March 29, 2006

Straw Man Update

My November 4, 2005 post entitled "Political Straw Men" illustrated how the Republicans often use the straw man tactic in their political arguments, knocking down an argument supposedly made by Democrats or other critics, but which in fact was never made. The Associated Press recently ran an article over its wires entitled "Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches" that makes the exact same point, using numerous examples from President Bush himself. A number of major newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, ran the article. I'd like to think the author got her ideas after reading my post. In any event, I'm glad to see that someone else is shining the light of truth upon this cynical tactic.


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Cantbeanonyomous said...

Are the "terrorists" straw men? I don't know, they seem to be proliferating and our President seems to ignore them, while saying that he's whippin' their asses.

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent
2 hours, 39 minutes ago

The U.S. war on terrorism has made the world safer, the State Department's counterterrorism chief said on Friday, despite more than 11,000 terrorist attacks worldwide last year that killed 14,600 people.

The State Department said the numbers, listed in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released on Friday, were based on a broader definition of terrorism and could not be compared to the 3,129 international attacks listed the previous year.

But the new 2005 figures, which showed attacks in Iraq jumped and accounted for about a third of the world's total, may fuel criticism of the Bush administration's assertion that it is winning the fight against terrorism.

Asked if the world was safer than the previous year, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Henry Crumpton told a news conference, "I think so. But I think that (if) you look at the ups and downs of this battle, it's going to take us a long time to win this. You can't measure this month by month or year by year. It's going to take a lot longer."

The report said Iraq, which the U.S. government calls a key battleground in the war on terrorism but critics call a source for violence, was not a terrorist safe haven. But it said militants such as Abu Musab al Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq were working hard to make it a refuge for militants.

Russell Travers, a deputy director at the National Counterterrorism Center which compiled the numbers, said people killed in incidents involving 10 or more dead soared to about 3,400 in Iraq in 2005 from 1,700 in 2004. The number in the rest of the world dropped to about 1,500 from 3,000.

The report said Iraq accounted for just over 30 percent of worldwide attacks and 55 percent of deaths. Some 56 Americans were killed in militant attacks in 2005, 47 of them in Iraq.


Iran, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Cuba and North Korea remained on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, despite significantly better cooperation from Sudan and Libya, the report said.

"Iran remained the most active sponsor of terrorism," Crumpton said, adding Iran provided Hizbollah and Palestinian militants with extensive funding, training and weapons, supported insurgents in Iraq, and provided safe haven to its own operatives and members of Hizbollah.

"Iran presents a particular concern, given its active sponsorship of terrorism and its continued development of a nuclear program," he said.

Al Qaeda remained the most prominent terrorist threat to the United States and its allies, the report said. But Crumpton said al Qaeda's global operational control had weakened since the September 11 attacks, and while the leadership continued to inspire violence, they lacked the direct control of the past.

"I think they are less capable of hitting our homeland. I think they have less global strategic strength right now, but at same time you have got a number of loosely linked networks that are smaller, more diffuse and more difficult for us to detect and to engage," he said.

Crumpton said stronger international cooperation against terrorism was another reason why the world had become safer.

Officials sought to avert any conclusion that the sharply higher statistics on attacks meant the war on terrorism was not working.

"This is not the kind of war where you can measure success with conventional numbers," Crumpton said.

The report said, "This data cannot be meaningfully compared to previous years since it suggests that attacks on civilians may have been occurring at a substantially higher rate than was reflected in previous years' reporting and accounting."


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