The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
Ever since I was a kid I loved “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” Every line is exquisite but the one that resonates with me most is:
Men Who Mean . . . Just What They Say
The sound and rhythm that slowly intensifies throughout the song is sheer perfection. That one could convey such a captivating story of triumph, tragedy, and tradition in 2 minutes and 26 seconds is a hallmark of magnificence. I’ve never heard another song that so personified honor.
I’d like to think that bravery in battle would be worthy of intellectual courage from our keyboards.
DRAMATIZATION BASED ON EMAIL EXCHANGES (All of his words are verbatim and mine are summarized arguments of what I wrote in those emails).
FRIEND IN THE SPECIAL FORCES: You can’t believe everything you read!
RICHARD W. MEMMER: So, your point is — since you can’t believe everything — why bother reading anything?
FRIEND IN THE SPECIAL FORCES: It wouldn’t matter to you if I told you that I met the Secretary of Defense.
RICHARD W. MEMMER: If the issue were a borderline call, vouching for someone might be warranted, but that alone doesn’t trump the overwhelming evidence that counters your claim.
FRIEND IN THE SPECIAL FORCES: But I have a security clearance. I know things that you don’t.
RICHARD W. MEMMER: Tactical military clearance has no bearing on the ORIGIN of the intel. Your well-intentioned motive to stand by your leaders is understandable — to doubt the intel is to question the cause.
But as John Adams said in his closing argument in defending the British involved in the Boston Massacre: “Facts are stubborn things — and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Before I proceed any further — let’s review the wisdom of The Deer Hunter. As I wrote in “The Rest Of The Story”: This 5-second scene is the essence of arguing on the merits — which means to stay true to the topic at hand:
When I was visiting him around that time — a mutual friend from high school was there and we all went out to dinner. The topic of Iraq came up and my Special Forces friend made his points with his usual pleasantness (there’s no bluster in that guy and there never has been).
Nevertheless, there was an attitude of “I know you something you don’t — but I can’t tell you what it is.” He even hinted as much by saying, “How do you know we didn’t find any WMDs?”
I’ll address what they “found” momentarily — but here we go again, brazenly breaking the rule of:
This is this! This ain’t somethin’ else, THIS IS THIS!
Purely on the math alone — Colin Powell’s case to the UN revolved around 3 WMD claims
Defenders of the Indefensible invariably ignore #2 and #3 and distort the hell out of #1:
That you even think that something so complex and convoluted could be explained away so easily — is a monumental problem all by itself . . .
Does this sound like an arsenal of chemical weapons from an active WMD program to you?
- Remnants from Iraq’s arms program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war
- All had been manufactured before 1991
- Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all
- Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin
- Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area
- Many chemical weapons incidents clustered around the ruins of the Muthanna State Establishment, the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s
The administration had its hands on 60,000 tubes — and yet not one of them was presented by Powell at the U.N. According to HUBRIS, they scrapped the idea of displaying a tube — since Powell would be holding up the one piece of evidence that was most in dispute.
As David Albright put it in a combined quote from Spinning the Tubes and HUBRIS:
If you want to stir up a war, then nuclear’s always the flagship. Everybody in the Middle East has chemical or biological weapons, and they’re not decisive. And so it’s really always the difference between some concern and a lot of concern.
The tubes were everything for the administration’s case. They were something tangible that they could point to. Without it, they had nothing!”
So yeah, technically my friend knew something I didn’t (until the New York Times article exposed it years later) — but it’s MEANINGLESS in the context of Colin Powell’s case.
So that something is still nothing!
And here’s another ploy of the apologist: As if the concept of context is alien to them, they’ll jump on that “nothing” bit and start telling me about how dangerous these shells are as IEDs.
That would be fine — if we were actually talking about THAT!
It wouldn’t matter to you if I told you that I met the Secretary of Defense.
That’s right — because it has no bearing on anything — it’s just name-dropping, as if sounding important equates to importance.
Moreover, since Rumsfeld was at the center of the deception — it’s all the more absurd that anyone would suggest that meeting him actually matters.
If I were in the shoes of my Special Forces friend — I’m sure I’d wanna believe in the mission too. After all, even in my job in IT — I care a great deal about my work and I want it to matter.
But no lives are on the line in my field . . .
So I don’t feel the same frustration with this guy as I do with others (especially because he’s not a hack and he carries himself with grace).
As much as the story focuses on the Green Beret — The Death of Expertise quote below applies much more to the mutual friend who was with us. A good guy and smart too boot — but when you combine his politics and closeness to our friend (adding in the military element — Special Forces, no less) — in his mind he has ample ammunition to put down any force that advances on his convictions.
After all — of course the guy “who’s been to Iraq” is gonna know what’s what.
And why? “Because!”
Again with the “all-knowing” games these people play — where qualifications are not even remotely considered in their conclusions.
From the documentary
ROBB-SILBERMAN REPORT: C.I.A’s WINPAC sought the assistance of a contractor to perform spin tests on the tubes in order to determine if they were strong enough to withstand the extremely high speeds at which rotors must spin. The initial test performed was reported to have successfully spun a tube at 60,000 revolutions per minute.
The N.I.E. explained that the test results provided only a rough indication that the tubes were suitable as centrifuge rotors — and that future tests would be performed at higher speeds.
RICHARD W. MEMMER: The Department of Energy’s standard is to spin a tube at 20% above 90,000 RPM before failure — so 48,000 short is a pretty loose definition of “rough indication.”
And since the entire point of testing should be to replicate the conditions of centrifuges, one would think that the full-blown testing would be performed before the N.I.E. was completed. Out of 31 tubes in subsequent testing, only one was successfully spun to 90,000 RPM for 65 minutes — which the C.I.A. seized on as evidence in their favor.
One DOE analyst offered a superb analogy of that contorted conclusion: “Running your car up to 6,500 RPM briefly does not prove that you can run your car at 6,500 RPM cross country. It just doesn’t. Your car’s not going to make it.”
In an industry where fractions of a millimeter matter, these guys were playing horseshoes with centrifuge physics.
Serving in Iraq is irrelevant to uranium enrichment — so unless you have specific knowledge that can speak to the above, and much, much more — you’re simply not qualified to debate the matter.
But in the Universe of the Unyielding — Opinions Are Established by Association Alone
So, give over-the-top deference to the troop and ridicule anyone who dares to do otherwise.
And what pearl of wisdom do we have for the guy who’s an expert on the subject matter?
You can’t believe everything you read — didn’t ya know?
When I compiled that catalog on Pink Floyd’s music — I did so out of curiosity, not in search of an “I told you so!” triumph. And when the numbers seemed to come out in my favor, I felt that while my sources from avid fans seemed solid — it’s not definitive enough to know for certain.
I took the accuracy of that spreadsheet more seriously than the dead certain do on invading Iraq on the most manufactured lie in modern history — with long-lasting repercussions that we’re already witnessing regularly.
When that New York Times article came out in Oct 2014 — the purveyors of poppycock (who were wrong on every single claim they made on Iraq) — were not fazed by their failures in the slightest. If they could have had a ticker tape parade of “I told you so!” confetti falling from the sky (shredded from their beloved New York Times, no less) — they would have been dancing in the streets.
Better yet — the paper would be from the very article they cite but undoubtedly didn’t read.
Principled, informed arguments are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy. Rather, I wrote this because I’m worried. We no longer have those principled and informed arguments. The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of “uninformed,” passed “misinformed” on the way down, and is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong.”
People don’t just believe dumb things; they actively resist further learning rather than let go of those beliefs. I was not alive in the Middle Ages, so I cannot say it is unprecedented, but within my living memory I’ve never seen anything like it
My poem’s not anti-war — it’s pro-thinking!
In 11 seconds this clip encapsulates what America has become