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Kerry as the anti-Rumsfeld: “We know…We know… We know”

"We know...We know... We know." So went the refrain of Secretary of State John Kerry's statement to the public Friday -- a soaring, rhetoric-infused war cry to justify action against Assad's regime in Syria.

Claims to knowledge, intelligence and transparency: the Obama administration is making no small effort to counterpose this case for war to the "known unknowns" that underpinned arguments for the Iraq War.

But Kerry's claim to knowledge doesn't stand in too stark contrast to some Bush-era statements about WMD's in Iraq. As Steven Pinker pointed out in his book "The Stuff of Thought," the semantics of the argument from Hussein's WMD's were regularly couched in statements about what the intelligence community had "learned."

One report at the time, for example, read: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But "to learn" like "to know" is a factive verb -- one that carries with it the assumption of truth. Kerry had to go further than an appeal to "knowing" to distinguish this war cry from those that led us into the disastrous Iraq fray. And so, Kerry made the comparison explicit: The administration is "More than mindful of the Iraq experience," said Kerry. "We will not repeat that experiment," he promised.

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