Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Liberal Media Pushed the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” Idea

The hate-Bush crowd keeps repeating like a mantra that “Bush lied” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

When faced with the fact that lots of people, including especially the New York Times, fully accepted that Saddam had such weapons, they respond that the media were the victim of a brilliant campaign of disinformation from the Bush White House. But that notion has now been throughly debunked, and debunked by a liberal paper.

From the Washington Post, an article by Robert Kagan:
The Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby imbroglio is being reduced to a simple narrative about the origins of the Iraq war. Miller, the story goes, was an anti-Saddam Hussein, weapons-of-mass-destruction-hunting zealot and was either an eager participant or an unwitting dupe in a campaign by Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles to justify the invasion. The New York Times now characterizes the affair as “just one skirmish in the continuing battle over the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq.” Miller may be “best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.” According to the Times’s critique, she credulously reported information passed on by “a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on ‘regime change’ in Iraq,” which was then “eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.” Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller’s eagerness to publish the Bush administration’s line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq’s weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as “Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say” (November 1998), “U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan” (August 1998), “Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort” (February 2000), “Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration” (February 2000), “Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program” (July 2000). (A somewhat shorter list can be compiled from The Post’s archives, including a September 1998 headline: “Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported.”) The Times stories were written by Barbara Crossette, Tim Weiner and Steven Lee Myers; Miller shared a byline on one.
Kagan then piles on example after example of the mainstream media touting Saddam’s supposedly dangerous and extensive weapons programs, all in the years before Bush came to power. He concludes:
This was the consensus before Bush took office, before Scooter Libby assumed his post and before Judith Miller did most of the reporting for which she is now, uniquely, criticized. It was based on reporting by a large of number of journalists who in turn based their stories on the judgments of international intelligence analysts, Clinton officials and weapons inspectors. As we wage what the Times now calls “the continuing battle over the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq,” we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.
The “Bush lied” people are showing an almost pathological disregard for the truth. The best evidence that Bush believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction is the fact that virtually everybody believed that. Thus to believe that Bush lied we have to believe Bush had a level of brilliance that far exceeded the mainstream media, all the world’s intelligence agencies and virtually every American politician.


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