Bruce Larkin’s Blog


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Name: Bruce Larkin
Location: Co. Cork, Ireland

I’m Professor Emeritus of Politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where I’ve taught since 1965. Fall 2007 courses: “War”and “Security, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation.” I’m also Convenor of the Global Collaborative on Denuclearization Design. For more, see résumé at


Wednesday, November 23, 2005


In November 2005 the GW Bush White House, mired in Iraq, scarred by declining approval ratings, and facing newly intense charges from Democratic critics that it had misled America into the Iraq War, resolved to launch a counter-campaign charging its critics with dishonesty and worse. In salvo after salvo, its cannoneers insisted that the critics themselves were ‘dishonest’, ‘reprehensible’, trading in ‘lies’. The breadth and recurrence of the Administration’s charges remind us of GW Bush’s declaration, in May 2005, that “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” [Note 1] But it is unlikely mere repetition can rescue this White House from the record.

‘Dick’ Cheney offered a refined version of GW Bush’s Veterans’ Day charge that “Some democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.” [Note 2] Cheney told the American Enterprise Institute on 21 November 2005 that

'What is not legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible, is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence. . . .

“ . . . any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false.” [Note 3]

This is not a casual phrasing.

Note how narrowly drawn is his denial: ‘purposely misled’ [inserting an issue of intent, which only the suspected liar can know for sure], but even more importantly ‘on prewar intelligence’.

Cheney and Bush misled on many factual matters: WMD, Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, quality of IAEA and UNMOVIC inspections, and the necessity to go to war.

Moreover, it is a reasonable inference that they ‘purposely misled’ the American people about both their intent to war against Iraq and their reasons for doing so.

They ‘misled’ by suggesting they wanted authorization to war only as a last resort, when it is a reasonable reading of their actions that they were bent on war no matter what. And that deceit was ‘on purpose’. [Remember: they could not persuade the UN Security Council of the need for war, and they deliberately disrupted the ongoing IAEA and UNMOVIC inspections, which were not finished.] They ‘misled’ by failing to explain clearly the broader geostrategic objectives which they sought, including long-term US military basing and development of a client Iraqi government. They have not explained a connection many suspect: the intimate parallels between their choices and the objectives of Israel’s Likud.

They ‘misled’ by repeatedly talking of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as if their claims were about nuclear weapons (‘mushroom cloud’), when on the most generous understanding they might have referred to chemical and biological weapons, nasty and dangerous but not strategically significant. They could have made that distinction clear, as many specialists have: they did not do so.

On other reasons to go to war, the White House certainly ‘purposely misled’ about the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection: there was never any information, nor any ‘intelligence’, to show a significant connection. It was pure fear-mongering. Cheney was foremost in that, and so he ‘purposely misled’. And there are the reasons never, or rarely, acknowledged. Recall Paul Wolfowitz saying that WMD was brought forward as the reason because it was the one thing agencies within the US Government could agree on: that is, no agency representative was prepared to take the burden for saying there was no WMD threat, lest the agency be proven wrong.

But the most compelling deceit, and the most incontestable, was their deliberate concealment of ignorance. They ‘purposely misled’ the American people by never telling them—not the public, not the Congress—that they did not have positive, corroborated, convincing intelligence from proven sources to support their contentions about WMD and Iraqi intentions. No agency—not the DIA, not the CIA, not the NSA—claimed to have ‘intelligence’ which met that standard. But that’s the minimum standard which must be met to go to war. Cheney and Bush knew—knew—that they had no such evidence. And yet they claimed the need to launch a war. They ‘purposely misled’ the public and the Congress about what they did not know.

So we might paraphrase ‘Dick’ Cheney’s denial. It would run something like this. “We may have inadvertently misled the American people. But we didn’t mean to. Anyway, only we know what was in our minds, so if we say it wasn’t ‘on purpose’ you just have to accept that. But this is really about ‘prewar intelligence.’ The intelligence reports which we made public were authored by the agencies; we said so; we simply told the American people what we’d been told; we never lied about that.” Does that help explain why his denial is so narrowly drawn?

[Note 1]: GW Bush, remarks on social security at the Greece Athena Middle and High School, Greece, New York, 24 May 2005, cited by Frank Rich, The New York Times, 19 June 2005.

[Note 2]: GW Bush, remarks on Veterans' Day, Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, 11 November 2005.

[Note 3]: Vice President ‘Dick’ Cheney, Speech to the American Enterprise Institute, 21 November 2005.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

❄ Context is All!   

The following text was constructed by selecting observations from an otherwise lacklustre public speech. Most of the original has been omitted, leaving this residue as a biting critique of the policies and practices of the White House. By the way, who was this trenchant critic of the current Administration? The text, with omissions marked ... , and some added highlighting:

Thank you all very much. ... We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it ... [They are] utterly committed. ... [T]he civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history ... consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously—and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply. ...

The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution. ...

... they have endless ambitions of imperial domination,—and they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves. ... By fearing freedom—by distrusting human creativity and punishing change and limiting the contributions of half a population—this ideology undermines the very qualities that make human progress possible, and human societies successful. ... The rest of their grim vision is defined by a warped image of the past—a declaration of war on the idea of progress itself. ... Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation and decline and collapse. Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future. ...

[O]ur debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. ...

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision—and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. ...

[W]e do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

[Source: GW Bush, remarks at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, 11 November 2005.]


Friday, November 11, 2005

❄ “We’re an Empire Now ... ”  

I don’t want to lose track of Ron Suskind’s report of a summer 2002 conversation with a “senior adviser to Bush”. It’s reported by Suskind in a 17 October 2004 New York Times Magazine article titled “Without a Doubt” [highlighting added]:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’  ”

[Source: The New York Times, 17 October 2004.]


Sunday, November 06, 2005


“Truth of the matter is,” GW Bush told reporters while visiting Argentina, “there’s people who disagree with the decisions I’ve made all over the world.”

[Source: The New York Times, 5 November 2005.]

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