Thursday, September 29, 2005


The Annenberg Politcal "FACT CHECK" engages in speculation. I thought these guys only did Facts.

Annenberg Political “Fact Check” gets it wrong by relying on single source as gospel and ignoring contrary evidence. A recent posting to the Annenberg Political Fact check makes some disturbing assumptions. A fact check means you check the facts, and leave the interpreting of those facts to others, but this recent posting seems to stray significantly from that stated objective. I’ve posted all of my own thoughts in italics, so you can tell what the Fact Check said, and my rebuttle.

Anti-war Ad Says Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Rice "Lied" About Iraq

We find some subtle word-twisting, and place the claims in context. (Notice how it begins, Bush didn’t lie, he just subtly twisted some words which can be corrected by putting those words in their “proper context”.)

September 26, 2005

Modified:September 26, 2005

An anti-war coalition of mostly liberal groups ran a newspaper ad quoting six alleged lies about Iraq by President Bush and others.

But, like movie blurbs, the quotes sometimes look different when read in full context.

And while much of what the ad calls lies was indeed wrong, there's evidence that the President and his advisers believed the falsehoods at the time. (In fact, there is no evidence that the president and his advisors “believed the falsehoods at the time” only an absence of proof the president and his advisors lied. This is far different than saying they “believed” what they were saying. And there is Richard Clark, The Downing Street Memo, Joseph Wilson and others who claim the exact opposite.)


The ad carried a bold-faced headline saying "They Lied," and six brief quotes from Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice (now Secretary of State). It also carried a list of American military personnel killed in Iraq, along with the words "They Died."

The ad appeared Sept. 22 in USA Today and more than a dozen other newspapers. The sponsor, "Win Without Wars," is a coalition made up of groups including Political Action, and using Fenton Communications, the same media consultant used by

The brief quotes all seem starkly false in hindsight. But some are a bit too stark – they look a bit different when read in full context. Furthermore, calling them lies suggests Bush and his advisers knew they were wrong at the time. (Once again the Fact Check engages in speculation. Even though they conclude at the end of this report that there is no proof Bush knew or did not know the intelligence was flawed.) And a bipartisan commission concluded earlier this year that what the Bush administration told the world about Iraqi weapons – while tragically mistaken – was based on faulty intelligence. (This Bipartisan commission was also specifically organized to not inquire as to what the Bush Administration did with the intelligence it received. So there is no way to know if they knew or did not know if they were wrong, or if they received contrary intelligence, or how that information was vetted. One could speculate that the because the Bush Administration which has been widely reported as operating on a “don’t bring bad news” philosophy, didn’t want to hear bad news, the intelligence they received was tailored to suit the political decisions already made. I guess the Fact Check has never heard of the Downing Street Memo? By relying on a simple bipartisan commission which did not inquire into the central issue, did the Bush Administration know the intelligence was flawed, the Annenberg Political Fact check uses that commission in a way it was never intended.)

"We found the weapons"

Bush is quoted as saying “We found the weapons of mass destruction,” but that's not all he said. The quote is from an interview with Polish television given May 29, 2003 – weeks after the fall of Baghdad, as Bush was starting to face questions about why no Iraqi stores of such weapons had been found.

Reading all of what Bush said makes clear he was referring both to "weapons" and to "manufacturing facilities" and was still clinging to what intelligence officials had told him about Iraqi mobile laboratories that supposedly were used for manufacturing biological weapons. (In fact Bush isn't clinging to old intelligence "Found" means new intelligence.)

The full quote:

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.

In the end, neither weapons nor manufacturing facilities were found. Bush was wrong about the mobile laboratories, of course. He was repeating a claim transmitted to him by the CIA, which based its intelligence reports on an Iraqi source, code-named "Curveball," whom it later determined to be a fabricator. (This once again, is speculation that Bush used the word found, but was discussing old intelligence reports) But the CIA didn't formally recall Curveball's reporting until May 2004, according to the report of the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. That CIA reversal came roughly a year after Bush's interview with Polish television. (This point is very subtle, but worth noting. The Fact Check says that Bush believed the intelligence community when he made this statement. They also say that the intelligence community relied on Curveball. Curveball made his claims before the war started, which makes Bush’s statement that “so far we’ve found two” isn’t a claim that we know from intelligence (Curveball) that Saddam has two mobile labs, it’s a claim that the U.S. government has found two of Saddam’s mobile labs. Bush isn’t relying on old intelligence data from Curveball or he would have said we know Saddam has two mobile labs, Bush said we found two. The Fact Check takes the fact that Curveball was later discredited to claim that Bush believed his statement at the time. This is a blatant attempt to deflect criticism of the president. The lie is “we found the WMD, not that we have a source who says Saddam had WMD, the Fact Check ignores this and attempts to paint a more rosy picture. I don’t think Turd Blossom could have done any better.)

The intelligence commission, though appointed by Bush, included several Democrats including co-chair Charles Robb, a former senator and governor from Virginia. Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, was "of counsel" to the commission. One of the Republican commissioners was Sen. John McCain, Bush's opponent in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries. (Again the Fact Check falls into the old “all you need is one or two democrats” and it must not be politcally motivated or a cover-up. Sometimes Democrats and Republicans work together to protect all their asses. The Fact Check once again moved out of the Fact realm here.)

"Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties."

The ad quotes Bush as saying, "There's no question Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties." Bush said that September 17, 2003, after months of fruitless searching for evidence of WMD's in Iraq.

However, the full quote shows Bush also made clear that he was not claiming that Saddam had any connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, he was knocking down a suggestion made four days earlier by Vice President Cheney, who said on NBC's Meet The Press that it is "not surprising that people make that connection" when asked why so many Americans believed Saddam was involved in the attacks.

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.

Since the word "ties" can cover any connection, however weak, Bush was in fact stating the truth. (This statement is particularly disturbing. The word ties does not mean “any connection, however weak. The word ties means to bring together in relationship; connect or unite: friends who were tied by common interests; people who are tied by blood or marriage, and has a very specific meaning. Ties implies that people work together for a common purpose, or have a connection. The connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda was at best like meeting someone at a party, or having dinner with them once. I don’t think anyone would claim they have ties to a person you met once. The Fact Check engages in speculation again, and this is not FACT CHECKING. The Fact Check also neglects the context of Bush’s statement, after 9/11 Bush was trying to convince us that we needed to go to war with Iraq. Why Iraq?, because Saddam had al-Qaeda ties. If that’s not an outright lie, in context, I don’t know what would ever qualify.) The bipartisan 9/11 Commission later cited reports of several "friendly contacts" between Saddam and Osama bin Laden over the years, and cited one report that in 1999 Iraqi officials offered bin Laden a "safe haven," which bin Laden refused, preferring to remain in Afghanistan. But nothing substantial came of the contacts. The commission said: "The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship."

"We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators"

Cheney is quoted as saying, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, "We will in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... [in] weeks rather than months."

Those quotes are actually from two separate interviews, and they do give a rosy prediction that failed to include the bloody insurrection and resistance that continues to this day.

The first Cheney quote comes from an NBC Meet the Press interview March 16, 2003. The full quote makes clear – as the ad's blurb does not – that Cheney is stating his own "belief." Thus, the statement would be true if that's what Cheney actually believed at the time. (Once again, the Fact Check engages in Positive speculation, this speculation could just as easily be Negative speculation, but it is not FACT CHECKING.)

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.

The second quoted fragment is from another interview the same day on CBS's Face The Nation . The full quote shows Cheney qualified his prediction of quick victory, by saying the "really challenging part" may come in the "aftermath" of a quick military victory. That turned out to be quite accurate.

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.

US, British and other coalition forces invaded Iraq March 20, and on May 1 the US declared an end to "major combat operations." At that time 139 US armed forces personnel had been killed. But 1773 more died after that, plus five civilian employees of the Defense Department, according to official Pentagon figures as of Sept. 26, 2005. By that measure the "aftermath" has been more than a dozen times deadlier to the US military than the initial combat phase.

"We know where [the WMDs] are."

The ad quotes Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as saying "We know where [the WMDs] are" on March 30, 2003 – at a time when US forces were within 65 miles of Baghdad.

This quote doesn't look much different even in full context. Rumsfeld was reacting to a question about why no weapons of mass destruction had been found, and he said US and coalition forces didn't yet control the areas where weapons "were dispersed."

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.

Subsequent events have proved Rumsfeld wrong. Whether his statement was a lie or a mistake depends on whether or not he knew at the time that the weapons weren't there. (This is in fact a true statement, and is far different from the speculation about the comments above. This statement doesn't engage in the positive spin that the earlier statements do.)

"[Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon."

This quote is from Condoleezza Rice on September 8, 2002, months before the war began, in an interview with CNN. Rice was then Bush's National Security Adviser and later became Secretary of State.

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.

What Rice said then is an accurate summation of what the US Intelligence community was saying at the time. (Once again, one has to wonder how an adminstration that was, according to the Downing Street Memo, fixing the facts to fit the policy, can be given such a broad free pass.) Here's what the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction said last March, after a year-long study:

Commission on Intelligence Capabilities, March 31, 2005: On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.

Looking back, it is now clear that much of what is quoted in this ad was, even in context, false or misleading. To say Bush and the others "lied," however, requires evidence that they knew the intelligence they were getting was wrong. The unanimous finding of the Intelligence Commission argues against that idea. Once again the FACT CHECK decided the issue for you. They don't rebut anything that the anti-war ads say with a single fact, but rebut everything the ads say with speculation based on investigations that do not have all the information. The truth is that the motives of this administration will never come fully to light because everthing they do they claim secrecy and hide from public scrutiny. Every single one of these statements may in fact be a lie, and the Fact Check does nothing to rebut that FACT.)

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