Saturday, April 24, 2004

Back At It

On the heels of their ridiculous assertion that John Kerry would withdraw US troops from Iraq even if another Saddam-like dictator was in place (see 04.21, The Post Misleads) the Post editorial board delivers another whopper today.

Mr. Woodward's reporting rebuts some of the more sensational recent charges against the president: that he arrived in office determined to wage war against Saddam Hussein and that he willfully deceived Americans about the case for intervention(emphasis added).

Really? One has to wonder if the Post Ed.'s have actually read Plan Of Attack; because, contrary to their assertion, Mr. Woodward's reporting seems to prove, rather than rebut, the charge that President Bush intentionally mislead Americans about the case for intervention.

This overview of Plan Of Attack, by Post reporter William Hamilton, describes an intelligence briefing held in December 2002.

HAMILTON: Bush wanted someone with Powell's credibility to present the evidence that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction [to the UN], a case the president had initially found less than convincing when presented to him by CIA Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin at a White House meeting on Dec. 21, 2002.

McLaughlin's version used communications intercepts, satellite photos, diagrams and other intelligence. Nice try, Bush said when the CIA official was finished, according to [Woodward's] book. I don't think this quite, it's not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from.

He then turned to Tenet, McLaughlin's boss, and said, I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we've got?

It's a slam-dunk case, Tenet replied, throwing his arms in the air. Bush pressed him again. George, how confident are you?

Don't worry, it's a slam dunk, Tenet repeated.

Tenet later told associates he should have said the evidence on weapons was not ironclad, according to Woodward.

As reported by the incomparable Daily Howler on Wednesday, Woodward's account of that December briefing (endoresed by the Bush campaign) raises a troubling question. Nevermind that in the briefing, Bush saw nothing he viewed as persuassive to "Joe Public;" if prior to the briefing he had only been told of evidence of WMD - "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we've got?" - and had not personally seen it or been briefed on the evidence himself, why did he make the following statements as early as September 2002?

1) September 7, 2002. "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were deinied, finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic - the IAEA - that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." In response to that comment, IAEA chief spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said, "There never been a report like that issued from this agency." (The Washington Times, "Agency Disavows Report on Iraq Arms" 09.27. 2002)

2) September 12, 2002. Before the UN, Bush stated that thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes in Iraq's possesion "were used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." ("President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly" 09.12.2002) The IAEA later said that the tubes were ill-suited for uranium enrichment, but they were identical to tubes that Iraq had used previously to maek conventional artillery rockets. (The Washington Post, "US Claim on Nuclear Weapon Program Is Called into Question" 01.24.2003)

3) October 7, 2002. Addressing the nation, Bush said Iraq has a fleet of unmanned aircraft which could be fitted with chemical or biological agents and used "for missions targeting the United States." In truth, the aircraft did not have the range to reach the US. (The Washington Post, "For Bush, Facts Are Malleable" 10.22.2002)

(Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Weapons Of Mass Deception)

Not only were these claims untrue at the time they were spoken, apparently the President never even saw the intelligence alleged to support said claims, he was only told of it. Bush was fed his lines by the administration hawks, and like any good actor, he went before the public and recited them as if they were his own. If this does not constitute "willfully decieving Americans," it is hard to imagine what does.