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Washington Post Death Spiral Watch: A Fred Hiatt Trifecta

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

And is there anybody with an ounce of self-respect--besides Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus--who works for the Post print newsroom? And why do they still work for the Post?

Jim Hamilton of Making Light:

Making Light: Bush Lied, and Fred Hiatt Lied Too: The subject is the long-awaited Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information . Fred Hiatt, over at the Washington Post, makes much of the phrase found in many of the conclusions of the report, “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.” What he doesn’t tell you is that the committee only examined five of George Bush’s speeches, not the totality of the administration’s statements, so this bit from Bush wasn’t addressed:

Q: Weapons of mass destruction haven’t been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?

Bush, May 29, 2003: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

or this:

Bush, Sept. 17, 2003: We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th . What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Sarawak, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He’s the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He’s a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties. Or this:

Cheney, March 16, 2003: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators… .

Q: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

Cheney: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators… . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Or this:

Cheney, March 16, 2003: I’m confident that our troops will be successful, and I think it’ll go relatively quickly, but we can’t…

Q: Weeks?

Cheney: …we can’t count on that.

Q: Months?

Cheney: Weeks rather than months. There’s always the possibility of—of complications that you can’t anticipate, but I’m—I have great confidence in our troops. The men and women who serve in our military today are superb. Our capabilities as a force are the finest the world has ever known. They’re very ably led by General Tommy Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld. And so I have great confidence in the conduct of the military campaign. The really challenging part of it to some extent may come in the—in the aftermath once the military segment is over and we move to try and stand up a new government and—and turn over to the Iraqi people the responsibilities to their nation.

Or this:

Q: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction? Rumsfeld, May 30, 2003: Not at all. If you think — let me take that, both pieces — 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.

Or this:

Q: Based on what you know right now, how close is Saddam Hussein’s government — how close is that government to developing a nuclear capability? Rice, September 8, 2002: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance — into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs. We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device. The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

All that aside, Hiatt is right, the Rockefeller report says, several times, that Bush administration statments “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates…” But he leaves out the second half of the sentence, “…but did not convey the substantial disagreements or evolving views that existed in the intelligence community.” “Did not convey”? When you look at what they did convey, like “And let there be no doubt about it, his regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their range in violation of U.N. restrictions” (Donald Rumsfeld, testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, 18 Sep 2002) that’s an understatement.

In other cases, the “generally substantiated” bit is this: “Both of these statements were substantiated by intelligence assessments, however both referred to pre-Gulf War programs.” “Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well [as] additional statements, regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qa’ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policy-makers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessment of the nature of those contacts, and left the impression that those contacts led to substantial cooperation between Iraq and al-Qa’ida.” That is to say, they didn’t actually lie, but they deliberately left you with a false impression that they didn’t bother to correct.

Then there are the conclusions that don’t waffle even a little bit. For example: “Statements by the President and Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was preparing to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.” That is to say, Bush lied.

Andrew Northrup:

Fred Hiatt is an idiot « The Poor Man Institute: [Fred Hiatt] begins:

Search the Internet for “Bush Lied” products, and you will find sites that offer more than a thousand designs. The basic “Bush Lied, People Died” bumper sticker is only the beginning...

Horror. This is, of course, the greatest threat to the Union today - possibly ever. Right now, as I type this, people are criticizing the President with rhyming bumper stickers. And what, pray tell, is Congress doing about it?

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, set out to provide the official foundation for what has become not only a thriving business but, more important, an article of faith among millions of Americans. And in releasing a committee report Thursday, he claimed to have accomplished his mission, though he did not use the L-word. “In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent,” he said. There’s no question that the administration, and particularly Vice President Cheney, spoke with too much certainty at times and failed to anticipate or prepare the American people for the enormous undertaking in Iraq. But dive into Rockefeller’s report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

Followed by what is, for all intents an purposes, a McCain for President commercial. Thank you, Fred Hiatt, for boldly speaking out against Big Bumper Sticker. Edward R. Morrow is spinning in his grave with pride.

Hiatt: "On Iraq’s nuclear weapons program? The president’s statements 'were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.'"

The actual report (pg. 15): "(U) Conclusion 1: Statements by the President, Vice-President, Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor regarding a possible nuclear weapons program were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates, but did not convey the substantial disagreements that existed in the intelligence community."

Hiatt: "On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? 'Generally substantiated by intelligence information.'"

The actual report (pg. 49): "(U) Conclusion 5: Statements by the President, Vice-President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction were generally substantiated by intelligence information, though many statements made regarding ongoing production prior to late 2002 reflected a higher level of certainty than the intelligence judgments themselves."...

Of course, according to Fred Hiatt (and, by an amazing coincidence, the people who brought you the Iraq war) lies of omission are not lies at all! So, Fred Hiatt, when characterizing the report’s conclusions, is under no obligation to mention this:

(U) Conclusion 4: Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.

Or this:

(U) Conclusion 12: Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

Or this:

(U) Conclusion 13: Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well additional [sic] statements, regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qa’ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa’ida.

Or this:

(U) Conclusion 15: Statements by the President and Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

Or this:

(U) Conclusion 16: Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products....

Spencer Ackerman:

You Leave Me Breathless: How awesome it must be to be a Washington Post edit writer. First, enable Bush’s disastrous crusades. Then, when someone criticizes Bush from the left — particularly if that person stands a good chance at becoming president on a promise to roll back the Bush legacy — take Bush’s explanations for his policies at face value; formulate those policies at their most generic; and profess incredulity that anyone could disagree with with such sensible goals. Can we transform journalism into a machine that generates consensus reality? Yes we can.

In essence, Mr. Obama promises an improved version of the Bush administration’s three-year-old strategy of offering, in conjunction with European allies and Russia, economic and political favors to Iran in exchange for an end to its nuclear program and threatening it with sanctions if it refuses.

Except that Obama will, you know, actually negotiate with Iran, while Bush postures and does nothing and relies on the Europeans.

Mr. Obama fully embraced the Bush administration’s view that “the danger from Iran is grave.” He said “we will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran,” and he pledged, “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything.”

The warmonger!!!!!!!! Believe it or not, this does not imply military action against Iran. I know. “Grave danger,” seen from L and 15th Streets, means it’s time to empty the silos. Yglesias IMs, “it proves that at a sufficient level of abstraction, all policies are identical.” Can it really be true that the writers of the Washington Post’s editorials possess minds unable to perform that most basic of intellectual exercises — the Drawing of Distinctions?

Also, there’s this:

IN THE HEAT of the Democratic primary campaign, some on the left were inspired to believe that Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) offered a far-reaching transformation of U.S. foreign policy, “the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades,” as one particularly breathless article in the American Prospect put it.

Oh, so I’m breathless, am I? Fred Hiatt, you have chosen the Way of Pain. I take it personal and make it personal.