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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, January 29, 2004
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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