Skip to comments.What Wolfowitz Really Said: The truth behind the Vanity Fair "scoop."
Posted on 05/30/2003 9:06:20 PM PDT by Pokey78
AS THIS MAGAZINE goes to press, a controversy swirls about the head of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. He is alleged to have "revealed," in an interview with writer Sam Tanenhaus for the Manhattan celebrity/fashion glossy Vanity Fair, that the Bush administration's asserted casus belli for war against Saddam Hussein--the dictator's weapons-of-mass-destruction program--was little more than a propaganda device, a piece of self-conscious and insincere political manipulation.
Lazy reporters have been following the lead of the press release Vanity Fair publicists circulated about their "scoop." It begins as follows:
Contradicting the Bush administration, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz tells Vanity Fair that weapons of mass destruction had never been the most compelling justification for invading Iraq.
As it happens, this is a not-quite-accurate description of a paragraph in Tanenhaus's article, which itself bears reprinting for reasons that will become obvious in a moment:
When we spoke in May, as U.S. inspectors were failing to find weapons of mass destruction, Wolfowitz admitted that from the outset, contrary to so many claims from the White House, Iraq's supposed cache of WMD had never been the most important casus belli. It was simply one of several reasons: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." Everyone meaning, presumably, Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Almost unnoticed but huge," he said, is another reason: removing Saddam will allow the U.S. to take its troops out of Saudi Arabia, where their presence has been one of al-Qaeda's biggest grievances.
Let's be clear: Though Paul Wolfowitz has friends and admirers at The Weekly Standard, we would be surprised and more than a little distressed had he actually said what he's supposed to have said in this instance.
For the last 12 years, all specific and sometimes heated policy disagreements notwithstanding, American presidents of both parties, joining a near-unanimous consensus of the so-called "world community," have agreed that the Baath party regime's persistent and never-fully-disclosed WMD program represented a grave threat to international security. Al Gore, for example, in his much-hyped antiwar speech last September, acknowledged that "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power. We know he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." The notion that the Bush administration's prewar reiteration of this view was a cynical ploy is crackpot.
For that matter, the notion that the Bush administration really, really, in its heart of hearts, had other, preferred reasons for taking out Saddam Hussein--particularly, that it did so to justify removing its troops from Saudi Arabia--and that the entire war was therefore a fraud . . . well, this idea, too, is crackpot.
What gives with this Vanity Fair interview, then?
What gives is that Tanenhaus has mischaracterized Wolfowitz's remarks, that Vanity Fair's publicists have mischaracterized Tanenhaus's mischaracterization, and that Bush administration critics are now indulging in an orgy of righteous indignation that is dishonest in triplicate.
Pentagon staffers were wise enough to tape-record the Tanenhaus-Wolfowitz interview. Prior to publication of the Vanity Fair piece, they made that transcript available to its author. And they have since posted the transcript on the Defense Department's website (www.defenselink.mil). Tanenhaus's assertion that Wolfowitz "admitted" that "Iraq's WMD had never been the most important casus belli" turns out to be, not to put too fine a point on it, false. Here's the relevant section of the conversation:
TANENHAUS: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into--
WOLFOWITZ: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but . . . there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. . . . The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his U.N. presentation.
In short, Wolfowitz made the perfectly sensible observation that more than just WMD was of concern, but that among several serious reasons for war, WMD was the issue about which there was widest domestic (and international) agreement.
As for Tanenhaus's suggestion that Wolfowitz somehow fessed up that the war had a hidden, "unnoticed but huge" agenda--rationalizing a pre-planned troop withdrawal from Saudi Arabia--we refer you, again, to the actual interview. In an earlier section of the conversation, concerning the current, postwar situation in the Middle East, Wolfowitz explained that the United States needs to get post-Saddam Iraq "right," and that we also need "to get some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue," which now looks more promising. Then Wolfowitz said this:
There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. . . . I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.
Tanenhaus has taken a straightforward and conventional observation about strategic arrangements in a post-Saddam Middle East and juiced it up into a vaguely sinister "admission" about America's motives for going to war in the first place.
The failure so far to discover "stocks" of WMD material in post-Saddam Iraq raises legitimate questions about the quality of U.S. and allied intelligence--though no one doubts that Saddam's regime had weapons of mass destruction, used weapons of mass destruction, and had an ongoing program to develop more such weapons. Furthermore, people of good will are entitled to disagree, even in retrospect, about the wisdom and probable effects of Saddam's forcible removal. But distorting an on-the-record interview with a Bush administration official in order to create a quasi-conspiratorial narrative of deceit and deception at the highest levels of the U.S. government is a disgrace.
I doubt they will ever catch on. ; *)
Just posted this piece by Helen Thomas:
Further evidence that makes a lie of the principle that humanists ("Leftists") can make up their own ethics. They have no need for the Creator God of the universe, and His moral absolutes. The humanists make them up as they go. "Leftism" and "humanism" are close allies, if not one in the same. And their ethic in this case is say or do what ever it takes to advance your agenda...certainly, don't let the facts get in the way of your reporting!
In my book, they've always been there.
I think we all could take a guess and probably be right
A fitting epitaph for Vanity Fair.
This was a misdeed by a reporter. The problems at the NYT also started with misdeeds by reporters, but if the editors had done their jobs, it would not have exploded into a scandal. Likewise, the problem at CNN and the LAT are editor-level problems: the news editors at CNN are biased, and the LAT editors swoon for Robert Scheer.
It depends how Vanity Fair handles this. If it publishes a full correction and an apology, it should not be added to the list of liars. The specific reporter in question should be, but not the magazine.
The magazine and its management are ultimately responsible. Unless their retractions are printed as full stories the size of the original lies, unless every ounce of public relations given to promote their original "big story" is given to promote the retraction - things that have NEVER HAPPENED IN THIS HISTORY OF MODERN JOURNALISM - then Vanity Fair is as responsible as the reporter.
Are you going to hold your breath? I'm not!!! But seriously I hope they do print a correction and apologize.
Unfortunately, the rank and file lie-berals will repeat these accusations without reading the article itself or give it much philosophical thought. Does anybody think that the Sunday morning talk shows WON'T be spending their time on this overblown story?
Guess Vanity Fair didn't realize they were playing with the first team. Egg once again on the faces of the left's media mouthpieces.
Oh, really? Where would that be?
Iraq's supposed cache of WMD had never been the most important casus belli. It was simply one of several reasons: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Wolfowitz' words, "unvarnished version"
Iraq's supposed cache of WMD had never been the real casus belli. It was simply one of several reasons: "For propaganda reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason the sheeple could be roused with.
They have been on the list from the start and are near the top.
Misquotes like this are used as hit pieces and our president and his administration.
I suppose this is an attempt at cleverness, but unfortunately for your theory, it turns out that the very real torture and oppression of the Iraqi people is the issue the "sheeple" were roused by....and it should have roused the liberals, who love to espouse "human rights" causes in theory, but it's obviously more important to smear Bush and the Pentagon "war mongers" in this case.
As far as the WMD, time will tell, although you've apparently already made up your mind. It must be disappointing for you to learn that Wolfowitz was misquoted, but hang in there, the liberal media will keep trying.
For anyone foolish enough to think the media will admit error, here's how the AP is (not) handling the corrected quote, in a story entitled " U.S. Strategy Shifts in Iraq Weapons Hunt (no byline) posted at 10:26 AM today on Excite:
Meanwhile, comments from senior U.S. defense officials about Iraq's weapons have revived controversy in Europe over whether the war was justified.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz cited bureaucratic reasons for focusing on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and said a "huge" result of the war was to enable Washington to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.
"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair.
The magazine's reporter did not tape the telephone interview and provided a slightly different version of the quote in the article: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Iraq's weapons of mass destruction may have been destroyed before the war.
"It is also possible that they (Saddam Hussein's government) decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz suggested Washington fabricated weapons claims, and an aide to the defense secretary, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted their remarks had been misinterpreted.
However, the remarks were widely published in Europe and were seen by skeptical Europeans as a tacit admission that the United States overstated Iraq's weapons threat.
Interesting -- and most likely, intentional, juxtaposition -- first give an abbreviated Pentagon version of the taped quote (which still puts it out of context), then give the reporter's untaped version. No big deal, right?
You REALLY ought to post that as a separate thread, highlighting in the headline that the AP is covering up and spinning the Vanity Fair fraud story. Then I can ping the NYTimes Schadenfreude list!
A legitimate concern..
1..Close your eyes real tight so that only the slightest images can be seen..
2..Click on the link (remember where the back arrow is located)
3..If you see anything that even remotely looks like a pic, hit the back arrow immediately
4..If not, open eyes very slowly (be cautious, there still might be a pic that you missed)
5..If you still see no pic, open eyes completely and proceed carefully to read what will most assuredly be a disgusting piece of garbage...err...verbage
Don't lump my foundation for morality and ethics into my politics: they're not the same.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.