Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Illogic And Lies To Spin The Downing Street Memo

Today Christopher Hitchins perjured himself by repeating the feeble "the Brits use the word 'fix' differently" excuse for the Downing Street Memo. Either that or Mr Hitchins isn't spending enough time in his country of birth. I am a Brit and I say that 'fix' means exactly what it sounds like The phrase 'the fix is in' has common usage in the UK and means something dishonest has been done to make sure a desired outcome happens. The rightwing London Times certainly seems to think 'fix' means what it does, as does the leftwing Guardian, as evidenced by it's report on the Downing Street Memo's curious lack of impact in the UK media.

According to the memo, Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, explained that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

As if that were not devastating enough - vindicating one of the anti-war camp's key charges, that the decision for war came first and the evidence was "fixed" to fit - the leaks have kept coming. In the past fortnight, six more documents have surfaced, their authenticity not challenged. One shows that Britain and the US heavily increased bombing raids on Iraq in the summer of 2002 - when London and Washington were still insisting that war was a last resort - even though the Foreign Office's own lawyers had advised that such action was illegal. These "spikes of activity" were aimed at provoking Saddam into action that might justify war. Other documents confirm that Blair had agreed to back regime change in the spring of 2002, that he was warned it was illegal and that ministers were told to "create the conditions" that would make it legal. Other gems include the admission that the threat from Saddam and WMD had not increased and that US attempts to link Baghdad to al-Qaida were "frankly unconvincing".

Taken together, these papers amount to an indictment of the way the British and American peoples were led to war

The use of the word 'fix' in gamblig, especially horse-racing, to denote dishonest tampering goes back at least to the '50s, as anyone who has seen Ealing comedies of the time can attest (I'm thinking of a St. Trinian's movie in particular).

Other than his outright lie, Hitchins mostly opts for the "it doesn't tell us anything new" version of the DSM spin, ignoring any suggestion that the Memo is itself something new - evidence. He ends by saying the DSM movement are "cretins" for buying into a "conspiracy theory" - a theorem he attempts to prove by means of association with a well-known work of fiction and an actual conspiracy theory that someone keeps sending him in email. Here, Hitchins is using two logical mistakes at once: false analogy where the "objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar" and the misleadingly complex question where "two unrelated points are conjoined as a single proposition".

I see from his bio that Hitchins has a degree in philosophy from Oxford. Ah, that explains a lot. Oxford moralists have always been slack on actual logic. I was taught by a Cambridge logician. Maybe Mr Hitchins should pop out and get a copy of his book.

Update June 23rd

I have been reminded by a commenter that the name is Hitchens with an 'e" and that "perjury" is a legal term and I should have just said "lied". I am glad of the chance to remedy my errors. Other than that, Hitchens' logic still stinks on ice.

No comments: