White House: Bush misstated report on Iraq
September 7, 2002 10:21 PM   Subscribe

White House: Bush misstated report on Iraq A senior White House official acknowledged Saturday night that the 1998 report did not say what Bush claimed. 'What happened was, we formed our own conclusions based on the report ,' The photograph in question was not U.N. intelligence imaging but simply a picture from a commercial satellite imaging company Did he think no one would notice?
posted by bas67 (32 comments total)
He sure is tricky for being so dumb, hey?

posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:37 PM on September 7, 2002

Instead...the [International Atomic Energy Agency] said in 1998 that Iraq had been six to 24 months away from [nuclear] capability before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the U.N.-monitored weapons inspections that followed. The war and the inspections destroyed much of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure and required Iraq to turn over its highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

Sounds like pretty good timing for the first one. This one's a frame-up.
posted by azimuth at 10:49 PM on September 7, 2002

If they have nuclear weapons then they've obviously gotten them from someone else. I think they expect us to imagine these vast farms of Iraqis diligently pecking away at their keyboards coming up with ways their fearless leader, Saddam Hussein, can subvert the world.

The only reason Bush would say one thing and then the "White House" would "clarify" is because they're playing with our heads. Occam's Razor wins out here.
posted by crasspastor at 10:57 PM on September 7, 2002

I wonder why they allow GWB to speak without notecards or something. Any time he's without notes he sounds like an idiot.

[sidenote: I was watching Bob Roberts --which takes place in 1990-- on tv a few weeks ago and there was a scene where CNN was on in the background and there is a soundbite about Saddam being 6 months away from having nuclear weapons. ]
posted by birdherder at 11:30 PM on September 7, 2002

Hmm. I was thinking about popping my FPP cherry with a post about this AP story, which seems to present two very different conclusions about Iraq's possession of WMD. The lead paragraph seems to pretty directly contradict the source quotes that follow. It's probably better as a comment, being pretty closely related to this thread. Playing with our heads, indeed.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 11:31 PM on September 7, 2002

I hate to defend on this end, but the article only refers to vague instances of heresay.
It huffs and puffs like hard hitting journalism , but never really delivers
posted by wuakeen at 11:57 PM on September 7, 2002

Wuakeen: what?? It's "vague"? The article clearly shows that G.W. (and Tony Blair) cited as evidence a report that says nothing even remotely related to what they attributed to it. They lied about its contents flat-out. They also pointed to the construction of a plain-old regular building as evidence of WMD development. In fact, they just made that up.

I wouldn't call any of that "vague.'

What is there to say about this, except that it's just appalling? I cannot believe half of my country voted for this man, and I hope to God they don't vote for him again. George W. really is a pathetic guy. Unbelievable.
posted by josh at 12:04 AM on September 8, 2002

josh, half of your country DIDN'T vote for the man. but more than half of the Supreme Court did.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 12:21 AM on September 8, 2002

It is interesting to note that while the CNN story does focus on this issue, the front page (at least as of this moment) of CNN reads as follows:

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday there is ample evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but critics questioned that conclusion. Both leaders cited a report indicating possible nuclear construction by Iraq.

This is the first paragraph of the CNN story. In the second paragraph, they question the veracity of the report.

Note, however, that the casual reader of CNN.com is only going to learn that these two world leaders have cited a source. There is no indication that the report doesn't really exist until the second paragraph, which you won't see unless you click on "Full Report."

The statement that "critics questioned that conclusion" makes it sound like somebody is questioning the veracity of details in the report. It would have, perhaps, been a bit more accurate to write, "but the reports they cite don't actually exist."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:24 AM on September 8, 2002

Joey - the point you make about the "casual reader" is exactly what I thought about that AP story I posted three or four comments back. Is this indicative of a new propaganda approach?

And on the subject of the incubator story, the woman who wrote the original still claims, here, that it was true.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 2:37 AM on September 8, 2002

Nicolae - sorry, I had intended to indicate that I was bolstering your point, but forgot to actually include that in my reply.

I don't know that this is a *new* propaganda approach, so much as it is an approach that is particularly easy to use on the Interweb.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:54 AM on September 8, 2002

Nitpicky and vague, methinks.

Does it really matter which satellite pictures were cited, or what personal attacks on Bush some may deem pertinent?

The issue, as I understand it, is that a dangerous dictator is trying to amass weapons to shoot at the U.S. No?
posted by hama7 at 3:07 AM on September 8, 2002

The issue, as I understand it, is that a dangerous dictator is trying to amass weapons to shoot at the U.S. No?

No. The issue is whether Bush is making up facts to support his little oil crusade. If I felt there was already sufficient evidence that Saddam was dangerous maybe I could allow him the occasional slip. There's not, so naturally he's opened himself to scrutiny.
posted by zygoticmynci at 4:57 AM on September 8, 2002

What is the "little oil crusade", and what does that have to do with Iraqi stockpiles of plutonium and chemical weapons?

I guess Hussein is just a little cute puppy that everyone should indulge in genocide and terrorism?
posted by hama7 at 5:22 AM on September 8, 2002

I guess Hussein is just a little cute puppy that everyone should indulge in genocide and terrorism?

Starting a war is not the way to deal with Saddam Hussein. If Bush is concerned only with the safety of the world, why so quick to warmonger? Perhaps his trigger finger is getting itchy - after all, it has been a nearly six months since he's got to bomb anyone! His rhetoric is that of a man with an agenda, and I think anyone who can still see his intention as bringing about peace is sadly deluded.
posted by zygoticmynci at 5:33 AM on September 8, 2002

Well come on, do we have proof that GW even read the report? Do we have any proof that he can read at all?
We'd better launch a preemptive strike, soon, before we give Saddam Hussein a good reason to use his weapons of mass destruction on us. Oh wait...
posted by ghastlyfop at 5:51 AM on September 8, 2002

After making his big 'I've got a dossier and I'm gonna use it' speech, Blair's been steadily back-tracking every day this week on what this long-awaited dossier's going to contain, saying last night to reporters that the main problem is 'we don't know very much these past four years'. Which is fine and good - though you'd think there'd be spies to replace the ones who were posing as weapons inspectors - but if the magic dossier only says 'He did this before, and he'll do it again, just without our financial backing this time,' then I suspect many will remain unconvinced.
posted by riviera at 6:42 AM on September 8, 2002

A President beating the drums of war doesn't make mistakes like this. Bush is either trying to find out how many Americans care about the softness of evidence backing the case for preemptive war, or building historical backstory for backing down from war in the coming weeks. "The president was misinformed as the to the immediacy of the threat, the administration now believes that weapons inspectors and sanctions can have the desired affect in Iraq"
posted by jonnyp at 6:48 AM on September 8, 2002

It's also important to note, as CNN's televised coverage of this story last p.m. did, and their current online story does, that they misrepresented the currency of the report -- tried to pass off the 98 study as new. Lame.

The issue, as I understand it, is that a dangerous dictator is trying to amass weapons to shoot at the U.S. No?

Oh come on. During the Gulf War, before being subjected to an extended international economic embargo, this guy could barely lob a couple of home-made scuds into Israel. And his conventional forces are crap. Sure he's a despot and a lousy leader, but he's no major threat, and to believe otherwise is silly.

Bush is either trying to find out how many Americans care about the softness of evidence backing the case for preemptive war, or building historical backstory for backing down from war in the coming weeks...
posted by Kneebiter at 9:02 AM on September 8, 2002

Oops -- cut off my response to that last ital:

Bush is either trying to find out how many Americans care about the softness of evidence backing the case for preemptive war, or building historical backstory for backing down from war in the coming weeks...

Maybe, or he's counting on netting the support of that segment of the population who'll never catch the mistake... and unfortunately it's probably pretty large.
posted by Kneebiter at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2002

I guess Hussein is just a little cute puppy that everyone should indulge in genocide and terrorism?

Red Herring. Please try to stay on topic. The topic is not about whether we should go to war, it is about a report that may have been misrepresented.
posted by rhyax at 9:46 AM on September 8, 2002

The issue, as I understand it, is that a dangerous dictator is trying to amass weapons to shoot at the U.S. No?

In the context of this topic, isn't the issue that a dangerous dictator is trying to amass weapons to shoot at Iraq?o
posted by carter at 9:52 AM on September 8, 2002

p.s. - where am i getting these single lower case letters (e.g. 'o,' above) that append themselves after every post? they appear in preview as well and i delete them and they come back ... or is this just me??
posted by carter at 9:54 AM on September 8, 2002

"I have here in my hand a list of 57 known Communists working in the State Department...." -- Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis)

He had bupkis, too, as you'll recall, and look at how that turned out.
posted by briank at 10:54 AM on September 8, 2002

Ah, so it's all a put-up job, eh? The WaPo story on the Bush and Blair meeting notes the IAEA's demurral that their reports fully support what was said about them, but also notes they (the IAEA) did release photographs showing construction at former nuclear sites [Reuters; source: NYT]. This was reported by the wire services and the NYT as an indication that inspections were needed. While we don't know what this construction is, I'm not personally one to be settled by saying that -- especially given the extraordinarily detailed information we do have about Iraq's capabilities ... and especially those aluminum tubes they hanker for so much. Really.
posted by dhartung at 5:45 PM on September 8, 2002

No, he didn't think no one would notice. He thought a bunch of people would notice, but that he could write those people off as "conspiracy theorists, evil-doers, anti-Americans, or paranoid drug users" by bashing them with the IdiotSwayingMedia(tm), or just have them thrown in jail without a public trial, indefinitely, with no rights to a lawyer, if they talk too loud and gain public support.

Does that sound about right?
posted by zekinskia at 10:20 PM on September 8, 2002

I'm not trying to argue here dhartung. I'm not even trying to be coy. But if Iraq knows that we have satellites snapping photos of them 24/7 and have been for over a decade, why would they persist? I'm not going to say Iraq isn't gaming the world. But what I will say is there is much more than would ever meet the eye of the average citizen. Any proof given, that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, would inevitably be so watered down for security purposes that it would make what the public knows moot anyhow. We are being played. Whether it be for security reasons or purposes of propaganda, the truth simply has to lie somewhere in between. Either way it's simply too much for any one citizen to fathom appropriately given the dangers of starting a war in the middle east period. It's easier for me to err on the side of doing quite the opposite of what the Bush regime has up its sleeve.

Wouldn't it be easier for Iraq to develop those weapons "off site"? Why then focus an attack on Iraq, an impoverished citizenry being played worse than we are? This is not the road to any kind of stability. It's simply the United States filling the global void that so many imperial civilizations in our western civ classes did themselves. The only difference here is that we're actually experiencing it. An elephant's tail comes to mind.
posted by crasspastor at 10:35 PM on September 8, 2002

simply, simply, simply. . .

Sorry so many simplies.
posted by crasspastor at 10:43 PM on September 8, 2002

Dhartung, thanks for those links. But I will say it would be nice to see a story that wasn't peppered with "according to U.S. government sources" and "officials said." For example, like this story from (argh) Fox News, in which an expert from the Carnegie Endowment suggests that Hussein has "very limited capability to deliver" any weapons of mass destruction, and also wonders whether Hussein would opt to do so with the eyes of the world on him.

Here is some helpful background information from the BBC; and here is some more from PBS.

Sure maybe those aluminum tubes were for weapons. Like those lousy scuds that work 4% of the time. Or maybe he's just making giant bongs.

Also -- it seems to me the only thing that would prompted him into using anything he might have, and subsequently getting his ass kicked, would be an attack. If we don't attack, he's much better off hunkering down and doing nothing. He may be a ruthless dictator, but he's not an idiot.
posted by Kneebiter at 6:49 AM on September 9, 2002

crasspastor, the "nothing to hide" argument falls flat when you consider they haven't permitted inspections for four years -- and the consequences have been minimal. Why would they persist? Because they believe it's a national necessity -- or at least a regime necessity -- to join the nuclear club. Given their otherwise cornered situation, is it really that surprising they're seeking a trump card? Even if you believe they're clean, why not support the resumption of inspections before offering Iraq any kind of loosening of the punitive enforcements? Given their prior history "gaming the system", why accept any of their nonsense restrictions?

My argument didn't speak to the necessity of war, nor its risks, only to the certainty -- as I see it -- that Iraq has not slaked its thirst for WMD, and probably still has non-trivial working capability in chemical weapons. The Scotsman article, in particular, shows it isn't as simple by far as "gots 'em vs. not gots 'em". They can provably destroy hundreds of tons of VX gas and we would still have reasonable suspicion they've retained more, based on what we know of the precursors. A nuclear program that is six months away from testing can't be that far away now, since we know that building a bomb in a basement is something a single Princeton undergraduate can (arguably) accomplish. The "secret" of the bomb, as the Progressive reported all those years ago, is that there really isn't much of a secret at all. The critical problem is the production of the fissionable material in sufficient quality and quantity. This is why Iran bombed Iraq's Osirak I reactor (you never hear about that one), and why Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak II, and why the tubes are such an ominous sign. Whether we're talking war or just tighter noosing, I believe pre-emptive counter-proliferation is essential with regard to Iraq. If you think Pakistan is dodgy, just what would a nuclear Iraq look like post-Saddam? Best case is a stable regime succession ... to one of his relatives. Which one do you like? Uday? Qusay? Chemical Ali? Even if -- and I consider this a big if -- Saddam can be counted on to remain a fully rational player (and I'll listen to those arguments), it's an open question what successor regimes will bring to the game.

Given these factors, the question isn't whether war would be risky; the status quo is risky. We need to consider what are choices are to limit that risk. Containment, it's almost crystal clear, is barely working. Will it work forever? The sanctions get weaker -- and of course, the anti-war crowd argues for their elimination altogether, which would be a beatiful gift to Saddam. But maintaining those sanctions, and the no-fly zones, and the other restrictions on Iraqi sovereignty, is itself untenable in the long run.
posted by dhartung at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2002

My few cents worth. 1. Why did Israel bomb what they claimed were nuke sites some ten years ago, much to the world's outrage (no no to premeptive strikes!) 2. Iraq wnat nuclear power in order to be the big cheese in Arab world--Saddam has wanted to lead the ME states for some time now. 3. Nuclear capability does not mean it is worthless because it can not be delivered to the US; there are closer targets in the region. And smaller loads/bombs for would-be terror considerations.

I get upset when I am told over and over that there is information that is available but not available to the public, who after all is to supply the troops that may get killed. Like cards: put up or shut up.
posted by Postroad at 3:43 PM on September 29, 2002

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