Skip to comments.IMPEACH THE MEDIA, NOT BUSH
Posted on 09/05/2003 1:46:35 PM PDT by walford
|Editor: Cliff Kincaid||
|Associate Editor: Notra Trulock|
2003 Report # 17
September 5, 2003
IMPEACH THE MEDIA, NOT BUSH
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Hardly noted at the time, the liberal media and partisan politicians have seized on these sixteen words from President Bushs State of the Union address to discredit the administrations case for war on Iraq. The Presidents reference was to an intelligence judgment included in a public dossier issued by the British government in September 2002. In a section covering Iraqs weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, the British government had stated, As a result of the intelligence, we judge that Iraq has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear program that could require it. It quickly became known that this was a reference to Iraqs interest in procuring uranium from Niger.
But shortly after the State of the Union speech, foreign documents upon which this judgment was supposed to have been made were determined to be forgeries by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. Herbert Romerstein, an expert on Soviet disinformation techniques, claimed in a Washington Times column on July 21 that the forgeries were designed to discredit the truth about Saddams nuclear program. He says the Iraqi intelligence service was trained to use this trick by the Soviet KGB. Some analysts suggest the phony documents came from anti-Saddam forces.
Whatever the ultimate source, when weapons inspectors failed to immediately uncover hard evidence of Iraqs WMD after the fall of Baghdad, the liberal media cited the forged documents and the uranium reference in the State of the Union speech to charge that the administration had misled the public about its reasons for going to war. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof led the charge, accusing the administration of cooking the intelligence and making reckless exaggerations of intelligence that were used to mislead the American people. Kristof had previously achieved notoriety for accepting former Florida Professor Sami Al-Arians claims of innocence in a terrorism investigation. Al-Arian was later indicted as a leader of the murderous Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Kristof is the same columnist who led the media pack in pointing an accusing finger at Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax letters case without any evidence whatsoever.
This media assault, plus the drumbeat about security problems and attacks on Americans during the occupation of Iraq, took their toll. A Zogby poll released on July 18 found that the Bush job performance had slipped to 53% Positive, 46% Negative. It found that more voters (47%) said it was time for someone new than favored his re-election. The Pew Research Center found that Bushs approval ratings stood at 60 percent, a significant drop from his 74 percent rating on April 9, the day the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in Baghdad. A July 21 USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that Bush only held a 6-percentage-point advantage, 47%-41%, when those polled were asked whether they would support his re-election bid against a Democratic candidate, down from 12 points a month before.
Subsequent polls indicated that Bushs approval rating was rising, but the furor showed how the major media can still have an enormous impact on public opinion by concocting a phony political scandal. Working with congressional Democrats, the media fueled a left-wing movement that is still calling for the impeachment of the President because he supposedly lied to the American people. Senator Bob Graham, a Democratic presidential candidate, also suggested Bush's impeachment.
Taking his cue from the media, an audiotape from Saddam Hussein accused the Bush administration of tricking the American people into war with Iraq.
But the liberal media distorted key elements of this story. On ABC World News Tonight on July 16, anchor Peter Jennings introduced a story about the forged documents about uranium and Iraq-the ones the President used in his State of the Union address. This false claim was repeated over and over again by the media. The Democratic National Committee went so far as to run an ad alleging that Bushs statement was proven to be false. But the ad omitted the first six words, The British government has learned that. A DNC ad in the New York Times, which was not screened for factual accuracy, also omitted the six words.
On cable news, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, a former Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill, led the assault. He parroted the DNC line, trying repeatedly to implicate Vice President Cheney and other administration officials in a deception campaign.
Allegations that the administration politicized the intelligence on Iraqi WMD programs were also fueled by anonymous reports from inside the U.S. intelligence community claiming that the White House exerted undue pressure on intelligence analysts.
It became known that the CIA had commissioned a former U.S. diplomat, Joseph Wilson, to investigate the Niger uranium reports. He concluded the reports of a deal between Iraq and Niger were baseless and then published a column in the New York Times charging the administration had exaggerated the Iraqi threat.
The administrations mishandling of the issue has served to further fuel the controversy. At one point, the White House said the information was unreliable and should not have been included in the speech. CIA Director George Tenet apologized to the White House for permitting the President to include the Niger uranium allegation in his speech. He said that the agency doubted the claim and should have removed it from the speech.
But then the administration backtracked. Condoleezza Rice, the Presidents National Security Advisor, told Tony Snow on Fox News Sunday that the British statements were accurate but that there were higher standards for the inclusion of such statements in a State of the Union address. There has been considerable finger pointing between the CIA and the White House over responsibility for the State of the Union reference and media references to a feud between the two. Senators have blamed the dust-up on sloppy coordination during the review of the speech and promised hearings at a later date. The administrations handling of the issue has mostly served to annoy the British, who feel they are being scapegoated for the controversy.
Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland dismissed all this as a minor intelligence controversy. But in spite of the relative insignificance of the issue, there is real potential to severely damage the credibility of U.S. intelligence. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, for example, Faye Bowers and Peter Grier warned that the issue has become so heated and public that it may affect the nature and usefulness of further intelligence operations. They worried that such an open discussion of intelligence sources would harm our ability to collect intelligence in the future and inhibit other intelligence services from sharing information with us for fear of public compromise. That would be a major blow to the war on terrorism or our ability to rally allies in the event of a North Korean nuclear crisis.
No serious person believes that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq just because Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa. Before the war, there had been a decade-long consensus within the intelligence community, successive administrations, and on Capitol Hill about the status of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction programs. Few in the intelligence community disputed Saddams possession of a cadre of nuclear scientists (the so-called nuclear Fedayeen) and a workable design for a nuclear warhead. Former chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler wrote that with no inspections since 1998, Saddam is back in the business of developing nuclear weapons.
Nearly all agreed that Iraqs primary obstacle in its nuclear weapons program was the acquisition of sufficient fissile material for nuclear warheads. Israels destruction of Iraqs Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981 effectively closed off the production of plutonium for this purpose. Iraqi efforts then focused on enriching uranium. This process is more difficult to detect, and it became the focus of international monitoring. And over the years, Iraqs worldwide efforts to procure such a capability and related items were closely watched. That is what made reports about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium in Africa of such great interest.
The British say that they were provided reports on these efforts by third-party intelligence services. The British media have speculated that these reports came from France and Italy and, among other topics, reported on an Iraqi trade delegation that traveled to Niger in 1999. A British official told the U.K. media, Uranium is Nigers top export; its unlikely that the Iraqis were looking for livestock, which is their second export. And IAEA documents show that Iraq procured more than 200 tons of yellowcake from Niger in the early 1980s.
After the controversy erupted in the U.S., the British refused to back away from their September 2002 judgments. Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons in mid-July, I stand by entirely the claim made last September about Iraqs WMD programs. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the media that the third-party intelligence services that gave the intelligence information to the British refused to permit them to share it with the CIA. Most U.S. media have continued to source the Niger uranium reports to documents that the IAEA determined to be forgeries last March, but British officials are adamant that they had other sources for their judgments. In fact, Straw said that British intelligence had not acquired the forged documents until after they had already been denounced by the IAEA.
Straw also said that the CIA had pressured the British to drop the reference from its public report last fall. Straw said that the CIA request was rejected, in part, because of the reliable intelligence held by the British government but not by the CIA. He also said the CIA had offered no explanation for its request. Curiously, he then told the U.K. media that, The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency believed in the veracity of the claims which we had made, and also from other sources quite separate from British sources, about the fact that the Iraqis were seeking the purchase of uranium from Niger, not that they bought it, but they were seeking it, quite late on last year and that ran through, I think, into January.
In an attempt to quell the controversy, the White House released declassified portions of an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqs weapons programs. The release showed that most of the agencies involved in the preparation of the assessment believed that there was compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdads nuclear weapons program.
The Wall Street Journal had previously obtained portions of this NIE, which it cited on its editorial page on July 17. According to the Journal, the Estimate asserted that Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake. If successful, acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons. The editorial went on to report the NIE as concluding, A foreign government [the British] service reported that as of early 2001 Niger planned to send several tons of pure uranium (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement. It also said, Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Journal said the Estimate concluded, We cannot confirm whether Iraq has succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources.
In contrast to the Journal, liberal media sources emphasized doubts and dissents about the claim that were also contained in the Estimate. It is customary in the preparation of such estimates for agencies that do not agree with the majority opinion to take a footnote. In the October NIE, according to the Washington Post, the State Departments Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) took such a footnote. The Post reported that States footnote represented a caustic criticism of the Niger uranium claims: The claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INRs assessment, highly dubious. The Post reported that INR also disagreed with the other agencies that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for completion of activities it does not now see happening.
The media failed to note that inside the intelligence community, State/INR is notorious for assuming the most benign interpretation of any potential threat to the security of the United States. During the Cold War, it consistently downplayed Soviet foreign policy actions or weapons developments. That was also true of the INRs assessment of the route chosen by Saddam Hussein to provide Iraq with nuclear weapons. This would require the import of uranium and the development of facilities to enrich it. Niger, Gabon, and Congo, former French colonies in Africa, produce it.
In February 2002, the CIA sent Joseph C. Wilson IV, a retired Foreign Service officer, to Niger to find out if it had supplied uranium to Iraq. Wilson had served in Iraq, Burundi and Congo before becoming ambassador to Gabon in 1992. He served as an adviser on Africa to President Clinton in 1997-98. A column he wrote about his Niger assignment for the New York Times was published on July 6, 2003. He told of meeting current and former government officials and people associated with Nigers uranium business.
He said that after drinking sweet mint tea with these people, it did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place. In so doing, he was confirming what our ambassador to Niger had told him-that she had already been debunking reports of uranium sales in her cables to Washington. In the Times article, Wilson wrote: Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraqs nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
That is said to conflict with his report to the CIA, which is still classified. John Diamond in USA Today said that Wilsons report said a former Niger official told him a businessman had approached him in June 1999 and proposed a meeting with an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations.
George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, confirmed this, adding that, The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. Wilsons Times article made no mention of such overtures and focused instead on whether such deals were consummated.
The British had reported only that Iraq was seeking to acquire uranium and made no claims that any transactions had actually occurred. These claims were echoed in the National Intelligence Estimate, which made no assertions that any uranium had been purchased. Columnist Robert Novak reported that, CIA officials did not regard Wilsons intelligence as definitive, being based primarily on what Niger officials told him and probably would have claimed under any circumstances.
The British government was similarly dismissive of Wilsons report. Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post reported that Foreign Secretary Straw had denied any knowledge of Wilsons trip until it was first mentioned in the U.S. press in June. He said that the U.S. authorities have confirmed that Ambassador Wilsons report was not shared with the U.K. Frankel also reported that after finally reading a summary of the report they contend it is inconclusive. We can see why it wasnt passed on to us because it doesnt point in one direction. Another British official told reporter Michael Smith, He [Wilson] seems to have asked a few people if it were true, and when they said no he accepted it all. We see no reason at all to change our assessment. In early July, the British media reported that a House of Commons committee had cleared the British government of charges that it had doctored evidence on Iraqi WMD programs. While critical of the handling of intelligence findings, it found no proof of politically inspired meddling. It cleared Prime Minister Blairs director of communications of allegations that he had personally influenced the content of the government assessments.
While the controversy was continuing, there were developments that could signal an end to the dispute. David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, told Tom Brokaw of NBCs Nightly News that his teams had uncovered a mother lode of documents describing Saddam Husseins WMD programs. Kay said the documents included progress reports, lab results, records of foreign purchases, and data on financial rewards given by Saddam to Iraqi scientists for breakthroughs in the WMD programs. He told Brokaw that there were audio tapes of interviews between these scientists and Saddam describing their achievements. Kay estimated that six months would be required to fully translate all the relevant materials that would provide the Bush administration with a substantial body of evidence on Iraqs WMD programs.
Kay rebutted a July 31 front-page article in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus and Kevin Sullivan claiming that no Iraqi scientists were cooperating in the hunt for weapons in Iraq. A Pincus story about Kays news conference following his congressional testimony was found on August 1, back on page 14 of the paper.
AN E-MAIL TO AIM CAPTURED THE SENTIMENTS OF MANY OVER THE medias handling of the Iraq/Uranium story: I am really sick to death of all the vultures on the fence just waiting to swoop down on our president and feast upon the kill. Do all the media just live from day to day waiting for a smear that they can get their plotting, lying nasty little beaks into? Another wrote, It wouldnt matter how the White House had tried to handle it, the Dems and liberal media are in hysterics to try and find anything that might have some chance of bringing down George W. Bush. Speaking of the missing weapons of mass destruction, this person noted that Saddams fighter jets have been discovered buried in the sand of Iraq, which might lead an intelligent, thinking person to wonder what else might be buried in the vast deserts of Iraq.
WE MUST HOLD THE MEDIA ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR LIES AND DISTORTIONS. WE SUGGEST writing to MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter who served as the top aide to former Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. Tip ONeill. Matthews has tried to posture as a serious and objective journalist and is the anchor of MSNBCs election coverage through 2006. But he showed his partisan stripes in this controversy. Even liberals were shocked by his callous disregard for the facts. He asked, was it the White Houses fault or the CIAs fault that the President spoke inappropriately in the State of the Union, claiming there was a threat of nuclear war with Saddam Hussein because of the so-called traffic with Niger that never in fact occurred? He also alleged that the main point of their [the White House] argument that the Saddam Hussein regime was trying to buy nuclear weapons so they could attack us or someone else in the world, is unfounded. The President made a rather non-controversial and true statement that the British reported an attempt by Iraq to get uranium from Africa. After Republican official Ralph Reed appeared on the show to dismiss the controversy as a feeding frenzy by Democrats and the media, Matthews declared, I think Ralph Reed has been proven wrong, because it isnt just a frenzy. Its a fact. Now we have people in the White House taking the blame for not giving the President all of the information he needed. As we point out in this AIM Report, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice did fumble the matter. But Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz did an excellent job in his numerous media appearances. A card applauding his efforts is enclosed.
REP. CURT WELDON WENT ON THE HOUSE FLOOR ON JULY 16 TO SAY IT IS NOT BUSH BUT Clinton who committed the U.S. to war under false pretenses. Weldon noted that Clinton had warned of tens of thousands having perished in ethnic cleansing, when subsequent investigations found only a couple thousand dead in the civil war in Kosovo. Faced with impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and charges that he had raped Juanita Broaddrick, Clinton announced in a televised address that he was taking us to war. The immediate justification was an alleged massacre perpetrated by Serb forces at Racak, a tiny village in Kosovo under the control of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KAL). It was claimed that 44 people had been killed there on Jan. 16, 1999. Two French reporters representing Le Monde and Le Figaro were suspicious. They believed that the men had been killed in a firefight and laid out by the KAL to make it appear to be a massacre. Autopsies by Belarus and Finnish doctors are said to have confirmed that suspicion. The air war began when the Serbs rejected demands made by Madeleine Albright, who knew that they were unacceptable. Rep. Weldon said that during the air war a conservative estimate was that 6,000 were killed by NATO. Some put the figure at 15,000. The House actually refused to authorize the Kosovo war, making it illegal under the War Powers Act. Clintons continuation of the war under these circumstances was itself another impeachable act.
NBCS MEET THE PRESS HOST TIM RUSSERT, WHO IS USUALLY CAREFUL IN HIS RESEARCH, highlighted the claim by John Deutch, CIA director under Clinton from 1995-1996, that the failure to find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq would represent an intelligence failure...of massive proportions. That statement was also highlighted by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. We suggest writing to Russert about his omission of the fact that Deutch had warned of Iraqi WMD in the past, as late as 2002, and was guilty of his own intelligence failure. He was pardoned by Clinton for having mishandled classified information and he paid a $5,000 fine. A House Committee report noted that Deutch was accused of mishandling hundreds of highly classified documents, including information relating to covert actions, storing many on a home computer used to surf high risk sites on the Internet, making the documents easily accessible to a hacker.
THE USE OF DEUTCH AS AN EXPERT IS AN AFFRONT TO OUR INTELLIGENCE AND COMMON sense. His current view is that Iraq did not likely continue to develop WMD after the 1991 Gulf War and destroyed much of its capability. As Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz told Russert, this conflicts with what he said when he was CIA director. In a February 22, 1996, speech, Deutch said that Iraq is determined to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programs and to deceive the rest of the world about its activities. In the wake of the defection of Hussein Kamel last August, Iraq turned over some 147 crates of documents, previously withheld from the UN, that revealed substantial new information on Iraqs intentions, including a crash effort in 1990 to produce a nuclear weapon using safeguarded enriched uranium. On October 17, 2002, Deutch debated Bill Kristol at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on whether to go to war against Iraq. A story distributed by the Kennedy School said that Deutch agreed that Hussein has to be stopped but disagreed with Kristol on timing. Deutch was quoted as saying, Yes, its true that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and has shown interest in using them. If an intelligence failure has occurred, Deutch bears some responsibility for it. The media have had a fit that WMD hasnt been found just a few months after the end of major hostilities. But theyve shown no outrage over the fact that the FBI has not solved the anthrax murders. In fact, Times columnist Nicolas Kristof, who now accuses the administration of deception over Iraq, had led the media pack in pointing the finger at former government scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill as a suspect in the anthrax case without any evidence at all.
THE NEW EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, BILL KELLER, MAY NOT BE MUCH, if any, improvement over Howell Raines as far as the readers of the Times are concerned. Keller is a self-described collapsed Catholic who is well beyond lapsed, and the August 2 edition of the paper featured two articles that appear to reflect his mindset. A front-page article attacked actor Mel Gibson, a conservative Catholic, for producing a film about Jesus that the Times hadnt seen. And the second article, carried on page seven, tried to steer people away from a debate over homosexual marriage by claiming that it is politically toxic. In other words, conservatives should let the courts resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the gay rights lobby. In some previous columns, Keller himself seemed preoccupied with President Bushs Christian faith. He wondered in one column if Bush was a religious zealot. I understand the critics discomfort with Mr. Bushs public piety, Keller wrote. It contributes to an image of crusading arrogance abroad, and to a fear of invasive moralism at home.
KELLER HAS APPOINTED WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF JILL ABRAMSON, A DEDICATED feminist, as one of the new managing editors. She and her former colleague at the Wall Street Journal, Jane Mayer, wrote a book attacking conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A Times review of the Mayer-Abramson book declared that the authors are as liberal as he is conservative. Perhaps Ms. Abramson will help Keller decide how to cover rape stories. The Juanita Broaddrick charge that Bill Clinton had raped her when he was attorney general of Arkansas was given major coverage by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, both of which had reporters interview Mrs. Broaddrick. Lisa Meyers of NBC News had obtained the first interview, but Andrew Lack, the president of NBC News at the time, kept it from being aired until after the Wall Street Journal ran its story by Dorothy Rabinowitz. Four days later, the Times ran a story at the bottom of page 16 about how others were covering the story. Bill Keller, then a managing editor, said they had talked long and hard about whether to publish anything. He said, Frankly, weve all got a bit of scandal fatigue.
(Excerpt) Read more at aim.org ...
Dont the media elites realize that the Terrorists paymasters and their European sympathizers have no respect for freedom of speech or the concept of truth. . Emanating from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and the tenured professors which walked their hallways at one time is a complete and utter contempt for capitalism, competition,and enlightenment philosophy.
They worship at the throne of the god of Postmodernism:
"By contemporary intellectual fashion, I am referring to the constellation of views that come to mind when one hears the words multicultural, gender, deconstruct, politically correct, and Dead White Males. In a broader sense, contemporary intellectual fashion encompasses as well the widespread disdain in certain circles for technology and the scientific method. Embedded in this mind-set is hostility to the idea that discriminating judgments are appropriate in assessing art and literature, to the idea that hierarchies of value exist, hostility to the idea that an objective truth exists. Postmodernism is the overarching label that is attached to this perspective."
Excellent piece, but I disagree with Kincaid here. So few people watch Matthews now that he's irrelevant. Starting a letter-writing campaign would only draw more attention to this steaming turd and give him a platform to start screeching about how the "right-wing media" is up to their "normal McCarthyite tactics" again. There's no point giving him free publicity like Fox News gave to Al Franken.
Did he ever come back with another "mea culpa" after he dropped his pants and deposited his latest load of manure here?
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