Thursday, April 12, 2007

Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS/truthout

Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS
By David Swanson
t r u t h o u t | Guest Columnist
Thursday 12 April 2007
Bill Moyers has put together an amazing 90-minute video
documenting the lies that the Bush administration told to sell the
Iraq war to the American public, with a special focus on how the
media led the charge. I've watched an advance copy and read a
transcript, and the most important thing I can say about it is: Watch
PBS from 9:00 to 10:30 PM on Wednesday, April 25. Spending that 90
minutes will actually save you time because you'll never watch
television news again - not even on PBS, which comes in for its own
share of criticism.
While a great many pundits, not to mention presidents, look
remarkably stupid or dishonest in the four-year-old clips included
in "Buying the War," it's hard to take any spiteful pleasure in
holding them to account, and not just because the killing and dying
they facilitated is ongoing, but also because of what this video
reveals about the mindset of members of the DC media. Moyers
interviews media personalities, including Dan Rather, who clearly
both understand what the media did wrong and are unable to really see
it as having been wrong or avoidable.
It's great to see an American media outlet tell this story so
well, but it leads one to ask: When will Congress tell it? While the
Democrats were in the minority, they clamored for hearings and
investigations, they pushed Resolutions of Inquiry into the White
House Iraq Group and the Downing Street Minutes. Now in the majority,
they've gone largely silent. The chief exception is the House
Judiciary Committee's effort to question Condoleezza Rice next week
about the forged Niger documents.
But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful
realization that no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no
hidden information was needed for the media to get the story right in
the first place. The claims that the White House made were not honest
mistakes. But neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and
laughably absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and
The program opens with video of President Bush saying "Iraq is
part of a war on terror. It's a country that trains terrorists. It's
a country that can arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are
a direct threat to this country."
Was that believable or did the media play along? The next shot
is of a press conference at which Bush announces that he has a script
telling him which reporters to call on and in what order. Yet the
reporters play along, raising their hands after each comment,
pretending that they might be called on despite the script.
Video shows Richard Perle claiming that Saddam Hussein worked
with al Qaeda and that Iraqis would greet American occupiers as
liberators. Here are the Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal,
William Safire from The New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Jim
Hoagland from The Washington Post, all demanding an overthrow of
Iraq's government. George Will is seen saying that Hussein "has
anthrax, he loves biological weapons, he has terrorist training
camps, including 747s to practice on."
But was that even plausible? Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" tells
Moyers he wasn't buying it. He says he saw the idea of a connection
between Hussein and al Qaeda as an absurdity: "Saddam, as most
tyrants, was a total control freak. He wanted total control of his
regime. Total control of the country. And to introduce a wild card
like al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I
just didn't believe it for an instant."
Knight Ridder Bureau Chief John Walcott didn't buy it either.
He assigned Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay to do the reporting
and they found the Bush claims to be quite apparently false. For
example, when the Iraqi National Congress (INC) fed The New York
Times's Judith Miller a story through an Iraqi defector claiming that
Hussein had chemical and biological weapons labs under his house,
Landay noticed that the source was a Kurd, making it very unlikely he
would have learned such secrets. But Landay also noticed that it was
absurd to imagine someone putting a biological weapons lab under his
But absurd announcements were the order of the day. A video
clip shows a Fox anchor saying, "A former top Iraqi nuclear scientist
tells Congress Iraq could build three nuclear bombs by 2005." And the
most fantastic stories of all were fed to David Rose at Vanity Fair
Magazine. We see a clip of him saying, "The last training exercise
was to blow up a full-size mock-up of a US destroyer in a lake in
central Iraq."
Landay comments: "Or jumping into pits of fouled water and
having to kill a dog with your bare teeth. I mean, this was coming
from people who are appearing in all of these stories, and sometimes
their rank would change."
Forged documents from Niger could not have gotten noticed in
this stew of lies. Had there been some real documents honestly
showing something, that might have stood out and caught more eyes.
Walcott describes the way the INC would feed the same information to
the vice president and secretary of defense that it fed to a
reporter, and the reporter would then get the claims confirmed by
calling the White House or the Pentagon. Landay adds: "And let's not
forget how close these people were to this administration, which
raises the question, was there coordination? I can't tell you that
there was, but it sure looked like it."
Simon from "60 Minutes" tells Moyers that when the White House
claimed a 9/11 hijacker had met with a representative of the Iraqi
government in Prague, "60 Minutes" was easily able to make a few
calls and find out that there was no evidence for the claim. "If we
had combed Prague," he says, "and found out that there was absolutely
no evidence for a meeting between Mohammad Atta and the Iraqi
intelligence figure. If we knew that, you had to figure the
administration knew it. And yet they were selling the connection
between al Qaeda and Saddam."
Moyers questions a number of people about their awful work,
including Dan Rather, Peter Beinart and then Chairman and CEO of CNN
Walter Isaacson. And he questions Simon, who soft-pedaled the story
and avoided reporting that there was no evidence.
Landay at Knight Ridder did report the facts when it counted,
but not enough people paid attention. He tells Moyers that all he had
to do was read the UN weapons inspectors' reports online to know that
the White House was lying to us. When Cheney said that Hussein was
close to acquiring nuclear weapons, Landay knew he was lying: "You
need tens of thousands of machines called 'centrifuges' to produce
highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. You've got to house
those in a fairly big place, and you've got to provide a huge amount
of power to this facility."
Moyers also hits Tim Russert with a couple of tough questions.
Russert expressed regret for not having included any skeptical voices
by saying he wished his phone had rung. So Moyers begins the next
segment by saying, "Bob Simon didn't wait for the phone to ring," and
describing Simon's reporting. Simon says he knew the claims about
aluminum tubes were false because "60 Minutes" called up some
scientists and researchers and asked them. Howard Kurtz of The
Washington Post says that skeptical stories did not get placed on the
front page because they were not "definitive."
Moyers shows brief segments of an "Oprah" show in which she has
on only pro-war guests and silences a caller who questions some of
the White House claims. Just in time for the eternal election season,
Moyers includes clips of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry backing the
war on the basis of Bush and Cheney's lies. But we also see clips of
Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy getting it right.
The Washington Post editorialized in favor of the war 27 times,
and published in 2002 about 1,000 articles and columns on the war.
But the Post gave a huge anti-war march a total of 36 words. "What
got even less ink," Moyers says, "was the release of the National
Intelligence Estimate." Even the misleading partial version that the
media received failed to fool a careful eye.
Landay recalls: "It said that the majority of analysts believed
that those tubes were for the nuclear weapons program. It turns out
though, that the majority of intelligence analysts had no background
in nuclear weapons." Was Landay the only one capable of noticing this
Colin Powell's UN presentation comes in for similar quick
debunking. We watch a video clip of Powell complaining that Iraq has
covered a test-stand with a roof. But AP reporter Charles Hanley
comments, "What he neglected to mention was that the inspectors were
underneath watching what was going on."
Powell cited a UK paper, but it very quickly came out that the
paper had been plagiarized from a college student's work found
online. The British press pointed that out. The US let it slide. But
anyone looking for the facts found it quickly.
Moyers's wonderful movie is marred by a single line - the next
to the last sentence - in which he says, "The number of Iraqis
killed, over 35,000 last year alone, is hard to pin down." A far more
accurate figure could have been found very easily.
--------- This article by David Swanson was first
published at

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