The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Blood in the water? Mainstream anger against disinformation.


Blood in the water?  The Bush administration's legacy of prowar disinformation
was broadly and angrily criticized in the mainstream media last week.  Most

>> The NY Times widely respected columnist, Paul Krugman, wrote: "Right now the
administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as necessary, and trying
to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of
all three branches of government."

>> Pre-eminent online magazine Slate's editor-in-chief, Michael Kinsley, writes
that many insiders (including possibly Kinsley) grudgingly agree with Tariq Aziz
that the war is not so much about WMD as it is about oil and Israel.  Kinsley
urges this be reflected in the national discourse.

The press have been derided as "fanged sheep", flockishly docile, vicious when
aroused.  It would be so helpful if this arousal would continue.  An optimist
might even hope for an honest re-examination of sanctions, and of the
implications of American militarism.

Yet Bush has his war powers resolution; it may be too little too late.  Echoing
Peter Brooke from his brilliant weekly news summaries, "And in these moments
when the pendulum seems to be swinging away from war we should keep in mind the
important words of Milan Ray ... 'The mainstream debate is focussed on two
options, containment or regime change. This is a choice between killing Iraqis
through sanctions and killing them by bombs. It is a framework I completely

It will take our best efforts to maintain the current momentum. And beyond this
the real work - framing an humane alternative to economic sanctions and war -

Following are compilations of prowar misinformation now appearing in mainstream
American media.  Krugman and Kinsley's pieces are repeated in their entirety.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

[1] Knight-Ridder
Oct. 8, 2002, 10:47AM
Some administration officials expressing misgivings on Iraq
Knight-Ridder Tribune News

[Key quotes]
"... officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the
threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links
to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international
support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a
new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that
intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting
the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the
United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary. ...

A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews ..."

"... None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different
agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. ..."

[2] Guardian,12271,807286,00.html
White House 'exaggerating Iraqi threat'
Bush's televised address attacked by US intelligence
Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday October 9, 2002
The Guardian

[Key quote]
"... "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level
pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence,
especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's
former head of counter-intelligence. ..."

[3] Salon
President Bush's distorted case for war
U.S. officials say the White House is exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam
and pressuring the intelligence community to "cook the books."
By Gary Kamiya

[4] Newsday,0,4838279.story
<Note no longer available; email me for text.>
CIA Reports Dispute Bush
Pattern of exaggeration on Iraq seen by sources
By Knut Royce
October 10, 2002

[Key quote]
"... An administration official with direct access to the CIA's reporting on
Bush's claimed links between al-Qaida and Iraq said in a recent interview that
there was only a "possibility that chemical and biological training" by Iraq may
have occurred. He said the information was based on the account from a single
al-Qaida member currently in custody. "We're trying to substantiate that
information," he said. ..."

[5] Chronicle
Bush's evidence of threat disputed
Findings often ambiguous, contradict CIA
Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, October 12, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle.
[Very worthwhile, wide-ranging article]

[6] General Zinni in Salon
"I'm not sure which planet they live on"
Hawks in the Bush administration may be making deadly miscalculations on Iraq,
says Gen. Anthony Zinni, Bush's Middle East envoy.
By Eric Boehlert
[In terms of problems facing the U.S.] "... My personal view, and this is just
personal, is that I think [Iraq] isn't No. 1. It's maybe six or seven, and the
affordability line may be drawn around five. ..."

[7] NYT's James Risen and the UPI on Atta/Prague
--- Risen's story ...
October 21, 2002
Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting

--- ... and Risen's background to the speculation
October 21, 2002
How Politics and Rivalries Fed Suspicions of a Meeting

--- UPI repot
UPI exclusive: Czechs retract terror link
By Martin Walker
UPI Chief International Correspondent
>From the International Desk
Published 10/20/2002 10:27 AM
View printer-friendly version

--- Aministration use of Atta/Prague

--- NYT Editorial
October 23, 2002
The Illusory Prague Connection

--- But note:
October 23, 2002
Havel Denies Telephoning U.S. on Iraq Meeting
[However, this does not resurrect the story.] "The spokesman, Ladislav Spacek,
said Mr. Havel was still certain there was no factual basis behind the report
that Mr. Atta met an Iraqi diplomat, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, here in
April 2001."

[8] Dana Milbank in WashPost

For Bush, Facts Are Malleable
Presidential Tradition Of Embroidering Key Assertions Continues
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 22, 2002; Page A01

Rejoinder by the White Houst:
Solid Facts From the President
Thursday, October 24, 2002; Page A34
Press Secretary
The White House

[9] Hans von Sponeck visited claimed chemical weapons factories
Two Examples of Misinformation on Iraqi Biological Weapons Production

[10] Author and security insider James Bamford in USA Today summarizes the above
Maintain CIA's independence
By James Bamford
[Key quote] "...As Bush's "strike first, ask questions later" doctrine
continues, with the prospect of endless wars and endless terrorism in
retaliation, the need for honest intelligence reports becomes paramount. ..."

[11] The fatuous Richard Perle is ridiculed.  A damning profile appeared in the
LA Times (Perle the gourmand, Perle the Chevy Chase nobleman), which was then
exploited by the NY Times Pulitzer-winning hit woman, Maureen Dowd.

- The LA Times piece is not freely available.  Email me for text.

- Maureen Dowd's column:
The Soufflé Doctrine
New York Times
Oct. 20, 2002

[12] Arguably America's most respected columnist, economist Paul Krugman
October 25, 2002
Dead Parrot Society

A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an article explaining
that for George W. Bush, "facts are malleable." Documenting "dubious, if not
wrong" statements on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability to
the federal budget, the White House correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's
"rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy."

Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported that "senior
officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that remains largely
unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter:
"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level
pronouncements." USA Today reports that "pressure has been building on the
intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."

Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty Python's parrot: he's
pushing up the daisies, his metabolic processes are history, he's joined the
choir invisible. That is, he's dead. And the Bush administration lies a lot.

Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not quite putting it that
way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and is paying the usual price for his courage:
he is now the target of a White House smear campaign.

That standard response may help you understand how Mr. Bush retains a public
image as a plain-spoken man, when in fact he is as slippery and evasive as any
politician in memory. Did you notice his recent declaration that allowing Saddam
Hussein to remain in power wouldn't mean backing down on "regime change,"
because if the Iraqi despot meets U.N. conditions, "that itself will signal that
the regime has changed"?

The recent spate of articles about administration dishonesty mainly reflects the
campaign to sell war with Iraq. But the habit itself goes all the way back to
the 2000 campaign, and is manifest on a wide range of issues. High points would
include the plan for partial privatization of Social Security, with its 2-1=4
arithmetic; the claim that a tax cut that delivers 40 percent or more of its
benefits to the richest 1 percent was aimed at the middle class; the claim that
there were 60 lines of stem cells available for research; the promise to include
limits on carbon dioxide in an environmental plan.

More generally, Mr. Bush ran as a moderate, a "uniter, not a divider." The
Economist endorsed him back in 2000 because it saw him as the candidate better
able to transcend partisanship; now the magazine describes him as the

It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of character, but it's
more than that. There's method in this administration's mendacity.

For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a
populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to benefit a very small
number of people — basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and really
don't care about either the environment or their less fortunate compatriots.
True, this base is augmented by some powerful special-interest groups, notably
the Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition can raise vast
sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage bourgeois riots when needed, the
policies themselves are inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those
malleable facts.

What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of
the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental
views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the
administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal
popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been
steadily leaking out of that balloon.

Right now the administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as
necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity
to gain control of all three branches of government. But then what? There is,
after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to move to the center.

So the administration's inner circle must think that full control of the
government can be used to lock in a permanent political advantage, even though
the more the public learns about their policies, the less it likes them. The big
question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose
it again in the face of one-party government.

[13] Beltway insider and editor of flagship web magazine Slate, Michael Kinsley
What Bush Isn't Saying About Iraq
President Bush won't discuss two big reasons he wants to invade Iraq.
By Michael Kinsley
Posted Thursday, October 24, 2002, at 12:40 PM PT

So, why exactly is Iraq different from North Korea? Both are founding members of
President Bush's "axis of evil," and both deserve that honor. North Korea has
now admitted to a nuclear weapons development program on about the same timeline
as what we only suspect about Iraq. So, why are we barely complaining in one
case and off to war in the other?

Bush addressed this conundrum the other day. "Saddam Hussein is unique," he
explained. "He has thumbed his nose at the world for 11 years … and for 11 years
he has said, 'No, I refuse to disarm.' " The North Koreans, by contrast, said,
"Yes, we will disarm"—they promised to stop building nukes in exchange for help
in developing peaceful nuclear power—and then they didn't do it. I guess that's
a difference, but it sounds as if we're punishing Saddam for his honesty.

Bush's public case for going to war against Iraq is full of logical
inconsistencies, exaggerations, and outright lies. It reeks of ex-post-facto:
First came the desire, and then came the reasons. But this raises a troubling
question, especially for opponents of Bush's policy: If his ostensible reasons
are unpersuasive even to him, what are his real reasons? There must be some:
Nobody starts a war as a lark. It would be easier to dismiss the whole exercise
if there were an obvious ulterior motive. Without one, you are left wondering,
"Am I missing something?"

Tariq Aziz has a theory. Saddam Hussein's deputy told the New York Times this
week, "The reason for this warmongering policy toward Iraq is oil and Israel."
Although no one wishes to agree with Tariq Aziz, he has put succinctly what many
people in Washington apparently believe. They do not think the concern over
potential use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is negligible or
insincere, but they do think that "oil and Israel" is a pretty good summary of
what, for President Bush, makes Iraq different from your run-of-the-mill evil
dictatorship. Yet this presumption about Bush, and these issues themselves,
barely appear in the flood of speculation and argument about Bush War II.

"President Bush" is, of course, a metaphor. Much Washington political commentary
and analysis is basically a discussion of what or whom the term "President Bush"
is a metaphor for. Is it Karl Rove? Is it still Karen Hughes, although she has
decamped? Even more than most presidents, Bush is regarded as the sum total of
his advisers. Regarding Iraq, the advisers themselves are also used as
metaphors, often in plural to signify a stereotype. "The Cheneys and the
Rumsfelds" evokes a retro world of confident white CEOs in suits, oil barons,
and the military industrial complex. "The Wolfowitzes and the Richard Perles"
evokes—well, you know what it evokes.

The idea that oil is a factor in official thinking about Iraq shouldn't even be
controversial. Protecting oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was an
explicit—though disingenuously underemphasized—reason for Bush War I. After all,
we couldn't claim to be fighting to restore democracy to Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia, let alone Iraq. This time around, the fact that Bush and Cheney are both
oil men is suggestive, but the implication is not clear. A war to topple Saddam
will raise oil prices in the short run but probably lower them in the longer run
by stabilizing the supply. An oil man could have sincerely mixed feelings about
these prospects. Surely, though, even a sensible opponent of the war ought to
register a steady oil supply as one of the better reasons for it.

The lack of public discussion about the role of Israel in the thinking of
"President Bush" is easier to understand, but weird nevertheless. It is the
proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it. The
reason is obvious and admirable: Neither supporters nor opponents of a war
against Iraq wish to evoke the classic anti-Semitic image of the king's Jewish
advisers whispering poison into his ear and betraying the country to foreign
interests. But the consequence of this massive "Shhhhhhhhh!" is to make a
perfectly valid American concern for a democratic ally in a region of nutty
theocracies, rotting monarchies, and worse seem furtive and suspicious.

Having brought this up, I hasten to add a few self-protective points. The
president's advisors, Jewish and non-Jewish, are patriotic Americans who
sincerely believe that the interests of America and Israel coincide. What's
more, they are right about that, though they may be wrong about where that
shared interest lies. Among Jewish Americans, including me, there are people who
hold every conceivable opinion about war with Iraq with every variation of
intensity, including passionate opposition and complete indifference. Jews are
undoubtedly overrepresented in what little organized antiwar movement there may
be (thus feeding another variant of the anti-Semitic stereotype).

Why and whether an American war against Iraq would be good for Israel is far
from clear and is the subject of vigorous debate in Israel itself—but not in
America. Theories range from the mundane to the exotic to the paranoid: Clearing
out a neighborhood troublemaker before he gets the bomb is reason enough. Or,
deposing Saddam will set off a complex regional chain reaction that will somehow
turn the Arab nations into peaceful bourgeois societies. Or, Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon actually wants a huge regional conflagration that he can use as an
excuse and cover for expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank. In any
event, the downside risk for Israel—of carnage, military and civilian—is like
America's, only far greater.

But we'd better not talk about it.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]