Friday, September 10, 2004

AWOL Forgeries?

Well, it's starting to sound like the new documents concerning Bush's guard service might very well be forgeries. Some sites on the right, of course, concluded immediately and with their characteristic absolute certainty that this was so, but offered little by way of convincing evidence. But as you've no doubt already seen, today's WaPo notes that experts they consulted said they looked like forgeries. Unfortunately, we aren't told what percentage of the experts said this; if, for example, all the experts agreed, you'd think they'd explicitly say so. CBS claims to have consulted four experts and suggests that they all agreed that the docs are legit. Two things here: first, it would be very weird if CBS just happend to pick four actual experts on the matter who all failed to detect obvious forgeries; but, second, if you were about to put a story like this on a show as prominent as 60 Minutes, wouldn't you consult, like, ten experts? And make sure that they were the best ones in the country?

As I wrote in a comment to the previous post, if these docs are forgeries, then the AWOL case against Bush is dead. I say this with a heavy heart, given that (a) the legitimate evidence clearly indicates that he probably did go AWOL and (b) I've always thought that this was the issue that would, eventually sink him (in fact I thought it would sink him before the election of 2000). (Of course it isn't the strongest arguments against re-electing him, but I've alwas thought that it would be a particularly efficacious one.) Even if these documents are bogus, it is still true that the preponderance of undisputably legitimate evidence available to us indicates that Bush probably did not fulfill his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard, and thereby failed to fulfill his obligations to his country. The forgery of some other documents does nothing to change that. When I say that forgeries will kill the AWOL case I mean they will kill it politically, not logically. The public will simply never take the case seriously again, (almost) no matter what evidence materializes.

In fact, if Karl Rove and the rest of that gang wanted to kill the AWOL story, the best thing they could do is plant some forgeries that were likely to pass through one level of scrutiny, but certain to be discovered once they were made public. That sentence will make me sound like a conspiracy nut. Perhaps it will mitigate my nuttiness to note that I am not asserting that that's what happened, I'm just noting that it would do the job for them. Well, actually, I also want to note that Rove is known to have done things just as evil as that (passing out flyers to the homeless promising them free beer and girls at the opening of his opponent's campaign headquarters) and strongly suspected of having done other such things (bugging his own campaign office and blaming it on his opponent).

Who else would produce such forgeries? Certainly not the Democrats--it just isn't their style. They're not quite nasty enough to do such things--besides, surely they know themselves well enough to realize that they aren't competent enough to pull off something like this. They're the Democrats, after all. Hmm... On second thought, if the documents do turn out to be bad forgeries, then maybe the Democrats did do it...

More seriously, though, it seems unlikely to me that any forger could expect to produce forgeries that would pass the kind of scrutiny that these documents would surely be subjected to. If that is true, then the only kind of person who would produce such documents would be either someone who didn't care whether the forgeries were discovered or someone who wanted them to be discovered. The case for that conclusion is strengthened if the documents do, in fact, turn out to be artless and obvious forgeries, produced, for example, on MS Word. Perhaps someone who got paid for such documents wouldn't care that they were likely to be discovered so long as this happened after the money changed hands. So this raises the question: did CBS pay anyone for them? Otherwise, kooky as it might sound, artless and obvious forgeries would be more likely to be planted by Republicans than by Democrats.

God, what next? Am I going to have to make myself some tin-foil headgear?

One thing I found amusing in the WaPo story was this quote about Killian from his widow: "I don't think there were any documents. He was not a paper person." That's just about the most absurd thing I've ever heard. A Lieutenant Colonel in charge of that kind of operation who doesn't keep any records? I've never been in the military, but that sounds preposterous to me. The only claims about Killian's records that really matter are those by his commanding officer, Major General Hodges, who says that Killian actually thought exactly the kinds of things in the documents, and said as much to Hodges (who is himself a Republican). It means nothing at all that, as the sites on the right have trumpted, Killian's wife and son don't think he kept good records. No one who was not fishing for reasons would ever accept such claims as evidentially weighty.

At any rate, there is no sense working ourselves into a tizzy over questions about the authenticity of the documents. It's a case for the experts, and it is likely that we'll have some consensus from them within the week.

Sadly, I'm even more worried about this incident than when I started writing this post. If these do turn out to be forgeries and it is not proven that they were planted by Republicans, then not only is the AWOL case politically dead, but I predict a bounce for Bush. This will also strengthen the strange case that the right has been building that some kind of frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Bush insanity has gripped Democrats.

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