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The 'Army of Davids' Needs 'Lords of Discipline'

With more and more documents being made public by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, more and more people are combing over them. The value in the number are the varying skill sets and backgrounds. Indeed, one with a limited professional background offers value often purely in the form of the absence of biases, which should not be underestimated when an objective review is a goal.

But this also opens the possibility of inaccuracies and deficiencies. One such weakness is presented clearly by John Hinderaker of Powerline with What Does It Prove? Nothing, Yet, as he provides two vastly differing translations of an Iraqi intelligence document to illustrate a weakness.

Key section of Translation #1:

  • 1. On 8/21/2002, the undertaking of an American delegation visiting the district of Afshariyya to visit the HQ of the Iraqi Communist Party to (the district of) Shaqlawa. A representative of the Communist Party urged that the Iraqi Government be prepared to conceal elements (‘anasir) of the organization al-Qa’ida in the district of Salman Pak, in addition to elements of the Turkish Workers’ Party and the Mujahidin Khalq Iraniyya, and that they are studying the use of chemical weapons. Iraq will (use them?) in case a military strike is directed toward them.

Same key section of Translation #2:

  • 1. On 7/21/2002 an American delegation visited the _______ area headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party in Shaqlauah. A representative of the Communist Party accused the Iraqi government of hiding elements of the organization of Al-Qaeda in the region of Salman Pak, plus elements of the Turkish Workers Party and the Iranian Mujahideen Khalq and that they were studying the use of chemical weapons and whether Iraq will use them in case of ___________________.

The difference between 'urged' and 'accused' can not be more significant.

Especially when dealing with translations, but also when dealing with hyper-focused individual pieces of data potentially without context, the 'Army of Davids' must exercise restraint and patience to avoid a reactionary error. Discipline is in high demand.

Those who fail in exercising discipline (by seeking a second translation or a second, third and fourth knowledgeable opinion on seemingly damning data) will contribute greatly to cheapening the effort to understand the facts as they exist(ed).

If one is looking to the documents to prove or disprove a position or perception, objectivity is lost and analysis seriously weakened. This is the challenge before the foot soldiers in this 'Army of Davids'.

In a private conversation early on in the document release process, Marvin Hutchens made perhaps the most astute observation on this yet when he said, "I think that one of the problems of the 'Army of Davids' is that everyone is running to find something. Sometimes there is nothing."