Monday, February 12, 2007

Standards of Evidence

After delaying it for reasons that spokespersons could not agree upon, the demonstration of the proof of Iran’s intervention in Iraq was finally trotted out yesterday. There were, in my observation and insofar as I have been able to obtain any reportage on this landmark event, a few shortcomings.

It was held in "The Green Zone" in Baghdad, which has not exactly achieved the reputation as being any kind of fountain of truth.

The three officials who presented the briefing insisted on remaining anonymous. All three of them had to conceal their identities so that the "explosives expert" could speak about the munitions that were being displayed. It was not clear to me why even the explosives expert had to remain anonymous, but not even any fairy tale explanation was offered as to why the other two could not identify themselves.

The report is filled with "officials said" and sadly lacking in phrases such as "officials demonstrated," "officials illustrated" or "officials proved." They lay out some PVC tubes with markings on them and tell reporters a) they are deadly weapons which b) came from Iran and c) were given to Iraqi insurgents by Iran. There was also on display tailfins from exploded mortars which reportedly came from Iran and were given to Iraqi insurgents by Iran, with no actual proof offered other than that the briefing official said so.

a) Notably, they did not disassemble these deadly weapons and show the parts or demonstrate that they actually had anything inside them as was being described. The reporters were required to take the briefer’s word that the PVC tubes were, in fact, the deadly devices he was describing.

b) As proof that these devices came from Iran the briefer said that they contained parts which had sophisticated machining which had to have been done in Iran because, he said, they had no evidence that it had ever been done in Iraq. First, Iraq is a rather large place, so does your lack of evidence really prove that it could not have been done in Iraq? At one point the US thought that Iraq was capable of making nuclear bombs, now we are convinced that that lack the capability for some rather basic machining. Even if it was not done in Iraq, how does that prove it was done in Iran? It could have been done in, say Germany. Not that I think it was, but the offer of “proof” is absurd.

c) If they originate in Iran (actually a bit dubious) and they are presently located in Iraq, then Iran gave them to Iraq. Actually that's what's called a non sequitur, as it is by no means the only explanation. Hezbollah has arms that came from Iran and might very well give or sell them to the insurgents in Iraq. Or an arms broker bought them….

The whole thing is, at best, flimsy. To say that I am not sold would be one of the great understatements of all times, and that does not even address the issue of why Iran would give or sell weaponry to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq who we claim to be our enemy there. They might well give them to their Shia brethren, but the Shia are supposedly who we are supporting.

I like to read British media, since they tend to be less "snowed" by the output of our government’s propaganda machine than the American press. If you think that I was unimpressed by the latest dog and pony show, read what the Independent thought about it here.

I’m not sure what our government and our military is up to in Iraq, and that is really the point. I should be sure, not as to specific movements or tactics, but as to goals.

The briefings that are being given in the Green Zone are looking more and more like the briefings that were given in Saigon during Viet Nam. Those briefings were not given for the purpose of informing the press and the public, they were propaganda for the purpose of prolonging the war and for concealing actions of our military, the damage that was being done to that misbegotten country and its people and the actual losses that were being incurred by our armed forces, how many men (only men were in combat then, men and women today) were dying and being maimed.

More evidence of Viet Nam redux.

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