wolfowitz spills the beans
June 4, 2003 9:31 AM   Subscribe

wolfowitz spills the beans "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." - is telling the truth a new policy of the current administration?
posted by specialk420 (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.


Did anyone with more than the IQ of a housefly think otherwise?

One must assume that those who bought or parroted the web of lies of "WMDs/liberation/Mideast peace" as an excuse for mass murder are squealing "Help me....help me" in a thin, reedy voice right about now. Pathetic.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2003

Found via Daily Kos who are also discussing the same story:

Richard Perle on Meet the Press in Februray:

But please allow me to say: I find the accusation that this administration has embarked upon this policy for oil to be an outrageous, scurrilous charge for which, when you asked for the evidence, you will note there was none. There was simply the suggestion that, because there is oil in the ground and some administration officials have had connections with the oil industry in the past, therefore, it is the policy of the United States to take control of Iraqi oil. It is a lie, Congressman. It is an out and out lie. And I’m sorry to see you give credence to it.
posted by Sirius at 10:16 AM on June 4, 2003

OK, specialk420, I'll do to your FPP what George Wright is doing to the real quote - "Wolfowitz - is telling the truth"

See what a little editing and taking things out of context can do?

A real news report runs something like:

"North Korea would respond to economic pressure, unlike Iraq, where military action was necessary because the country's oil money was propping up the regime, Wolfowitz told delegates at the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore.

"The country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse," Wolfowitz said. "That I believe is a major point of leverage."

"The primary difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options in Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil," he said."

Of course, that's not the way it's presented in the opinion piece in the Guardian, but you can't make the author's point by sticking to the actual facts, can you?

I'm not trying to stick up for Wolfie, I can't stand him, but massaging quotes to get them to say what proves your point, rather than what they actually say, is the enemy of real journalism, and that's worse than Wolfie and his ilk in the long run.

The sad thing is that we'll have to go through this again next week when some unpaid (and uncredited) intern at the New York Times masticates and reguritates this Gaurdian article into Maureen Dowd's inbox ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2003

...but massaging quotes to get them to say what proves your point, rather than what they actually say, is the enemy of real journalism, and that's worse than Wolfie and his ilk in the long run.

As opposed to massaging intelligence to get it to say what proves your point.

Sorry, Jos Bleau, nothing personal. Maybe the Guardian piece is taking it all out of context, and I don't believe the war was "about" oil - though oil was a factor in our reasoning, and I don't think the most stringent neocon could with a straight face dispute that.
posted by kgasmart at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2003

I have an idea. Let's ban Fox News and Guardian FPPs altogether.
posted by monkeyman at 10:38 AM on June 4, 2003

Look! He used the word "oil" it must be an imperialist resource grab!

He seems to have mentioned oil in passing, comparing the weakness of the North Korean state with the relative strength of the Iraqi state.

The US had few levers on Iraq save military ones because over the long run, they have the resources to buy whatever they need, be it Mirage Jets from the French or diplomatic cover from the Russians. Oil tends to strengthen authoritarian states and make them less accountable to internal or external actors.

N. Korea is starving and bankrupt. Without the support they get from the outside, the regime would collapse. Pursue diplomatic means to squeeze them because they are vulnerable.

The article is a pitiful piece of innuendo and spin from a newspaper that has given up on any attempt at objectivity. A pathetic article, and a crap post. Lay off the bong hits 420.
posted by ednopantz at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2003

put some pants on, ed.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2003

Not to get nitpicky, but a man with two clocks never knows what time it is. You're making an assumption that Disney/ABC is a more accurate news source than the Guardian, and therefore that they did not manufacture the quote. The fact that the cited quotes disagree in structure (one is not a strict subset of the other) underscores this ambiguity.

In this particular instance, I happen to agree with you - ABC's take on the quote makes a lot more sense syntactically than the Guardian's, which seems to interpret its version of the quote to mean we're in such dire straits that we need to klept ourselves some oil. The economy's fucked, yes, but it's not Red Storm Rising fucked. Yet.

On the other hand, in support of the everyone-in-the-White-House-is-a-lying-asshole point of view is the Vanity Fair quote: "for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction." I have no idea how that can be taken to be anything other than an admission that the case for war was a marketing message, not an analysis of an unfolding situation but a way to sell Joe Muncie on a plan set in motion during the tenure of Max Headroom. Unless, of course, it was mangled too.

I guess my point (somewhat OT, but this thread seems to be going hell anyway) is that with a generally conservative, nationalist press in the United States and a somewhat more left-leaning press globally, you can't even figure out what the hell is going on even by trying to average out the bias.
posted by Vetinari at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2003

Yike. What a terrible massaging of the facts. Bad journalism - and I'm disappointed in The Guardian.
posted by Marquis at 11:06 AM on June 4, 2003

specialk420: what do you think is meant by "Iraq war was about oil?" What do they mean by "about?" And why did this article, which was entirely about Wolfowitz's speech, quote just one sentence from it? Between this article and fold and mutilate's guffaws, I can't make heads or tails of the issue.
posted by shoos at 11:46 AM on June 4, 2003

wolfowitz made the statement - i pass no judgement on it one way or the other. ill let the him dig his own hole, which he seems to being quite well lately.

wolfowitz thinks saddam was involved with the oklahoma city bombing and sept. 11 - which there has yet to be a shread of evidence of - one might ask why this man with extremist (arguably delusional) views is qualified to be the under secretary of defense? and how calling attention to hints at his actual views is problematic . is beyond me.
posted by specialk420 at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2003

Here's the whole transcript.
posted by David Dark at 12:38 PM on June 4, 2003

so he said the F word in response to a smartassed comment... at least he didn't just give a fake smile and ignore it.

Are you serious about him claiming a link between Saddam and OK city bombing? Do you have any links for that?
posted by shoos at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2003

wolfowitz made the statement - i pass no judgement on it one way or the other.

No, that's the very problem, specialk -- he didn't make that statement. The Guardian story fails in two unforgiveable respects: (1) it puts the wrong words in Wolfowitz's mouth, and (2) it interprets those words in a way that clearly wasn't intended. If you read the actual words (see David Dark's link, or numerous other sources), you realize that the only point Wolfowitz was trying to make is that economic pressure was more effective on impoverished North Korea than on Iraq, which is, quite literally, "floats on a sea of oil." Can anyone here really dispute that?

It is one thing to criticize, and I think Wolfowitz deserves criticism. But when you have to twist words in order to make a point, you just look desperate.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:15 PM on June 4, 2003

The Guardian has a Readers Editor for complaints on these matters: reader@guardian.co.uk

As a long-time Guardian reader, I have finally begun to see that there may be issues of accuracy here, and felt compelled to bring this to the attention of someone with real power in the institution. You may do the same, if you wish - after all, a WWW paper is read all over (!)

My complaint:

O dear.

A single quote, taken out of context, condemns a man who really needs no-one else to hoist his petard.

Compare: "Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." - The Guardian.

"Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different." http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030531-depsecdef0246.html

Apparently, Wolfowitz did not use the word 'swims', he said 'floats' - more accurate geologically, almost, and less opulent, than 'swims'. Your (our?) correspondent George Wright clips the whole economic thrust of the argument to a single word - 'economically' - making it possible to assume that it was an admission of the oil-grab many of us supposed back in February. My reading of Wolfowitz's words (not, I hasten to add, necessarily the whole truth) is that N. Korea is a spent force with no money to conduct a war, whereas oil revenues, in Wolfowitz's assessment, supported Saddam in his aggression for longer than would otherwise have been possible.

I spend a lot of time on Metafilter.com, where I found this link [http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/26185], and the assumption among many members there is that The Guardian can simply be discounted as a source of impartial information. I'm afraid that this sort of distortion, wrongful interpretation and selective quotation tarnishes the papers reputation, and makes me less willing to defend a paper I have bought since I was a teenager, and which I once considered my own private University.

A sad day for me.

posted by dash_slot- at 2:16 PM on June 4, 2003

After skimming through the DoD transcript [thanks David Dark] of Wolfowitz's remarks, it appears to me he said there were no good economic options for dealing with Iraq and that the military option was the preferred one. He feels that the situation with North Korea is clearly the reverse.

Which still doesn't answer the question about how the US got into a military-only option with Iraq in the first place and secondly, whether or not the war was promoted on the basis of cooked intelligence about WMD's.
posted by newlydead at 3:24 PM on June 4, 2003

One off-thread comment...Is WMD already a plural? Like 2 RBI or can one get away with WMD's?

Okay, back into the fray.
posted by newlydead at 4:09 PM on June 4, 2003

posted by Space Coyote at 4:22 PM on June 4, 2003

"we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. "

this statement is a bunch of bullshit even if you take it literally and want to quibble exact wording. The United States was the largest consumer of Iraqi oil (and continues to be the largest consumer of Saudi oil to this day) before the war. - perhaps im wrong, but leadership would be asking the gluttons of middle eastern oil here in the US to cut back and not have bought another drop from whatever source of iraqi oil until weapons inspectors were allowed back in with unfettered access every nook and cranny of the country (oh, wait... they were).
posted by specialk420 at 6:33 PM on June 4, 2003

Are you serious about him claiming a link between Saddam and OK city bombing?


Do you have any links for that?

yes. read the vanity fair interview.
posted by specialk420 at 6:52 PM on June 4, 2003

    One off-thread comment...Is WMD already a plural? Like 2 RBI or can one get away with WMD's?
Well..."Weapons of Mass Destruction" still condenses to "WMD."

In any case, unless you follow-on with what it is you believe that "Destruction" or the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" specifically owns, you could undoubtedly ease away from the possessive apostrophe. [/pedant _perorate]
posted by Dunvegan at 7:00 PM on June 4, 2003

Not so fast...
Apparently Wolfowitz tried to imply that economic sanctions would have been less fruitful in Iraq, due to its oil resources. While everybody is busy blaming the Guardian for shotty reporting, nobody cares to point out that the article explicitly referenced earlier reports in Germany's Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt.

Going over Die Welt, you will find -
Betrachten wir es einmal ganz simpel. Der wichtigste Unterschied zwischen Nordkorea und dem Irak ist der, dass wir wirtschaftlich einfach keine Wahl im Irak hatten. Das Land schwimmt auf einem Meer von Öl.
Literal translation:
Let's look at this in simple terms. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we simply did not have a choice economically in Iraq. The country swims in a sea of oil.

Apparently Sophie Mühlmann is to blame for poor translation of Wolfowitz original quote. The result is as compelling, as taking an English text, translating it in Babblefish to German and then translating it back into English.

Oh, what happened to Der Tagesspiegel reference...? Well, let's just say Der Tagesspiegel simply ran a dpa wire that directly references Die Welt's article.

Is The Guardian without fault in this case? Absolutely not, when taking a translated quote for face value, without doing proper fact checking first, The Guardian only shows that it rather pursues "ratings" than quality. Then again Die Welt is a much respected German daily... At any rate this should give enough cannon fodder for the right in terms of leftwing conspiracy theories. I guess the morale of the story is, only trust those media reports that you have manipulated yourself...
posted by noom at 7:52 PM on June 4, 2003


It says he "entertained" the idea. And, furthermore, that this information was gotten from "a friend or associate familiar with his thinking." When asked directly, Wolfowitz "declined comment."

Rock solid. Obviously he's got a dirty little secret, right? Tee hee! But me and you and F and M can tell, right?!
posted by shoos at 8:21 PM on June 4, 2003


here's a little more from josh on the issue.

if you don't think the mans motives are suspect - and wonder what he is doing as the under-secretary of defense ... then ill leave you alone in your happy little world.
posted by specialk420 at 9:16 PM on June 4, 2003

You found more evidence! Good job! Josh says that Vanity Fair's PR director stated "categorically" that they talked about the OK City bombing during the interview.

That's strange. She's the PR director for the magazine. She shouldn't be all bewildered and stuff like the rest of us about the what went on in the interview. Maybe Satan (Wolfowitz) said he'd turn them into steaming pools of bile if they published that part. Figures! If he were breathing down my throat, I certainly wouldn't be publishing that stuff! Hell no!
posted by shoos at 9:29 PM on June 4, 2003

I agree with dash slot. I like the guadian, but this is crap. Wolfie's logic is accurate, and has nothing to do with the context the G is putting it in plain and simple.
posted by chaz at 9:31 PM on June 4, 2003

shoos. clearly i am not qualified to argue with "a polymathic", who has "successfully completed a number of diverse web-based correspondence courses".
posted by specialk420 at 9:39 PM on June 4, 2003

But what about Josh? He can back you up with some more hard facts and critical thinking. Right? Dont' give up on me now.
posted by shoos at 9:46 PM on June 4, 2003

just in case you are writing a paper for next online course - here's a little more background on wolfie and some of his views that were too radical for the likes of his buddies cheney and bush senior. critical thinking... hehehe... i get right on that shoos.
posted by specialk420 at 9:53 PM on June 4, 2003

Oh cool, another link. And let me know when you get on that. thx :)
posted by shoos at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2003

BTW, I have a PhD in online courses.
posted by shoos at 10:01 PM on June 4, 2003

well good for you shoos! who would have guessed?

a nice quote if you missed it from wolfie's dead then revived again Defense Planning Guidance dossier -

"U.S. "should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies" formed to deal with a particular crisis and which may not outlive the resolution of the crisis."

too bad for Tony.
posted by specialk420 at 10:24 PM on June 4, 2003

Although I agree in principle with the idea that it's dishonest and counterproductive to massage quotes to match one's ideology, I am nonetheless amused by arguments which seem to me to more or less go : 'these people are evil glowing-eyed mutant scum, I'll grant, but I would rather ignore that conclusion and argue whether they are actually worthless scum in this particular instance'

Bushies is as Bushies does, I'm afraid.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:42 PM on June 4, 2003

Now pulled from the Guardian site...
posted by punilux at 5:53 AM on June 5, 2003

They are now running a correction. Of course they still botched the quote.

Paul Wolfowitz
A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil" misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, "The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." The sense was that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed.
posted by ednopantz at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2003

Here's the correction.
posted by mw at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2003

Specialk, you might remember that completely stopping the flow of Iraqi oil was likely to do more harm than good. Remember, that was tried in the early nineties and all it led to was the impoverish and starve the people of Iraq. All legal oil Iraq was selling pre 2003 was through the "oil for food" program, and any proceeds were to go only for a limited number of humanitarian purposes. You can look it up. Unfortunately, Iraq was also smuggling a lot of oil, primarily through Syria.

Anyway, wasn't the antiwar crowd shouting that we should drop sanctions, not tighten them?

Try to understand the complexity of the situation before you spout off.
posted by pjgulliver at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2003

Well, that's a victory - of sorts.

Plus, it proves that the so-called liberal media (in the UK, at least) are prepared to act responsibly, listen to their readership and print corrections.

Are there any similar examples from the other side of the pond?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:41 PM on June 5, 2003

while we are on the subject of acting responsibly, one might ask if tasking our intelligence authorities with proving the half-baked (at best) claims that saddam was involved with nearly all major recent acts of terrrorism on american soil despite plain evidence to the contrary - is what we want our under-secretary of defense doing? should'nt he be trying to find the real terrorists rather than chasing the bogeymen and connections that the rest of the world knows don't exist? cheney's and feiths strong arming of intelligence folk is another matter as well.
posted by specialk420 at 7:29 AM on June 6, 2003

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