Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In Defense of Hillary

Eric Naing, in his July 27 opinion piece in the Daily Illini, is to be congratulated on his 20-10 hindsight.

I may just be some punk, college kid but in 2002, I was smarter than a senator. When asked about her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton responded, "If we knew then what we know now, there wouldn't have been a vote." But as Clinton would like you to forget, there was ample evidence available in 2002 showing that the Iraq invasion would be based on false premises.
Let's take his points in order. But I must note that the President didn't need Senate authorization to invade Iraq. Congress holds the authority to declare war, but the President can order troops to engage in hostilities without a formal declaration of war. It's a lot wiser for him to get Congressional approval up front for a number of reasons including political fallout for war gone unpopular, of which Iraq, you'll agree, is a splendid example.

Mr. Naing quotes Senator Clinton as saying 'that Saddam Hussein was working to "rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program."' Then he cites experts who said Iraq didn't have any, or that there was no proof of such. But working to rebuild something and having it are two very different things. For example, a student is working on a college degree, but does not have one yet.

Everyone (everyone) believed that Saddam wanted WMDs even if he didn't have them already. He had shown over the course of his many years in dictatorial power that he was willing to employ any tactic or use any weapon he had to achieve his ends. It is foolish to wait to be attacked.

That Saddam Hussein was giving "aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members" is again not the same as linking Saddam with al-Qaida. Saddam was giving cash payments of about $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. That alone is enough support for the Senator to make the statement she did. And it was enough all by itself to justify the invasion of Iraq.

And since the Senator did not read the NIE text, but only a summary, Mr. Naing charges her with believing bad advice. How do we know that her conclusions or actions on those conclusions would have been any different had she read the whole eye-glazing thing? Perhaps she would have been even more convinced of the danger posed by Saddam, discounting the State and Energy conclusions just as her advisers did. The only evidence Mr. Naing gives that her conclusion would have changed is that he believes it to be so.

So he twice used the Straw Man fallacy, arguing against a position his opponent did not take, and then circularly assumed conclusion by assertion.

But he compounds those errors by concluding that not only has he defeated those arguments for authorizing the war, but that since he did, there are no other arguments to be made. That he, and many others, concluded that there was no proper justification for the war is irrelevant to the Senator's position, for he could have arrived at his position by rolling dice.

If you readers who are students learn nothing else in college, please learn this: the popularity of a proposition is not an indication of its truth or falsehood.

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