an interesting one. Is anybody else waiting for the NYT to change its slogan to
“All The News That’s Print To Fit”?
me to cut ‘n paste from another exchange I had with a reader about this today:
I don’t think Iraq ever had nearly as much in the way of WMDs as we’ve been made
to believe. Clearly, there was a huge inflation of the Iraqi threat in the
the WMDs that they did supposedly have…I think the relevant question is
“when?” If we’re talking about the weapons they admitted to having, that was
several years ago. They could be anywhere by now.
WMDs they may have actually possessed at the start of the war are another
matter. It’s utterly preposterous to say that they were transported to Syria in
the early days of the war…that’s just another deceitful innuendo to lend
credence to the overall assertion that Iraq was a clear and present threat.
Under so many watchful eyes from space and aircraft, that could never have
agree, if they’re anywhere, they’re somewhere in Iraq, probably buried.
for now, I’m calling the whole thing a big, fat, lie. We went to lengths to
discredit Blix and the rest of his team because their findings didn’t line up
with our agenda. We have flown in the face of international opinion about the
credibility of the Iraqi threat. We have manufactured ‘evidence’ and Powell
presented ‘facts’ about their WMD to the UN that were drawn from a kid’s term
paper. The Administration’s claim at this point is demonstrably and utterly
empty. As far as I’m concerned, the onus of proof rests with them…and dammit,
the proof they produce better stand up to scrutiny this time.
My tables, my tables,–meet it is I set it down!
That one may
smile, smile, and be a villain!
Hamlet in _Hamlet_ 1.5.106-8
That Story: Deep Miller
Is the New York Times
breaking the news—or flacking for the
By Jack Shafer
Posted Wednesday, April
23, 2003, at 3:52 PM PT
On Monday, Press
Box fastballed a couple of bricks at New York Times reporter
Judith Miller for the rococo—and somewhat creepy—sourcing behind her Page One
scoop about the search for unconventional weapons (“Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi
Scientist Is Said To Assert,” April 21).
The story chronicles the exploits of Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha—a U.S.
military team searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—and a scientist
who alleges that he worked on Iraqi chemical weapons programs. The scientist,
say Miller’s military sources, led them to chemical precursors used to
manufacture biological and chemical weapons. This scientist claims that Iraq
destroyed unconventional weapons and equipment before the war and sent other
“unconventional weapons and technology to Syria.” He also maintains that in the
years before the war, Iraq had shifted its R & D to making illegal weapons
that can’t be detected easily.
Quite a story. But Miller provides no independent confirmation for any
of her blockbuster findings, though she described her news as “the most
important discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons.” Furthermore, the
deal she made with her sources prevented her from interviewing the scientist or
even visiting his home. Her military handlers asked that she not identify the
scientist or name the uncovered chemicals, that she hold her story for three
days, and that she let the military check it prior to publication.
Miller’s passive wording—”the copy was then submitted for a check by military
officials”—obscures whether the military required her to submit it or if she
volunteered. But according to New York Observer reporter Sridhar Pappu, the
Times‘ decision to accept military censorship has caused an internal
uproar at the paper. Pappu writes, “One source inside the
Times called it a ‘wacky-assed piece,’ adding that there were ‘real
questions about it and why it was on page 1.’ “
The facts in Miller’s Monday story appear to have flowed directly from the
mouths of her MET Alpha military sources. Her copy reads more like a government
press release than a news story—all the more so since MET Alpha tied Miller up
one side and down the other with elaborate sourcing rules and limited her
ability to independently confirm the facts. The MET Alpha team’s one concession:
They allowed her to view the scientist, dressed in “nondescript clothes and a
baseball cap … point[ing] to several spots in the sand.” Gee thanks, guys!
On Tuesday, the day after the big story, Miller discussed it on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.
Miller attempted to advance her own story with new, salacious allegations, but
she didn’t add any sorely needed independent verification to her account. And
her language indicated that she knows—or thinks she knows—more than the
Times allowed her to write.
On the NewsHour, the singular “scientist” described in the Times
story becomes “scientists” plural, indicating either that a) MET Alpha has
more than one scientist/informant or b) she was mistranscribed twice. The
transcript reads as follows:
[The Bush administration has] changed the political environment, and
they’ve enabled people like the scientists that MET Alpha has found
to come forth. …
But those stockpiles that we’ve heard about, well, those have either been
destroyed by Saddam Hussein, according to the scientists, or they
have been shipped to Syria for safekeeping. [Emphasis added]
Miller calls the mystery scientist a “silver bullet” who has “led MET Team
Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions that have kind of challenged
the American intelligence community’s under … previous understanding of, you
know, what we thought the Iraqis were doing.”
The “previous understanding” was that investigators would find “stockpiles”
of WMD in Iraq. The new understanding is that Saddam Hussein destroyed
all the weapons of mass destruction, right up to the date of the invasion, or
shipped them to Syria. All that remains in Iraq today are the chemicals and
means to fabricate WMD, surmise the MET Alpha boys. Miller let loose with
another disclosure not included in her Times piece. She states:
And the scientist who has been cooperating with MET Alpha has actually said
that he participated in … he kind of watched, you know, a warehouse being
burned that contained potentially incriminating biological equipment.
Participated in, or kind of watched? There’s a difference. Is Miller holding
something back? What did he see? When did he see it? What does it really
Miller expresses, without any substantiation, the “rather clear” finding that
the Iraqis intended to keep anyone from finding a WMD “smoking gun” by
distributing “dual-use equipment” at armories throughout the nation. Miller says
further searching in Iraq would reveal no more than “a little bit of the
program. You would find a program very much, these days, in the research and
development stages.” But if the Iraqis made illegal weapons so supremely
undetectible, why wasn’t Saddam more hospitable to the inspections process? If
MET Alpha hasn’t unearthed the hidden program so far, surely the inspectors
would never have found it.
Miller doesn’t say.
Miller retreats from the candor of her NewsHour discussion with
another piece in today’s New York Times: “Focus Shifts From Weapons to the People Behind
Them” (April 23). If the April 21 story was about “the most important
discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons,” today’s story is about
reducing the inflated expectations created by that scoop—and never mind that
cheerleading NewsHour proclamation that a “silver bullet” has been
Miller quotes an unnamed MET Alpha source who says the “paradigm has shifted”
in the search for weapons of mass destruction. At first, the United States was
trying to locate the vast stores of WMD that were described in Secretary of
State Colin Powell’s presentation before the U.N. Security Council. Finding none
in 75 of the 150 suspected sites, it pared back its search to WMD precursors.
Now, says the MET Alpha source, the investigators are concentrating on
finding scientists who worked on WMD programs. She writes:
Based on what the Iraqi scientist had said about weapons being destroyed or
stocks being hidden, military experts said they now believed they might not
find large caches of illicit chemicals or biological agents, at least not in
Paradigm shift, my ass! Powell’s intelligence report insisted there were tons
of WMD and now the military—and Miller—are preparing us for their complete
absence. That’s what I call the most important discovery to date in the hunt for
We can assume today’s dispatch wasn’t reviewed by military censors
because Miller is silent on that score. But we can also safely assume Miller has
been told a lot more than she’s writing and is actively self-censoring. What
isn’t she telling us? That some Iraqi Dr. Evil found a way to convert George
Foreman grills into WMD machines that transmogrify Bisquick and toluene into
sarin, and the ubiquity of this technology makes the Iraqi WMD program invisible
to military investigators?
And a final note on Miller’s sourcing: On NewsHour, Miller confides
for the first time I’ve seen that she’s embedded with the unit searching for
WMD. But, since the embedding rules specifically freed reporters from direct
military censorship, inquiring minds want to know: Why did Miller agree to their
Investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein suggests a more
elegant way to uncover WMDs or a WMD program than MET Alpha’s barnstorming.
Award $1 million in gold plus safe haven in the United States or United Kingdom
to the first person (and his nuclear family) who leads investigators to a cache
of chemical or biological artillery shells, mines, unmanned aerial-vehicle
bombs, or other weapons. The offer would set off a gold rush if Iraq issued tens
of thousands of WMD to battle units or even stockpiled them. If no one claims
the prize, there would be only two possible conclusions: No Iraqi was motivated
sufficiently to come forward, or U.S. intelligence may have seriously erred in
Send $1 million via PayPal—or your e-mail comments—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2081905/
interesting compilation here.
I’m going to jump you straight to the punchline. This has to be the most honest
statement about the Iraq war that I’ve ever heard made by anyone in the
reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification
for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree
May 28, 2003
What a Tangled Web We Weave . .
. . . when first we practice to deceive!
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has
weapons of mass destruction.
August 26, 2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were
used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush
September 12, 2002
If he declares he has none, then we will
know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
December 2, 2002
We know for a fact that there
are weapons there.
January 9, 2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the
materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve
George W. Bush
January 28, 2003
that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is
determined to make more.
February 5, 2003
We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently
authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons
the dictator tells us he does not have.
So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of
its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our
judgment has to be clearly not.
March 8, 2003
Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt
that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal
weapons ever devised.
March 17, 2003
Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information
that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical
particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation,
for whatever duration it takes.
March 21, 2003
There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses
weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will
be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who
Gen. Tommy Franks
March 22, 2003
I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of
Defense Policy Board member Kenneth Adelman
March 23, 2003
One of our top objectives is to find and
destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.
March 22, 2003
We know where they are.
They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.
March 30, 2003
Obviously the administration intends to
publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find — and there
will be plenty.
Neocon scholar Robert Kagan
April 9, 2003
I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from
officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass
destruction will be found.
April 10, 2003
We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with
Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he
destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.
April 24, 2003
There are people who in
large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down
the weapons of mass destruction in that country.
April 25, 2003
We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time
to do so.
May 3, 2003
I am confident
that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass
May 4, 2003
believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that
May 4, 2003
surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein —
because he had a weapons program.
George W. Bush
May 6, 2003
U.S. officials never expected that “we were going to open garages
and find” weapons of mass destruction.
I just don’t know whether it was all destroyed years ago
— I mean, there’s no question that there were chemical weapons years ago —
whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they’re still
Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne
May 13, 2003
Before the war, there’s no doubt in my mind that
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I
expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.
Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps
May 21, 2003
Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we’re
interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of mass
Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
May 26, 2003
They may have had time to destroy them, and I
don’t know the answer.
May 27, 2003
For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass
destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason
everyone could agree on.
May 28, 2003