Monday, June 09, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

What happens when something you know to be true, that you believe deeply in, that you have incorporated into your mental model of the world and based other decisions on, turns out to be false? How do you shake the very foundations of your opinions and strategies and remake your philosophy when you find out you were wrong?

Some (not all) of the people I know are up to it; they're bright and committed to the truth. I wonder whether they'll accept the truth.

Bush didn't lie. According to the Rockefeller committee report, there was substantiating information and/or evidence supporting the president's statements:

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

Presentations by elected Democratic officials implying the contrary conclusion are just politics as usual.


jaylake said...

You do realize that the Rockefeller report is significantly in the minority of professional intelligence opinion on this topic, and even their substantiations are on very narrow technicalities, not the broad-brush terms in which Bush spoke at the time? This isn't nearly as definitive as you believe.

Kai Jones said...

If there was enough evidence that the Democratic majority on the committee used the phrase "generally substantiated" then Bush didn't lie, as I understand lying.

The evidence was of varying reliability, but it was the best evidence we had at the time; if he chose to believe it because of confirmation bias, that's not lying as I understand lying.

As I remember the reporting at that time, there were very few people who said the evidence was completely wrong. The biggest disagreements were about how to react to it: invade or not? That's not a matter of factual reliance, that's a matter of strategy.

Mark Jones said...

Yeah, but...

...saying "I disagree with the President's policy toward Iraq" just doesn't roll off the tongue as enjoyably as "Bush lied!" It isn't nearly as emotionally satisfying to differ on interpretation of evidence as to paint the adminstration Eeeeeeeevil.

But you know all that. :D