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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show
"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket
"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming
July 27, 2009
The National Humanities Medal For Not Asking Too Many Questions
John Lewis Gaddis is one of the fanciest history professors at Stutts University. During the Bush administration he visited the White House several times to discuss foreign policy with the president. In 2005 he also received the National Humanities Medal.
Now, here's the funny part: in July, 2005 he gave a speech at Middlebury College in which he described how he'd been to the White House in July, 2004 and then again in January, 2005:
I did indeed meet with Condi and the NSC staff in mid-July for a lively discussion...There followed a twenty minute conversation with Bush...
I did, on January 10th, attend a meeting at the White House at which several journalists and academics were invited to discuss the course of our Middle Eastern policies over the next four years...
And somewhere along the line Gaddis had picked up a theory—that Saddam Hussein himself had believed Iraq had WMD:
[N]o weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. But every intelligence agency in the world also believed that they were there, and it may be that Saddam Hussein believed that also. That they weren’t, was universally unexpected.
But apparently these discussions with Condi weren't as lively as Professor Gaddis had thought. Because according to Charles Duelfer, head of the CIA's WMD investigation, Condi had asked him about this specific question long before, on April 1, 2004. And Duelfer told her there was nothing to it:
On Thursday, April 1, 2004, I met with Condoleezza Rice at 1500...
Rice brought the conversation back to the prospects of finding WMD: "I understand one suggestion is that perhaps Saddam did not know what his scientists were doing. For example, the nuclear scientists were promoting projects as being related to WMD because they could attract funding. Did you see evidence of this?"...
I said I did not think so.
But of course the kind of misinformation that Gaddis picked up is to be expected in a government like this, which suffered from:
(1) an almost exclusive reliance upon a single decision-maker, his perceptions and objectives; (2) fear and intimidation; (3) little dissent from the "leader's" views; (4) compartmented expertise with little or no cross-fertilization; (5) the passing of misinformation through the chain of command...
This method of management makes interpreting their descriptions of the inner workings of Regime figures very difficult. They often did not know the truth. Hence, when they would describe something that is wrong, it is difficult or impossible to know if they are purposely dissembling.
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at July 27, 2009 06:51 PM