggest is not reading the LA Times. They have a tendency to screw things up.

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