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"With Us or Against Us"

Warmonger's Arguments Abound in Fallacies

by D.V. Bowden

When one encounters something such as Mike Marcel's Feb. 3rd letter denouncing those opposed to a preemptive attack on Iraq as "unpatriotic" and possibly guilty of "treason," it is hard to know whether one should respond--and possibly lend an air of legitimacy to patently ridiculous arguments--or let it pass without comment and take the risk that someone will take such fallacies to heart. Perhaps it is best to heed the words of poet John Milton: "Let truth and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?" Therefore, I would like to address some of the problems with Mr. Marcel's letter.

Marcel writes, "What makes these anti-war supporters think that they have more information than the president of the United States on which to base a decision about Iraq?" Bush has been claiming for over a year to have evidence showing Saddam Hussein is _____ (fill in blank for whatever Saddam's crime-of-the-week is–supporting terror, building nukes, bayoneting babies, etc.). Bush hasn't produced a single shred of this "evidence." Why should we believe it exists? Even if it does, Bush has not shared that information with Congress and obtained a declaration of war, which is required by the Constitution. The Founders placed the power of war in the hands of Congress, not the President. It was not intended that a president, like an absolute monarch in Europe, would have the power to commit the country to war. Without such a declaration of war, a pre-emptive attack on Iraq is unconstitutional. It's just not Bush's decision to make.

Marcel continues, "All of these people who don't support Bush are supporters of Saddam Hussein and are defending his ideas of building weapons of mass destruction. From where I come from, that is treason!" Let's take this statement one phrase at a time:

"All of these people who don't support Bush are supporters of Saddam Hussein..."

This is an example of the "false dilemma" fallacy, where you are given only two choices, though other choices actually exist. Marcel equates being "against" Bush with being "for" Hussein (or, presumably, Osama bin Laden–remember that guy?). Bush's "with us or against us" rhetoric is an example of this fallacy. It is a widespread, albeit childish, way of arguing. There are other choices, such as opposing Bush's "pre-emptive strike" doctrine, whereby any country in the world may be attacked for any reason (or no reason), while at the same time deploring Saddam Hussein's repressive regime in Iraq (and other repressive regimes around the world, such as China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, etc.). Opposition to an out-of-control dictator at home does not imply support for out-of-control dictators abroad.

"...and are defending his ideas of building weapons of mass destruction."

Since when is there anything wrong with defending ideas? At the beginning of his letter, Mr. Marcel defended the idea of free speech. No matter, since there is no evidence that Hussein has any "weapons of mass destruction" (a widely misunderstood term). Nevertheless, why should Saddam either disarm or refrain from arming himself with such weapons? Where does the U.S. get the authority to decide which countries can and cannot have such weapons? Why is it alright for the U.S. to have them, but not Iraq? Israel has them. So does China, Pakistan, India, Russia, France, and North Korea--which developed such weapons precisely because they realised that the only way to avoid the threat of a preemptive U.S. attack is to practise "deterrence" through the possession of nuclear weapons. Now that their strategy has been shown successful, other nations will have an incentive to acquire such weapons to protect themselves against U.S. aggression. 50 years ago, we were worried about the Commies taking over the world, and today, the world is worried about the U.S. taking over. Isn't life interesting?

"From where I come from, that is treason!"

Where exactly is Marcel from? Not the U.S., I infer, since the U.S. Constitution clearly defines treason in Art.3, Section 3: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Note the plural forms: "levying war against THEM" and "adhering to THEIR enemies." The Founders were not referring to the federal (central) government, but to the states. It is not constitutionally-possible to commit treason against the federal government. One can only commit treason by committing an act of war against a state, or in aiding their enemies during wartime (real aid, not mere sympathy). The anti-war protesters that so irk Mr. Marcel are merely exercising their right to free speech–hardly an act of war. And since there is no declared war, there can be no "enemies" to which they could give aid or comfort, even if they were so inclined.

Marcel is also confident that "the intelligence analysts, inspectors and staff of our president will advise him to the fullest extent to what the correct course of action should be."

Don't forget the oil company executives, defence contractors, and other interests who stand to benefit financially from a war.

It would be an unproductive waste of my time to debunk the rest of Marcel's contentions, which are equally as silly as those examined above, but I think I've gotten my point across. Don't be fooled by fallacious "with us or against us" arguments, don't put up with self-righteous warmongers telling you that killing innocent people overseas is OK because their leader is a bad man, and watch out for appeals-to-authority. "Because George Bush said so" is not a valid argument.

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Lagniappe

For a detailed listing and explanation of logical fallacies and how to recognise them, see http://datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm.

For more impolitic questions about the upcoming Bush War II, see this piece by Harry Browne.


For the reader's convenience, here is Mr. Marcel's letter from the Feb. 3, 2003 edition of The Crimson White newspaper, reproduced in full:

Anti-War Supporters Are Unpatriotic [headline by paper staff, not Mr. Marcel]
By Mike Marcel
February 03, 2003

I want to start off by saying that I respect the fact that everyone in this country is entitled to his own opinion. In fact, freedom of speech is a cornerstone on which this great country is founded. I want to express the opinion that I am sick and tired of hearing and seeing all of this junk about not invading Iraq.

For those of you who have been in the military, you realize that even battlefield commanders have numerous sources of information they can use to make a decision. What makes these anti-war supporters think that they have more information than the president of the United States on which to base a decision about Iraq?

I'm sure President Bush is not watching CNN or any of these other biased TV networks and basing his decision on merely the facts they present, like these liberal anti-war supporters are doing!

The bottom line is this: President Bush was elected by this country to lead this (so-called unified) nation and protect it from harm. Not voting for Bush should not be an excuse for not supporting your country. If it is, maybe you should find a country where you get to make all the decisions no matter what the rest of the country thinks!

All of these people who don't support Bush are supporters of Saddam Hussein and are defending his ideas of building weapons of mass destruction. From where I come from, that is treason!

I am not telling you how to think or what to believe. I am merely reminding you that your loyalty should be to this country and not to an evil leader who has shown evidence of wrongdoing in every sense of the word.

I am confident that the intelligence analysts, inspectors and staff of our president will advise him to the fullest extent to what the correct course of action should be.

If you are walking around posting anti-war posters and supporting Iraq and its arms programs, I want you to think about this: How are you going to feel if there is a program in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons and one is dropped on our country, killing millions? Let's find out all of the facts before we make our decisions and show some loyalty to our president and our country.

Mike Marcel is a graduate student in the College of Engineering.



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