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A Pattern of Deception
09/17/2003

For no particular reason, I went back over that WorldNetDaily article by Paul Sperry listing the various "lies" and "overstatements" of folks in the Bush administration. Essentially, the article has culled four statements that have been corrected from three administration officials in the past six months. These aren't in the order that WND presents them.

One: Cheney and Iraqi nukes.
I addressed this one earlier. In short, there was obviously no deception intended; it was merely a single instance of misspeaking during an interview.

Two: Rumsfeld and the Uranium Controversy.
This one is ground that WND covered in July but saw fit to dredge up again:

In congressional testimony in July, Rumsfeld swore repeatedly that he'd just "days" earlier learned that the uranium charge Bush made against Iraq six months earlier was based at least in part on fabricated reports.

A few days later, however, he had to correct the record twice, finally admitting he knew the allegation was false as early as March less than two months after Bush trumpeted it in his State of the Union speech and just before the Iraq war started.

Reading the transcript of the question session of that testimony, it's obvious that Rumsfeld is perturbed. Furthermore, the "swore repeatedly" is a bit heavy handed. Rumsfeld said "within recent days" once, and when the Senator pressed, he gave this clarification:

SEN. PRYOR: You're trying to say that in no briefing, in no documents that you had or that you were exposed to, that was never communicated to you in any way?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. I see hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper a day. And is it conceivable that something was in a document? It's conceivable. Do I recall hearing anything or reading anything like that? The answer is as I've given it. No.

At any rate, even the furthest-back point that Rumsfeld has had to place his "knowledge" of the questionable nature of the documents, with the IEAE's statement in March, comes months after the President's State of the Union in which the controversial line appears.

Three: Rumsfeld and WMDs.
This is a new "revelation." Here's Sperry:

Eleven days after the U.S. invasion, Rumsfeld claimed to know exactly where Saddam was hiding alleged banned weapons. ...

Lytle: "On March 30th you said, referring to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, quote, 'We know where they are.' Do you know where they are now? Will they be found?"

Rumsfeld: "In that instance, we had been in the country for about 15 seconds; sometimes I overstate for emphasis .... I should have said, 'I believe they're in that area'" around Tikrit and Baghdad.

That "overstate for emphasis" thing sounds pretty bad, huh? Of course, it's important to remember that Rumsfeld was reacting to a quotation drawn from one of the many interviews that he has done since the war. As it turns out, he didn't have to offer a "should have said," because that's exactly what he did say:

... the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. ...

I would also add, we saw from the air that there were dozens of trucks that went into that facility after the existence of it became public in the press and they moved things out. They dispersed them and took them away. So there may be nothing left. I don't know that. But it's way too soon to know. The exploitation is just starting.

So much for Rumsfeld's having "to correct an inaccurate statement he made on national TV about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." He actually had to correct a quoted statement that mischaracterized what he'd said by removing all content.

Four: Wolfowitz on al Qaeda & Ba'athists Post-War.
This one is the only one that is exactly as Sperry presents it:

The Pentagon's No. 2 official also backtracked from a recent nationally televised claim that "a great many of [Osama] bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made the remark Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Challenged the next day by a news wire to provide evidence to back the shocking revelation, Wolfowitz said he had misspoken.

He said he was actually referring only to bin Laden supporter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is alleged to have set up a training camp in far northern Iraq, an area outside Saddam's control, after being flushed out of Afghanistan last year.

But really, how big a deal is this? Reading the transcript, it is obvious that Wolfowitz was only on the show very briefly, and within the context of talking about the anniversary of September 11; right after making this statement, he moves the conversation to that. Furthermore, who knows what he was thinking? Perhaps he revealed more than he was supposed to. Perhaps as he quickly thought of what to say he piled a few bits of related information erroneously under one heading of "key lieutenants." Perhaps he just overstated as he extemporized on a topic distracting from the points that he wanted to convey in the brief interview. But again, how big a deal is this? He didn't push the point when checked; he clarified it.

The bottom line is that looking further at these four incidents confirms — at least to me — that the "lying liars" initiative is built on a framework of stretched connections papered with flimsy innuendo.

ADDENDUM:
For more on the Lying Liar Initiative, see the following:
Lying Liars About Other People's Lies
More Corn Between Bloggers' Teeth
Washington Post: "Black Is White, Up Is Down"
Headline: Washington Post Misquotes Cheney

Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:24 PM EST



3 comments


Amen, brother -- to the general point you make in several posts on "deception" -- i.e., that big media distortion of Bush Administration statements and claims is so pervasive and so relentless that it's just about impossible to fight.

No one should misinterpret this as a partisan, paranoid bit of whining -- the media inevitably makes honest mistakes in covering most topics, and also likes to take down public figures and politicians of both parties. But it's at least a proposition worth exploring that the ongoing distortion of administration positions, especially on foreign policy or defense matters, has reached some sort of new low.

The astoundingly silly taffy yank all summer over the "State of the Union 16" is perhaps the purest, simplest case. The major media (NYT, WP, wire services, news networks) used words like "discredited" and "damaged credibility" and the like, all without the slightest justification.

The sixteen words were accurate -- and not seriously contested with any specific or concrete details -- at the time. It was quickly clear that the "discredited" Niger documents had played no role in the underlying UK assessment to which the SOTU referred. PM Blair, in July, stood by the British assessment on which the sixteen words were based. Now, one of the parliamentary inquiries in the UK into the Blair/BBC affair (uh, turns out the BBC ... LIED ... perhaps instructive for observers to note) has concluded that British intelligence's assessment underlying the SOTU line still looks sound.

So there we have it -- the President's credibility is casually maligned, even though his words were accurate, and referred to a respected sister intelligence agency's judgement which had not been publicly challenged in a substantive way.

And it never ends.

This week -- how long will this teen craze last? -- we have the "no al-Qaeda connection to 9/11" distortion. The patterns is actually the more typical one -- a position the administration never took (or even one it dismissed) is nonetheless attributed to it -- sort of, somehow -- and suddenly "questioned," and all talk is about "back-pedaling" or "retraction" by administration officials.

It's ludicrous.

A wire service story I just read states that "critics argue the administration fostered" public views that Iraq was implicated in 9/11. No evidence is offered for this outrageous, and implausible, claim.

Public polling data about an Iraq-9/11 link leads to questions to Rumsfeld, Cheney, and today the President. Their answers -- small variations on the same one Cheney gave to Tim Russert in an interview back in 2001 -- we have no evidence of a link between the two. This, after nearly two years in which the administration has never claimed such a link. Never.

Yet, polling data shows widespread public belief in the link (did they also poll about the existence of angels and UFOs?). Aha! The administration must have "fostered" this silly belief! That's it!

Having retroactively placed words in the administration's mouths, the press asks questions about the issue, and any minor variation in the (still negative) answers between officials, or between now and last year or the year before, become "gotcha!" stories. It's pathetic.

Tonight I watched Keith Olberman on MSNBC engage in a make-believe exchange with David Gergen. Jaw-dropping.

Olberman: so is this backtracking on Iraq and 9/11 part of a larger pattern?

Gergen: oh yes, I think we see a political move to bring the administration back into more defensible positions for the election season.

You see, Cheney and Rumsfeld repeating the only position the administration has ever publicly taken, and only when asked about it -- this is "repositioning" and "back-tracking."

Is the entire blogosphere sufficient to debunk the "mainstream" media? I don't think so. It's a small wonder anybody out there can think straight on serious issues at all, given the non-stop and increasing intensity of distortion. Obviously many aren't thinking straight -- whole continent, in Europe's case.

Frightening.

IceCold @ 09/17/2003 11:20 PM EST


On "One: Cheney and Iraqi nukes" -- Even if the Mr Cheney "misspoke," his point is that Mr ElBaradei was wrong. So far, Mr ElBaradei is exactly right. Both the uranium and aluminum tube claims were debunked before the war was launched. No evidence has surfaced since then to change Mr ElBaradei's report, despite neocon sniping.

So tell you what: give up bashing Mr Gore for "inventing the Internet," which is a similar slip of the tongue that sent nobody to war, I can give up bashing Mr Cheney on this one. :-)

On "Two: Rumsfeld and the Uranium Controversy" -- Not sure what your point is here. You seem to confirm the March date cited by WND (which I don't read) for when Rummy says he learned that the uranium claim was bogus. So no word twisting.

I would only add that other people in the administration certainly knew the uranium claim was unproven at best; one would think the SecDef would know about that stuff in detail -- especially if it the rationale for sending young men to war.

On "Three: Rumsfeld and WMDs" -- First, thanks for the link to defenselink.mil (that's what brought me to your site)! Second, the interviewer (Lytle) quoted hime correctly: "We know where they are." So I don't see any word twisting there.

Indeed, your editing was interesting in that you follow the Tikrit part of the quote with the part about trucks leaving a facility. He was actually talking about the Ansar camp on the Iran-Iraq border in the Kurdish region (nowhere near Tikrit).

On "Four: Wolfowitz on al Qaeda & Ba'athists Post-War" -- I had not heard of this one before. But let's get the context straight: 9/11? So of course, let's talk about links between Iraq & al-Qaeda. It's the usual slight of hand by this administration to lump Iraq with 9/11. They have been shameless.

Which leads to a fifth item that I'll add. Cheney AGAIN on MTP hinting at the link between Iraq & 9/11.
http://www.msnbc.com/news/966470.asp?0dm=V229V and
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030917/us_nm/iraq_usa_dc_8

Then GWB -- to his credit -- came out on 19 Sept and said, no, we have no such evidence.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usatoday/20030919/pl_usatoday/11857429

Face it: These guys are crooks. They are no good for this country. They have created a massive mess with no clue how to get out without letting Iraq turn into (a) a killing field or (b) an Iranina-style Islamic republic.

I thought conservatives didn't like trusting govt or spending money. Yet $87B for next year is the tip of the iceburg for Iraq & Halliburton.

Sorry guy, you been duped. And thanks again for the link.

Scott in Seattle WA @ 09/25/2003 12:11 AM EST


Scott,

For the most part you've shifted the subject on each count and behaved as if you've responded and, on that mistaken basis, presumed to use such words as "crooks" and "duped."

1. As I recall, the Gore/Internet thing wasn't a misstatement. Gore actually explained why he, in a manner of speaking, "invented the Internet." In contrast, in this one sentence of the interview, Cheney didn't complete a phrase that he had used several times over the course of an interview. Moreover, the fact that Gore's statement didn't involve such a critical matter as war is why it is appropriate for use in some much-deserved ego-deflation, whereas the subject matter in Cheney's case makes loose handling of what he's actually said irresponsible.

2. The point is that Rumsfeld didn't have to retract anything. He clarified when he had received a specific bit of information, and it didn't wasn't such a difference that it moved the knowledge before the war, much less the State of the Union. Furthermore, he didn't "swear repeatedly.

3. The twisting is in pretending that Rumsfeld modified his story. When he revisited the issue, obviously not recalling the specific phrases that he had uttered, he said exactly the same thing he had, only reacting to the question as if he had said something different the first time (which he didn't).

4. The interviewer (Gibson) brought up Iraq. Wolfowitz answered it but gave indication that it wasn't what he had come on to talk about. In essence, exactly the opposite of what you've accused is the truth in this case: the media, in this case, slipped Iraq into the 9/11 conversation.

5. You're distorting what both Cheney and Bush said. Cheney said that we know Saddam to have been linked with al Qaeda, but as for specific evidence around 9/11, "we just don't know." The President said that we've had "no evidence" of direct Iraqi involvement in 9/11, BUT that there is "no question" that Hussein had links to al Qaeda. In other words, as to whether Hussein had a hand in 9/11: "we just don't know."

Justin Katz @ 09/25/2003 11:04 AM EST