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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, May 01, 2005
10:23 PM

PostWatch 2.0


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Saturday, January 31, 2004
12:17 PM

Iraqi blogger Healing Iraq comments on the oil bribery story:
And to all you infidel naysayers: "May Allah damn your moustaches". This IS an authentic official list. My uncle who has been working at the State Oil Marketing company for over 20 years told me that yesterday, and also that these 'deals' weren't all under the Oil for Food program but also by illicit oil smuggling through Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. The deputy Minister of Oil has already issued a statement about it adding that there are many more documents proving these links that have not been released to public yet.

We used to hear a lot of rumours about such clandestine transactions. Whenever a reknown international figure payed a visit to Iraq, Iraqis would ask "How many oil barrels did this one get?". So we weren't really surprised by the list, but the enormity of it makes quite a shocking effect.

Just to let you know this one is just a tiny little teaser for all our global friends. Prepare to be very embarrassed friends. For this is just the tip of the iceberg.

He also counts 20 Iraqi bloggers and has links to most of them.

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10:18 AM

The Saddam Oil-Bribe story... I've been trying to track this story as it meanders through Western media. It first appeared in an Iraqi paper, Al-Mada, and thanks to Croooow blog I see it was reported on ABC news. NRO flogged it a bit this week, but I've not yet seen it in the Post. The Weekly Standard shot up a flare too, as you'd expect from those quarters.

It's a bombshell if true. I don't know if I'd touch it yet if I were the Post. (As my headline link shows, the Washington Times, via UPI, did). Even if untrue, it might have merit as a political story (looking into the motives and resentments of the Free Iraqis).

Paranoid Right-Wing Conspiracy member that I am, I do wonder how many western-media resources are being applied to check it out. In the meantime, cheers to ABC news. ABC does not credit Al-mada, unfortunately, as getting there first.

Update: For those who haven't been following the story, here's the gist, from the UPI story in the Washington Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.

"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a governing council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."

Such evidence would undermine the French position before the war when President Jacques Chirac sought to couch his opposition to the invasion on a moral high ground.

Unfortunately, the headline is stupefyingly misleading: Iraqi govt. papers: Saddam bribed Chirac. There's nothing in the UPI brief to support it, and his name does not appear on the list. A figure identified as one of his close associates does appear, but that's not good enough.

UPI ledes with the French angle, but the list of bribees spans the globe. Check out the ABC story linked above for a concise list. It includes officials close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and according to the MEMRI-translated Al-Mada story, "the Russian state itself." It also includes British politician George Galloway, a fierce opponent of the war. Denials all around so far.

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9:51 AM

Classic straight-ahead story headlined No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data by Dana Priest.
Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

And this:
The conclusion that analysts did not buckle under political pressure does not answer the question of why the intelligence reports were so flawed. Nor does it address allegations -- made by Democrats in Congress and Democratic presidential candidates -- that top Bush administration officials misused intelligence and exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq.

Right. Exactly.

One interesting thing: This story gets major A1 play in the temporal hard-copy plane that we inhabit. Online, at the moment, it's on the homepage but played down, below the latest sad news about U.S. soldiers and Iraqis being killed by bombings.

UPDATE: One odd thing about this story. Though the lede says congressional officials from both parties agrees analysts did not alter their findings under pressure, it doesn't name any Democrats.

Who are they?

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Friday, January 30, 2004
8:15 AM

RomaneskoWatch... Dept. of Self-Parody--The first story Romanesko has feautured about the BBC implosion is about hundreds of editors walking out in support of their resigned director general/editor-in-chief. Not the resignation itself. Nor the resignation of the BBC's chairman. Nor the damning report by Lord Hutton that eviscerated the Beeb and exonerated Tony Blair.

And even with today's link, it's a sub-story at that. At this moment, today's top stories concern the USA Today/Jack Kelley dispute and the obviously more urgent My Wife Tells Me I'm Anal and She's Right," says Auletta.

Headlines are updated; here's the link.

Thursday, January 29, 2004
10:24 PM

Warren Hoge of the New York Times appeared on BBC television tonight, apparently having returned to the US after seven or eight years in Britain. In a feature on the BBC debacle, he said he was "shocked" upon his return to see American broadcasters wearing American flag lapel pins.

He also said he was surprised to learn of the high level of hostility to the BBC among Americans--particularly those of a conservative bent--for its coverage of the Iraq war.

I think Mr. Hoge is going to be surprised by a great many things.

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1:33 PM

Here's the BBC story on Lord Hutton's devastating critique, and here's the latest one by the Post.

I listened to about an hour of BBC radio's coverage of this event, and it was wonderful. If the Beeb had always been that thorough, they never would have stumbled into this chasm in the first place. It included blunt, no-equivocating accounts of the Hutton report as well as criticism of what may have been left out of the report.

Gist, from BBC:

LONDON -- A second senior executive of the British Broadcasting Corp. announced his resignation Thursday as the corporation issued an unreserved apology to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other officials for reporting they had exaggerated pre-war intelligence about Iraq's access to weapons of mass destruction.

BBC Director General Greg Dyke's resignation came the day after a judicial inquiry concluded the world's largest news organization had broadcast and later failed to retract "unfounded" allegations against Blair and his aides. Corporation chairman Gavyn Davies resigned Wednesday after the inquiry's report was published.

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1:22 PM

Romanesko of the Poynter Insitute is a news-junkie site probably better known under its earlier name Medianews. It's been criticized as being as left-wing as the elite media it often covers, and at the moment that charge would hold up. One of the greatest meltdowns in English-language journalism is taking place at the BBC, but its home page offers virtually no coverage--a couple of links on the lower-priority left-hand column, without comment. Its featured international story at the moment is a bid by British gazillionaires to buy the company that own the Chicago Sun-Times. Maybe after that scandal is settled, Romanesko can get around to the resignation of the BBC's chairman and director general, in the wake of an independent report that cratered the Beeb's reputation over Andrew Gilligan's false story that Tony Blair's intelligence dossier had been "sexed up" to support the Iraq War.

In the meantime, however, you can read a riveting account headlined Student journo drops WP name during grapefruit bill spat

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12:59 PM

As noted below, there may have been an editing error at the Post; the editorial was placed on the front page, while the straight news was moved to the editorial. Hey, it could happen to anybody. The editorial says this:
GIVE DAVID KAY credit for courage. The recently departed chief of the Iraq Survey Group was one of those who confidently predicted that stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons would be found in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion. Yesterday he straightforwardly told a Senate committee hearing that "we were almost all wrong." There were, he said, almost certainly no large stocks of illegal weapons in Iraq and no evidence that any had been produced in recent years.

But also this:
Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates are not making a responsible reckoning any easier. Instead they have attempted to twist Mr. Kay's conclusions to serve their arguments that Mr. Bush fabricated a case for war against a country that posed no serious threat. Mr. Kay punctured those theories yesterday. He bluntly told Democratic senators that he had found no evidence that intelligence analysts had come under administration pressure to alter their findings; pointed out that the Clinton administration and several European governments had drawn the same conclusions about Iraq's weapons; and stated that his investigation showed that Saddam Hussein's regime was in some ways more dangerous than was believed before the war -- because its corruption and disintegration had made it more likely that weapons or weapons technology would be sold to "others [who] are seeking WMD." That didn't stop Howard Dean from charging on the campaign trail that "the administration did cook the books" -- an allegation that, so far as Mr. Kay's testimony is concerned, is false.

But the Pincus/Milbank story is pretty much a relentless focus on calls for an independent investigation of how we apparently were wrong about WMDs. An important question, but not the only question, and despite the way the story puts it not one that universally condemns Bush.
The former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq said yesterday that there should be an independent investigation into the flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons capability, fueling a partisan feud over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq....

In an extraordinary five days since resigning as head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), Kay has provided interviews and testimony that have returned the Iraq weapons issue to the center of the national debate. The White House, caught off guard by Kay's broad denunciation of the intelligence used to justify the war, has sought to defer the issue by refusing to acknowledge in public any flaw in the intelligence or a conclusive failure to find forbidden weapons in Iraq, urging that more searching is necessary.

Pincus and Milbank describe the "partisan feud" about an independent investigation, and in this sense they nod toward views held by Republicans. But as usually, their coverage ignores, obscures or undermines the many statements made by Kay that cast the President in a better light.

Funny thing is there was a straight news story written yesterday during and after the hearing itself, by William Branigan. It actually tells me what happened at the hearing without the politicking of the Pincus/Milbank performance. Imagine. Here's the lede and the second graf.
David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, told a Senate hearing today that the inability to find banned weapons of mass destruction in that country since the fall of Saddam Hussein points to a major intelligence failure, and he suggested that an independent investigation look into the reasons for it.

But Kay, who resigned his post last week, denied that analysts had come under political pressure to report weapons that Iraq did not possess, and he said the search should continue. He also said he believes the removal of Hussein from power in Iraq has made the world a safer place.

It retains that tone and balance throughout. As I said when I started PostWatch a couple of years ago, if the Post was always like that I never would have been forced to read the Washington Times.

As a final note, the Pincus/Milbank link above is to the earlier version of the story that appeared on the front page of the Post, without Condi Rice quotes. The link in my item this morning--directly below--has the later version with her.

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11:08 AM
We have come to a strange pass when an editorial is more balanced than what's supposed to be straight news. More on this later. I should add that the Pincus/Milbank story now has a tad more balance online than it did in the hard-copy edition since it includes comments by Condi Rice that were not available until her television appearance this morning.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
11:08 AM

A chateau, where our heroes have fled as they seek the assistance of Sir Leigh Teabing...

Langdon first had met Teabing several years ago through the British Broadcasting Corporation. Teabing had approached the BBC with a proposal for a historical documentary in which he would expose the explosive history of the Holy Grail to a mainstream television audience. The BBC producers loved Teabing’s hot premise, his research, and his credentials, but they had concerns that the concept was so shocking and hard to swallow that the network might end up tarnishing its reputation for quality journalism.

Remember, this is fiction.

This is not.

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8:13 AM

David Kay testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, as noted in today's story, Kay Says Evidence Shows Iraq Disarmed. I wish I could be there to compare what he says to how it's reported.
U.S. weapons inspectors in Iraq found new evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime quietly destroyed some stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons in the mid-1990s, former chief inspector David Kay said yesterday...Kay's revelation that Iraq had documented the destruction of its weapons is the most recent of several disclosures he has made since his resignation Friday as special adviser to CIA Director George J. Tenet that have put the White House on the defensive..

Look, if Kay says Saddam documented the destruction of some of his weapons, that is indeed a crucial disclosure. But media including the Post can take much of the credit for putting the White House "on the defensive" by continuing to downplay statements that either raise the hair on the back of your head or plainly support President Bush's decision to go to war. As noted in posts earlier this week, that includes statements saying components of the WMD program were smuggled into Syria, that the situation in Iraq was potentially worse than we thought, and that the decision to invade was well-founded. Powerline hits this point very clearly and well, while noting that Kay hasn't been the most systematic or consistent interlocutor in the world.

Meanwhile, back at the Post, what is it about the word "imminent" that people just don't get?
In response to the Kay revelations, White House officials and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said yesterday that they never claimed that Hussein represented an "imminent" threat.

"I think some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent,' " White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "Those were not words we used. We used 'grave and gathering threat.' "

Though Bush did not use the word "imminent," he said in a major speech in October 2002 that waiting to confront Hussein was "the riskiest of all options." The United States, he said, "must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. . . . We have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring."

Urgent? Is that it? This one use of the word urgent? Bush's language is clear--we just couldn't predict when something horrible was going to happen but there was no excuse for waiting until the last, too-late second. And Bush also said this, in his January, 2003 State of the Union speech:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

This line should now be about as familiar to reporters as the Miranda warning. If you're going to revisit "imminence" why leave it out?

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