The Wall Street Journal is a schizophrenic paper, with a clear division between the conservative editorial page and the liberal-oriented news pages. But the Washington Post has two minds as well. It appears that Post editorial writers, with good reason, don’t take the reporting by their own correspondents seriously.
In an April 9, editorial, the Washington Post said the President made a “good leak” when he approved the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iraq and made it available to the New York Times. What’s more, the paper said the information that was declassified undermined the claim by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson that there was no basis for the President’s assertion that the British said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. “The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium,” said the Post editorial.
On the same day, however, the Post ran a story, “A ‘Concerted Effort’ to Discredit Bush Critic,” by Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, asserting that Wilson “found no support for charges that Iraq tried to buy uranium there?” The story referred to the President’s “discredited uranium allegation.”
The NIE said the following:
“Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting its nuclear program about the time that UNSCOM inspectors departed?December 1998.
“Iraq has about 500 metric tons of yellowcake and low enriched uranium at Tuwaitha, which is inspected annually by the IAEA. Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons.
“A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement.
“Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources. Reports suggest Iraq is shifting from domestic mining and milling of uranium to foreign acquisition. Iraq possesses significant phosphate deposits, from which uranium had been chemically extracted before Operation Desert Storm. Intelligence information on whether nuclear-related phosphate mining and/or processing has been reestablished is inconclusive, however.”
The Post editorial is correct, and Gellman and Linzer are wrong. But they have too much invested in the claim that Bush tried to “discredit” a critic to correct the record. Even Post editorial writers recognize this fact.