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7/02/2004

Press, Please Learn from Dana Milbank

The Washington Post's Milbank has been the single best establishment critic of the administration, and he does it through professional, straight reporting. Today's article isn't flawless, but it's still a far sight better than anything else.

With scenes of violence and mayhem in Iraq replaced by more favorable images of the new Iraqi leaders taking charge and former president Saddam Hussein in the dock, top Bush administration officials launched an effort yesterday to ease the public's concern that the war has increased the threat of terrorism against the United States.
Milbank is one of the few journalists actually willing to note the perception, held by 51% of the American people, that Iraq has worsened our position in the war on terror. More than that, he recalls Dr. Record's Army War College study from January (though it was produced in Dec.) that made the same claim.
The impression that the Iraq war has hindered the fight against terrorism has some military concurrence. An Army War College study argued in January that the Bush administration had mishandled the war on terrorism by invading Iraq, which the study called "a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda."
He is at his best when trying to verify claims made by senior administration officials.
Countering the staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, which found no "collaborative relationship" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda, Cheney renewed his accusation that they had "long-established ties." He listed several examples and stated: "In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bombmaking and document forgery."

Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that they had no knowledge of this.
In fact, most intelligence analysts have determined that this interaction did not take place with the knowledge of the Iraqi regime. When these guys make outlandish claims, and the media just report the quote with no context, explanation or checking, it is profoundly misleading. Unfortunately, he lets this one slip by completely:
Returning to the main justification for the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an interview released by the Pentagon, said forbidden chemical weapons were found in Iraq in recent days. Rumsfeld said the Polish defense minister told him this week "that his troops in Iraq had recently come across -- I've forgotten the number, but something like 16 or 17 -- warheads that contained sarin and mustard gas."

Rumsfeld added: "I have not seen them and I have not tested them, but they believe that they are correct that these, in fact, were undeclared chemical weapons."
If this is true, it needs to be reported and explained. I find it hard to believe that the administration wouldn't encourage Poland to share this information with us if it was trustworthy or remotely dispositive of the issue.

 

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