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What Wolfowitz Really Said: The truth behind the Vanity Fair "scoop."
The Weekly Standard ^ | 06/09/03 | William Kristol

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.


TOPICS: Breaking News; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: billkristol; falsification; iraq; mediabias; mediacrimes; mediafraud; mediahate; medialies; paulwolfowitz; schadenfreude; vanityfair; vanityfairfraud
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1 posted on 05/30/2003 9:06:20 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Vanity Fair, can now be added to the list of liars that includes CNN, the New York Times and the L.A. Times.
2 posted on 05/30/2003 9:10:00 PM PDT by Terp (Retired US Navy now living in Philippines were the Moutains meet the Sea in the Land of Smiles)
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To: Pokey78; Miss Marple; piasa; McGavin999; blam; Ernest_at_the_Beach; ladyinred; Amelia; justshe; ...
FYI.
3 posted on 05/30/2003 9:10:28 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin
Shocking. You mean that the US had more than one reason for its foreign policy to be focused on taking Saddam out? I thought Bush could only handle one idea at a time.
4 posted on 05/30/2003 9:14:59 PM PDT by Torie
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To: Torie
Once again, he has been misunderestimated.
5 posted on 05/30/2003 9:17:07 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin
Thanks for the ping, Howlin. VERY good article.
6 posted on 05/30/2003 9:19:48 PM PDT by Amelia
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To: Howlin
We had a deal with the Saudi's, we were going to remove Saddam come hell or high water. They couldn't deal with their radical problem until our troops were gone. We could not go until Saddam was out. Has anyone noticed the crackdown going on in Saudia Arabia? All part of what I call The Crawford Plan. Remember when the Saudi prince went to Crawford?
7 posted on 05/30/2003 9:20:26 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
That I do.

And I can go with your idea.

It's the domino theory in reverse.
8 posted on 05/30/2003 9:21:36 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin
Once again, he has been misunderestimated.

I doubt they will ever catch on. ; *)

9 posted on 05/30/2003 9:23:27 PM PDT by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Howlin
Let's hope you're right.

Regards,

L

10 posted on 05/30/2003 9:25:10 PM PDT by Lurker ("One man of reason and goodwill is worth more, actually and potentially, than a million fools" AR)
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To: Lurker
Believe me, I hope I'm right, too.
11 posted on 05/30/2003 9:25:58 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin; blam; NormsRevenge; Grampa Dave; doug from upland; Brad's Gramma; FairOpinion; Cvengr
Thanks!

Just posted this piece by Helen Thomas:

IRAQ: So, Where Are Those Iraqi Weapons? (Helen Thomas Alert )

12 posted on 05/30/2003 9:48:08 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Where is Saddam? and his Weapons of Mass Destruction?)
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To: Pokey78
I am surely glad we have some conservative media which points out the truth and doesn't let the liberals get away with all their lies.
13 posted on 05/30/2003 9:52:20 PM PDT by FairOpinion
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To: Pokey78
SPOTREP

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!

14 posted on 05/30/2003 10:00:45 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Pokey78
Excellent article and I am so glad they caught this... Going to bookmark this one, I just know the twisted statement is going to get thrown at us for the next couple of years :-(
15 posted on 05/30/2003 10:12:23 PM PDT by Tamzee (A half-truth is a whole lie .......Yiddish Proverb)
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To: Terp
>>>Vanity Fair, can now be added to the list of liars that includes CNN, the New York Times and the L.A. Times.

In my book, they've always been there.

16 posted on 05/30/2003 10:12:54 PM PDT by Reagan Man
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To: Pokey78
What gives with this Vanity Fair interview, then?

I think we all could take a guess and probably be right

17 posted on 05/30/2003 10:18:05 PM PDT by Mo1 (I'm a monthly Donor .. You can be one too!)
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To: Pokey78
This appears to be an attempt by VF to gin up publicity for the issue, by creating controversy and as an added bonus,damaging the Bush Administration in the process. It appears to be more important to attempt to tarnish the war effort,than it is to be honest and forthright in their reporting.No technique is too shabby for contemporary journalists.Any takers on which version Maureen Dowd uses in her next piece?
18 posted on 05/30/2003 10:30:14 PM PDT by Wild Irish Rogue
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To: Pokey78
Great article! Spells it out, no wiggle room provided. Busted!

A fitting epitaph for Vanity Fair.

19 posted on 05/30/2003 11:32:26 PM PDT by Imal (There's a Marxist born every minute)
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To: Terp
Vanity Fair, can now be added to the list of liars that includes CNN, the New York Times and the L.A. Times.

No.

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.

20 posted on 05/31/2003 12:06:25 AM PDT by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: martin_fierro; reformed_democrat; Loyalist; =Intervention=; PianoMan; GOPJ; Miss Marple; Tamsey; ...

Special edition of the Schadenfreude Ping...

VANITY FAIR CAUGHT IN MASSIVE LIE - PAUL WOLFOWITZ QUOTES *****FABRICATED***** - SPREAD THE WORD!!!


Schadenfreude

This is the New York Times Schadenfreude Ping List. Freepmail me to be added or dropped.


21 posted on 05/31/2003 12:10:18 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: xm177e2
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.

22 posted on 05/31/2003 12:13:19 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: Pokey78
THe UK Telegraph's little pack o' distortion on the vanity Fair interview misquote:

WMD Just a Convenient Excuse for War, Admits Wolfowitz (In Your Dreams, libs)

23 posted on 05/31/2003 12:42:59 AM PDT by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge.)
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To: Pokey78
bump
24 posted on 05/31/2003 1:20:49 AM PDT by GOPJ
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To: xm177e2
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.

Are you going to hold your breath? I'm not!!! But seriously I hope they do print a correction and apologize.

25 posted on 05/31/2003 2:26:05 AM PDT by Terp (Retired US Navy now living in Philippines were the Moutains meet the Sea in the Land of Smiles)
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To: Pokey78
Good catch Pokey78.
26 posted on 05/31/2003 2:45:28 AM PDT by Robert DeLong
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To: Pokey78
I must say that I'm really disappointed in Sam Tanenhaus (I assume it's the same one), who's biography of Whitaker Chambers was excellent...
27 posted on 05/31/2003 4:45:48 AM PDT by Lyford
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To: Howlin
Wonder how much it cost us yearly to maintain the No Fly Zone? An expensive operation we no longer foot the bill for.
28 posted on 05/31/2003 4:50:11 AM PDT by GailA (Millington Rally for America after action http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/872519/posts)
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To: Pokey78
I listened to what Wolfowitz said and found it quite honest, truthful and non-controversial. However, the slavering liberals in the media are desperate to gin-up a controversy.

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?

29 posted on 05/31/2003 4:57:44 AM PDT by DoctorMichael (Liberalism = Evil)
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To: Pokey78
Pentagon staffers were wise enough to tape-record the Tanenhaus-Wolfowitz interview.

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.

30 posted on 05/31/2003 5:09:36 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine's brother (MrConfettiman was in the streets while I was still yelling at the TV)
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To: Pokey78
Vanity Fair "blaired" what Wolfowitz said.....
31 posted on 05/31/2003 5:24:52 AM PDT by austinite
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To: Pokey78
These liberals should keep up their twisted reporting -- Vanity Scare included -- pretty soon the entire American public will discount news reports the way Conservatives do.
32 posted on 05/31/2003 6:25:35 AM PDT by jrlc
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To: Terp
You just can't trust those liberal journalists.
33 posted on 05/31/2003 6:51:39 AM PDT by PhilipFreneau
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To: Pokey78
Furthermore, people of good will are entitled to disagree, even in retrospect, about the wisdom and probable effects of Saddam's forcible removal.

Oh, really? Where would that be?

34 posted on 05/31/2003 6:56:13 AM PDT by independentmind
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To: Pokey78
Wolfowitz' words, "polished version"

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.

35 posted on 05/31/2003 7:34:11 AM PDT by iconoclast
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To: Terp
We have our own axis of media weasels........and ought to include the BBC in that deck of cards.
36 posted on 05/31/2003 7:59:12 AM PDT by OldFriend (without the brave, there would be no land of the free)
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To: Terp
Vanity Fair, can now be added to the list of liars..................................

They have been on the list from the start and are near the top.

37 posted on 05/31/2003 8:28:39 AM PDT by Cold Heat (Negotiate!! .............(((Blam!.)))........... "Now who else wants to negotiate?")
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To: Pokey78
They all do it.

What is it?

Lie for the rats to spread BS to damage GW and his administration.

Vanity Fair is no different than the NY Slimes, LA Slimes, Washington Compost, Atlanta Urinal and CNN.

Misquotes like this are as hit pieces.
38 posted on 05/31/2003 8:48:58 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Can anyone ever remember the NY Slimes printing a truthful story? I can't!)
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To: Grampa Dave
Come on Coffee, kick in. This should have been:

Misquotes like this are used as hit pieces and our president and his administration.

39 posted on 05/31/2003 8:50:33 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Can anyone ever remember the NY Slimes printing a truthful story? I can't!)
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To: iconoclast
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.

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.

40 posted on 05/31/2003 9:01:36 AM PDT by browardchad
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
i am afraid to visit the helen thomas link for fear there will be an accompanying photo...
41 posted on 05/31/2003 9:11:51 AM PDT by teeman8r
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To: Timesink

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? 

42 posted on 05/31/2003 9:37:41 AM PDT by browardchad
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To: browardchad
The Media at work!
43 posted on 05/31/2003 9:45:00 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Iran will feel the heat from our Iraq victory!)
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To: browardchad
The Albanians in Kosovo also suffered torture and oppression as did the Haitians before Aristide. At the time, most conservatives did not find this torture or oppression to be necessary or sufficient to support armed intervention. They were right. It is interesting that now (especially after the failure to find WMD) conservatives are making the same arguments they once rejected.
44 posted on 05/31/2003 9:54:00 AM PDT by Captain Kirk
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To: browardchad
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!

45 posted on 05/31/2003 10:03:16 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: Terp
Vanity Fair also had Robert KKK Byrd as their man of the month a few months ago. It's a liberal rag but they do have some good stories sometimes.
46 posted on 05/31/2003 10:06:33 AM PDT by John Lenin (Government does not solve problems, it subsidizes them)
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To: teeman8r
i am afraid to visit the helen thomas link for fear there will be an accompanying photo...

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

47 posted on 05/31/2003 11:01:45 AM PDT by evad (Lying..It's WHAT they do, it's ALL they do and they WON'T stop...EVER!!)
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To: Terp
Take a consequence of an action to be its cause. yeah, that is lying--big time.
48 posted on 05/31/2003 11:23:04 AM PDT by RobbyS
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To: LiteKeeper
What garbage. I know lots of humanists and atheists and they are almost to a person conservative politically. You can have moral absolutes and be a humanist. The only thing that humanism represents is that ethics are intrinsic and not externally derived. Sure you have crackpots on the humanist side but then again you can also have happy go luckys like OBL on the religious side.

Don't lump my foundation for morality and ethics into my politics: they're not the same.

49 posted on 05/31/2003 1:16:01 PM PDT by wireplay
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To: Pokey78
After reading this, I can't imagine why the news media is SHOCKED, (SHOCKED I TELL YOU!!) that the public does not believe two thirds of what they read in most of the rag mags and rag papers....
50 posted on 05/31/2003 1:44:19 PM PDT by lindagirl
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