Accuracy in Media

The media’s “case” against the Iraqi war got a big boost from former Iraqi weapons inspector David Kay’s recent pronouncements that Saddam Hussein had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Kay has also said that he supports the President’s decision to go to war on Iraq, but that tends to get lost in the media’s coverage of this issue. And reporters have had to be very selective in what they write in order to make their case against the war. A good example of this was the coverage of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Rumsfeld told the committee that the weapons search is still “some distance from completion.” Unlike others, he did not criticize Kay. CIA Director George Tenet, for example, has taken strong exception to Kay’s statement that the weapons search is 85 percent complete. Curt Weldon, a senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, also objects to media coverage that implied Kay’s resignation meant the search is at an end. He said there are “tens of millions of documents remaining to be examined and innumerable leads to be pursued.”

Rumsfeld also said that he was convinced that the President did the right thing on Iraq “based on the intelligence we all saw.” But two Democratic Senators, Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy, challenged Rumsfeld on the credibility of that intelligence. Both sought to trip him up with a report issued by one of his own organizations, the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Kennedy read out this judgment from the report as proof that the intelligence community disagreed with the administration about whether Saddam Hussein had WMD stockpiles. “There’s no reliable information whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or where Iraq has or will establish its chemical weapons agent production facilities.” The DIA report was first made public in June 2003. At the time, it was cited as evidence of disparities between the administration and the Intelligence Community in the characterization of the Iraqi threat.

For example, the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus and Dana Priest cite the report as the best example of the disparities that are “at the heart of a burgeoning controversy in Congress and within the intelligence community over the U.S. rationale for going to war.” Others, like ABC’s Chris Bury, simply referred to the “no reliable information” clause to indict the administration.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all cited Levin and Kennedy’s charges in their coverage of the Rumsfeld hearing. Only the Washington Times, however, reported the full exchange between the two and Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld reminded Kennedy that the DIA report had gone on to say, “Although we lack any direct information, Iraq probably possesses CW agent in chemical munitions, possibly including artillery rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, ballistic missile warheads. Baghdad also probably possesses bulk chemical stockpiles, primarily certain precursors but that could also consist of some mustard gas and stabilized VX.” No wonder the liberal media omitted this.

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