June 13, 2005

The Odd Paranoia and Conspiracy Theories of Leftist Bloggers over the Iraq War

Conspiracy theories begin with a premise and then search for evidence of that premise. But as any C+ student of basic methodology can tell you, evidence does not equal proof. There is some evidence that the moon-landing was fake, yet such evidence is overwhelmed by masses of counter-evidence. At some point the evidence becomes such that any still believing in the conspiracy have gone beyond all rational discussion, are no longer involved in a search for the truth, and have become faith-based zealots believing in a premise that gives their lives meaning.

The Left's obsession with the Downing Street memo is a perfect example of a faith-based conspiracy theory in search of proof. This faith begins with the assumption that the war in Iraq could not have been for the stated reasons but rather that there is a hidden agenda to the Iraq conflict. From what I gather, the Left is divided over the specifics of this hidden agenda (the theories, though, usually center on some sort of Imperialistic grab for power in the Middle East, which will eventually lead to a US war against Syria and/or Iran) but they do agree that a conspiracy existed at the highest levels to lie to the American people as to the real reasons for going to war.

Via Duncan 'Atrios' Black this post by Digby is indicative of such conspiracy theories:

I honestly don't know why there is any question that the Downing St Memo is the most important historical document to emerge showing that Bush and company took us into Iraq on false pretenses. It's true that there have been many hints --- the biggest of which is that, uh, there weren't any f*cking WMD --- but this is clear proof that they lied prior to that....

It is a full-on game plan for obfuscation and "rolling out the product" that proves they knew that Iraq wasn't a threat. ....

They may never be able to admit all that. But in that it officially documents the fact that the administration knew there was no threat and knew there was no connection to terrorism, the Downing Street Memo gives the press the chance to ask, finally, why we really invaded Iraq.

Digby then goes on to offer a number of odd speculations as to the real reason we invaded Iraq.

Another part of this particular conspiracy theory is the notion that it's not enough that members of the Bush and Blair administration are involved but that leading news organizations, such as The New York Times, are also part of the plot to mislead the American people. For instance this post by Kevin Drum and this one by Nico over at Think Progress. Both begin with the premise that the conspiracy has objectively (I mean objectively in the epistemelogical sense, that is that the authors believe as an objective fact rather than as a matter of opinion this view) been proved in the Downing Street memo. Thus with the conspiracy proved, anything short of front-page coverage at The New York Times is evidence that the publication is part of the conspiracy.

The problem with Digby, Atrios , Nico, and Kevin Drum's assesment of the Downing Street memo is the same as with all conspiracy theories: they begin with the conspiracy premise, selectively use evidence, and disregard any evidence to the contrary. So, the Downing Street Memo is seen by these conpiracy theorists as 'the smoking gun' which 'proves' that Bush has ulterior motives for going to war.

Such thinking disregards hundreds if not thousands of statements, both public and private, that the reasons (there were multiple reasons, if you don't have amnesia) for going to war were exactly as stated. Further, such thinking disregards hundreds if not thousands of statements, both public and private, that the decision to go to war was not finally made until shortly before the invasion.

This does not mean that most people, President Bush and Tony Blair included, did not think that the invasion was not inevetable. To assume that Blair and Bush did not believe war was coming is to think that they were idiots. Of course they thought war was coming and were making the necessary arrangements. Duh, this is what governments do! A conspiracy theory about the real reasons for going to war is not needed to explain the Downing Street memo, as Michael Kinsley, to his credit, points out here:

But even on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It states that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant administration decision-makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.
The Downing Street memo might be used as evidence that the stated reasons for going to war were not the same as the real reasons for going to war. The same memo can also be used as evidence that our leaders weren't utter morons to believe that the UN could actually enforce it's will on Saddam Hussein.

Did the Bush and Blair administrations believe that a day of reckoning was coming with Saddam Hussein? All indications say yes. But so what? Plenty of times in history the same sort of writing has been on the wall. In June of 1941 did the Roosevelt administration believe a conflict would soon be coming between the U.S. and Japan? Of course it did! Sanctions were not working to get the Japanese out of China and there was a lot of saber rattling on both sides. But that is not proof that some sort of grand conspiracy existed to start a war with Japan. Did Lincoln believe that a war was coming between the North and the South? Yes! Fifty years of history all pointed to such a conflict. But that is not proof of some sort of grand conspiracy by Lincoln to start a war.

The Left's obsession with The Downing Street memo is not borderline paranoia, it is has become full on paranoia. The truth of the matter is that the paranoid obsession with the grand Bush conspiracy theory runs so deep among the Left today, that no amount of evidence to the contrary could make them disbelieve.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:24 PM | Comments |