Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 by Editor & Publisher
Editorials Question Bush's Role In "Cooking" Up a War
by Greg Mitchell
NEW YORK -- In the wake of the latest revelations from weapons inspector David Kay, many of the largest U.S. newspapers are belatedly pressing the Bush administration for an explanation of how it could have gotten the question of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq so wrong in the march to war last year. A growing number are raising the possibility that Bush and his team may have "cooked" the intelligence to support their case for war.
An E&P survey of the top 20 newspapers by circulation found that as of Wednesday, 13 had run editorials on Kay's resignation as chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq last Friday, and his statement that no WMDs exist in Iraq, and likely did not exist in Iraq during the U.S. run-up to war.
Nearly all of those papers blamed intelligence failures for the miscalculation and called for a full probe. But eight of the 13 -- most of which supported the war -- also raised the issue of White House deceit and its possibly blind pursuit of intelligence that fit its plan for war.
Among them was The Dallas Morning News, in Bush's home state, which had supported the war, but now declared: "We feel deceived -- by the CIA, which overestimated the threat, and by the White House, which probably stretched the bad estimates to build a case for war." If Bush had found other strategic or humanitarian reasons for the war, "he should have argued the case on that basis," the editorial said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also stated that while intelligence was faulty, "the evidence also seems overwhelming that the Bush administration pushed existing evidence well beyond its breaking point, exaggerating threats and claiming specific knowledge of Iraqi WMD where in reality no such knowledge existed." The paper also came down hard on the administration for linking Saddam Hussein directly to al Qaeda -- which was in opposition to intelligence reports.
The Los Angeles Times refused to place the blame mainly on the intelligence agencies, observing that "the administration was not a passive consumer of intelligence. The CIA's own Iraq analysts contended last June that the administration pressured them to create worst-case scenarios." While backing a full CIA probe, the L.A. Times added, "Any investigation ... will also have to take in to account the administration's agenda." Indeed, Vice President Dick Cheney continued to make "bogus claims" about WMDs in Iraq over the weekend despite Kay's findings, the editorial noted.
The Detroit Free Press asked, "Was the administration misled, or did it twist what it was told to justify taking down Hussein? A full accounting is due."
Newsday of Melville, N.Y., said the latest revelation "raises troubling questions about the Bush administration's use of ambiguous or flawed intelligence findings to buttress its case" for the war. The Oregonian of Portland stated that, "it's fair to wonder ... whether the White House processed the intelligence information professionally."
The Boston Globe editorial said, in part: "President Bush should acknowledge two harsh truths: that the intelligence was completely wrong and that administration hawks tried to politicize intelligence."
Oddly, while fully condemning the intelligence scandal, two of the most liberal papers -- The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle -- did not strongly raise the specter of White House deceit. The Times hinted at this, however, by suggesting that Cheney's continuing false arguments revealed the "rigid thinking" based on "preconceived notions" that "helped propel us into an invasion."
The Philadelphia Inquirer simply declared that Kay's conclusion "destroys the remaining credibility of this administration's argument for an immediate, pre-emptive war."
Only two the 13 papers that ran editorials expressed little concern that the Kay findings undercut their support for the war: The New York Post and New York Daily News. The Post warned readers not to "be taken in by all the hot air following David Kay's statements."
Greg Mitchell (email@example.com) is editor of E&P. Research assistance by Sonya Moore.
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