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Robert Scheer's Canard-o-Matic

by Stefan Sharkansky May 21, 2003

Columnist Robert Scheer's columns about Iraq all started to sound the same after a while, so I did an exhaustive analysis of his columns from the first few months of the year, and confirmed that they simply recycle through the same old canards. It's almost as if Scheer has a machine that spits out random combinations of canards each week. The table shows which canards were used in which day's column. Each canard is defined below. The archive of Scheer's columns is here

Canard
Apr.
Mar.
Feb.
Jan.
22
15
8
1
25
18
11
4
25
18
11
4
28
14
7
2
Alienating our allies
X
X
X
X
Big Lie
X
X
X
Criminal
X
X
Cultural Simpletons
X
X
X
X
Defense Contractors
X
X
Dissent is Treason
X
X
Distraction
X
X
Empire
X
X
X
X
Fear of Truth
X
X
X
X
Handpicked Leaders
X
X
X
X
Illegitimate President
X
X
Imminent Threat
X
X
X
X
X
Inspections Working
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Liberation
X
X
X
X
Mission from God
X
X
X
Moral Equivalence
X
X
X
X
X
More Terrorism
X
X
X
Nation Building
X
X
X
Neocon Clique
X
X
X
X
X
X
Not a Threat
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Oil
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Osama Hates Saddam
X
X
Our Friend Saddam
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Palestine
X
X
X
X
Pyongyang
X
X
X
X
Redraw the Map
X
X
X
Rush To War
X
X
X
X
X
Saddam not so bad
X
X
X
September 11
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Unilateral
X
X
X
United Nations
X
X
X
Vietnam
X
X
X

Canards defined, along with an illustrative quote:

Canard Definition and Quote
Alienating our allies Our allies -- France, Germany and Russia -- are opposed to the war out of principle (not out of, say, commercial interest). We should listen to them because they know more than we do. It is Bush's fault for alienating them. ("Unfortunately, this narrow intolerance for debate has been exemplified by our president, whose vituperative attacks on longtime democratic allies such as France and Germany set a new low for American diplomacy. " - Apr. 8)
Big Lie The only way that Bush can persuade the American people to support the overthrow of Saddam is to engage in "Big Lie" deceptions, ala Goebbels. ("...in his chaotic two-year presidency, Bush has pushed the Big Lie approach so far that we are seeing dramatic signs of its cracking..." - Mar. 4)
Criminal Bush is a criminal and should be convicted of war crimes, and/or impeached ("The maiming or killing of a single Iraqi civilian in an attack by the United States would constitute a war crime" - Mar. 11)
Cultural Simpletons Bush and his administration are simpletons who don't understand other cultures. ("The president, who seems to pride himself on knowing more about the mores of Midland, Texas, than about the rest of the world's complex cultures, has bought this cabal's naive and dangerous plan for a Pax Americana. " - Mar. 25)
Defense Contractors The real reason for the war was to enrich Bush's supporters in the defense industry. ("Eager to rebuild their country after years of misrule, will Iraqis really swallow the shameless plans of Bush insiders to privatize Iraqi oil while the administration awards billions of dollars in contracts to U.S. companies? " - Apr. 15)
Dissent is Treason Anybody who questions the war is branded as unpatriotic or a traitor ("This and other glaring contradictions have been obscured by yammering talk-show yahoos who have been attempting to equate dissent with treason and capitulation." - Apr. 8)
Distraction The real reason for the war was to distract the country from the country's economic problems, all of which are Bush's fault, including the implosion of the dot-com bubble, [which happened while Clinton was President] ("Now that the war has been won, is it permissible to suggest that our emperor has no clothes? I'm not referring to his abysmal stewardship of the economy but rather the fig-leaf war he donned to cover up his glaring domestic failures." - Apr. 22)
Empire The real reason for the war is for the United States to create an empire and to invent some colonies to rule.("Whether this war is short or long, extremely bloody or just bloody, the stark fact is that a barely elected president has made the United States the first colonizer of the 21st century..." - Mar 18)
Fear of Truth Bush is afraid of revealing the truth about Saddam, which is that he's not so bad after all. ("So why, considering all this good news, is the White House afraid to allow the inspections to continue? Is Bush worried that the weapons may not exist and that his real goal, stated blatantly in his last press conference, of taking over Iraq might be undermined? " - Mar. 11)
Handpicked Leaders The Bush administration has "handpicked" certain Iraqis (like Ahmad Chalabi) to be our puppets to run Iraq ("And while we like Iraq's Kurds and Shiites now, they'd best be advised to cash in before the next immunity challenge, when they could be on the short end of the stick of whatever malleable Iraqi general we handpick to run our new oil fields." - Feb. 25).
Illegitimate President Bush is not a legitimate president. ("... a small coterie of neoconservative ideologues plotting to remake the world in their image and who unfortunately have the ear of our accidental president." - Mar. 11)
Imminent Threat Bush lied to the country by saying that Saddam was an "imminent threat" to the United States [ he never said this ] ("Yet neither the awesome display of U.S. military power or the slew of false justifications used to unleash it -- the imminent threat of Iraq's use of weapons of mass destruction, now likely to be proved nonexistent ..." - Apr. 15)
Inspections Working The United Nations weapons inspections were working all along, they only needed more time. ("...the recent report of the U.N. inspectors has made indelibly clear that disarmament is working ..." - Mar. 11)
Liberation The people of Iraq will not enjoy any more freedom without Saddam than they had with him, so the words "liberate" and "liberation" must always be written with "sneer quotes". ("To this end, we are on a mission to "liberate" the people of Iraq from a cruel dictator..." - Apr. 1)
Mission from God The real reason for the war was because Bush is driven to do so by his Christian faith and his believes that he was acting out God's will ("Bush's belief -- according to his close friend, Commerce Secretary Don Evans -- that God has called him to wage war on Iraq leaves little room for legitimate argument." - Apr. 8) [the closest quote from Evans I can find says "Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time", which is somewhat different from what Scheer wrote]
Moral Equivalence The United States is morally equivalent to Iraq. The United States isn't perfect, so Saddam should be allowed to get away with anything he wants. And if we have nuclear weapons, why shouldn't Saddam have them too? ("The United States, which unleashed the nuclear monster and is still the only nation to have used this deadliest weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians, should also understand why other nations want one." - Jan 2)
More Terrorism Removing Saddam from power is certain to cause more Islamic terrorism against Americans. ("Worst of all, we're giving Al Qaeda exactly what it wants: the overthrow of Hussein's government, what Osama bin Laden called in his latest tape an "infidel regime" run by apostates, and the best recruiting poster he could hope for." - Feb. 18)
Nation Building In the 2000 campaign, Bush rejected the notion that the US should be in the business of "national building" [which is true], but because of this, it is somehow illegitimate for the President to have learned that rebuilding failed states is sometimes necessary for US interests. ("...unable to produce any real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the invasion or since it began, the administration publicly shifted its rationale from disarmament to the "nation-building" that Bush properly derided during the 2000 election." - Mar 25)
Neocon Clique U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked by a cabal of neo-conservative "chickenhawks" ("This was especially convenient for a powerful clique of White House "chicken hawks" -- so called because they are quick to support war but managed to avoid service themselves -- who were eager to dust off a decade-old plan to seize Iraq as the first step in redrawing the map of the Middle East and, incidentally, gaining control of its oil. " -- Feb. 11)
Not a Threat Saddam had been so neutered by sanctions that he was never any kind of a threat to anybody. ("...our vaunted intelligence forces knew well ... that Iraq had been reduced by two decades of wars, sanctions and arms inspections to a paper tiger..." - Apr. 22)
Oil The real reason for the war was to steal Iraq's oil ("Some U.S.-based corporations will make out like bandits in a post-occupation Iraq, as a Western power again attempts to bring enlightenment to the region while ripping off its oil." - Jan. 7)
Osama Hates Saddam Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda hate Saddam because he is a secularist. They would never, ever co-operate with him, even against the United States. ("Hussein, himself evil in so many ways, is the secular apostate to the Islamic fundamentalist nuts that are behind our terror fears; that is precisely why the U.S. backed Iraq, nasty weapons and all, in its devastating war with fundamentalist Iran. " -- Feb. 11)
Our Friend Saddam Scheer spins the 1980s alliance of convenience with Saddam as a counterweight to Khomeini as a sort of close friendship where the US supported Saddam and kept him in power, as if the US was the only country which had any dealings with him and as if, say, France, Germany and Russia did not. Furthemore, because the US dealt with Saddam 15-20 years ago, it would be somehow wrong for us to take responsibility for the consequences and to remove him. ("Why have the media bought the administration's propaganda that we come to Iraq with clean hands and virgin swords to slay the dragon of Saddam Hussein, when the U.S. did so much to keep him in power?" - Apr. 15)
Palestine Bush's "inattention to the problem" is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians, and not, say, Hamas' unwillingness to stop murdering civilians. ("The administration's indifference to the now completely out-of-control Israeli-Palestinian war is pouring oil on the fire of Muslim extremism." - Jan. 28)
Pyongyang North Korea is a bigger threat to US national security than Iraq is, so instead of removing Saddam, Bush should have removed US forces from the Persian Gulf and capitulated to Kim Jong Il's demands. ("Washington's foreign policy is now less logical than Pyongyang's. A starving dictatorship's clumsy blackmail attempts at least make some twisted sense in that the Bush administration has refused, from its very first days, to even discuss North Korea's persistent request for a nonaggression pact with the United States." - Jan. 2)
Redraw the Map The goal of the "Neocon Clique" (see above) is to "redraw the map of the Middle East". Presumably that means annexing Saudi Arabia to Bahrain or moving the Persian Gulf to Libya, or something like that. ("...there is ample evidence that "regime change" and redrawing the map of the Mideast were the goals of the Bush administration's neoconservative core all along." - Mar. 25)
Rush To War Being patient through twelve years of sanctions, a dozen and a half ineffective UN Security Council resolutions, years of failed weapons inspections, and the slow torture of the Iraqi populace is a "rush to war". ("George W. Bush lied when he claimed to be worried about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Otherwise, Iraq's stepped-up cooperation with the U.N. on disarmament would be stunningly good news, obviating the need to rush to war." - Mar. 4)
Saddam not so bad Saddam is not such a bad guy, after all. ("The Azores gang apparently realizes that if it doesn't start dropping bombs now, a peaceful solution to the crisis might actually be found. In this coming war, Hussein, as loathsome as he is, is not the aggressor -- we are." -- Mar. 18)
September 11 Bush has been telling the American people that Saddam was responsible for the September 11 attacks. [he hasn't] It would otherwise be impossible to persuade the American public that there were valid reasons for removing Saddam from power. See "Big Lie", above. ("George W. Bush can at least claim a slim majority at home in support of his war after selling frightened Americans the big lie that Iraq is connected to 9/11." - Mar. 18)
Unilateral The "rush to war" (see above) was unilateral and all because Bush "alienated our allies" (see above). The only country which is our ally is Britain. [e.g. Kuwait, whose populace favored the war, and which served as a base for the invasion, apparently doesn't count] ("...unless Hussein ... suddenly unzips his skin to reveal he is actually Bin Laden, we are likely to march to war with the support of an "international coalition" that amounts to a fig leaf named Tony Blair and a motley collection of nations one can buy on eBay" - Jan. 28)
United Nations The United Nations is the ultimate repository for all moral authority and political legitimacy in the world. Bush is wrong to try to hold the United Nations to a higher standard than the one to which the UN holds itself. ("If Iraq needs a foreign midwife to assist in its rebirth it should be under the broader sponsorship of the United Nations Security Council, which our macho president continues to disparage for having failed to vote our way." - Apr. 15)
Vietnam Of all the conflicts in recorded history, the Vietnam War provides the most relevant lessons for the situation in Iraq. ("As Powell knows from his Vietnam experience, lies have a way of catching up with you. Years from now, if the U.S. is still spending billions trying to micromanage the Middle East and reaping its rewards in blood, Bush will be marked indelibly, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon before him, as a leader who went to war on a lie" - Feb. 4)
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