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August 23, 2005

A response to Sheehan

Dear Ms. Sheehan:

Michael Moore has posted a message from you, inexplicably dated "Thursday August 23", in which you intersperse snippets of an Associated Press article with responses thereto. First of all, Ms. Sheehan, let me congratulate you on learning the art of the fisk. Secondly, speaking as one of the sane Americans, the fact that you choose Michael Moore to be your mouthpiece says a lot about who you are.

It's very unlikely that the President, whom you insultingly address in the second person "George" frequently, will respond. Therefore, please allow me to respond on his behalf, and in the same fashion:

[Indented talicized text from Associated Press article]

[Indented normal text from Cindy Sheehan as posted on MichaelMoore.com]

Let me start off by noting that, as I write this, on MichaelMoore.com the hyperlink "Associated Press article" leads to a dead link on the Rapid City (SD) Journal. I'm not sure why you're leeching from a small-town newspaper that couldn't possibly be expected to handle the load from the world-famous MichaelMoore.com. I'm also not sure why, if you were going to spend a bunch of the Journal's money driving bandwidth that will have no interest in their advertisers, you wouldn't at least be nice enough to cite them. Updated link courtesy of MSNBC.

Now then, to business.

President Bush charged Tuesday that anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan who want troops brought home immediately do not represent the views of most U.S. military families and are "advocating a policy that would weaken the United States."

Bringing our troops home from the quagmire that he has gotten us into will be weakening the United States?

First off, calling it a "quagmire" is begging the question, but to answer the question: yes. Bringing troops home now from Iraq would unquestionably harm the United States. Badly. A lot more badly than leaving them in, and continuing to sustain the historically extremely low casualty rate we are enduring in Iraq.


Oh, go on, be honest with yourself. Just go ahead and address him as Chimpy McBushitler; you know you want to.

even if you pretend you didn't know that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction

Were Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Bill Clinton, and Jacques Chirac all pretending too?

and Iraq was not [sic] threat to the USA before you invaded--Americans know differently.

See, here's the cool thing about Americans. There are, like, lots of us, dig? We're all individuals. We don't really go for group politics. So yes, Americans know differently, if one can "know" an opinion. Americans also "know" the exact opposite. Whether or not most Americans "know" your overly-simplistic bumper-sticker slogan is questionable, but we do know that a plurality of Americans disapprove of you.

We have read the reports and the Downing Street Memos.

Is this the royal we? Because I'm not sure who you're referring to. Assuming the pronoun refers to the antecedent "Americans" is nonsensical, because very few Americans have read "the reports" (whatever those may be), and even fewer have read the Downing Street Memos. And that latter group itself comprises a tiny, tiny minority of the subset of Americans who are incensed by the Downing Street Memos. (By the way, you're supposed to call them the Downing Street Minutes now. I guess you didn't get the Memo.)

Yes, most of the people -- most of your fellow travellers, Cindy -- who are whining about the Downing Street Memos haven't even read the darned thing. They cite one single sentence fragment, "But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." They provide no context. They kind of omit the fact that pretty much everybody who's actually British who reads the sentence in context does not interpret the word "fixed" to mean what an American would think of when hearing it out of context.

I'll explain the Downing Street Memo for you and anybody else who's interested in more than a soundbite. Actually, I would start this by saying that I am going off the copy posted at downingstreetmemo.com (seeking the truth since May 13, 2005), but alas, it is most certainly a copy. Despite having big bold lettering at the top of the page saying THE ORIGINAL DOWNING STREET "MEMO" (PDF) (Plain Text) (Annotated) (why the scare quotes?), none of the four versions could possibly be the original. Obviously meeting minutes would not originate in HTML, plain text, or annotated versions, and the PDF version starts off with "The Secret Downing Street Memo", which again I doubt appeared in the original. So I cannot swear to its accuracy. I do note that minor discrepancies exist between downingstreetmemo.com's versions.

So let's talk about the Memo. It's the minutes of a meeting of the U.K cabinet. The meeting begins with an intelligence report concluding that the only way of removing Saddam Hussein from power would be "massive military action". Then someone named C, identified on downingstreetmemo.com as Sir Richard Dearlove, director of MI6, makes his report on meetings he held in Washington with unnamed military and diplomatic officals.

In the HTML version on downingstreetmemo.com, certain areas appear in red, or even red underlined. I guess the red stuff is supposed to be particularly incriminating, and the red underlined stuff is super triple dog-incriminating or something. In any case, C's report:

There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

That bit there in the damning underline is what most people who push the DSM know about it. Now let's look at the whole thing in context.

Washington was thinking, "Okay, military action is probably a go." Was that a surprise to anybody in July 23, 2002? To continue: "We have to get rid of Saddam. Let's start putting the assets together to do that, and also let's start thinking about how build a coalition."

Putting the assets together was the easy part, because military leaders are much more likely than heads of state to be competent. Building a coalition was a toughie. We had several ethical, legal, and self-interested reasons for taking out Hussein. How to get as many nations as possible on board? How to attempt to persuade the recalcitant French, the badly-confused Germans, the inscrutable Chinese?

I doubt they'd be persuaded by "Saddam is a very bad man who slaughters his own people." Heck, all of Europe sat idly by while Yugoslavia turned into a bloodbath until we roused our butts (and spent our dollars) to clean up the problem in their back yard. Also, the Sudanese would probably testify that human suffering rarely stirs the great nations of Europe to action.

What about "We want to install a democracy to serve as a beacon to the Muslim world?" Sacre bleu! You want to overthrow a sovereign nation just because you don't like its leader? You are so patronizing to the Muslims that you think they need a "beacon"? (As a matter of fact, yes, they do.)

He shot at American pilots? Don't make me laugh. He tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush? Yeah, that'll get the French right in their leaky aircraft carrier. He sheltered at least two major terrorists? Please. One of them was only linked to the Munich Olympics Massacre, and you think the Germans care about that?

We want to create a honeypot to drain the scarce resources of terrorist organizations by drawing their expenditures against the rock of the United States Armed Forces, rather than the soft underbellies of American cities? Somehow I doubt that'd sell. All of these are good reasons for going to war. None of them was likely to convince our fair-weather "allies".

No, it was decided that the best sales pitch would be on WMD. We had very tight evidence that he was, in fact, not playing according to the rules imposed on him by the ceasefire he signed. As it happens, the sales pitch didn't work, and the recalcitrant veto powers remained recalcitrant... not because they didn't believe that Saddam was working on WMDs (they all did), but because they were all receiving heavy bribes from Saddam in the form of Oil-for-Food kickbacks. We did, however, still manage to assemble a coalition of over 30 nations, the second-largest the world has seen.

Now, back to the meeting. Washington had decided to prepare for an anticipated invasion, and it was decided that the rationale most likely to move the recalcitrant veto powers to our side was WMDs. The Oil-for-Food program had not yet come under serious investigation and Washington had no way of knowing that no rationale would suffice. So the word went out: gather everything we have on WMDs. Shake the trees, find out what you can. We'll present the whole thing to the UN and see if anybody bites. The intelligence was being fixed around the policy. Get it?

Which also explains another paragraph the downingstreetmemo.com folks gave the royal red underline treatment to:

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

Apparently, Colin Powell isn't important enough to be highlighted in red. "The case was thin." Remember, we're not talking about the ethical reasons to go to war, we're not talking about the legal reasons to go to war, we're not even talking about the rational self-interest in going to war, we're talking about the case we're presenting to the United Nations. Also keep in mind that the author of those words (who appears nameless) Foreign Secretary is stating his opinion. He then states his reasons for his opinion: Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and three other nations had greater WMD capacity. The first of these reasons seems completely superfluous to a case that's being made on the strength of WMDs, and the second is an irrelevancy.

The Secretary advised, instead of going to the UN with evidence of WMDs, issue a secret ultimatum to Saddam: let the inspectors in, or else. Yeah, that would work. Quite possibly he'd have let the inspectors back in. And when he kicked the inspectors out again in a couple of years, what then? He also erroneously implies that the legal justification for the war wasn't rock solid.

His recommendation was rejected, and it's not hard to see why. Our game plan, in essence, was go to the UN and say, "Hussein's fiddling with WMDs again. We're going to stop him. You in?" Given that, it's irrelevant that North Korea, Libya, and Iran also have WMDs. We'll deal with them all when the time is right. "Deal with them", by the way, does not necessarily imply military action... in fact, we already have dealt with one of them. Libya suddenly announced the existence of its WMD program, then announced its intention to get rid of it, and to submit to unconditional inspections... eight months after the fall of Baghdad, but I'm sure it was just a coincidence.

And there you have it. The Truth about the Downing Street Minutes. But you don't care about the truth, do you Michael, er, sorry, I mean Cindy. Instead, you're a fan of the Big Lie technique I posted about earlier, where you and your followers endlessly chant "DSM. DSM. DSM." until it gets lost in the public awareness as a vague recollection of something very bad that Bush did.

To continue with the fisk:

We know you had to "fit the intelligence around the policy" of invading Iraq. I want to know what your real reasons were.

As I've said, there were so many ethical and legal reasons to take out Hussein that we have a wealth to choose from. I can't know what was in the President's mind. But to me, the most important one was the self-interested one: taking out Hussein will make the world (and the United States, and Iraq) a better place. There will be one fewer dictator, of course, but there may be so much more. There may be, for the first time, a real Arab democracy. This may encourage dissidents in other Arab nations, and may persuade some autocratic monarchs to contemplate a little "regime change" of their own. This could ensure that the wealth of the Middle East enriches the people, not a handful of aristocrats. And it goes without saying: enriched people rarely blow themselves up.

Now that is a noble undertaking. That, in fact, is a cause worth American blood and treasure, a cause worthy of the true greatness of this great nation. That's what your son died for, Mrs. Sheehan, and I wish you would stop running it down.

To continue:

In brief remarks outside the resort where he is vacationing, Bush gave no indication that he would change his mind and meet with Sheehan after he returns to his Texas ranch Wednesday evening. Sheehan lost a son in Iraq and has emerged as a harsh critic of the war.

I will be back in Crawford George: Even closer to you now in Camp Casey II. Why don't you channel some courage from my son and come down and face me. Face the truth. Your house of cards built on smoke and mirrors is crumbling and you know it.

Okay, I was going to save this for the end of the letter, but I have to get it out now. I saw "your" letter, "Mrs. Sheehan", posted on Democratic Underground with a timestamp of 8:08 PM, I believe Eastern time. I'm not sure when it was posted to MichaelMoore.com, but the AP story dates from today. Did you write all those eloquent words yourself, and so quickly? Or did you have a ghostwriter? Because if you did, I suspect he has a fondness for cheeseburgers. The rhetoric is awwwwwfully familiar. So, for that matter, is the painfully mixed metaphor.

Actually, come to think of it, so is the method of operation. Ever see "Roger and Me"? Are you working on "George and Me" for your next overly-hyped inaccurate crockumentary, Michael?

Sheehan has been maintaining a vigil outside Bush's ranch, a demonstration that has been joined by more and more other anti-war protesters.

Because I am not the only one in America who wants the answers, America wants the answers.

The Associated Press fails to note that your publicity stunt has also drawn the attention of about as many counter-protestors, telling you exactly where you can stick your simplistic rhetoric.

Bush said that two high-ranking member of his staff already met with her earlier this month and that he met with her last year.

I didn't go to Crawford to meet with Steven "Yellow cake uranium liar" Hadley or the other "high ranking" official they sent out. I went to meet with George. Does he get that yet? I did meet with him 10 weeks after his insane and arrogant Iraq war policies killed Casey and 9 weeks after I buried my oldest child. George: things are different between you and I now.

Yes, things are different: you've become a puppet of Michael Moore. Before that, you were able to be honest, to speak of the comfort the President gave you, to speak of your belief in his good faith. Now you've changed your story.

"I've met with a lot of families," Bush said. "She doesn't represent the view of a lot of families I have met with."

I never said I did.

But do you think every one of those families has the right to demand face time with the President, however often they want? If not, what makes you so special?

I want one answer:

No you don't. You want a publicity stunt. My guess is if the President is ever so insane as to grant you an audience, you'll deliberately shout in his face and generally be offensive, with a view to getting the Secret Service to drag you out to the clicking of cameras, so you can step right up to the mike and tell the world how the President had his goons drag you off simply for speaking THE TRUTH about the war.

What is the "noble cause" MY son died for. There are also dozens, if not hundreds of families from all over the country who want to know the same thing.

Why not thousands? There have been, after all, over 1,800 casualties in Iraq (I'd have the exact number if I bothered to check one of the ghoulish death clocks that you people have put up all over the Internet)... and yet the vast majority of them are not seeking for the noble cause which took their loved one. They already know.

On Iraq, Bush said that a democratic constitution "is going to be an important change in the broader Middle East." Reaching an accord on a constitution after years of dictatorship is not easy, Bush said.

A Democratic Constitution?

No, not a Democratic constitution (perish the thought!), a democratic constitution.

Is anyone else insulted that he thinks we are stupid and think that the Constitution they will form in Iraq will be democratic and insure equal rights to all citizens?

Is there anybody dumb enough to be influenced by the cheap propagandist's trick of phrasing a position as a negative rhetorical question? Is anyone else insulted that Michael thinks we're dumb enough to fall for it? Does anybody believe that Cindy Sheehan has a magical crystal ball that enables her to know what Iraq will look like when the dust settles? Is there anybody on the left who is not an incurable pessimist?

Does anyone else know what "democratic" means? It simply means majority rule. Not some high-minded, free-floating, pie in the sky ideal. It means 50 percent plus one. Up to 62% of Americans think our troops should be coming home soon. That is a majority, so why don't we force our employee, the president, to do what we want him to do?

Yes, you, those like you, and your allies in the media have succeeded in turning a majority of America against a noble cause, threatening its success. Hope you're proud. Should the mission fail due to your actions, I'm sure you'll be there to gloat.

Update: Corrected the attribution of the "case was thin" quote. Thanks, Laurianna.

August 23, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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How do we really know what military families feel? Has anyone seen a poll? The president may have met with many families, but those that choose to meet with him are more likely to support the war, so he has a biased sample. Most people shy away from conflict.

The Downing Street Memo:

While I did enjoy your creative rationale for why the WMD and terrorism facts were manipulated, if you read further in the memo there is reasoning lain out.
"The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD."

Unfortunately the part you did read, you misread. The author did not give his own opinion that "the case was thin". That and the advice in the paragraph belonged to the Foreign Secretary. The Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, and Prime Minister all have their own paragraphs summarizing what they spoke of in the meeting.

I also don't think the real reasons we attacked Iran had anything to do with WMD, and feel a bit insulted when I'm told they were as if I'm supposed to believe it against common sense. We were feeling rather impotent with it being almost two years since the WTC attack and having made no progress in seeking retribution. We needed to flex our muscles towards someone. "Shock and Awe" was to show the world our might not frighten Iraq, we took out their TV early; they couldn't see it.

North Korea was becoming a considerable threat at the time but they were difficult to physically attack. Iraq looked like a nice easy target we could just walk in and bully. We were wrong, oopsie.

I'm not saying it was a bad move, I'm just saying I don't like being lied to. I'm a big girl, I can handle the truth. Usually anyway ;)

Don't give her credit for the 62%. That hit before she came back on the scene, and she's done nothing to alter the polls either way, she's really a non factor. Even people that are anti-war know it was a year ago and the president already spoke to her once. The war still showed hope then, there was at least a purpose to point to. Now if a mother who lost a child recently after the war was deemed a "lost cause" joined her or started speaking up on her own, that might turn some heads. That could be seen as a needlessly wasted life.

Come to think of it, Sheehan's hurting her cause, she's crying wolf. If that woman does decide to speak up she might not be heard as loudly as she would have been.

Posted by: Laurianna | Aug 24, 2005 5:27:32 AM

>> "How do we really know what military families feel? Has anyone seen a poll?

Rasmussen Reports (August 19, 2005)

Among those with family members who have served in the military, Sheehan is viewed favorably by 31% and unfavorably by 48%. [Another 21% are indifferent, cool, or lukewarm at best].

CNN's exit poll for Election 2004

About 18% of the voters had served in the military; Bush got 57% of their votes.

Also, the servicemembers are letting their actions speak for them. The Department of Defense has reported that re-enlistment is above average this year. For example, the Army will get 4,000 over expectations. The other branches reportedly have a surplus of applicants. About 35% of re-enlistments are from combat zones. Another telling data point is that dessertions (always low) have dropped by a third since 2003 and the trend is continued decline.

See StrategyPage for further details


>> "The president may have met with many families, but those that choose to meet with him are more likely to support the war, so he has a biased sample. Most people shy away from conflict."

Maybe, but it appears that President Bush has met with more grieving parents than any previous wartime president. He has spent time with 900 family members of almost 300 fallen troops since January 2002-- in addition to visiting hospitals and such. It is very doubtful that all of these folks would be of a single mind.

Accounts do tell of highly emotional encounters, and not have been free of conflict. The President seems to have acquitted himself very well.

Remember, he did meet with Ms Sheehan and family in June 2004. And a year later she had the opportunity to sit and discuss her concerns with two close advisers to the President: National security adviser Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Hagin. That took place on the day she first arrived in Crawford, 6-Aug-2005. It is not clear what entitled Ms Sheehan to more attention than other families.

See Reuters:

Here's more from the Rasmussen poll:

"In general, people see in Sheehan what they want to see. Opinion about her is largely based upon views of the War, rather than views about the woman herself. Democrats, by a 56% to 18% margin, have a favorable opinion. Republicans, by a 64% to 16% margin, have an unfavorable view. Those not affiliated with either major party are evenly divided."

"People who think we should withdraw troops from Iraq now have a positive opinion of Sheehan (59% favorable, 12% unfavorable). Those who do not think we should withdraw troops at this time have a negative view (15% favorable , 64% unfavorable)."

And some additional commentary from John Hinderaker at Powerline

"By a 38% to 35% plurality, Americans disapprove of Cindy Sheehan. And that's what they're willing to say to pollsters! Plus, those figures are based mostly on the initial, totally positive media coverage of Sheehan. As time goes by, and people learn more about Sheehan--e.g., her anti-Americanism, and the fact that she was so fervently anti-war BEFORE her son enlisted...."


Ms Sheehan did not lose a "child". Casey was a mature adult who served his country in a noble cause. Ms Sheehan has her opinion about that cause and about her adult son's service, but she does not speak for her son. His purposeful actions in uniform tell a very simple, but empowering, story about this country's fight against the enemy. Unfortunately, Ms Sheehan can not seem to acknowledge that the enemy killed Casey.

See the Stars and Stripes:

"Like all eight soldiers killed that night - Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell of the 1st Armored Division was memorialized earlier - he was part of a quick response team that rushed out of Forward Operating Base Eagle to rescue a platoon pinned down by gunfire in Sadr City after what had been a routine patrol by four Humvees. [...] They were all about 25 years old, except for Chen, who was in his 30s, had become a U.S. citizen while in the Army and spoke five languages."

"The battle was one of the worst single losses for U.S. soldiers since the fall of Baghdad a year before. The firefight lasted into the early morning of Monday, wounding some 50 soldiers who went out in waves to put down the attack by a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Bradley fighting vehicles, tanks and air support finally put down the uprising, one of several in Iraq that day."

[Note: The battle for Sadr City was decisive and has been followed-up with political progress on the part of the Iraqi Provisional Government's own initiatives. Casey and his comrades gained room for the emergence of the democratic process.]

Capt. Brian O’Malley, a 1st Cav spokesman, said the soldiers killed were riding in lightly armored tactical trucks. That taught a brutal lesson, he said. “More armor. From now on, tanks and Bradleys will do rescues,” he added. [...] Cannon said he was trying not to second-guess things, to say “if-only.” But he couldn’t help it. “There were spaces in the Bradley … if they’d gotten in the Bradley. …,” he said.

Posted by: Chairm | Aug 26, 2005 3:02:34 AM

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