Several years ago, before the start of Bush’s (and Cheney’s) Iraq war, I wrote a column about the words the administration was using to boost its case for war. They were making liberal use of weasel words — “could,” “might,” “possibly” and so on.
There was good reason for them to use such slippery words — they didn’t have the facts to back up their case. The most obvious example: weapons of mass destruction. Administration hacks and flacks told the country and the world that Iraq “might” have WMDs. It was “very possible” that Saddam Hussein had a covert nuclear weapons program in place and that he “could” use them against the U.S.
Well, reality proved otherwise. UN sanctions and UN inspections were working; there were no WMDs in Iraq. There was no active nuclear weapons program, so none of us needed to worry about Iraq evading the no-fly zone, zipping across the Atlantic unnoticed and dropping fictional nuclear weapons on the U.S.
We are seeing a resurgence (a new “surge”) of these same weasel words. Only this time about Iran.
In response to a new U.S. Intelligence Estimate that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, Bush has again brought out shaky reasoning, slippery rationalization and squishy logic to pump up his case against Iran.
Faced with the new findings, “Preemptive” Bush has started another weasel word offensive.
Turning good news to bad
Bush warns us that Iran “could restart” its nuclear weapons program at any time, so he claims we should become more confrontational about the weapons program that his own intelligence agencies say Iran doesn’t have!
“What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert weapons program?” Bush asked, in the very definition of a rhetorical question. This is one of those statements that it is impossible to disprove, so it sounds much more serious than reality.
But who could possibly prove the opposite? Iran “could” start such a program. Iran “might” be able to restart its program. Iran “could always renew” such a program. But what do these statements have to do with reality? The weasel words strike again!
We now know, in addition to the assurances and statements of Iran itself that it has no nuclear weapons program, in addition to the UN inspections which show no such program, that the U.S. intelligence community agrees — they have proved that there is no such program in existence.
That’s what weasel words do: they allow demagogues to assert something for which they have no proof, and yet leave no way to hold them accountable for definitive statements.
We could, with much more justification, say that Bush “might” be in the process of restarting a drive to war using phony, trumped up PR techniques, using fictitious claims and conditional phrases that imply more than they mean. Bush “could” be renewing his creation of an illusory foreign threat to pump up his plummeting approval ratings, lingering in the mid-20-percent range and declining. Who can prove this is not the case?
We know that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, we know that the words of their government on this match the reality, yet Bush needs to turn this positive into its exact opposite.
When reality disproves your policy, weasel out of it — that’s the Bush Doctrine.
Marc Brodine (marcbrodine @inlandnet.com) is chair of the Washington State Communist Party.