Fallacies of Distraction

The rationale used by the Bush administration to invade Iraq was based on fallacies of distraction. The two main ones used were the false dilemma and the argument from ignorance. The precautionary principle says that lack of evidence is no reason for not taking action. That’s a triple-negative that effectively says action without evidence is justified.

Congressman Linder,

Since Georgia senators Chambliss and Isakson, along with Georgia Congressmen Gingrey and Kingston are probably too busy challenging the alleged receipt of campaign money from Jack Abramoff, would you please screw up your courage and publicly call for the impeachment of the President and Vice President?

The four lies/distortions in the Bill Straub Capitol Hill Blue article below should be enough. They were told by Bush and Cheney after being known to be incorrect.

The rationale used by the Bush administration to invade Iraq was based on fallacies of distraction. The two main ones used were the false dilemma and the argument from ignorance.

    False Dilemma

    Definition: A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the “or” operator. Putting issues or opinions into “black or white” terms is a common instance of this fallacy.
    (i) Either you’re for me or against me. (Bush used this to great effect)
    (ii) America: love it or leave it. (Radio neo-cons & bloggers use this all the time)
    (iii) Either support Meech Lake or Quebec will separate.
    (iv) Every person is either wholly good or wholly evil.

    Argument from Ignorance

    Definition: Arguments of this form assume that since something has not been proven false, it is therefore true. Conversely, such an argument may assume that since something has not been proven true, it is therefore false. This is a special case of a false dilemma, since it assumes that all propositions must either be known to be true or known to be false.
    (i) Since you cannot prove that ghosts do not exist, they must exist.
    (ii) Since scientists cannot prove that global warming will occur, it probably won’t.
    (iii) Fred said that he is smarter than Jill, but he didn’t prove it, so it must be false

This is the fallacy that drives the War on Terror. The politician’s role now looks into the future to imagine the worst that might happen and then acts ahead of time to prevent it. This strategy was developed by the Green movement. It is called the “precautionary principle.” This principle shapes our government policy in the war on terror. Individuals were detained in high-security prisons, not for any crimes they had committed, but because the politicians believed—or imagined—that they might commit an atrocity in the future, even though there was no evidence they intended to do this. Our government is operating without evidence or cherry picking the evidence they want to use.

Bill Durodie, Dir, International Centre for Security Analysis, Kings College:

In essence, the precautionary principle says that not having the evidence that something might be a problem is not a reason for not taking action as if it were a problem. That’s a very famous triple-negative phrase that effectively says that action without evidence is justified. It requires imagining what the worst might be and applying that imagination upon the worst evidence that currently exists.

Would Al Qaeda buy weapons of mass destruction if they could? Certainly. Does it have the financial resources? Probably. Would it use such weapons? Definitely.


But once you start imagining what could happen, then—then there’s no limit. What if they had access to it? What if they could effectively deploy it? What if we weren’t prepared? What it is is a shift from the scientific, ‘what is” evidence-based decision making to this speculative, imaginary, ‘what if’-based, worst case scenario.

John Ashcroft, former US Attorney General:

We had to make a shift in the way we thought about things, so being reactive, waiting for a crime to be committed, or waiting for there to be evidence of the commission of a crime didn’t seem to us to be an appropriate way to protect the American people.

David Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University:

Under the preventive paradigm, instead of holding people accountable for what you can prove that they have done in the past, you lock them up based on what you think or speculate they might do in the future. And how—how can a person who’s locked up based on what you think they might do in the future disprove your speculation? It’s impossible, and so what ends up happening is the government short-circuits all the processes that are designed to distinguish the innocent from the guilty because they simply don’t fit this mode of locking people up for what they might do in the future.

David Johnston, Intelligence Specialist, New York Times:

How will we ever know when it’s over? How will we ever know when the threat is gone? In the mindset we are now in, once we declare it to be over will be exactly the time that we believe that they will strike.

Do you think it is appropriate to hold people accountable when they use deadly force? Is it appropriate for society to know if a particular case of deadly force was justified or not? If one neighbor kills another neighbor, I would want to know the shooting was justified. I think this is important for those of us that live that neighborhood.

I refuse to believe that the U.S. Congress is an advocate of using deadly force without weighing such deadly force on the blind scales of justice. This is what needs to happen now.

Was Bush’s decision to invade Iraq justified? The evidence points toward an unjustified invasion.
Based on the evidence of 95 years of American interventionist foreign policy and the resultant blowback, our central government continues to make our world more dangerous. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Washington creates more problems that it solves.


Wes Alexander

Senators Chambliss & Isakson,
Congressmen Gringrey & Kingston,
Other Members of Congress,
Governor Perdue,

From Capitol Hill Blue
Bush’s misleading statements on Iraq
posted on line Nov 27, 2005, 02:31

President Bush is engaged in an increasingly bitter exchange with critics who maintain the White House intentionally misled the public to generate support for the war in Iraq.

Evidently most people seem to believe those claims — 64 percent of those questioned in the most recent Harris Interactive Poll believe the administration “generally misleads the public on current issues.”

The administration has acknowledged that the intelligence used to advance the argument that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was faulty. But critics say their claims that Bush is providing misleading data is based on other declarations:

— On Oct. 7, 2002, during a major speech in Cincinnati, the president said Iraq was involved in training al Qaeda members to make bombs and providing advice on the use of poisons and deadly gases. It subsequently was learned through declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents that the sole source for that claim, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a top al Qaeda operative, “was intentionally misleading the debriefers” when he offered that information. That report was issued in February 2002–long before Bush included the allegation in his speech.

— In that same Cincinnati presentation, the president said Iraq maintained a “growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles” that could be used in missions targeting the United States. But the U.S. Air Force, in a National Intelligence Estimate released to the White House just before Bush’s appearance, declared that Iraq was developing the UAVs “primarily for reconnaissance rather than delivery platforms.”

— In his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union address, Bush cited intelligence sources when he declared Iraq “attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons.” Three months earlier, the Office of Intelligence within the Department of Energy determined that the aluminum tubes were not intended for Iraq’s nuclear program.

— Vice President Cheney, during a Dec. 9, 2001, appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said it was “pretty well confirmed” that Mohammed Atta, the ring-leader of the 9/11 hijackers, met with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi government official, in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 8, 2001, providing evidence of a link between the terrorist group and the Baghdad government. Neither the CIA nor the FBI believes Atta left the United States that April.

Then there is the “yellow cake” controversy. In that 2003 State of the Union address, Bush noted the British government “has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Before the speech, the CIA warned the administration on three different occasions that the claim shouldn’t be cited because it could not be confirmed. The State Department, in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, declared that the uranium claim was “highly dubious.”

That open question led to the decision to send Ambassador Joseph Wilson to the Sudan to determine the veracity of the claim. Wilson reported it was unlikely that Iraq had made any purchase and subsequently wrote a piece for The New York Times criticizing the administration for continuing to circulate the claim.

In an apparent effort to discredit Wilson, it was revealed that his wife, Valerie, was a CIA agent. A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the matter, leading to the indictment of Cheney’s now-former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice.