Godel's Proof and The Human Condition - The Basic Essays

Garbage In, Garbage Out

January 21, 2005

Wednesday's latimes carried excerpts of the exchange (below) between California Senator Barbara Boxer and Bush's Secretary of State appointee Condoleezza Rice at the latter's appearance before the Senate. That exchange is typical of communication problems inherent the nature of language and communication in general (so far) and invests virtually all communication today (scientific or mathematical excepted). There are, in this respect, a number of distinct language and communication properties that can and do contribute to these problems among which, for example, are (a) the use of words of 'soft' definition -'freedom' among others here, (b) communication style: accusation, assertion, conjecture and 'pronouncement' (except as 'properly couched'), and (c) 'adversarial method' itself as opposed to 'objective (heuristic) inquiry'. While this may not seem important to some people, the simple fact is that it IS the material of language and the mechanism of communication (ignorance underlying both) that keeps 'the human condition' what it is -it is not enough to say "You know what I mean".

Be that what it be then, I have taken the liberty of 'correcting' that exchange (below) in only the most superficial way (going further isn't worth the massive undertaking -and boring too :-). The corrections are in red (browser-viewed) and of two kinds: (i) unbracketed insertions (by me -commas omitted) intended to provide 'statistical probity' to the related clause or statement, and (ii) bracketed comments intended to identify 'procedural or textural problems' with foregoing material.

Note: Inquiry here is in regard to Condoleezza Rice's suitability as appointed for Secretary of State. Barbara Boxer is 'chartered', in this respect, to question Condoleezza Rice on matters relevant to approval per Rice's appointment, whereas Rice is 'committed by charter' to respond to Boxer's questioning on matters relevant to such inquiry; the nature of dialog between the two here, consequently (and unfortunately?), appears to be 'unilaterally inquisitional and adversarial' on one side, and 'unilaterally obligational and adversarial' on the other. This should be kept in mind by the reader because the tenor of 'question and response' (and analysis) changes appreciably as we move between Boxer and Rice. The whole, I observe, is 'alive' with 'politicking', 'speechifying' and elliptical or irrelevant opinion or broad assertion in general. (Think then, about President Bush's inaugural speech.)


January 19, 2005 Los Angeles Times
'With You in the Lead Role, Dr. Rice, We Went Into Iraq'

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Thank you, Dr. Rice, for agreeing to stay as long as it takes, because some of us do have a lot of questions….

One of the things that I think matters most to my people in California and the people in America is this war in Iraq. Now, it took you to Page 3 of your testimony to mention the word "Iraq." You said very little really about it I think, and it appears that only in the questioning have we been able to get into some areas….

So in your statement it takes you to Page 3 to mention the word "Iraq." Then you mention it in the context of elections — which is fine — but you never even mention indirectly the 1,366 American troops that have died, or the 10,372 who have been wounded… which I believe you should have. And 25% of those dead are from my home state. And this I believe can be argued from a war that was based on what everyone [???] now says, including your own administration, were falsehoods about WMDs, weapons of mass destruction.

And I've had tens of thousands of people from all over the country say that they disagree — although they respect the president — they disagree that this administration and the people in it shouldn't be held accountable…. [assertion 'leading the jury']

And I'm fearful if we don't see some changes here we're going to have trouble. And I think the way we should start is by trying to set the record straight on some of the things you said going into this war. Now, since 9/11 we've been engaged in what I believe is a just fight against terror. And I, like Sen. [Russell D.] Feingold [D-Wis.] and I believe everyone here who was in the Senate at the time, voted to go after Osama bin Laden and to go after the Taliban, and to defeat Al Qaeda. And you say they have left the territory — that's evidently not true. Your own documents show that Al Qaeda has expanded from 45 countries in '01 to more than 60 countries today.

Well, with you in the lead role I think, Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq. I want to read you a paragraph that I believe best expresses my views, and ask my staff if they would hold this up — and I believe, the views of millions of Californians and Americans [sic]. It was written by what I believe is one of the world's experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen, five months ago. He wrote: [opinion] "What we have done in Iraq is what Bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure Bin Laden has long predicted was the U.S. long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam [Hussein], whom Bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and [Shiite] fundamentalist fervor in Iraq and have now provoked a defensive jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terror."

This conclusion was reiterated last Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank, which released a report saying that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of … terrorists….

Now, the war was apparently sold to the American people, as chief of staff to President Bush, Andy Card said, like a "new product." Those were his words. Remember, he said, "you don't roll out a new product in the summer." Now, you rolled out the idea, and then you had to convince the people, as you made your case with the president. And I personally believe — this is my personal view — that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, I think overwhelmed your respect for the truth….

Now, perhaps the most well-known statement you've made was the one about Saddam Hussein launching a nuclear weapon on America with the image of, quote, quoting you, "a mushroom cloud". That image I think had to frighten every American into believing that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of annihilating them if he was not stopped.

And I will be placing into the record a number of such statements you made which I believe have not been consistent with the facts. I think that [a]s the nominee for secretary of State, you must answer to the American people, and you are doing that now through this confirmation process….

And as much as I want to look ahead — and we will work together on a myriad [sic] of issues — it's hard for me to let go of this war, because people are still dying. And you have not laid out an exit strategy. You've not set up a timetable -both of which I think you should. And you don't seem to be willing to A) [sic] admit to what I believe is a mistake or give any indication of what you're going to do to forcefully involve others -- which I believe you should. As a matter of fact, I think you've said more misstatements — that the territory of the terrorists has been shrinking when your own administration says it's now expanded to 60 countries.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Senator, I am more than aware of the stakes that we face in Iraq, and I was more than aware of the stakes of going to war in Iraq. I mourn and honor — I mourn the dead and honor their service, because we have asked [committed] American men and women in uniform to do the hardest thing, which is to go and defend freedom and give others an opportunity to build a free society, which will make us safer. [-irrelevant 'playing to the jury' thruout].

Senator, I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything['playing to the jury']. It is not my nature. It is not my character. And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said without impugning [-see 'Charter' above] my credibility or my integrity.

The fact is that we did face I think a very difficult intelligence challenge in trying to understand what Saddam Hussein had in terms of weapons of mass destruction. We knew something about him. We knew that he had — we had gone to war with him twice in the past, in 1991 and in 1998. We knew that he continued [moot] to shoot at American aircraft in the no-fly zone as we tried to enforce the resolutions of U.N. Security — that the U.N. Security Council had passed. We knew that he continued [questionable] to threaten his neighbors. We knew that he was an implacable [questionable] enemy of the United States who did cavort [???] with terrorists [-flat-out pronouncement thruout -'playing to the jury'].

We knew that he was the world's most dangerous man in the world's most dangerous region [flat-out pronouncement]. And we knew that in terms of weapons of mass destruction, he had sought them before, tried to build them before, that he had an undetected biological weapons program that we didn't learn of until 1995, that he was closer to a nuclear weapon in 1991 than anybody thought…. [conjecture -'playing to the jury' thruout]

I believe We went to war because this was the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a man against whom we had gone to war before, who I believe threatened his neighbors, who I believe threatened our interests, who I believe was one of the world's most brutal dictators. And I believe it was high time to get rid of him, and I'm glad that we're rid of him. [conjecture -'playing to the jury' thruout]

Now, as to the statement about territory and the terrorist groups, I was referring to the fact that the Al Qaeda organization of Osama bin Laden, which once trained openly in Afghanistan, which I believe once ran with impunity in places like Pakistan, I believe can no longer count on hospitable territory from which to carry out their activities. In the places where they are, I believe they're being sought and run down and arrested and pursued in ways that they never were before [conjecture thruout]. So we can have a semantic discussion about what it means to take or lose territory, but I don't think it's a matter of misstatement to say that the loss of Afghanistan, the loss of the northwest frontier of Pakistan, the loss of what appears to be running with impunity in places like Saudi Arabia, the fact that now intelligence networks and law enforcement networks seem to pursue them worldwide, means I believe that they have lost territory where they can operate with impunity. [conjecture -'playing to the jury' thruout]

BOXER: You and I could sit here and go back and forth and present our arguments, and maybe somebody watching a debate would pick one or the other, depending on their own views. But I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in what I call the facts. So when I ask you these questions, I'm going to show you your words, not my words. And, if I might say, again you said you're aware of the stakes in Iraq; we sent our beautiful people … to defend freedom [irrelevant -'playing to the jury']. You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none. I have your quotes on it. I have the president's quotes on it. And everybody [???] admits it but you that that was the reason for the war.

And then, once we're in there, now it moves to a different mission, which I think is great. We all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly do it. But let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that [irrelevant -'playing to the jury' thruout].

RICE: Sen. Boxer, I would refer you to the president's speech before the American Enterprise Institute in February, prior to the war, in which he talked about the fact that, yes, he thought there was the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but he also talked to the strategic threat that he thought Saddam Hussein was to the region. Saddam Hussein was I think a threat, yes, because [conjecture] he was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And, yes, we thought that he had stockpiles which it appears he did not have. We had problems with the intelligence…. It was the total picture, senator, not just weapons of mass destruction in my opinion, that caused us to decide that, post-Sept. 11, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

BOXER: Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but I believe most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was I believe the reason and the causation [sic] for that, you know, particular vote. But, again, I just feel you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, "Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." You go on television nine months later and said, "Nobody ever said it was."

RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty. No one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake….

RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity ['playing to the jury' -see 'Charter' above].

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First posted: January 25, 2005; Last Updated: January 25, 2005