From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
"grave and gathering danger" vs. "imminent threat", part 2

January 30, 2004 7:54 AM

David Sirota, the very smart guy responsible for the Progress Report, sent me a detailed response to my issue yesterday about distorting McClellan's Turkey "imminent threat" statement:

We studied the quote extensively before putting it in the Progress Report. Our view is that the transcript clearly shows that McClellan was indicating that Iraq was an imminent threat to NATO members, and was asking them to stand down from their refusal to send troops to help Turkey should there be a need. By definition in NATO's charter, if Iraq is an imminent threat to NATO, then it is an imminent threat to the United States, because the United States is a member of NATO. The question immediately preceding his comment makes this all the more clear. McClellan says "it's important to note that the request [for NATO troops] comes from a country under Article IV that faces an imminent threat." The reporter then asks "Is this some kind of ultimate test of the [NATO] alliance?" -- an alliace, again, that the U.S. is a part of. And McClellan answers clearly, "this is about an imminent threat." If you were to continue his line it would be "this is about an imminent threat [to the NATO alliance]" -- an alliance which the United States is a part of (NATO's doctrine, of course, is if one is threatened, all are are threatened, if one is attacked, all are attacked).

In the Progress Report we were careful to make this clear. We write "it was McClellan who said the reason NATO should go along with the Administration's Iraq war plan was because "this is about an imminent threat" -- which is true. That was his argument -- that NATO members should defend one of its own (Turkey) because Iraq poses an imminent threat. And again, legally that is an imminent threat to the United States. Put it this way -- would anyone argue that an entity that was an imminent threat to NATO wasn't an imminent threat to the United States? No, because that's really not possible.

The White House has argued to reporters that McClellan's statement has nothing to do with Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S. (and that his comment was only directed at Turkey if there was an invasion). But, then, that would mean McClellan was effectively arguing that Iraq would ONLY become an imminent threat AFTER the United States invaded - a ridiculous proposition considering all the rhetoric about the "growing, mounting, urgent, gathering and immediate" threat Iraq posed by just sitting there that the White House had been spewing for months.

Finally, and most importantly, even if you DO accept the White House's argument and whitewash (which I most certainly do not), how do these comments jive with McClellan's comments that yesterday saying imminent threat "were not the words we used."? Just take a look...

1/26/2003, CNN television asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett "is he (Saddam) an imminent threat to US interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?" Bartlett replied "Well, of course he is," Bartlett replied.

Similarly, on 5/7/03, Ari Fleischer was asked "Well, we went to war, didn't we, to find these -- because we said that these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States? Isn't that true?" and he replied "Absolutely."

And on 9/18/02, Rumsfeld said "Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

I hope this helps clear the air.

And my response:

Thanks for the detailed response, David. And I read the language you used to describe McClellan's quote agreeing that it was technically accurate. But there's a reason you left out Turkey in that sentence and used "iraq war plan" -- and I feel that's deceptive. Most people reading that would not have parsed it to the level necessary to grasp what was really said -- that McClellan was referring to an imminent threat faced by Turkey, an ally of ours in the NATO alliance.

And yes, I absolutely agree, the administration clearly led us to believe that Iraq was an imminent threat. It's ridiculous that they continue to pull these technical explanations -- "well, we never actually said that" -- when they beat us over the head with the threat Iraq posed. But technically they are correct: no one ever used the exact phrase "imminent threat."

Personally, I would have held a higher bar on this one -- there's plenty of other stuff to hang them on this issue.

My two cents. And I really appreciate what you're doing.

More from the archive in Lies and Deceit, Terrorism, War and Peace.

"grave and gathering danger" vs. "imminent threat", part 2 (01.30.2004)

Next Entry: Kerry & Bush even in national poll (01.30.2004)
Previous Entry: We got Saddam ... now the target is Osama (01.29.2004)

Read the 1 comments.


But technically they are correct: no one ever used the exact phrase "imminent threat."

Glad you agree.

Now on to more important items, like how any angels can dance on a pin head.

Fri Jan 30 2004 1:22 PM

Jim Gilliam
Jim Gilliam


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