Updated – NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: How to spot bullshit

The article linked to below has been updated. The White House has now issued a flat denial of the earlier JP report.

‘Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term’

US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran in the upcoming months, before the end of his term, Army Radio quoted a senior official in Jerusalem as saying Tuesday.

The official claimed that a senior member of the president’s entourage, which concluded a trip to Israel last week, said during a closed meeting that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action was called for.

However, the official continued, “the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice” was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic, for the time being.

The report stated that according to assessments in Israel, recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.

Bush, the officials said, opined that Hizbullah’s show of strength was evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s growing influence. They said that according to Bush, “the disease must be treated – not its symptoms.”

In an address to the Knesset during his visit here last week, Bush said that “the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages.”

“America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions,” Bush said. “Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — This article requires careful reading. Here’s why I’d say it’s bullshit:

1. The headline. The statement is in quotes but the “quote” gets paraphrased in the article. If you’ve got a killer quote – even one from a nameless senior official – you don’t turn it into a paraphrase.

2. Straight after leading with the quoteless quote, the article pushes back by saying that Bush and Cheney are of “the opinion that military action is called for.” Being of the opinion its called for is not the same as saying its going to happen.

3. Is Ed Gillespie (or whoever this senior member of Bush’s entourage was) really going to say to the Israelis, “Bush and Cheney want to attack, but right now their hands are tied by Rice and Gates”? If that was the case, it sounds more like someone saying, “You know, we really want to help you, but we can’t.” More likely, the statement took a form something like this: “President Bush and Vice President Cheney are fully aware that military action may be called for before they leave office, but right now there’s a lot of debate going on between the White House and State and Defense on whether this is the right time to move ahead.”

4. When Bush stands up in front of the Knesset and says, “the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he’s making it pretty clear that the US is not going to act unilaterally.

5. When Bush spoke directly to the Jerusalem Post a few days ago, he told them that “before leaving office he wants a structure in place for dealing with Iran.” That does not sound like a coded way of saying the US is going to attack Iran. It sounds very much like he saying that he’s going to make sure that the next president is hemmed in by the policies that the Bush administration has set.

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2 thoughts on “Updated – NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: How to spot bullshit

  1. pontificant

    okay on points 1 thru 3.

    but 4 and 5 do not convince me.

    I agree the article does not have anything to add to what we all already have know, but I remain wary…

  2. Paul Woodward

    Let’s suppose Bush and Cheney are really serious about attacking Iran. Do you think they’d want to give the Iranians a heads up by getting the word out through the Israeli press?

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