Synthesizing Reality, Part 2

How were things in Tora Bora?


In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend—but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency. The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”—Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt,” in the Oct. 17 New York Times Magazine


And now he’s throwing out a wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001 and that our military passed up a chance to get him at Tora Bora. —President Bush, in a campaign speech at Onalaska, Wis., Oct. 26, 2004The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.—Barton Gellman and Thomas E. Ricks, “U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight,” in the Washington Post, April 17, 2002(With thanks to Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo.)

More Practice:

[L]ast year, after [Dr. James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan] gave a presentation on the dangers of human-caused, or anthropogenic, climate shifts to Sean O’Keefe, the NASA administrator, “the administrator interrupted me; he told me that I should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference, because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference.”—Aaron C. Revkin, “NASA Expert Criticizes Bush on Global Warming Policy,” in the New York Times, Oct. 26, 2004Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs. — Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, National Academy of Sciences Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, 2001

Synthesizing Reality Archive:
Oct. 22, 2004: “A How-To Guide From the Bush White House