23 September 2003

New doctrine: admission by stealth

The United States Vice-President's retreat from prewar claims that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons appears to be part of a broader Bush Administration effort to abandon disputed assertions without admitting mistakes, experts say.

In an interview on Sunday, Dick Cheney rolled back his prewar claim that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons.

Two days earlier, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, had said he was mistaken when he claimed that 'a great many' high-ranking lieutenants of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, were plotting with remnants of Saddam's regime to kill Americans in Iraq.

Stephen Hess, a Brookings Institution scholar who has worked for four presidents, said the Administration's goal 'is not to admit mistakes'.

'Their actions remind me of the old adage that being president is never having to say you're sorry,' Mr Hess said.

Like Geoff Hoon's effort over the 45 minutes it seems odd these mistakes only ever get corrected under pressure and long after their political impact has faded. Our own Man of Steel first mastered this art with the children overboard affair before moving on to forgetting he had met with the Manildra CEO. As far as I know the Man of Steel's allies in Washington and London have not yet mastered the 'no-one told me' technique, but I guess it's coming.

The other variant, mastered by Bush, is the high-level of announcement followed by the low-level disavowal. How many million more people heard Bush say the the WMDs had been found than heard later that the trailers of mass destruction were actually hydrogen generators?

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