Accuracy in Media

In defending the decision to go to war in Iraq, Vice President Cheney quoted Senator John McCain as saying that it was a lie to say that President Bush lied. For those who want to understand the particulars of the debate about who lied and about what, we suggest this comprehensive article by Norman Podhoretz, the editor-at-large of Commentary magazine. It is a great antidote to much of the misinformation put forth by Democratic partisans such as Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

First is the question of whether or not President George W. Bush was lying when he warned of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. For the momentary sake of argument, he accepts the assertion that since we haven’t found any stockpiles, they hadn’t been there for many years. Podhoretz walks us through the process leading up to the war, and discovers that the belief about Iraqi WMD was nearly unanimous. It was what the intelligence told us, and it had convinced every member of the Clinton administration, all of our intelligence agencies, and those of just about every country in the world.

Joseph Wilson is a particular target of Podhoretz’s meticulous dissection of what was actually said by the various parties, and it shows Wilson to have been mendacious on numerous documented instances as he became one of the leading critics of the war and a media darling. Wilson was the former ambassador and Bush Administration critic whose wife was disclosed as a CIA employee, leading to an investigation of the White House and the indictment of former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby.

Podhoretz says that, on every count, Wilson’s story falls apart. But if you tune into a show like the Chris Matthews’ Hardball show on unraveling the CIA leak case, there is no mention that Joe Wilson might have been lying about anything. He is still regarded as a truth-teller.

The issue is critical: if the administration knew he was lying and wanted to discredit him, why didn’t they have the right to do that? There is no justification for breaking the law against revealing secret CIA employees but no one has been charged with any such violations. The charges brought against Libby all relate to different recollections of the facts in the case. Libby’s memory is pitted against those of members of the Washington press corps. The media want to believe themselves.

Podhoretz shoots down another often repeated line. Namely, that in the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) had dissented to the intelligence agencies’ belief that Saddam did possess WMD. But according to former Colin Powell chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, who has recently become a harsh critic of the administration and the war, there was no such dissent. He says the INR only took issue with the belief that Saddam had a nuclear weapons program that was up and running. But INR accepted the prevailing view that Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons programs were active.

There is much more in this masterful article that should have the effect of altering the debate on whether we were lied into this war. The truth, as Cheney says, is that we are now being lied to and misled?by those accusing Bush of lying.

Here is how Podhoretz sums it up:  “And so long as we are hunting for liars in this area, let me suggest that we begin with the Democrats now proclaiming that they were duped, and that we then broaden out to all those who in their desperation to delegitimize the larger policy being tested in Iraq?the policy of making the Middle East safe for America by making it safe for democracy?have consistently used distortion, misrepresentation, and selective perception to vilify as immoral a bold and noble enterprise and to brand as an ignominious defeat what is proving itself more and more every day to be a victory of American arms and a vindication of American ideals.”

There are some who will dismiss this as the “neo-con” view. But it strikes us as the truth. America is standing for liberty in Iraq. That is the position that Thomas Jefferson would have taken.

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