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Published: Saturday, 4/15/2006

Spinning the news

MONICA LaBelle of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader caused a stir Tuesday with this report of a speech made the night before:

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, told students and faculty at the University of South Dakota Monday that the United States should pull out of Iraq

It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003, Gingrich said during a question and answer session at the school.

Prominent GOP leader declares the Iraq war a mistake and calls for a pullout. This story would have been worth the attention it received if it were true. But Mr. Gingrich said nothing of the kind.

The remark Ms. LaBelle quoted grotesquely out of context was Mr. Gingrich s view that creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Ambassador L. Paul Bremer was a mistake; that the U.S. should have established immediately a provisional government under an Iraqi, as it did in Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai. This is a view also held by other unrepentant hawks, such as Michael Ledeen and yours truly. Mr. Gingrich remains firm in his view that the war in Iraq was necessary, and U.S. troops should remain until the insurgency is defeated.

In a report based on an erroneous court filing the week before by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster said on the Hardball program Monday that I. Lewis Scooter Libby, then chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, lied when he told Judith Miller of the New York Times that the October, 2002, National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iraq was vigorously trying to procure uranium.

That was not a judgment at all, much less a key judgment, according to CIA officials who wrote the document, Mr. Shuster said.

On page 24 of the NIE there is this sentence: Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to acquire nuclear weapons.

Mr. Fitzgerald on Wednesday corrected the filing, which said erroneously that Mr. Libby had claimed that Iraq s pursuit of uranium in Africa was a key judgment (agreed to by all the intelligence agencies). Yet Mr. Shuster repeated his falsehood on the Hardball broadcast that night, noted National Review s Media Blog.

In a front-page story Wednesday, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post implied President Bush deliberately misled Americans about Saddam s WMD. ( Administration pushed notion of banned Iraqi weapons despite evidence to the contrary, the subhead read.)

The story concerns two trailers which the President told Polish television on May 29, 2003, were mobile biological weapons labs.

But even as Mr. Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true, Mr. Warrick wrote.

A technical team dispatched by the Defense Intelligence Agency had concluded the trailers were unsuitable for biological weapons production, Mr. Warrick reported.

Not until many paragraphs later did Mr. Warrick acknowledge that two other teams of intelligence analysts had also examined the trailers and concluded they were bio-weapons labs.

The minority report (which turned out to be correct) was not received in Washington until May 27. The next day, the CIA and the DIA issued a joint report declaring the trailers were part of Saddam s WMD program. This, presumably, was the basis for the President s statement to Polish television.

Mr. Warrick claimed breathlessly that the minority report was not made public until now.

Back on June 7, 2003, Judy Miller wrote in the New York Times that in all, at least three teams of western experts have now examined the trailers and evidence from them. While the first two groups to see the trailers were largely convinced that the vehicles were intended for the purpose of making germ agents, the third group of more senior analysts divided sharply over the function of the trailers.

Ms. Miller s story of nearly three years ago makes it plain Mr. Warrick s claim the minority report was unanimous also was false.



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