The Mea Culpa of Our Times

by May 28, 2004Foreign Policy0 comments

Ahmad Chalabi has become a convenient scapegoat not only for the United States Government, but also, it seems, for the American media establishment. In a letter they would have us believe is their mea culpa, the editors of The New York Times name Chalabi as prominent among “a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles […]

Ahmad Chalabi has become a convenient scapegoat not only for the United States Government, but also, it seems, for the American media establishment. In a letter they would have us believe is their mea culpa, the editors of The New York Times name Chalabi as prominent among “a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on ‘regime change’ in Iraq” and “whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks.” The “accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq”—officials whom “now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation”, just as did “many news organizations – in particular, this one.”

The May 26 editorial, entitled “The Times and Iraq”, opens with the following declaration:

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq’s weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

Truly, we are led to believe, the folks at The New York Times have repented of their scholarly transgressions and pledged to amend their ways, in order that they might humbly return once more into the realm of journalistic integrity from which they temporarily strayed.

A closer analysis, however, reveals that nothing could possibly be further from the truth.

Take, for starters, the suggestion that it is “hindsight” which has allowed us to scrutinize the “decisions that led the United States into Iraq”; as though it were merely “hindsight” which has allowed us to come to the realization that the American people were lied to about the Bush administration’s “justification” for war (that is, the pre-war version—excluding, for the purposes of our present analysis, the post-war revisionism), when it has long been a well known and easily demonstrable fact that the government, through the complicit media, were lying to the American people about the “threat” posed by Iraq to the United States of America.

Far from the Times’ alleged “hindsight”, this was well known long before the invasion commenced in March of last year. It was well known, as many of us pointed out at the time, that this “justification” was founded upon a myriad of blatant lies long before thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians were murdered by We the People, and by the Government which purports to represent us.

Thus it was that while we were warned by the administration that the “smoking gun” evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction would come “in the form of a mushroom cloud” if we were to choose any path other than that of violence and bloodshed, a temporary self-imposed amnesia on the part of the establishment media left certain relevant facts virtually unreported, such as that Iraq had been verified to be 90-95% disarmed by UNMOVIC by 1998, according to former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, or that, according to Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, the IAEA had “destroyed, removed or rendered harmless all Iraqi facilities and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons production” by as early as 1992, or that the IAEA was “confident that we had not missed any significant component of Iraq’s nuclear programme” by 1998, when the weapons inspectors were withdrawn in order for the U.S. and U.K. to begin their newest bombing campaign against the people of Iraq.

And so while our Congress—that paragon of institutionalized “official gullibility” (to borrow a phrase from the Times)—was being told that Iraq might send unmanned aerial vehicles to attack the East Coast with chemical or biological weapons, the long-held consensus of the intelligence community that Saddam Hussein would use the WMD he was alleged to have possessed only “if he believes his regime is under threat”—a consensus, also held by the CIA since at least 1988, which proved inconvenient enough to warrant deliberate exclusion from one of Britain’s contributions to the campaign of deception, the infamous “dodgy dossier”—was uniformly suppressed  by the American media, acting in concert with another exceptional British benefaction, MI6’s “Operation Mass Appeal”, the campaign—nostalgically reminiscent of our own “Operation Mockingbird”—to plant stories in the media in order to convince people of the need to bomb Iraq even further into the past than had already been successfully accomplished through the joint effort of our two great nations.

And just as though that aforementioned historical CIA effort to subvert the American media were still the modus operandi within the establishment, proven lies which The New York Times has admitted were “allowed to stand unchallenged” are euphemistically regarded by the editors as seeming now to be “questionable”—as though they were not blatant deceptions that had already been exposed well before the “shock and awe” commenced.

Or take the suggestion that the failure to find any WMD in Iraq is the result of “failings of American and allied intelligence”, implicitly denying the possibility that maybe, just perhaps, this is indicative not of the “failings” of the intelligence community, but rather of the phenomenal success of the campaign of deception in which the Times played a not insignificant role.

In this same spirit of sincerity, the Times explains that many of the “problematic articles” shared a dependence on the aforementioned circle of informants, led by the “most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi”. But it is left unsaid that was well known that the information provided by Chalabi, who was under the pay of the U.S. Government since the previous administration, had long been regarded as highly “questionable” (to borrow the euphemism).

Also remaining unmentionable, as the Times endeavors to convince us that Chalabi and his cohorts near single-handedly duped our government into believing their deceptions, is that the case for war was only partially composed of “intelligence” gathered from such ill-reputed sources. Disregarded by the Times is the fact that Chalabi did not have any sort of monopoly on the production of misinformation, but that our own beloved government was quite active in forging the case for “regime change”, having far outdone Chalabi’s network for quantity of manufactured goods—even if the quality was hardly less exceptional (though it still managed to be good enough for the New York Times).

And so it is that the Times tells us that accounts of locations alleged by “Iraqi defectors” to have been used for the manufacture of biological weapons “have never been independently verified”. And all the while the account of a location in northern Iraq alleged by Colin Powell before the U.N. to have been a chemical weapons factory that was independently verified by journalists prior to the invasion to be nothing more than “a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill” containing nothing more insidious than “a bakery” remains unsaid.

And so it is that the Times informs us that the search for secret facilities for the manufacture of WMD alleged to have existed by “an Iraqi defector” has failed to turn up any “evidence of their use for weapons programs”.  But all the while the search for secret mobile biological weapons factories alleged to have existed by our government, but which chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reported prior to the invasion there was not a shred of evidence for, is not worth mentioning. No, that this search resulted in the declaration by George W. Bush on May 30 of last year that his critics were “wrong” because “We found them”, referring to the discovery of two of the “mobile labs to build biological weapons” spoken of by Colin Powell when he “stood up in front of the world, and said Iraq has got laboratories”, but which a British team of experts determined were “not mobile germ warfare laboratories”, and which “could not use them for making biological weapons”, and “do not even look like them”, but were “exactly what the Iraqis said they were—facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons”, is still regarded as un-newsworthy by the folks at the Times.

It is not that there is no evidence of true remorse in this editorial. The editors are most sincere when they remind us that a leading article concerning “the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel”, while it “came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time”, still “should have been presented more cautiously” since there “were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing”—but those hints were “buried deep” by the Times, “1,700 words into a 3,600-word article”. And we can witness how sorry they are that “Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies”, but that “The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view”. And we feel their regret that while “The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency”, they regarded this information as only worthy enough to be “reported on Page A10”, though “it might well have belonged on Page A1.”

It might well have, indeed. But we must forgive the editors of The New York Times for systematically attempting to deceive the American public, because, as they have made perfectly clear, they are very sorry for what they have done. Of course, whether those fine folks at the Times are equally remorseful over the lives that have been extinguished as a result of their disregard for the truth yet remains to be seen.

In “hindsight”, we now know that the CIA’s own National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) includes the Department of Energy’s assessment “that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapon program” and were “poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment” but were “intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets.”

And so when we use our 20/20 hindsight to look back in remembrance of those immortal words of Condoleezza Rice that that the tubes “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs”, we can now say with full confidence that this “misinformation” was not the product of any circles of Iraqi informants, but would be more appropriately stamped “Made in the U.S.A.”

And when we recently witnessed Colin Powell attempting to distance himself from his own testimony before the U.N. by expressing his concern, saying, “When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me”, but acknowledging that it was actually “inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading”, we can rest assured that this fact is not a recent revelation, but was well known to him at the time of his performance. And while this is perfectly apparent in “hindsight”, the first indications came, yes, prior to the invasion, when the Secretary of State was reported to have declared, with regard to the draft of his speech, “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit.”

Naturally, the only reasonable conclusion which can be drawn from the known facts concerning the case for war, which are not known merely in “hindsight”, but which were known even before the war began, is not afforded a place in even the footnotes of history—at least not in history according to “the newspaper of record.” As a corollary, another thing remains clear: in the realm of spin, The New York Times is still King.

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

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