Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Obama's 88 Words

Claim: President Obama responding to a question about waterboarding at his April 29th press conference:
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.
Facts: Churchill scholar Richard Langworth on April 30th:
While it’s nice to hear the President invoke Sir Winston, the quotation is unattributed and almost certainly incorrect. While Churchill did express such sentiments with regard to prison inmates, he said no such thing about prisoners of war, enemy combatants or terrorists, who were in fact tortured by British interrogators during World War II.

The word "torture" appears 156 times in my digital transcript of Churchill’s 15 million published words (books, articles, speeches, papers) and 35 million words about him--but not once in the subject context. Similarly, key phrases like "character of a country" or "erodes the character" do not track.
Breakdown: Ben MacIntyre in the May 1st Times of London:
The diligent American press corps immediately set out to find out which article the President was referring to. The Huffington Post duly tracked down a posting by the British-born journalist Andrew Sullivan on The Atlantic website entitled "Churchill v. Cheney". Sure enough, that article quoted extensively from an article I had written back in 2006, about Colonel Robin "Tin-Eye" Stephens, the monocled commander of Camp 020, Britain’s wartime interrogation centre, who banned violent interrogation techniques against captured spies.

In two small steps, through the magical Chinese whispers of the internet, a three-year-old article and a hitherto obscure British intelligence officer had morphed suddenly into US government policy.

Along the way, the facts had altered slightly. The 500 enemy spies processed through Camp 020 had become 200. Stephens’s prohibition on torture had been transformed into official Churchillian policy.
Inapplicability: Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online May 1st:
Macintyre doesn’t mention Churchill. That’s all Sullivan, who writes: "Churchill nonetheless knew that embracing torture was the equivalent of surrender to the barbarism he was fighting."

Typically, Sullivan’s emotions are getting ahead of his facts. Churchill’s preference for humane treatment of German POWs under the Geneva Conventions had more to do with ensuring reciprocity from enemy armies. Al-Qaeda isn’t a signatory and isn’t interested in such reciprocity.
Irony: President Obama summoned the late Prime Minister's purported wisdom in April despite having banished him, according to the February 14th Telegraph (U.K.):
A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government's art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.

The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush's tenure.

But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: "Thanks, but no thanks."
Consequences: From Ben MacIntyre's same May 1st London Times story:
But in a wider sense, Mr Obama was right: Churchill presided over a military machine that generally regarded torture as unnecessary, unethical, unproductive and un-British. He never exactly said "we don’t torture", but he did not need to.
Conclusion: Chief Executives, especially Harvard-trained lawyers, shouldn't invent spurious precedent. The press excoriated the previous President for what they insisted--falsely as it turned out--was a similar error. In reality, professional progressive protesters elevated policy disagreements into spurious proof "Bush lied".

With an Administration aligned with the media's agenda, the standards were relaxed. Journalists now report Obama's wrongs as cosmically correct. It was deployed in March, when the President pushed bogus bankruptcy statistics. Similarly, last week, mere forceful assertion fixed fabrication. Both times, the press treated Obamessiah as having ascended to infallibility.

Now, the voters shall be healed!

(via Scott Johnson at Powerline)


GW said...

It is truly unfortunate that the sum total of Obama's knowledge of Churchill is an erroneous claim made through the deeply distorting lens that is excitable Andy. Lord knows, Obama could learn much from actually studying up a bit on the towering icon of the 20th century that is Churchill.

Carl said...


I hadn't realized you were blogging again--and that you wrote a similar post a few days ago, which I recommend. Welcome back.

OBloodyHell said...

Obama's interest in Churchill is inherently limited. Churchill wasn't a socialist by any means.

Hence if he encounters a snippet or two taken out of context or even wholly fabricated, he will quote Churchill. His chances of actually learning from Churchill's viewpoint are about as good as any other libtard's...

Remember -- the defining quality of The Left isn't their stances, it's their absolute and invariant failure to EVER learn from experience. Their own, much less someone else's...

They are in fact, the anti-Bismarck:

"Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by other's experience."
- Bismarck -

For them, this has been transmuted into:

"Fools say they learn by experience. I prefer to ignore experience."
-- A. Lefty Quotemonger --

And the percentage of those on The Left for whom that is not THE HIGHEST dictum -- one of the cornerstones of every aspect underlying their personal philosophy -- is in the low single-digits.


GW said...

Hello, Carl, yes . . . health back to near normal and back at the blog again. I appreciate the recommendation very much, by the way. Thanks.

Hmmm, OBH, I think you have to distinguish between ideology and all else when it comes to the left and what they are willing to take from history and experience. Certainly, socialist dogma is beyond the realm of epxeriential learning - it has become an article of faith. Outside of that, the left has been brilliant in its choice of professions. They own our education system and they have co-opted civil rights since the late 60's, Tactically, they are very intelligent and do learn from experience. Outside of tactics, they are as stagnant as a pond.

OBloodyHell said...

> Tactically, they are very intelligent and do learn from experience

GW -- outside of the political realm, no, and even there, it's only in a matter of how to manipulate the body politic. It's not like they actually learn about what political acts actually works in terms of the goals targeted. (Granted, that's because for them, the goal is all about political power, not about whatever excuse is used to obtain it).