Friday, December 13, 2013

Are all American wars sold the same way?

I blogged previously about the circular argument made by Dick Cheney to garner support for the US invasion of Iraq. In that example, Vice-President Dick Cheney leaked information to the New York Times, and then cited the Times reporting as evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now we are seeing the current administration (particularly Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain) try to pull a similar scam. 

This time the story begins with an op-ed by Elizabeth O'Bagy published this week in the Wall Street Journal. The thrust of the op-ed was to argue that the rebel forces in Syria are not all allied with Islamic fundamentalists and that were they to gain power they would oppose those forces and support democracy in Syria. This op-ed was then quoted by Sen. McCain as part of a question directed to Sec. Kerry in an attempt to alleviate concerns that bombing the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad would inadvertently assist Al Qaeda:

Secretary Kerry then later endorsed that op-ed and recommended it to other members of Congress to help them make a decision about whether or not to support attacks on Syria.

What the Wall Street Journal, O'Bagy, Kerry, and McCain all neglected to mention (that is until some actual reporting from folks at The Daily Caller and the Huffington Post) was that O'Bagy is actually paid by the US Government to advocate on behalf of the Syrian rebels. As a result of this reporting, the Wall Street Journal has since added the following to the original op-ed by O'Bagy:
In addition to her role at the Institute for the Study of War, Ms. O'Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition.
To summarize, O'Bagy is paid by the US Government to provide aid to Syrian rebels. She then writes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal advocating for increased aid to the Syrian rebels. Agents of the US Government then cite her op-ed as part of their argument for increasing aid to the Syrian rebels (in this case by damaging the military capabilities of the Syrian government)! This is an excellent example of a Circular Argument in that the government is basically paying someone to advocate for policies. This advocacy is then cited as independent evidence of the wisdom of pursuing those policies. Once again everything moves in a giant circle, and those of us who paid attention during the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq are struck with the most disturbing sense of deja vu as we see the same tricks and lies used to sell that war trotted out just a decade later to try and sell America on another war.

UPDATE: It turns out that O'Bagy is also a liar. She doesn't have a PhD and has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War.

UPDATE II: Despite the lies and misinformation that she has spewed, Elizabeth O'Bagy (like many conservative commentators) keeps falling upwards. Though she was unsuccessful in getting the US to attack Syria, John McCain has recognized her valiant efforts on his behalf and has gone ahead and hired her as a legislative assistant. Apparently in conservative circles no bad deed goes unrewarded.

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