Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 27, 2008
By: Hilzoy

Ben Smith puts the fact that 10% of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim in context:

"Large minorities of Americans consistently say they hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly alienated from one party or the other.

For instance:

22 percent believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

30 percent believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

23 percent believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.

18 percent believe the sun revolves around the Earth."

That last is pretty scary. I mean, there are certain things I just assume that everyone knows (except for Sherlock Holmes, who had his reasons.) The fact that the earth revolves round the sun is one of them. The idea that nearly one in five Americans does not know this is unnerving. I am not at all consoled by the fact that a few years before this poll was taken (in the 90s), only 74% of Germans and 67% of Britons got it right.

However, here's something even stranger: not only do 23% of Americans claim to have been in the presence of a ghost; five per cent think they have seen a monster in the closet. Unless their definition of "monster" includes, say, cockroaches, or they included small children in their survey sample, that's really strange.

Hilzoy 5:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (80)

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Comments

In evaluating the truth of the claim "the sun revolves around the earth," is one allowed to consider non-inertial reference frames?

Posted by: matt on May 27, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

"five per cent think they have seen a monster in the closet"

There you have it--the minimum percentage of Americans who are certifiably psychotic.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on May 27, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

The sun revolves around the earth BECAUSE Inkblot lives here on earth.

Regarding monsters - I don't know about ones in closets, but there were definitely some in my laundry room because Cleopatra, The Empress of The Universe, started refusing to use her box in that room when they showed up, unexpectedly last winter.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 27, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Quaker, I'm pretty sure I saw Lindsey Graham on tv. Does that make me psychotic?

Posted by: matt on May 27, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Great marketing opportunity. Once could make millions by selling these guys some crystals or stones that will supposedly make them rich if they just use them properly.

Posted by: gregor on May 27, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, that comment is evil on so many levels. You have won this thread before it has even started. Next topic.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 27, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

gregor

How about male enhancement products?

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 27, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I understand that poll taxes were used to disenfranchise poor minorities and that voter ID laws are intended to do the same thing, but it is statistics like those cited which give me pause in supporting those who lament the relatively small percentage of Americans who participate in our democracy. I think many of those responding that the sun orbits the earth could be convinced that when the state takes your picture, it steals your soul.

Posted by: terry on May 27, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think some appreciable fraction of Americans do not have firm grasp of the meaning of "revolves around", and so are likely to bobble that one, even if they know the facts.

(I base this on my experience tutoring non-reader middle school students through their math courses: precise wording confused them, so they simply didn't understand the wording of the story problems well enough to apply the math skills that they did, in fact, have.)

If the question were re-worded as "goes around", I think the perecentage getting it wrong would drop substantially.

Posted by: joel hanes on May 27, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I find the idea that 23% of folks believe that they've been in the presence of a ghost a lot less disturbing than the idea that 18 percent belive that the sun revolves around the earth. I've known people who believe they've seen a ghost. It's at least less provable than whether or not Obama is a Muslim, which he's covered approximately a million times.

Posted by: Wally on May 27, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

dope slap for terry - he's got the wrong thread.

Good call Ron.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 27, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

The ghost/monster one is somewhat out of place. All the rest can be disproved factually. Are there ghosts? Probably not. But good luck proving that. Of course, here are some some truly scary numbers:

30% of Americans think W is doing a good job.
60% of Americans think Jesus is magic.

Posted by: do on May 27, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is pretty scary--and is a monster under the bed:
Web search:
Results 1 - 10 of about 2,430,000 for Bush administration manipulation

Posted by: consider wisely on May 27, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

For thousands of years the Sun revolving aroung the earth was COMMEN SENSE.

Posted by: RobertSeattle on May 27, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary would be the stronger candidate with the "Sun goes around the earth" crowd.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 27, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

The 5% that think that there is a monster in the closet may only show that about 4% of the participants were jokers that got tired of answering questions.

Posted by: natural cynic on May 27, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

To Ron Byers : I have known quite a number of people, certifiably intelligent (as estimated by their level of studies or their success in business) believing in provably false things. This kind of lunatics are also more likelly to participate in elections than the average joe, because they are TRUE BELIEVERS. These people define "reality" because the average joe rarely care enough to fight against these people unless he is directly impacted.

Posted by: folbec on May 27, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

And then there are all those poor benighted folks who believe in American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, bringing democracy to the Middle East and last but not least there are those optimistic American motorists who appear every summer at the Canadian border in mid-July with skis strapped to the roof (along with the dog in Mitt's case).

Posted by: anon on May 27, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, you have a 50/50 shot of guessing whether the Earth goes around the sun or visa-versa. So how many of the 18% of people really think the sun goes around the Earth and how many were just guessing? Since half of the guessers got it right, the percentage of Americans who just don't know the Earth goes around the sun could be as high as 36%.

Posted by: Mark on May 27, 2008 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

anon,
Ah yes I remember the skis in July. But what is going to be the excuse now that global warming has set in? Water skis?

Posted by: optical weenie on May 27, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget, folks, half the people out there have an IQ under 100.

Posted by: sceptic on May 27, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Most people who believe in ghosts or monsters have had an experience that is real to them. No one has ever had such an experience with Sen. Obama's Islamism. Those ten percenters who believe Obama is a Moslem only say so because they oppose him politically. If Obama was not running for president, they would just say he is eloquent.

Posted by: Brojo on May 27, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Careful how you interpret that "revolves around the earth" question. First you need to make sure that the subject understands the meaning of the word "revolve", and the problem isn't that s/he's confused about the word and just guessing. I suspect that if you gave them two pictures, one of Ptolemy's system and one of Copernicus's, and ask people which one matches reality, that a lot fewer people would pick the earth-centered answer.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 27, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

well actually, the sun and earth revolve around their common center of gravity, complicated by the earth and moon doing the same thing and other massive objects, e.g. jupiter, messing with the rest of the system. I doubt this is what the minority meant though.

Posted by: supersaurus on May 27, 2008 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Glad to see the Saddam-WMD number down to 30. It's been higher in the recent past.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf on May 27, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Are they asking the people polled whether they think Obama is a black Muslim (like Malcolm X or Farrakhan) or a middle-Eastern muslim (like Osama bin Laden)? The finding is less strange in the light of Wright's ideas, if they are interpreting the question to mean the former instead of the latter.

Posted by: on May 27, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Bush DID know about the 9/11 attacks.

A memo landed on his desk saying "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US". He ignored it and went on vacation. The liberal blogosphere has been on this story for years.

The scary part is that only 22 percent of Americans are aware of this.

Posted by: tyronen on May 27, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention the whack-a-mole's trying to claim that Obama's the foretold anti-christ.

http://alterdestiny.blogspot.com/2008/05/45376235237th-time-someone-called.html

Posted by: Joshua Norton on May 27, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and one other thing -- in order for your post title to show up, you need to include it in the body text.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf on May 27, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

COMMON SENSE - oops.

Posted by: RobertSeattle on May 27, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

That 5% is just another confirmation of the magnitude of the crackpot factor. Really, it is pretty consistent that a pollster can get at least 5% of the respondents to agree to pretty much any proposition.

Posted by: Glenn on May 27, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

'When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly perposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.'
-- Dresden James

Posted by: consider wisely on May 27, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

sceptic: Let's not forget, folks, half the people out there have an IQ under 100.

In the future, everyone's intelligence will be above average.

You'd be amazed at the number of people who hear that assertion and just nod.

Posted by: thersites on May 27, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Those ten percenters who believe Obama is a Moslem only say so because they oppose him politically. If Obama was not running for president, they would just say he is eloquent.

I challenge your assertion that those ten percenters even know the word 'eloquent' - most would just assume it means 'gay'.

Posted by: kis on May 27, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

I always choose the most preposterous poll choice myself. Isn't that what people want? Isn't that why we listen to weather reports and traffic radio--to be horrified? Polls are no different. Who would read polls if they didn't show that 14% of third graders .were having sex with their teachers? 25% of college students think Canada and Mexico are part of the United States.

Posted by: Luther on May 27, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

But there really IS a monster in my closet. If I open the closet door, it will fall out all over the bedroom floor!

Posted by: bigTom on May 27, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

More than 100K people paid real dollars to buy Jonah Lucianne's book. That's scarier than anything on the list.

Posted by: gregor on May 27, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

16% of the population has an IQ below 85
2% has an IQ below 70.

I remember reading once that in a crowd of 40,000 people, you'll have ~1,000 felons, ~400 violent felons & ~40 people completely incapable of controlling their emotions.

Posted by: Adam on May 27, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention that upwards of 50% don't believe in evolution and do believe that the devil plays an active role in daily human affairs.

Posted by: Arne on May 27, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

"But there really IS a monster in my closet."

And under the bed. If you don't lie in the exact center, it will pull you under and eat you.

And hasn't everyone seen a ghost? Poltergeist wasn't a movie, it was a documentary.

Can't fool me.

Posted by: Joshua Norton on May 27, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Adam, I think your numbers are off. At least for a Raiders game.

Posted by: Tigershark on May 27, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

And a goodly percentage of American liberals believe that socialism is the wave of the future, completely unaware that Marx's theories worked only in his head, -MHR

So why is then, MHR, that the conservatives have embraced the neo-cons, basically followers of Trotsky and Marx?

And why is it MHR that Americas left does not talk about or study Marx? [cause hes irrelevent]

So, nice strawman you have there and I hope you enjoy arguing with it as the projection of your opinion does not match the reality of today.

Posted by: Jet on May 27, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

sceptic: Let's not forget, folks, half the people out there have an IQ under 100.

Well, IQ is somewhat of a misnomer as it really, I think, concerns ability and IQ tests only test a fraction of a humans 'ability' to do things.

Posted by: Jet on May 27, 2008 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

23% of Americans approve of Bush's job performance. Talk about delusional!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 27, 2008 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Jet, righters like MHR love to purvey straw-man extremities like liberals wanting socialism/Marxism, when we really want the sort of universal health care, decent safety net, need of corporations etc. to obey rules that most of the developed world (except for the US, because of people like MHR) now follows. The Republicanists would never be able to get support if they didn't use fallacious straw man arguments, for them it's not a misstep but their basic propaganda model.

2.

In the future, everyone's intelligence will be above average.

You'd be amazed at the number of people who hear that assertion and just nod.
Posted by: thersites

They likely mean the future intelligence compared to today's average: no logical problem but not guaranteed to happen either. BTW, did you know it is not at all necessary for 50% of the sample to be below and respectively above average? Consider the series 1,2,3,10: the average is 4, with 75% below average. (This is what income is like in the US AFAIK, with most earners below average.) It's the median which by definition is at the 50/50 sample mark. There's a lot of mischief which can be made there.

Finally, I have to keep retyping my Name and Email Address, and I didn't use to a few months ago. I use Firefox 2.x - anyone figure what happened and what to do?

Posted by: Neil B. on May 27, 2008 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

I would not be surprised if one in ten gave crap answers just being habitually contrarian or as attempted humour. Add to that those who do not really understand the question, you can safely assume that the truly irrational are far fewer than appears. I hope (and don't pray) some day, a belief in supreme being should also yield same general scorn.

Posted by: YY on May 27, 2008 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

People believe in the damnedest things.

A recent real life conversation between my wife and a neighbor:

Neighbor: “It’s too bad about Bill. His Doctor really gave him a crappy diagnosis.”

Mrs. Thripshaw : “Yes – sometimes you gotta get a second opinion and not just blindly follow your doctor’s diagnosis.”

Neighbor: “You’re right – especially since the doctors are controlled by the government, who are controlled by the lizard people.”

(chirp chirp)

Mrs. Thripshaw: “I best be going now.”

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on May 27, 2008 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

27% of voters in Illinois voted for Alan Keyes over Barak Obama.

Posted by: anandine on May 27, 2008 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, I have to keep retyping my Name and Email Address, and I didn't use to a few months ago. I use Firefox 2.x - anyone figure what happened and what to do? -Neil

Try clicking tools and then options on the Firefox browser and then make sure the 'remember what I enter in forms and the search bar' is checked.

Posted by: Jet on May 27, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, that 'remember what I type' is under the 'privacy' menu.

Tools>options>privacy

Posted by: Jet on May 27, 2008 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Nell: "Glad to see the Saddam-WMD number down to 30. It's been higher in the recent past."

I guess the reason 30% of us still believe that Iraqi had WMD is the NGIC Report, in which they documented that 500 of them were found. The fact that the sarin and mustard gas was degraded would be of small consolation if it were headed in your direction.

Posted by: Everett on May 27, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm! I think that sound I just heard was Karl Popper’s head exploding. Can you prove that these people didn’t see a ghost or meet a monster?

Posted by: Mitch Guthman on May 27, 2008 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

The population of Apppalachia is 10% of U.S.
The population of Mississippi is 10% of U.S.
Any questions?

Posted by: kamajii on May 27, 2008 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Sherlock Holmes was just pulling Watson's leg when he claimed not to know that the Earth revolves around the sun. In a later story Watson talks about how he and Holmes sometimes passed the time shooting the breeze about astronomy. I'm sure Holmes would have had a good clipping file about Obama including accurate data about his religion.

Posted by: Karl Weber on May 27, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Um, Everett, I musta missed the Bush administration's scary, sabre-rattling pronouncements about old, degraded sarin and mustard gas (much of which was supplied to Saddam by the Reagan administration -- you remember those days, when Rumsfeld was literally embracing the Iraqi dictator?).

I do, however, remember the Bush administration's terrormongering about mushroom clouds, nuclear weapons, uranium purchases, and the ability to hit the United States in 45 minutes.

Posted by: eparker on May 27, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

On the bright side, 8% of those who think the sun revolves around the earth DON"T think Obama is a Muslim.

Posted by: Edward M Baum on May 27, 2008 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Everett,

The fact that the sarin and mustard gas was degraded would actually be of great consolation to me since that would mean it couldn’t kill me unless the canister itself fell on me. Such things would not qualify as weapons of mass destruction, almost by definition.

The report which you cite is the declassified portion of a National Ground Intelligence Report which also acknowledges that only degraded chemical weapons have ever been found. The report (and other subsequent reports by the Survey Group, CIA and others) also make clear that Iraq's WMD program was essentially destroyed in 1991 and Saddam ended his nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq did not have either weapon stockpiles or active production capabilities at the time Bush launched his attack. There is every reason to believe that this fact was known to Bush and others in his administration at the time of the invasion.

It is true, however, that there were nuclear materials in Iraq at the time of the invasion. It is also true those dangerous nuclear materials might now be in the hands of dangerous terrorists seeking to kill Americans. But as Hans Blix pointed out the person responsible for the terrorists possible acquisition of this nuclear material was not Saddam Hussein but George W. Bush. Blix has said that prior to the invasion, “these things were under the IEA’s control in Iraq when the inspectors were there – all these things were tagged and they were visited by the inspectors. As part of our work in Iraq, we were monitoring that kind of material to ensure that is wasn't used for a nuclear weapons program. And in comes the United States with 200,000 people or more, and occupy the country in order, ostensibly, to take care of weapons of mass destruction. And they lose control and the instruments and equipment that could be used to be helpful in nuclear production, disappears”. Mission accomplished!

Posted by: Mitch Guthman on May 27, 2008 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Before you lose all faith in humanity, folks, just remember, you need to estimate:
1) the number of people who simply checked the wrong box or said the wrong thing out of carelessness.
2) the number of smartasses taking the test (e.g., non-inertial reference frames, answering every question "wrong" because they feel the test is beneath them)
3) the number of tactical responders (if I say I think that Saddam had WMD, it will be more likely repeated on TV)
4) the number of people who didn't take the question literally For example, suppose you were asked this question:
Have you ever...
- hit a baseball?
- gone swimming?
- seen a monster in your closet?

How many people might assume that the question wasn't literal, and would count imagining monsters as a child?

That said, clearly a substantial number of people are deluded about quite a number of things...

Posted by: David K on May 27, 2008 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

There's a monster in my pants, and it does a nasty dance.

Posted by: Fred Schneider on May 27, 2008 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Dan Dennett somewhere relates a story, told to him as true by a university zoologist who got a call from a guy in a bar.

Guy: "Can you settle a bet for me?"
Zoologist: "OK."
Guy: "Are rabbits birds?"
Zoologist: "No."
Guy: "Damn!"

Posted by: SqueakyRat on May 27, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Mitch,

My understanding is that degraded sarin and mustard gas would still kill -- just over a smaller radius.

In any case, the UN resolutions forbid Saddam from having all WMD's -- degraded or not.

Posted by: Everett on May 28, 2008 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

I have known quite a number of people, certifiably intelligent (as estimated by their level of studies or their success in business) believing in provably false things. folbec on May 27, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Who hasn't known such a person, or better yet, among those who are "certifiably intelligent" who isn't such a person? None of us know much of anything and all of us believe in something or other that is provably false. Figuring out when we have been fooled is part of the fun of living.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 28, 2008 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

SqueakyRat, that story almost makes me think the fellow was vaguely remembering the link between dinosaurs and birds and got the species wrong.

Of course, if one was talking about the relative intelligence of both species, I can readily see a linkage bird == rabbit. Lord knows my cat regularly dragged in equal amounts of both species....

Posted by: grumpy realist on May 28, 2008 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget, folks, half the people out there have an IQ under 100.

Let us also not forget the about 66% of the population is within + or - one standard deveiation of the mean (100 IQ).

Bush bootlickers would be how many standard deviations below the mean? Have to be at least one.

The sun around the earth people are near two standard deviations below the mean. The monster in the closet folks are around three SD below the mean.

Stats is such fun. :-)

Posted by: MLuther on May 28, 2008 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

My understanding is that degraded sarin and mustard gas would still kill -- just over a smaller radius.

pretty much direct contact ... which makes the claim of degraded chem weapons as weapons of MASS destruction somewhat laughable.


In any case, the UN resolutions forbid Saddam from having all WMD's -- degraded or not.
Posted by: Everett

degraded WMDs aren't WMDs. besides, if it bothers you this much, you probably shouldn't have sold it to saddam in the first place!

Posted by: on May 28, 2008 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

According to DHMO.ORG:
Research conducted by...U.S. scientist Nathan Zohner concluded that roughly 86 percent of the population supports a ban on dihydrogen monoxide...He adds that if more people knew the truth about DHMO then studies like the one he conducted would not be necessary.

A similar study...by U.S. researchers Patrick K. McCluskey and Matthew Kulick also found that nearly 90 percent of the citizens participating in their study were willing to sign a petition to support an outright ban on the use of Dihydrogen Monoxide in the United States.

Posted by: Red@cted on May 28, 2008 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

I saw Bush in a closet. Thought I was on acid.

When I realized I wasn't, I wanted to take some.

Per Redacted et al: Still nobody has gone broke guesstimating the stupidity of the American people, per Mencken.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on May 28, 2008 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry about the last post. Something wrong with my technology. This is what it was supposed to say:

Everett,

The weapons discussed in the report you cite (and some of the later reports) were all heavy munitions such as 155-millimeter artillery shells, 122-millimeter rocket warheads and aerial bombs which are useful only against massed troops on a battlefield. Such ordinance is massive and requires something very big and heavy like a howitzer to be fired. A 155-millimeter howitzer weighs about 55 tons.

Consequently, none of this ordinance is likely to be useful to a terrorist, although the Iraqi insurgents have found ways to use such shells as part of IED’s and they are devastating weapons when exploded near infantry or armored vehicles.

The Iraqi sarin gas in the shells the Study Group found was certainly toxic in the sense that if you accept that any amount above zero percent is “toxic”. It might be considered deadly if you ingested enough of it and if you were exposed to it long enough. The sarin gas found in those specific weapons was highly degraded and UNMOVIC and others concluded it was comparable in dangerousness and toxicity to other chemical compounds we consider toxic such as pesticides or dioxins. Basically, you would have to have prolonged, direct contact to have any risk of dying immediately or even in the near future.

The degraded mustard gas would also not have been lethal although similar precautions would need to be followed in its disposal. Basically, this stuff (sarin, mustard gas, etc) is all degraded to the point where its like toxic waste. Its still very dangerous and many soldiers who were in the 1991 Gulf War were very seriously harmed and suffered terrible long-term consequence from being told to clean the stuff up without the proper equipment.

Again, in terms of shelf-life and dangerousness, it is important to note that you should not compare the sarin gas which the Iraqi’s manufactured to the sarin which our military produced. The Iraqi gas had a very, very short shelf-life and degraded rapidly due to impurities. To stockpile Sarin, the product has to be pure. The UN weapons inspectors and the CIA had very good information about Iraqi sarin gas because of their work in disarming and inspecting Iraqi WMD facilities after the 19191 Gulf War.

That is why the all of the reports on Iraqi WMD’s released before the war outside of the US, including UNMOVIC’s assessments, estimated that the Iraqi’s probably had few, if any, viable munitions loaded with sarin. All the the information available suggests that 90-99% of the Iraqi Sarin degraded in less than 2 years.

These weapons posed no threat whatsoever to the United States or its interests. Saddam could harm us with these weapons only if we parked ourselves within range of his artillery tubes. Even in their heyday they were only useful for committing war crimes against the Iranians and the Kurds. By the time Bush decided to invade they had degraded to the point where they were basically conventional munitions filed with toxic waste. As I said previously, there is substantial evidence to prove that Bush and other in his administration were well aware of the fact that Iraq had no active WMD programs and had no WMD’s on hand to give to anyone to use against us.

As for the whether Saddam was in full compliance with UN resolutions, I wouldn’t even bother to argue the point. What possible difference does that make to anything? Iraq was contained and we knew they didn’t have any weapons that could harm use. (See, Quarterly Journal of the Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms, Issue No. 75, March 2007, at 24-25). Even beat cops use judgment and discretion in enforcing the law. If you accept, arguendo, that Bush knew or should have known that Saddam had no WMD’s, wouldn’t you agree that it was a bad idea to invade just to enforce some UN resolutions?

Posted by: Mitch Guthman on May 28, 2008 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

Mitch,

You make a startling claim that Iraq’s sarin and mustard gas had a very short shelf life, they were old, and that we knew it , while Saddam was playing cat and mouse with the UN inspectors. You back this up with a citation to a single journal article, but can provide no link. If this were as widely known as you claim, you’d have lots of links available.

The original question was whether Iraq had WMD’s. I still think that 30% of us are justified in some skepticism of the conventional view. Certainly it’s not as clearcut as whether the sun goes around the earth.

The temptation now is to change the discussion to whether the information we had at the time was sufficient to wage war. Both are interesting questions, but we should acknowledge the distinction. The latter question could take considerably more time to address than I have! But I guess I’ll try.

Beat cops do need to use judgement. Ignoring a single UN resolution is probably insufficient to wage war. Ignoring 19 of them might be. The intelligence services of about 20 countries agreed with our own intelligence regarding the presence of WMDs. This was going on while Iraq was engaged in an ongoing shooting war with our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones. And it was going on in a region of the world that was critical to our economy.

We knew Saddam was funding terrorists (as in the families of Palestinian suicide bom bers), but we didn’t know to what degree. We now know that he was funding two subsidiary groups of Al Qaeda -- Army of Jihad and Egytian Islamic Jihad.

So does all this constitute reason for going to war? In my opinion absolutely.

Posted by: Everett on May 28, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Everett wrote: "So does all this constitute reason for going to war?"

"All this" -- ie. the contents of your post preceding that final paragraph -- is a load of discredited, fake, phony propaganda.

You either exemplify the subject of this thread -- people who believe demonstrably false things -- or you are a dead-ender deliberately posting falsehoods.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 28, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

[F]ive per cent think they have seen a monster in the closet

Not really. Five per cent said they thought that. It's quite possible that only one per cent actually think that, whereas four per cent were toying with the questioner for asking such a dumb question.

Posted by: Crust on May 28, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Do pollsters throw out all answers from people who answer the religion question with "Scientologist" as bullshit jokes? I'm guessing 95% of Scientologists think they've seen a monster in their closet and 100% think Obama's a Muslim.

Also, Hussein admitted shortly before his death he was hoping to trick Iran into thinking they have WMD's so that they wouldn't invade. You know, the same Iran that we're told is the root of all evil in the world. D'oh!

Posted by: Reality Man on May 28, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

"However, here's something even stranger: not only do 23% of Americans claim to have been in the presence of a ghost; five per cent think they have seen a monster in the closet. Unless their definition of "monster" includes, say, cockroaches, or they included small children in their survey sample, that's really strange."

How dare you insult Wanda, my spectral beheaded prostitute.

Posted by: on May 28, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I have known quite a number of people, certifiably intelligent (as estimated by their level of studies or their success in business) believing in provably false things.

Just consider the number of religious Americans who believe in virgin births, angels, talking fiery shrubbery, or the fact that the demonstrably dead can come back to life days later through divine intervention. Patent magical nonsense, all of it, and yet the vast majority of our population believes some or all of it.

Posted by: Stefan on May 28, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Just consider the number of religious Americans who believe in virgin births, angels, talking fiery shrubbery...

I was with you until the last part. The other night I was walking the dog in Lincoln Park. We passed a clump of bushes containing two very inebriated gentlemen having an energetic conversation about whether the Manitowoc car ferry still runs across Lake Michigan to Ludington (I believe it does). Naturally, the dog wanted nothing more than to enthusiastically greet these fellows. As I was attempting to drag her away, one of the gentlemen accidentally burned the other with his cigarette and a leaf-shaking scuffle ensued. I swear to spaghetti monster I am not making any of this up.

Posted by: shortstop on May 28, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Not to mention the whack-a-mole's trying to claim that Obama's the foretold anti-christ."

I sure hope a bunch of the wing-nut Religious Right voters do, because they WANT the Apocalypse, don't they? They're just waiting to be Raptured, aren't they? So if they think Obama's the Anti-Christ, they'll vote for him, won't they?

Hey, everybody, Obama's the Anti-Christ. Obama's the Anti-Christ. Vote for Obama if you want to be Raptured! Did you hear? The Rapture is coming! The Rapture is coming! Vote for Obama!

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 28, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Count me among those who are convinced that 9/11 was an inside job. I'm also pro-heliocentric, but I've never seen a ghost.

Posted by: johndri on May 28, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

If Presid-, I mean Senator Obama did not already have my vote, you would just have convinced me. The Rapture of the Sheep would leave the planet to those of us that would likely find a way to live WITH it, not as masters of it. We might even choose to think of our planetary neighbors as just that, making it easier to co-exist, like each other or not.

"You may say that I'm a dreamer..."

Posted by: DonkeyOdie on May 29, 2008 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

However, here's something even stranger: not only do 23% of Americans claim to have been in the presence of a ghost; five per cent think they have seen a monster in the closet. Unless their definition of "monster" includes, say, cockroaches, or they included small children in their survey sample, that's really strange.

Is it really that strange? As I said above, the majority of Americans believe equally or even crazier things, but because their beliefs are couched the in the language of religion their delusions are not only accepted, but often celebrated. If you've seen a ghost, you're crazy -- but if you've seen a angel, you're just devout. If you've seen a goblin in a closet, you're crazy -- but if you've seen one of Satan's demons, you're godfearing. If you've pray to Demeter for a good crop, you believe in magic -- but if you send the same prayer to the Virgin Mary, you're just religious.

Posted by: Stefan on May 29, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey. I love guest books, keep up the good work. Help me! Looking for sites on: Gallardo replica for sale. I found only this - handbag purse replica wholesale. I only laze in some of my dispatches, replica. You've only fallen how edge is a moment that can melt you to rejuvenate iranian humor and gather a little wise channel, replica. :rolleyes: Thanks in advance. Lavey from Arab.

Posted by: Lavey on March 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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