The left-wing Center for Public Integrity has put together a database allegedly proving the Bush administration lied about WMDs in Iraq, and the New York Times joined the rest of the media in celebrating it with left-wing talking points that sound like they came straight off a press release.The humdrum headline over John Cushman Jr.'s Wednesday story ("Web Site Assembles U.S. Prewar Claims") hid some deep bias.For one, the Times failed to pin an ideological label on the organization and made no mention of CPI's ties to the left-wing billionaire George Soros, which funds the organization through his Open Society Institute.For the rest, well, simply read the encouraging prose and references to Watergate.
"Students of how the Bush administration led the nation into the Iraq war can now go online to browse a comprehensive database of top officials' statements before the invasion, connecting the dots between hundreds of claims, mostly discredited since then, linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda or warning that he possessed forbidden weapons."The Center for Public Integrity, a research group that focuses on ethics in government and public policy, designed the new Web site to allow simple searches for specific phrases, such as 'mushroom cloud' or 'yellowcake uranium,' in transcripts and documents totaling some 380,000 words, including remarks by President Bush and most of his top advisers in the two years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."Warnings about the need to confront Iraq, by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and two White House press secretaries, among others, can be combed line by line, and reviewed alongside detailed critiques published after the fact by official panels, historians, journalists and independent experts."There is no startling new information in the archive, because all the documents have been published previously. But the new computer tool is remarkable for its scope, and its replay of the crescendo of statements that led to the war. Muckrakers may find browsing the site reminiscent of what Richard M. Nixon used to dismissively call 'wallowing in Watergate.'"The database is online at http://www.publicintegrity.org/. "Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the research center say their work has documented 'at least 935 false statements' on hundreds of occasions, particularly that Iraq had unconventional weapons, links to Al Qaeda, or both. "The database shows how even after the invasion, when a consensus emerged that the prewar intelligence assessments were flawed, administration officials occasionally suggested that the weapons might still be found. "The officials have defended many of their prewar statements as having been based on the intelligence that was available at the time -- although there is now evidence that some statements contradicted even the sketchy intelligence of the time. "President Bush said in 2005 that 'much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong' but that 'it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.'"
Red State marshaled some facts outside the left-wing talking points repeated by Cushman, reminding us that at the time
"Everyone was convinced that Saddam had WMDs. It remains a fact Saddam used WMDs against Iran and his own people. The intelligence and common wisdom that Iraq still possessed such weapons at the time we liberated Iraq proved to be wrong, but that doesn't equate to a lie."
Red State also noted three separate investigations concluded the U.S. was not lied into war with Iraq.This Commentary Magazine blog post by Gabriel Schoenfeld has more of what the Times left out of its one-sided story.
"Toward the end of its story, the Times notes that 'officials have defended many of their prewar statements as having been based on the intelligence that was available at the time -- although there is now evidence that some statements contradicted even the sketchy intelligence of the time.'
"But that is an absurd way of putting it, minimizing and obscuring some central facts. Would it not have been more honest for the newspaper of record to recall that however 'sketchy' the intelligence, it was not presented by the CIA to the administration as sketchy at all? Rather, it was presented as an iron-clad case, most memorably by CIA director George Tenet as 'a slam-dunk.' And would it not have been more honest to point out that the post-war studies of Iraq's WMD program, like the Duelfer Report, had the benefit not merely of hindsight but the ability of investigators to roam freely through Iraqi archives and facilities? Back in 2002 and early 2003, when the U.S. was gearing up for war, things looked very differently than they did afterward.
"This brings us back to the question which we began. What is a false statement? Did the Bush administration lie when it relied on the CIA's estimates of Iraq's WMD program, or is it the Center for Public Integrity that is now doing some lying, with the New York Times brazenly helping them along?"