"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Sunday, October 05, 2003

The "proof" is next to the pudding

An AP article headlined "Bacteria 'prove' Saddam's intent" contradicts its very own title.

While Bush, Powell, and others desperately cling to the hope that something -- anything -- will be found to justify going to war in Iraq, the only that they can say truthfully is that "Saddam was a bad guy."

A few things in that article bother me more than just a little bit. David Kay says they found "a vial" of botulinum toxin. One. More than six months after Rummy said he knew where the WMDs were.

Colin Powell latches onto that vial like it was his precious baby bottle. "Do you think vials of botulism should constitute a weapon of mass destruction? ... They never lost that capability. They never lost that intent." [Emphasis mine] A single vial becomes plural via his germ-filled mouth.

Powell is using a classic trick often applied by those lacking the real evidence with which to back up their argument: he states his intended conclusion as a question whose answer may be "No," but he wants you to think it's "Yes." No one can argue that this is an outright lie, but it is most certainly deceit. Powell then uses the words "capability" and "intent" which do not even come close to reflecting the imminent threat of a "mushroom cloud" used in the days leading up to the war.

Also in the AP article, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher added: "You kill people with botuli. They have no other use." [Emphasis mine]

That is absolutely false. A big, stinking L-I-E! Botox is being used increasingly by people around the world to smooth out the facial wrinkles one gets as they grow older. It has also been used since 1989 by opthalmologists for problems such as "blepharospasm (involuntary spasms of the eyelids), strabismus (crossed eyes), and hemi-facial spasm." While most of the applications of Botox seem rather dangerous compared with their "benefits," the purpose of its use is certainly not only to "kill people."

We might want to carry this point even further, since Powell has tried to transform this into the "smoking gun." "Smoke and mirrors" is more like it. Let's clear the air a bit more. DailyKos provides more crucial details which may be lost on the average reader:
Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which produces botulinum toxin, is a normal soil bacterium. You've probably ingested large quantities of it yourself, if you've ever eaten vegetables straight out of a garden without washing them thoroughly, or if you've ever eaten unfiltered honey. Live C. botulinum is used in undergraduate microbiology labs as a teaching tool...the live bacteria are not dangerous, are ubiquitous in nature, and are ubiquitous in microbiology labs around the globe -- even those not hell-bent on the destruction of American liberty & whatnot.
(Go to the DailyKos' site directly to read more.)

I think this argument deserves even more dissection. Here's another segment of the Mail & Guardian article linked above:
Although tests showed that the one vial of bacteria that the scientist kept was still viable, Kay offered no evidence it had been used in a weapons programme during the last decade. [Emphasis mine]
All that spinning makes me dizzy. Go read more for yourself. (Credit for the Botox and Kos links goes to Atrios.)
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