Todd Danielson: Letter made me angry
April 17, 2004
I was greatly amused by the letter from Kathryn Thaller, “Saddam’s WMD,” that appeared in the April 14 Steamboat Today. But the ending made me a little angry. I even wondered if the Today published this just because the newspaper knew it would get responses.
She closed the letter by saying, “We should not base our political opinions on one-minute sound bites put out by partisan groups or journalists. Our country needs informed voters who research both sides of an issue.”
Ms. Thaller, your entire letter was based on right-wing political opinions and sound bites from partisan journalists.
Let’s start with a “biggie” in the research department. You say, “shouldn’t we feel sorry for the almost 2,000 people who were killed Sept. 11, 2001.” We should feel sorry for them and their families, but there were almost 3,000 killed that day. The New York City medical examiner’s office and other confirmed sources reported 2,973 dead. You lose credibility when you’re off by one-third on an enormously important fact and then ask others to do research.
Then there’s the WMD logic test used in the letter. To sum up: Saddam used WMD at least 10 times. You can’t use it if you don’t have it, ergo, he has WMD. The problem is that the last time Saddam used WMD (biological and chemical weapons), as far as we know for certain, was during the Iran-Iraq war (and on his own Iraqi Kurds about the same time).
Since the first Gulf War, the United Nations, based on worldwide support, sent in the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) to track and wipe out Saddam’s stockpiles of WMD. The world also applied economic pressure on Iraq to make sure this was happening. But because Saddam was uncooperative, we were never able to tell for sure in 2002 that he did dismantle his weapons and weapons programs. But we didn’t know that he didn’t, either.
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But the logic test used would be similar to me saying, “Fifteen years ago, when I was 13, I threw Chinese Stars at a tree. Therefore, I must have Chinese Stars now.” Unfortunately, my mom made me throw them away, like UNSCOM, so I haven’t had them for a long, long time.
The last, but not least, problem with the letter is the Iraq/California analogy. This originally was proposed by “journalist” Brit Hume of Fox News, which is a “foot soldier” for the Bush administration. The “California Lie” has since been passed on only by conservative mouthpieces and not legitimate news organizations.
The gist of the lie is that Iraq is the size of California and that 550 people are murdered in California each year, so therefore it’s just as safe (or dangerous) in California as it is in Iraq because we already have lost about 600 soldiers there.
As Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post, however, “California has 34 million people, but there are 145,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq.”
Doing some quick math, this means that U.S. troops in Iraq were 66 times more likely to die than Californians were likely to be murdered. And if you add in the amount of Iraqis killed during the recent war, of which I’ve seen estimates ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 (variety of sources, none can be confirmed, but there were enough to say it’s a lot), the comparison to California is utterly ridiculous.
Just because conservative mouthpieces such as Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity say something, it doesn’t make it true. In fact, what they say usually isn’t true. It’s their job to keep repeating mistruths and misrepresentations until you hear them enough that people accept them as true.
Ms. Thaller, I know it’s difficult to speak opposing viewpoints, and I welcome an open dialogue. In this town, it’s always good to hear different ideas. But please don’t ask others to do research or not spout partisan rhetoric and then heavily do so yourself. There’s too much of that going on out there already.