Tuesday, March 16, 2004

No! Really?

Where have we heard this before?

The former Iraqi exile group that gave the Bush administration exaggerated and fabricated intelligence on Iraq also fed much of the same information to newspapers, news agencies and magazines in the United States, Britain and Australia.
I'm sure I read something like that somewhere...

This article in the San Jose Mercury News is packed with damning statements like the above (all emphasis is mine):

A June 26, 2002, letter from the Iraqi National Congress to the Senate Appropriations Committee listed 108 articles based on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress's Information Collection Program, a U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq.

The Information Collection Program was financed out of the at least $18 million that the U.S. Congress approved for the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, from 1999 to 2003. The group remains on the Pentagon's payroll.

The assertions in the articles reinforced President Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein should be ousted because he was in league with Osama bin Laden, was developing nuclear weapons and was hiding biological and chemical weapons.

Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq's illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.

In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, were not confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials and others who supported a pre-emptive invasion quoted the allegations in statements and interviews without running afoul of restrictions on classified information or doubts about the defectors' reliability.
Damn. And the article doesn't stop there.

The Iraqi National Congress letter said it fed information to Arab and Western news media and to two officials in the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the leading invasion advocates.

The articles made numerous assertions that so far have not been substantiated 11 months after Baghdad fell,...
The article goes on to list some of these claims, all of which have been debunked in various places and eventually by facts on the ground. And if those claims look familiar it's because they should.

According to the letter, publications in which the articles appeared included the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly, the Times of London, the Sunday Times of London, the Sunday Age of Melbourne, Australia, and two Knight Ridder newspapers, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News. The Associated Press and others news services also wrote stories.
This is perhaps one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever conducted inside the United States against its own citizens:

Other U.S. and international news media picked up some of the articles. By mid-January 2002, polls showed that a solid majority of Americans favored military force to oust Saddam.

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