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December 15, 2004

The Ignorance of Voters (and Parents)

David Estlund: December 15, 2004

I hear some on the left saying that democracy itself is in question if voters are so badly informed that they don't even know, for just one example, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Tests of the political knowledge of potential voters regularly turn up a disturbing degree of ignorance. As Don Herzog suggests, we ought to think about how and whether this situation can be improved. Suppose, though, that it can’t be fundamentally changed. Suppose that the costs of obtaining good information, or of identifying good opinion leaders are higher than we can expect the general run of voters to bear. Suppose, that is, that people’s knowledge can be improved, but that there is no realistic hope that the problem of really striking voter ignorance can ever go away. It is natural to wonder if this would be a devastating objection to democracy.

Consider an analogy: suppose we turn the knowledge checkers loose on parents and their ability to make good decisions about the lives of their children.

Here are some things the checkers might want to know: Do parents understand the psychology of child development enough to know what parental strategies are effective? [Survey Reveals Child Development Knowledge Gap Among Adults,] Do parents know which of the available schools perform better? To know that adequately, do they understand the debates about standardized testing versus other methods for evaluating school performance? Do they know the name of the head of the school board? Do they know the name of their child’s guidance counselor? Do parents know the publicly available facts about the pediatricians in the community, such as the place of their degree? Their additional certifications? Their years of experience? Their malpractice records? Do parents understand the importance of preventive medicine? Do they know which of the available doctors emphasizes prevention adequately? Do parents understand the investment options available in order to effectively save for their children’s education? Do they know the facts about the value of a college degree in promoting later happiness and success? Do they understand the differences between term and whole life approaches to life insurance? Do they know the dangers of having guns in the home? Do parents understand basic nutrition, such as the facts about fat, fruits and vegetables? [“What do parents know about vitamins?” Ko ML, Ramsell N, Wilson JA. Arch Dis Child. 1992 Sep;67(9):1080-1] Do parents know the difference between a scientifically supported health recommendation and a mere fad or unsupported alternative approach? Do they know how AIDS is and is not transmitted? What do parents know about contraception? [“What do parents know about contraception?” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2004] Do they know basic first aid? Do parents understand the risks of lead poisoning? [Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med>. 1998 Dec;152(12):1213-8. “What do parents know about lead poisoning? The Chicago Lead Knowledge Test.” Pediatric Practice Research Group. Mehta S, Binns HJ.]

Are parents up to the task of raising children? Beyond the few studies I’ve cited, we can conjecture that good further research would show a disturbing degree of ignorance and misunderstanding on matters that would seem to be important to intelligent parenting decisions. Should we be convinced that parents cannot make good decisions for their children? The fate of children is presumably as important as the direction of a political system. Do the data support a severe indictment of both democracy and what we might call free parenting (the legal right to make these decisions within broad limits free from interference by the state)? In both cases, there is little doubt that there are experts who know more and might be just as virtuously motivated. I don’t mean the question entirely rhetorically. Of course, if parental performance is bad enough, and there were alternatives that were good enough, the case for free parenting would be seriously weakened. My question is simply this: is the case for free parenting badly damaged by the kinds of parental ignorance I have conjectured or documented? Not to my mind.

Certainly, we should want parents and voters to be well-informed. But the desirability of democracy is no more undermined by voters’ demonstrable ignorance than the desirability of free parenting is undermined by parents’ demonstrable ignorance. That is, the ignorance is relevant in both case, but not as alarming as discussions of voter-ignorance often suggest. I don’t mean that the quality of the decisions doesn’t matter, as if there is some prior and absolute right to free parenting or democracy. I doubt that there is such a right in either case; it depends in certain ways on how well free parenting and democracy tend to perform. Rather, part of what I get from the analogy with parenting is that the sensational instances of ignorance probably don’t give a fair picture of the ability of parents to make good decisions. I suspect the same is true in the case of democracy. Obviously, the analogy has its limits, but I think it is telling nonetheless.

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» Cool. from Letters of Marque
It's a sad state of affairs when everyone else seems to know that Don Herzog is blogging before I get a clue. Welcome to the blogosphere, Don.... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 15, 2004 6:15:06 PM

» Ignorance of voters from Moonage Political Webdream
Left2right opines:I hear some on the left saying that democracy itself is in question if voters are so badly informed that they don't even know, for just one example, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Tests of [Read More]

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» Ignorance and Democracy from Parableman
Two posts at Left2Right have been considering the fact that most voters don't have a clue what they're voting about. The amount of ignorance about basic matters really is staggering. Don Herzog points out the data and seeks to figure... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 12:40:08 PM

» The Subsidization Of Ignorance from Catallarchy
Don Herzog of Left2Right suggests two solutions to the ignorance of voters on basic policy issues - a more objective media and a more honorable media. His co-blogger David Estlund is more optimistic based on an analogy he provides between ignorant vot... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 9:21:46 PM

Comments

Posted by: Andrew

This is a very clever and apt analogy! But I'm left wondering what your reasons are for saying that parents are still good for their children despite being somewhat ignorant. It seems to me that you've just put out your intuitive reaction to the idea that parents might be unfit to raise their own children. ("is the case for free parenting badly damaged by the kinds of parental ignorance I have conjectured or documented? Not to my mind.")

If you could articulate some specific arguments why a large but not overwhelming degree of ignorance is still okay for parents, that would be a big help for understanding why, analogously, a large but not overwhelming degree of ignorance among voters is not a fatal problem for democracy. For example, one might say that parents are at least well-intentioned. Then one might analogously argue that a precondition for democracy is some vague form of patriotism (i.e., voters like their country and want to make it better).

On the other hand, if the real reason is just pure intuition, perhaps that tells us something about the basis for democracy as well.

Posted by: Andrew | Dec 15, 2004 5:18:17 PM


Posted by: Bill

It's an interesting analogy, but the kinds of knowledge involved and (more importantly) the relations between the knowing-thats and knowing-hows are strikingly different in the case of parenting.

Casting a vote is a much more limited expression of what (political) knowledge one has than is one's parenting style (of one's parenting knowledge). And there is hardly any know-how involved in voting.

More to the point, care and devotion can in some ways make up for ignorance in parenting. But however much we might like to take the same stance toward the polity of which we are a part, it just is not remotely possible... even conceivable really (at least to me).

Posted by: Bill | Dec 15, 2004 5:28:01 PM


Posted by: DNL

You're still begging the question: Are these people really ignorant? Throw-away quips like Saddam had no 9/11 connection are exactly that -- show why that knowledge _matters_. To most voters, it doesn't. There's a reality now: We're in Iraq. I can rationally vote on that issue without having any knowledge or care about Saddam's connection (or lack thereof) to the events of 9/11.

So, again, why does it matter? That you think it _should_ matter is a different issue, not one of ignorance of the listener, but of ineffective campaigning of the speaker.

Posted by: DNL | Dec 15, 2004 5:48:09 PM


Posted by: Mark

DNL:
The point isn't simply that it does or should matter to the vote, but that the truth is so glaringly obvious that if people are not abreast of such a simple factoid, how could we be certain that they are basing any of their relevant decisions on information that would require much more digging? Someone might not think Saddam's connection matters, but they might think certain things about the nature and ethics of war. However, Saddam's connection is a well-documented, well-publicized, and simple bit of news. Sound decisions on viable and moral decisions to be made with our situation in Iraq require FAR more rumination and research. Also, I think it's possible that those stats might have pointed out that people felt it was just to attack Iraq, and that Bush's decision was right, BASED ON Saddam's fallacious connection to 9/11. Can anyone confirm that that was true? If so, then the case for a need for improved voter education is only stronger. Most important, however, is that Mr. Estlund is not making the point that you specify. He feels that the perceived gap in voter education does not significantly undermine the strength of the democratic process, and, to that extent, I think you agree.

Posted by: Mark | Dec 15, 2004 6:08:10 PM


Posted by: Bob Talisse

David:

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. Here's a thought re the limits of the analogy. The version of the public ignorance objection that I'm most familiar with is directed explicitly against *deliberative* versions of democracy (Posner, for example, objects to dd on these grounds). As you know, many versions of dd involve the claim that public deliberation enhances the epistemic value (truth, rationality, justifiability, what have you) of democratic outcomes. I wonder whether the parenting case works as an analogy when we're thinking explicitly of deliberative democracy? In dd, we're not thinking only of citizens' ability to make good decisions, but of their ability to reason collectively, and it would seem that the widespread public ignorance is a hinderance to that.

Posted by: Bob Talisse | Dec 15, 2004 6:58:49 PM


Posted by: bakho

People are misinformed because we are bombarded with messages that are not correct. A lot of it has to do with a Republican Party that has to lie about its policies and agenda because opinion polls show that people routinely reject Republican policies. For instance, the Bush plan to destroy Social Security is being sold as a plan to fix Social Security. Social Security was fixed back when Reagan was president and has a trust fund of several Trillion dollars. It is the rest of the budget that is in debt over $7 Trillion.

Part of it has to do with a media that is content to publish and broadcast the lies of politicians uncritically. The politicians are gaming the media. They know the media will not challenge their lies so they tell bolder lies. Journalistic standards have slipped to new lows in the US.

Posted by: bakho | Dec 15, 2004 7:15:45 PM


Posted by: novakant

Sorry, but I think the analogy is fundamentally flawed and highly misleading. There are no standardized test, education savings schemes, guidance counselors, books about developmental psychology and whathaveyou available in large parts of the world, nor have there been for thousands of years. Yet by and large parents have apparently been able to raise children just fine.

OTOH politicians misleading their citizens has caused and does cause an inordinate amount of suffering and slaughter, lead and leads to unnecessary wars, genocides and economic hardship.

Posted by: novakant | Dec 15, 2004 9:06:30 PM


Posted by: Dallas

I doubt that there is such a right in either case; it depends in certain ways on how well free parenting and democracy tend to perform.

The interesting question is how would be go about measuring performance. Unless you are able to demonstrate underperformance, your comments concerning ignorance have no bearing on anything of significance.

Posted by: Dallas | Dec 15, 2004 9:25:32 PM


Posted by: Chris C.

Horace Mann was motivated to create the common school partly because he thought an educated citizenry was necessary to sustain a true democracy.

He thought an uninformed puclic would lead to tyranny.

"Surely nothing but universal education can counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor. If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relation between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former."

-Horace Mann, 1848 Report

Posted by: Chris C. | Dec 15, 2004 9:26:04 PM


Posted by: BigMaAttack

A rocky start. But what a great site. I really liked Andrew's comment and so I am seconding the request.

Posted by: BigMaAttack | Dec 15, 2004 9:46:19 PM


Posted by: the prof

Whoa, wait one second there, pardner. Where exactly did you come up with this:

I hear some on the left saying that democracy itself is in question if voters are so badly informed that they don't even know, for just one example, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

There is no left or right on this point: mass apathy and ignorance has been an issue for at least a few centuries. I haven't done a count, but I suspect you'd find far more suspicion of mass politics coming from the right than from the left, but I really don't think this is a liberal/conservative issue at all.

Posted by: the prof | Dec 15, 2004 10:02:26 PM


Posted by: AVoiceForAllChildren

Since when have parents done anything else BUT screw up their children's upbringing?

Posted by: AVoiceForAllChildren | Dec 15, 2004 10:11:29 PM


Posted by: Iconic Midwesterner


In discussing the democratic aspects of a poltical system you cannot assume there is a set priority or ranking of issues. Some people are ignorant of the facts about Iraq because they really don't care about it, or they care about it much less than they care about many other factors. And that alright, in fact it is exactly what democracy is supposed to be all about, i.e. a system that allows for competition between peoples with varying ideas of the what constitutes the "good", public and private.

The fantasies of "ideal direct democracy" or maybe "deliberative democacy" (the same thing?), have very little to do with how people live their lives. If someone is ignorant of basic facts about Iraq, but is really more concerned about the status of their overtime pay at work, I don't see the problem for democracy.

I'm sure the same percentage of people were generally ignorant in 1996 as they were in 2004. And I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage of largely ignorant voters wasn't higher in 1940. So what? People still showed the ability to identify their own interests and make those interests felt at the ballot box. The fact that the average voter in 1940's Oklahoma City might have been ignorant about the war in Europe when compared to the average voter in New Haven is simply irrelevant.

There is a hubris that emerges that cuts across the left/right spectrum, and it can be seen in things such as the infamous exit poll question that resulted in more people claiming "moral values" as their most important issue over every other. The survey listed 6 possible answers. The entire complexity of american life was reduced to 6 possible answers. The country has 300+ million people, with 300+ million different ways of looking at the world, and that was reduced to 6 possible answers on a questionaire. The belief that people prioritize their value systems with such a degree of uniformity that only 6 possible answers need be given, or even that they could or should prioritize in such a lock-step fashion, underscores the hubris of those that "do political stuff" for a living.

I apologize for prattling on.

Posted by: Iconic Midwesterner | Dec 15, 2004 10:12:59 PM


Posted by: Aaron S.

I actually like the analogy very well. My conclusions are 180 degrees opposite, however. I think the long list rattled off about how parents are generally ignorant about certain information that is important to their child's upbringing is a pretty good indicator as to whether those people should be having children or at least ungovernment-aided parenting. I also think democracy is pretty well useless if a majority of the public is ignorant about certain important facts (foreign affairs foremost among them). Because then politics becomes a game of who can better manipulate the masses, which is a game that must be played whether in a dictatorship or in a democracy.
Nevertheless, this should not be any cause for alarm, just cause to improve the education system for parents and children alike.

Posted by: Aaron S. | Dec 16, 2004 12:24:17 AM


Posted by: Doug H.

Be careful basing conclusions about people on what they choose to tell pollsters, or on answers to specific and deliberately worded poll questions.

If you ask, "Did Saddam give the direct marching orders that sent Atta et al on their terror-spree?" I bet even most Bush voters would say "no."

If you ask, was there some connection between, on the one hand, the 1991 Gulf War, the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, Saddam's exploitation of Arab/Muslim sympathy, the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden on Iraq, the encouragement of Palestinian suicide bombers by Saddam, and, on the other, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, perhaps even many Kerry voters, if they didn't think it would help Bush to say it, might admit it was in the mix.

In the minds of many Americans, Sept. 11 was the problem, and what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is the solution. If they hear your question in those terms, there is a "connection." If that is thinking with the heart, not the head, so be it. Parenthood often works that way, too.

Also, the statement in question, as you've framed it, and as, I believe, it often is asked, is a negative one. People, even skeptical ones, can legitimately refuse to sign on to that. I believe the supposed connection between the Unocal oil pipeline and the Afghanistan war, as hyped in "Fahrenheit 9/11," is bunk. But can I be positive to the core of my being that there was "no connection," on any level, whatsoever?

When Condi Rice was grilled about a Saddam-9/11 connection, she answered, "Yes, but ...." Michael Moore cut that to "Yes." That was a deception. People, even Republicans, may be more subtle than pollsters' questions reveal.

Great blog, by the way. Keep it up. And it's refreshing to see voters and the government discussed in terms of the people as parents to the system, not the other way around, as is dismally common these days.

Posted by: Doug H. | Dec 16, 2004 12:30:18 AM


Posted by: Patrick

It seems to me that all but the first item of knowledge mentioned in relation to the parents case are far less important to parenting than belief about Iraq is to being a good citizen.
(Most of the time in high school I didn't know who my guidance counselor was, and I don't think this ignorance hurt me)

The belief that Iraq was involved in 9/11 (And Doug H. that second question is a question about whether certain events were relevant to what produced 9/11 and the poll questions are about Saddam or Iraq. I think you need a better example of how a question that gets reported as 70% beleive Saddam behind 9/11 could be asked such that it doesn't actually reflect such a belief. I doubt there is a polling organization in the country that would ask your question) is extremely important in explaining why it is we went to war. And it seems to me that going to war mistakenly (whether intentional or not) can be very detrimental to democracy. War climates in general don't seem too good for the kind of dialogue that a good democracy should have, and so if we are ignorant enough to allow ourselves to get into an unnecessary war, then I think we do have a problem.

Someone made the point, and I thought it a good one, that what is important is the attitude towards educating yourself that the Iraq-9/11 beliefs express. If a person is not willing to do the small amount of work (for several months all you had to do was listen to the news for an hour and you would hear the 9/11 commission's finding mentioned somehow) it takes to disabuse themselves of this belief, are they going to reflect critically about the TV ads they see in an election cycle? Are they going to question what the people on their side of the political divide say at all? This sounds to me like the absence of vigilance, and I think Jefferson was right about what happens when the citizens of a democracy lack that trait.

Posted by: Patrick | Dec 16, 2004 2:06:52 AM


Posted by: Chris

I'm not an American but I do follow American politics given the influence your internal decisions have upon the world. As an outsider to that extent it seems to me that both Republicans and Democrats are eager to denounce each other on hysterical exaggerations that contort and twiste the truth. Given that whatever facts are available are deployed for purely partisan purposes after a while it likely becomes hard to discern any "objective" truth and people simply line up and pick sides on what the "true" facts are based on their partisan loyalties.

Consider the lefts delusions that the Iraq war is some sort of massive scheme to gain control of oil. Consider the massive amount of money your government has poured into the war on terror, its pretty much bet the farm on it. If all Bush really cared about was oil he'd just have dropped the sanctions and cut a deal with Saddam. Then there is always Dan Rather producing entirely fake news stories.

On the other hand prior to the invasion of Iraq from what I can decern senior government officials didn't come out and say "Saddam was directly linked to 9/11" but they certainly alluded and implied a connection, talking up Saddam's connection to terror. Which is true to some extent as he has a connection to funding suicide bombers in the West Bank. But given that Iraq was merged with the War on Terror it implied a connection between Iraq and Al Quaeda which was murky. Not that knocking off opressive dictators is a bad thing on strictly humanitarian grounds, I tend to think a world with more democracy is a better place.

However, the point is that both sides are partisan and decietful and you could likely poll both sides and find they hold believes which are absolutely ludicrous. Hence its simply expressing political prejudgice to label one side as ignorant.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 16, 2004 3:07:49 AM


Posted by: Linus Unbound

The whole "misinformed voter" issue is a red herring.

Saddam had close ties to Al Qaeda, at least some high-ranking AQ operatives also held jobs in Saddam's government, and members of AQ were not only welcomed into Iraq but given free health care in state-run Iraqi hospitals. But Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 itself.

Ties to Al Qaeda: yes. Ties to 9/11: no.

Ask your average Republican the first question, you'll get the correct answer. Ask the second, and you'll get a technically incorrect answer due to a failure to accurately parse the question.

Inadvertently answering the wrong question is more a sign of an incompetent pollster than a misinformed voter. (I suspect the "incompetence" of the question is calculated to produce precisely the political grist we are now discussing.)

"Republicans believe Iraq had WMD's" is an even sillier issue. Republicans believe nerve gas is a WMD. Democrats do not. This isn't a matter of one side being ignorant, but simply a difference of opinion on the perceived lethality of nerve gas. In all fairness I suspect were the roles reversed (a Democrat President and Republican opposition) the classification of "nerve gas" as "WMD" would be similarly reversed.

Nuclear weapons: No. Nerve gas: Yes. WMD's? Depends on what you think of nerve gas.

So the entire "Republicans believe falsehoods" debate is itself a fabrication: both sides know the issues, and they are not as black-and-white as either side would like to pretend. If you really want to debate honestly, debate whether the threat of nerve gas in the hands of Al Qaeda justified war.

That's a tough call, in all honesty: just a little nerve gas in Times Square on New Year's Eve would be a disaster, but the nuclear threats would seem to be in North Korea and Iran, and everyone agrees that the threat of multiple nerve gassings pales in comparison to just one nuclear detonation.

Did we prevent a Tokyo-style nerve gassing but open ourselves up to a nuclear suitcase from Iran at some future date? Neither side has the moxie to ask that question: for the left it would be an admission of what the Iraq war accomplished, for the right, an admission of what it did not.

Posted by: Linus Unbound | Dec 16, 2004 3:27:53 AM


Posted by: JennyD

I agree with Chris C. and would have hauled out Horace Mann myself if he hadn't.

The government has decided that leaving education of children as the responsibility of parents is not satisfactory for the building and maintenance of a nation. There are many writings about it. Jonathan Zimmerman, for example, has written about the state's interest in creating autonomous, educated adults to participate in a democracy, and has also documented the struggles by various groups to control parts of the school curriculum in an effort to shape future citizens.

There are other mediating government structure to monitor the lives of children, like social workers.

But adults are allowed to be uninformed and stupid. No law against it. And they can still vote.

I think it's might be wise to think about how to explain to children that it's important to be an informed adult. Right now, though, being a good student is not desirable in many communities. You want change, start there. Regardless of the color state the community is in.

Posted by: JennyD | Dec 16, 2004 3:27:54 AM


Posted by: Glen Raphael

I have to defend the voters' perogative to be apathetic and uninformed if they so desire.

In the last election, given that both presidential candidates who were allowed to debate and considered contenders had essentially the same position on Iraq, why does it matter what voters thought about it? It's not like knowing there's "no link" would make them more likely to vote for Kerry. Is it? What's the significance of knowing something that has no impact on how you are going to vote?

I know one big thing, which is that I prefer "free trade with all nations, entangling alliances with none". Other voters have other big things they know that similarly trump most of the trivia and obviate the need to pay close attention to foreign affairs. Unless, like us, they are interested in politics as a hobby. Most people find it rather dull and prefer to learn trivia about sports teams rather than trivia about why the US is claiming THIS week that it needs to intervene in some new backwater or other.

Although the stuff parents don't know is similarly trivial, individual parents at least have some power to /do/ something about their child's education. Individual voters don't have the power to make foreign policy. All they can do is cast their one hundred-millionth or so of a vote in favor of some candidate, and you can't even trust the candidate to do anything he says he'll do during the campaign, so there's no real basis on which to make the decision. (Bush, you'll recall, was opposed to "nation-building" when he ran against Gore.) So, heck, you might just as well base it on whether he seems like a nice guy or looks good in a suit. I'm pretty sure that's why Bush won - he just seems like a nicer, friendlier guy than Kerry.

Posted by: Glen Raphael | Dec 16, 2004 3:57:35 AM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

The government has decided that leaving education of children as the responsibility of parents is not satisfactory for the building and maintenance of a nation.

Interesting notion. It sounds very continental; French, perhaps, or Prussian.

If I recall correctly, the United States was founded primarily by people who were either privately educated or the product of common schools established by local communities more or less as the community saw fit.

It also has sort of deus et machina quality to it: "the government" being some sort of objective external reality or force with the power to control our lives, itself the source of legitimacy.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 16, 2004 8:21:16 AM


Posted by: Nekretaal

Several years ago, I got to look at the academic research on polling. I'd direct David Estlund to that research, as it's fascinating.

There's no way that any voter can know all of the facts on all of the major issues, but it turns out that (even uneducated) voters are amazingly good at finding out the facts on the issues that matter most to themselves.

On the other important issues, voters tend to either use heuristics (stereotypes) to economize their time and shortcut the clutter of facts or tend to pick leaders to follow when the issues are so new that heuristics haven't even been formed. It's not at all clear that shoving additional facts at voters actually changes minds once the heuristics are set, or leaders are chosen, expecially if the new information comes from a distrusted source.

Anyways the academic research in polling is a great start for the answer to how the Democratic Party should solve this problem. And, the long term policy prescriptions for the Democrats has to be to (1) regain credibility with voters, and (2) fight to keep its credibility.

Posted by: Nekretaal | Dec 16, 2004 8:51:54 AM


Posted by: Daniel M.

I second Bob Talisse’s comments on the limitation of analogy, but cannot say I find the post very thought provoking as the analogy oversteps its limits and therefore causes the entire discussion to become unreal. Voter apathy and ignorance, as the prof said, have been with us for quite a while – but it is only recently that “some on the left” have claimed “democracy itself is [to be] in question (as) voters are so badly informed.” I say, how incredibly and patently far-fetched! It’s incredible that a conversation of such partisanship would show up on a “blog of philosophers” that seeks a dialogue between the left and right.

What I want to know is, What is the cause of the democratic party’s waning in the eyes of the democrats? Voter fraud? Voter misinformation? Voter ignorance? Voter stupidity? This conversation has only gained credence on the Left since they’ve lost elections. You’re not looking inward on this issue but lashing out. The question is “why do people believe the way they do,” not “why are people who don’t think like us probably ignorant and misinformed?” The first step you take in understanding is not an empirically twisted step of assuming someone’s ignorance in the face of your obvious intelligence, but it is listening. Matthew 13:13

Posted by: Daniel M. | Dec 16, 2004 9:28:47 AM


Posted by: Neal

Parenting: Natural act: even animals do it without liberal guidance.
Voting: Man made un-natural act that requires much liberal guidance.

Now, with regards to the ignorance issue. The problem is people don't care nor have the time to follow the ludicrous mind twisting liberal arguments. Like, "Oh, do people know that standardized tests aren't the only measure of a school." Like what else is, the number of murders per school year?

By and large the whole system is very easy to understand. The conservative approach (outside of the religious right) tends to be organic (test it in the real world, if it fails, it fails), whereas liberals, as the super-intelligensia uber human, believe they can actually control and hypothesize on things and that they are right in their smug opinions. I think all liberals should be required to examine and understand the failure of the "look-say, whole language" approach to reading, and evaluate the devastating effect this had on CA children. Check out Jill Stewart on this: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/whole.1.html

The fate of children is presumably as important as the direction of a political system.

Uh, children are the reason for the political system. Now, close your liberal eyes, and think "what would happen if there were no children for 60 years", and imagine the political system 30 years after that.

Posted by: Neal | Dec 16, 2004 11:42:46 AM


Posted by: jen

DNL:

Why does it matter that people don't realize that Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11? Because it matters to proper decision making that the decision maker herself be well informed. I can't decide whether to buy eggs or milk unless I know what is in my refridgerator; I can't decide whether to go to college or take my chances on my own unless I have a good sense of my own talents and opportunities; and I certainly can't choose a president or other legislator if I don't know basic facts about his own decisions and policies, and how these affect my life and the lives of my fellow citizens. There's an important difference between making a decision and just guessing. Presumably we want voters to be doing the former, if we care about promoting democracy at all.

It matters for a well functioning and healthy democracy that people be minimally informed. It matters for the health of our country that people who are "patriotic" believe that it is important to be an engaged citizen. It is a necessary (but certainly not sufficient) condition of being engaged that one be informed. I would think that this would be one issue that all patriotic Americans could agree upon. It is decidedly UNAMERICAN not to avail oneself of the free flow of information that we are so priveleged to enjoy in this country. How anyone on EITHER side could endorse ignorance and apathy is simply beyond me.

Posted by: jen | Dec 16, 2004 11:58:43 AM


Posted by: Neal

Jen:

I certainly can't choose a president or other legislator if I don't know basic facts about his own decisions and policies.

But from where are you going to get your information? Take Iraq. I heard an awful lot about oil and Haliburten, but I never heard the basic premise, which is "how do you stabalize the Middle East? Ans: form a democratic Mecca in Iraq as an example for the region."

Here's another example from just a regular economist. Mary is no slouch, having won many awards, two of which were university awards for "woman of the year."

Thank God the election is over; I have never seen so much economic misinformation," said Mary C. Farrell, managing director of UBS Wealth Management in New York. "We have a wonderful economy."

Finally, are you really qualified to know whether privatizing social security is the right thing to do or not? Who are you going to believe? If you believe the press, then you are getting a boatload of bias.

Posted by: Neal | Dec 16, 2004 12:29:08 PM


Posted by: farmgirl

Chris: "Then there is always Dan Rather producing entirely fake news stories."

Let me remind you that when the White House was asked to comment (before the sourcing of the documents became unverifiable) they saw no reason to challenge the documents based on the content. So, regardless of whether those were forgeries, they were authentic on the merits.

For serious research into the truth of Bush's guard service, check out http://www.glcq.com/.

Posted by: farmgirl | Dec 16, 2004 1:17:03 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Let me remind you that when the White House was asked to comment (before the sourcing of the documents became unverifiable) they saw no reason to challenge the documents based on the content.

Let me remind you that these were supposedly authenticated documents from the man's private files. They could've claimed George W. Bush was a blue-assed monkey from Mars, and the White House couldn't challenge the authenticity of the documents. If the guy wrote it, the guy wrote it. Now, whether Bush really is a blue-assed monkey is a separate matter.

So, regardless of whether those were forgeries, they were authentic on the merits.

"Fake but accurate" is a charge you'll come to regret having hung 'round your necks.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 16, 2004 1:26:50 PM


Posted by: Mona

The White House got those CBS docs, like, a day beforehand, and didn't know what to make of them. There was not time before airing to research their claims and authenticity, so the WH released them without comment. Moreover, their content has been soundly debunked by living members of Bush's command.

Also, Bush rarely commented on the flap over his Texas ANG service, at least not in the '04 campign. He chose to rise above such smears, and it worked.

Posted by: Mona | Dec 16, 2004 1:44:50 PM


Posted by: Daniel M.

I don't want to get too far afield, but I want to comment on the following statement: "Finally, are you really qualified to know whether privatizing social security is the right thing to do or not?"

There is NO MOVE to privatize social security, and there never was one - this was a misinformation tour by Kerry et al to scare voters. What GWB wants to do is allow those who would like to to privately invest some of their SS money if they want to - there is NO compulsion.

Posted by: Daniel M. | Dec 16, 2004 2:17:19 PM


Posted by: Henrik Mintis

Forgive me for repeating my comment on two separate (but related) posts.

My opinion on the supposed lack of knowledge among the populace is: Who cares.

Free markets work because one small percentage of the population clips coupons, another small percentage of the population buys things on sale, another small percentage of the population buys only to-quality goods, and so on.

Between all these behaviors, a vendor must try to maximize their appeal to all consumers, and minimize the appeal of other vendors.

So, even though I fail to clip coupons or choose low-priced or on-sale items, the fact is, my grocery store still gives me discounts and sales and so forth. Just because I'm not price-sensitive, it doesn't mean I'm going broke buying groceries, either; because my fellow shoppers make sure to keep my grocery store in line.

Every voter knows something about something. Put 120 million voters in a room, and assume there are "6 degrees of separation" between all 120 million of them, and by golly, you're going to have one hell of an intelligent mass.

The analogy of child-rearing is perfect. "It takes a village," wasn't that the famous mantra when Hillary was still just a candidate, way back when?

Posted by: Henrik Mintis | Dec 16, 2004 2:24:28 PM


Posted by: tennin

"Consider the lefts delusions that the Iraq war is some sort of massive scheme to gain control of oil. Consider the massive amount of money your government has poured into the war on terror, its pretty much bet the farm on it. If all Bush really cared about was oil he'd just have dropped the sanctions and cut a deal with Saddam."

That's assuming competence on the part of the Bush admin. There's really no contradiction in believing that they may have fought the war for oil but failed to get the oil due to incompetence.

I don't actually believe this myself (per se) but when your foreign policy is as functionally incoherent as the Bush admin.'s it's understandable that people will go pretty far afield searching for explanations because none of the explanations given seems to check out.

Posted by: tennin | Dec 16, 2004 2:25:16 PM


Posted by: Henry Woodbury

Malovelent incompetence -- wait, isn't that how parents work?

You know, from a 14-year-old's point of view.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury | Dec 16, 2004 2:41:00 PM


Posted by: Realish

I suppose the point of the analogy is an intuition pump, meant to use our gut reaction that parenting should be free of interference to make the same point about democratic governance.

I suppose it is a measure of my coastal-liberal-elitist-whatever instincts that, for me, the pump works in the other direction.

Posted by: Realish | Dec 16, 2004 3:12:49 PM


Posted by: Thomas

"I hear some on the left saying that democracy itself is in question if voters are so badly informed that they don't even know, for just one example, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11."

The problem is that your just one example is about the only example people on left raise that is a fact and not an opinion.

The argument rapidly unravels as more examples are given espousing 'ignorance' on their side (or at least a sanctimonious push to label disagreement as ignorance). This intolerance of disagreement (re: need to label it ignorance and the people who disagree as personally evil) is the real problem.

I’m not a big Bush fan (I skipped the previous 3 presidential elections) but I voted for him because of the stridence from the left this time around… that and being called ‘evil’ a couple times for disagreeing with the left viewpoint at parties….


Posted by: Thomas | Dec 16, 2004 3:26:26 PM


Posted by: jen

Neal:

I said "minimally informed". I take it that realizing that the claim--which was repeated ad nauseum in most legitimate print news sources--that there were no WMDs or 9-11 connection are facts that fall under that classification quite nicely (as opposed to say, knowing a great deal about the economic import of privitization of SS). Given that these were the stated reasons for invading Iraq, I also disagree with DNL that they are irrelevant to most people. Again, I would think that by saying this I am not putting myself out on a limb, but perhaps I've misjudged just how great the ideological rift has become. I certainly hope that the political climate is not so poisonous as to exclude common sense.

Posted by: jen | Dec 16, 2004 3:27:43 PM


Posted by: alex

1. This blog, tho intellegent and cool-headed, seems increasingly to be left2left.
2. As the proud father of 3 grown children, fine people and citizens, my list for what parents need to know be would be radically different than the one suggested above.
3. "Democrats... consider the people as the safest depository of power in the last resort; they cherish them, therefore, and wish to leave in them all the powers to the exercise of which they are competent." --Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 1825. ME 16:96
4. "I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:39

Posted by: alex | Dec 16, 2004 4:06:09 PM


Posted by: Realish

I’m not a big Bush fan (I skipped the previous 3 presidential elections) but I voted for him because of the stridence from the left this time around…

This, I believe, unquestionably qualifies you as a total jackass.

Posted by: Realish | Dec 16, 2004 5:53:08 PM


Posted by: Thomas

"This, I believe, unquestionably qualifies you as a total jackass.

Posted by: Realish | December 16, 2004 05:53 PM"

Nope, but behavior like yours caused Bush to win as much as me to vote for him... Hope you’re happy…. Obviously you’re learning because Kerry supporters are so intelligent…

Posted by: Thomas | Dec 16, 2004 6:42:17 PM


Posted by: NotQuiteAsMuchOfADupe

"...there is NO compulsion"

That is, no compulsion beyond the egregious forced-savings program that socialists rammed down our throats in the first place.

Or is collectivism a good thing?

Posted by: NotQuiteAsMuchOfADupe | Dec 16, 2004 6:49:04 PM


Posted by: Linus Unbound

This entire "misinformed voter" debate is ridiculous, and harms the left far more than it does the right.

Here is the quintessential stupid question, and it is a stupid question, asked ad nauseum by the left: "How did Bush, Karl Rove and Fox News convince so many voters that Iraq had WMD's? How did they manage to craft a false message so skillfully that the voters bought it?"

If I were as shrill and myopic as a leftist I might respond in kind: "How did the Iraqi information minister manage to convince so many liberals that nerve gas is completely harmless? How can they be that stupid?"

But I'm not that shrill, except now, in irony, in order to make a point. Can we stop debating why Republicans are so misinformed, and instead discuss the real issue? Does anyone here honestly believe that nerve gas is no big deal? Has anyone here imagined what would happen if Al Qaeda released it in Times Square on New Year's Eve?

Remember how I said ignoring the nerve gas issue harms the left. Imagine a swing voter hearing a dialog between left and right:

"Republicans are misinformed! There are no WMD's!"

"What about nerve gas?"

"Republicans are misinformed! There are no WMD's!"

"What about nerve gas?"

The observer would, intelligently enough, ask of himself, "One of them is wrong ... but which one? What about nerve gas, indeed?"

Then he goes to Google, punches up "nerve gas", and there it is: Fox News, BBC News, CNN, the list goes on and on. Headline: "Sarin, Mustard Gas Found in Iraq".

How could the swing voter not but conclude first that the liberal is the one who is misinformed and second -- and most damning -- that the liberal is out-of-touch and arrogant for making hysterical claims of Republican misinformation? People can forgive an error, but hubris is another matter entirely.

Thus framing questions which are themselves based on a canard easily refuted with Google does not help the liberal cause. Perhaps if they had the courage to come out and say it -- "I do not believe that nerve gas is a WMD" -- we could have a rational discussion, but until that happens, the longer they decry "misinformed voters" who are in fact quite knowledgable, the more arrogant, out-of-touch, and -- dare I say it -- misinformed they themselves appear.

Perhaps it seems self-evident to the left that nerve gas is not a WMD, so self-evident that they feel no need even to acknowledge the issue.

However, I suspect that in reality liberals understand how horrifying nerve gas is -- 500 times more powerful than cyanide -- and that a kind of "cognitive dissonance" is at work: the left believed for so long that there were no WMD's in Iraq that to acknowledge the discovery of nerve gas (or alternatively its status as a "WMD") would contravene closely held personal convictions.

Posted by: Linus Unbound | Dec 16, 2004 11:15:56 PM


Posted by: Raymond


Its clear that this is yet another leftist echo chamber, that all are convinced they are intelectually superiors, so smug, so isolated from regular humans.

Regular humans that still remember how the left shrugged past the mass graves of children found in Iraq, shot in the head after herded into in place at the bottom of a fresh ditch, burried where they fell, still clutching their toys.

This is the same shrug we see when we look at the fact that you still cling to marxist ideas after the 100+ Million innocent people you murdered.

Here I see only more Of Chomsky, M Moore and Peter Singer who is the twin of Authur Guett the medical authority of National Socialist Germany.

From Facism to pure Communism, leftism is a failure and the singular example of crimes against humanity.

And yet we see even more indoctrinares into the leftist faith.

I looked at the post how marxocrat rule created a cesspool of decline and dispair and emptied hollow building where the hopes of the average man used to live and prosper, utterly destroyed by marxist enemies of freedom with their destructive effects of "tax the rich"

The USSR put up an iron curtain, barbed wire, and machine gun nests, and guned down many for the crime of wanting freedom to prevent the whole of the USSR from being hollowed out the same way the American inner city was.

Untill the left adopt the soviet iron curtain to imprison those whos rewards for labor they want to confiscate, to prevent him escaping your miniture marxist hellhole, or get that one world global tyranny you seek so that there is no where left for those wanting freedom to run. your marxist slavery progrom isnt going to work.

We didnt go to war with nazi germany to free the jews, we didnt even go to war untill japan attacked and germany declared the same.

But go to war we did, and when we got there we found death camps and mass graves.

We now know that Daddy and Brothers Saddam are the perps of crimes against humanity, we have again found mass graves, mass graves of kids, reports of Kids being used for sex toys then tiger food, revolting uses for a plastic shreadder machine, and general horrifics that show how utterly evil and revolting M Moore and his Potemkin Village depiction of pre-war iraq was.

It would be the same as if Moore, was in 1940 germany, with his camera rolling on sweet little german children, the boys wearing their Hitler Youth outfit, and in the distance, the rising constructions of smokestacks, where the beloved parents of these sweet little things are hard at work.

M Moore gave aid and confort, to a regime in active crimes against humanity. it would be the same as if David Duke had teken a seat next to Herbert and Barbra Bush at the DNC.

And commie Kerry who slimed our troops and acted as an agent for the Veitcong, we now have documented proof of that in captured Veitcong documents.

No you lefties are perhaps wasting your time attemtimg to "bridge the gap" here.

Most everything here says those that dont agree with you are tagged ignorant and subhuman.

This is a contest of ideas, and in many ways, real not metaphorical, a contest between good and evil, life and death.

Peace will come with victory, with 100+ Million already butchered by your ideas, the time for talking is long since past.

Posted by: Raymond | Dec 16, 2004 11:18:30 PM


Posted by: J. Peden

I demand testing of everything advocated, so I can see the results, then vote as an informed citizen, thus saving democracy. We will have to create many identical Worlds, which should be easy, as there is no doubt that we can read the minds of voters who don't know how to vote, and can thus imagine the Worlds, which are much more perfect than reality, anyway, and should exist in place of our own.

I contend voting is completely unnecessary, and, moreover, we need to destroy this imperfect World.

Otherwise, I demand proof Government is God.

I do know that it has been proven that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, but then I never thought he did, never heard anyone say so, and didn't care if he didn't. Woe be to unto me, sinner that I am. Mission Accomplished.

Posted by: J. Peden | Dec 16, 2004 11:58:52 PM


Posted by: D Baty

Speaking of ignorant voters, I think this statement by Michael Moore bears repeating... "There is no terrorist threat."
Equally out of touch with reality is the question Moore poses in Dude, Where’s My Country, "Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger?"
There is an excellent article in The New Republic concerning the Lefts soft position on terrorism, by Peter Beinart. It’s entitled AN ARGUMENT FOR A NEW LIBERALISM. A Fighting Faith
Here is the link
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=whKP5U%2BbbaxbirV9FQhQuh%3D%3D

Posted by: D Baty | Dec 17, 2004 12:27:19 AM


Posted by: farmgirl

S. Weasel, Mona -- Sorry to continue OT, but since the "Killian memos" have never been proven to be false, the content is worth considering. I'm not excusing CBS, they had a serious judgement lapse, but that doesn't justify dismissing any investigation into the truth of the President's service record.

From http://www.glcq.com/set_up.htm, "Was the Killian Memo scandal a Set-up?": "...the only reason that CBS retracted its story was because it found out that the source of the documents had lied about where they originated. As more and more information comes out, however, the authenticity of the memos is less and less in doubt. ... With each day that passes, it becomes clearer that either the “Killian memos” are copies of true originals, or were retyped by someone whose purpose was to destroy the credibility of Bill Burkett."

Mona -- "There was not time before airing to research their claims and authenticity" ... even after airing, how about just asking the President whether certain events happened? With regard to all the other allegations, it's not a "smear" when it's based on his own military files, for heaven's sake.

Posted by: farmgirl | Dec 17, 2004 11:04:10 AM


Posted by: Nick

Farmgirl,

Since it is OT, please drop it. You're not going to convince anyone to switch their opinion on the memos at this point - just as the SwiftBoat Vet arguments won't convince anyone at this point. It's just static and 'yes it's real' / 'no it's not' posts don't add to this dicussion.

Thanks.

- Nick

Posted by: Nick | Dec 17, 2004 11:20:58 AM


Posted by: Neal

Jen:

I take it that realizing that the claim--which was repeated ad nauseum in most legitimate print news sources--that there were no WMDs or 9-11 connection are facts that fall under that classification quite nicely

This is exactly the problem. Why do these facts matter? The importance is the stability of the region so that the lifeblood of Western Civilization, oil, continues to flow until we can figure out how to stop relying on it.

So long as you have a huge political void in the region, you will continue to have contenders who try to take it over: Saddam with his Arab Nationalism approach and Osama with his Islamic Fundamentalist approach. They will then create a new superpower, by controlling the oil flow.

These things were never discussed, as far as I know, yet I think they are the intrinsic reasons for going to war, and point to the long term security of the US, and in fact the western world.

Yet, you can't say these things to the american public, nor have a reasonable discussion on them. Why is that?

Posted by: Neal | Dec 17, 2004 3:17:23 PM


Posted by: Aidan Maconachy

I keep seeing posts here and elsewhere that completely discountenance the idea that Saddam’s Baathist regime had anything to do with 9/11. Just because there is no smoking gun doesn’t mean that the case is even close to being shut.

All kinds of circumstantial evidence exists that suggest a serious level of involvement on the part of Saddam with both of the attacks on the Trade Towers. The reason no smoking gun has been found is because Saddam knew very well the consequences that would flow from direct implication. Liberals who loudly proclaim that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 need to take pause and review the data that indicates the contrary.

Let’s start with Atta and the tracks linking him to Saddam. The Czechs have long maintained that Atta met with Ahmed al-Ani, an Iraqi intelligence official, posted to the Iraqi embassy in Prague. As Epstein now reports, Czech authorities have discovered that al-Ani’s appointment calendar shows a scheduled meeting on April 8, 2001 with Atta. Despite bogus attempts by the NY Times and others to discredit this story, Czech ministers continue to stand by the claim. The meeting in Prague is given further credibility by statements from the Iraqi interim government concerning Atta’s activities inside Iraq. The London Telegraph reported last December the discovery of a secret memo to Hussein that gives details of a visit by Atta to Baghdad just weeks before the 9-11 attacks. Information obtained by Iraq's coalition goverment indicated Atta was trained in Baghdad by Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal. "We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," said Dr Ayad Allawi, the interim Iraqi leader.

But Al-Ani wasn’t the only Iraqi operative connected with the 9/11 hijackers - other intelligence reports indicate that an Iraqi operative, Ahmen Hikmat Shakir, escorted not one but two September 11 hijackers - Khalid al Midhar and Nawaq al Hamzi - through the passport and customs process upon their arrival in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000. Shakir then traveled with the hijackers to the Kuala Lumpur Hotel where they met with Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the masterminds of the September 11 plot. The meeting lasted three days.

More recently some fascinating revelations have been provided by Laurie Mylroie, author of "The War Against America". She claims that senior al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, captured in Pakistan recently, is not the man he claims to be. Mylroie claims he is actually an Iraqi intelligence agent –– a fact that would serve as smoking-gun evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the terror of September the 11th. As the operational leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, Mohammed is said to have been the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and is thought to have planned the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Mylroie maintains Mohammed is a Pakistani Baluch. Baluchs are Sunni Muslims who live in the desert regions of eastern Iran and western Pakistan –– Baluchistan –– and have longstanding ties to Iraqi intelligence. Wafiq Samarrai, former chief of Iraqi military intelligence who defected to the West in 1994, explains that Iraqi intelligence worked with the Baluch during the Iran-Iraq war.

According to seized forged documents, Mohammed was ostensibly born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents on April 19, 1965. That would put him just under 38 years of age. Mylroie suggests the graying sideburns and heavy jowls in Mohammed's arrest photo circulated by federal agents belong to someone substantially older than 38.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Saddam actually stepped up his support of al-Qaeda . In October 2002, he welcomed dozens of al-Qaeda operatives to Iraq, where they were provided with new identities linking them with prominent Iraqi families. Among the senior al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq are Othman Suleiman Daoud, an Afghan national. Daoud was believed based in the Sunni Triangle, north of Baghdad, the focus of the insurgency against the U.S. military. Another al-Qada leader in Iraq is Faraj Shaabi, a Libyan national. The sources said Shaabi spent most of the last decade in Sudan until he was ordered by bin Laden to transfer to Iraq.

Abdul Rahman Al-Shamari - who worked in Saddam’s secret police, the Mukhabarat, said that importing foreign fighters to train in Iraq was part of his job in the Mukhabarat. The fighters trained in Salman Pak, a facility located some 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. He said that he had personal knowledge of 500 fighters that came through Salman Pak dating back to the late 1990s; they trained in "urban combat, explosives, and car bombs." This account agrees with a White House Background Paper on Iraq dated September 12, 2002, which cited the "highly secret terrorist training facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in cities, sabotage, and assassinations."

Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda training camps and safe havens in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for Al Qaeda - and even for the mastermind of the 9/11 attack - Mohamed Atta.

The relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda began shortly before the first Gulf War. bin Laden sent "emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials." At some unspecified point in 1991, according to a CIA analysis, "Iraq sought Sudan‘s assistance to establish links to Al Qaeda." The outreach went in both directions. According to 1993 CIA reporting cited in the memo, "bin Laden wanted to expand his organization‘s capabilities through ties with state powers such as Iraq”. The primary go-between throughout these early stages was Sudanese strongman Hassan al-Turabi, a leader of the Al Qaeda-affiliated National Islamic Front. Numerous sources have confirmed this. One defector reported that "al-Turabi was instrumental in arranging the Iraqi-Al Qaeda relationship. The defector said Iraq sought Al Qaeda influence through its connections with Afghanistan, to facilitate the transshipment of proscribed weapons and equipment to Iraq. In return, Iraq provided Al Qaeda with training and instructors."

Liberals who contend that the politics and personal philosophies of Saddam and bin Laden were diametrically opposed are missing a hidden dimension. Whatever the cultural differences between Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the two engaged each other’s support in a common hatred for the United States. Liberal media sources, create the impression the public was misled by the Administration - but read the actual reports from the 9-11 Commission, listen to what President Bush actually says, and you realize that it is liberal media that is doing the misleading. The amount of evidence surrounding linkage between Iraq and al Qaeda is enough to write a book; indeed, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has actually written a book outlining the multitudes of connections, appropriately titled "The Connection”.

Let us also not forget that the al Zarqawri network was in no way a late development in the present war in Iraq. Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner al Zarqawi has long had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of Oct. 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with Saddam in order to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an officer in Baghdad. Zarqawi was also set up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis long preceded the invasion

Anyone who refuses to consider the wide range of damning connections that existed between Saddam and Al Qaeda is simply playing politics if he/she shouts out the standard line about the lack of a “ Saddam connection” in the 9/11 attacks.

In her book - The Third Terrorist - Davis suggests the Sept. 11 attacks possibly could have been prevented if evidence of an Iraqi and al-Qaeda link to the Oklahoma City bombing had been pursued. Davis writes, Hussain Hashem Al-Hussaini –– a former Iraqi Republican Guardsman whom multiple eyewitnesses identified as McVeigh's elusive accomplice, John Doe 2 . Hussaini confided to his psychiatrist that he was anxious about his airport job because "if something were to happen there, I [Al-Hussaini] would be a suspect." At the time, Al-Hussaini was employed at Boston Logan International Airport, where two of the four 9-11 suicide hijackings originated.

There are way too many shadows, weird coincidences and loose ends for anyone to declare with any confidence that the link didn’t exist. Period.

Posted by: Aidan Maconachy | Dec 17, 2004 9:21:26 PM


Posted by: Linus Unbound

Even if Saddam Hussein KNEW about 9/11, that's still not a "connection".

I'm satisfied with the justification that he was harboring Al Qaeda after the attack, but if you're not, if you need more, you should reconsider your support of the war effort -- and I say this hoping you'll continue to support it, but for the right reasons.

Posted by: Linus Unbound | Dec 20, 2004 1:23:52 PM


Posted by: james

Voters tend to self select issues based on personal importance. Being ignorant on a particular issue does not translate into gernal ignorance. I am certain most mid-western farmers are far more familar with farm subsidy regulations than east cost factory workers. This does not mean that east cost factory workers are ignorant. Mearly that the particular knowledge is unimportant to them.

Posted by: james | Dec 21, 2004 1:56:32 AM


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