Monday :: Aug 1, 2005

Bob Woodward: Leave no Bush Administration Critic Unsmeared


by eriposte

UPDATE: Here.

Former reporter and current Bush administration propagandist Bob Woodward hit a new low this weekend with his astonishingly false claim regarding Joseph Wilson, in the July 31 edition of the Chris Matthews show.

I will discuss Woodward's misbehavior later in this post, but I have to say that it inspired me to announce my suggestions for his next book.

So, here are a couple of ideas (feel free to add more in the comments).

Bush at Peace (with Plame leak)
by Bob $$$ Woodward

EXCLUSIVE! First person accounts from George W. Bush and Karl Rove on how they heroically masterminded the expose of Valerie Plame to win the war on violent extremism, with supporting evidence from Bob Woodward on why Joseph Wilson discredited himself

MORE! If you want me to spread propaganda for you (you MUST be a Republican), please contact woodward$$$@anything-other-than-journalism.com

Or how about this one:

The Myth of Watergate
by Bob $$$ Woodward

EXCLUSIVE! First person accounts from George W. Bush and all Watergate and Iran-Contra criminals in his administration about how Watergate and Iran-Contra (and everything else including Plamegate) were the fictional creations of liberal media titans such as myself!

MORE! First person accounts from me, to prove George Bush's claim! My exclusive apologies to Richard Nixon!

Now, on to Woodward's claim.

Media Matters has responded to this segment pointing out how Woodward's statement was totally false:

MATTHEWS: In fact, the vice president first raised the question with the CIA during his regular briefing as to whether there was anything to this Italian story that there was an arms deal -- a nuclear deal to get uranium, yellowcake, from the government of Niger, because he wanted to find such evidence, and as you were talking earlier, you pointed out that initial report from Joe Wilson was murky, if not positive, that there was some kind of deal.

WOODWARD: Exactly. I mean, here is the problem with this. We talk about -- these words get thrown around: the effort to "trash" Joe Wilson, a "campaign." I kind of like [New York Times reporter] Elisabeth's [Bumiller] word: to "discredit" him. And there were reasonable grounds to discredit Wilson. In other words, he had said something in his reports a year before that contradicted what he wrote in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. So that means somebody was not fact-checking the op-ed piece in The New York Times.

Chris Matthews is someone who is rarely, if ever, interested in facts or the truth. The guy sold his soul a long time ago, to the Republican party, in exchange for (abysmal) ratings. So, the irony of Bob Woodward appearing on Chris Matthews' show to peddle a false claim (Wilson's report to the CIA was not at odds with his op-ed, as Media Matters points out), under the laughable guise of being a truth-teller, is interesting indeed. What is sadder is that, Woodward, who dealt a death blow to his reputation when he became an ardent stenographer for Bush (with his book "Bush at War"), has focused his career on achieving greater heights in propagandistic stenography, rather than in investigative journalism. There is a reason why many mainstream media outlets in this country have devoted themselves to becoming the Far Right's propagandists. It is because of the people at the top who set the direction and philosophy for the outlets. People like Bob Woodward.

The real scandal about Woodward's utterance to Chris Matthews is not just that he was comfortable making a casual, false statement, but that he displayed his total comfort in assimilating propaganda from the Bush administration and propagating it pro-bono. If Woodward had taken maybe a couple of hours to critically evaluate the Senate Report's treatment of Wilson's testimony, he would have found immediately that the Report's claim -- that Wilson's report somehow supported the claims of some CIA officials that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa -- was the exact opposite of the truth. As I pointed out in my analysis, there were fundamentally two pieces of information conveyed by Joseph Wilson, that were used to assert that somehow the evidence of Saddam seeking uranium from Africa was bolstered by Wilson (even though, neither Matthews nor Woodward, bothered to point out that the INR agreed with Wilson that his findings proved the opposite).

(a) The "June 1999" Mayaki meeting with a "businessman" and the interpretation of "expanding commercial relations" as having to do with "uranium"
...
(b) The undated Mayaki meeting with an "Iraqi delegation" that "visited Niger" and his "steering" the conversation away from "trade" issues

In both of these cases, I showed that the evidence in support of the uranium from Africa claim was non-existent.

[Regarding (a)]

Firstly, one is attributing to Mayaki the ability to mind-read a certain businessman. The businessman never uttered the word uranium - so it is laughable to simply assume that Mayaki was accurate in his belief (also known as guesswork) about what this businessman was thinking or hinting.

Secondly, why should the term "expanding commercial relations" only refer to the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq? Could it not have anything to do with the sale of petroleum products from Iraq to Niger, considering Iraq was/is one of the world's top oil suppliers? Don't think that's plausible? Well, you better tell the Iraq Survey Group they are full of crap then!
...
[Regarding (b)]

Let's assume that, hypothetically, Mayaki even met some secret (after all there's no public record of it) Iraqi delegation in Niger, sometime on or after June 1999 - a trade delegation (to dicuss "commercial relations") that never raised the issue of trade or uranium even once. Let's assume that "he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation". To believe this bizarre story one would need to posit all of the following:

  • Iraq somehow spent a lot of money sending a delegation secretly all the way to Niger to make an attempt to purchase uranium or to "trade"
  • Once they arrived in Niger, they mysteriously never brought up the topic of trade or uranium, something they ostensible came all the way to "seek"
  • Mayaki holds a mysterious power over an entire Iraqi delegation, i.e. he is so persuasive, that a secret delegation which was there to discuss trade is quite happy to not discuss any trade and returns secretly back to Iraq
  • The Iraqis, who are daring enough to want to violate U.N. sanctions by trying to secretly approach Niger for a trade/uranium deal, are so afraid to even bring up the word trade or uranium on a trip intended solely to talk about it ("commercial relations")

Does anyone really consider this to be an even remotely plausible scenario? On any planet? (Other than on the pages, of say, the Editorial of the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, National Review Online or on the web pages of their masters, the Republican National Committee?)

Put another way, only in the Orwellian world of George W. Bush and his neocons would a delegation that came all the way at great cost and secrecy to discuss trade/uranium, return back to their home country without even bringing up the matter of "trade" let alone "uranium", simply because their host had the gift of steering conversations to topics (other than "trade") that the delegation never came there to discuss.

As I pointed out later in my post:

The most startling part of the assumption that Wilson's report somehow validated the uranium claim, based on the fantastic Mayaki story, is that if Mayaki - a former Nigerien official himself - is trustworthy, then why was every other Nigerien that Wilson met not trustworthy? Why would one discard the views of the many Nigerien officials, including the other former Minister Mai Manga, who not only admitted an Iranian attempt to purchase uranium from Niger (which explains how Iraq was a greater threat in Bush's world) but stated clearly that there was nothing to the Iraq-Niger claims? That the French had total control of the mines, that the mines were secure, that there had been no attempts by Iraq to purchase uranium, let alone purchases.

In fact, is it not astounding that a series of events, some possibly realistic, some implausible, in which not a single Iraqi is shown to have even uttered the word "uranium" are somehow considered as supportive of the premise that Iraq was seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa?

Just unbelievable.

Clearly, it wasn't unbelievable to Bob Woodward. After all one can hardly expect the Washington Post's chief stenographer to actually do any critical analysis or real investigative reporting.

It is perhaps too taxing on his finances and his soul to expect that he care about the truth, about journalism, or about the fact that, after Wilson's trip:

It is no surprise that the only agency that got it right more often than the others - INR - felt that Wilson's findings supported its position that that reports of Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa were "highly suspect". By now, multiple factors made it clear that these reports were highly dubious and almost certainly without any basis:

  • the assurances of very senior Nigerien officials who were keenly aware of U.N. sanctions against Iraq (and how helping Iraq violate it would have financial - and other - consequences for them, especially after 9/11)
  • the fact that the mines in Niger were controlled by a very securely run French consortium
  • the reports to the CIA from the U.S. Ambassador to Niger and former Ambassador Wilson (above)
  • the lack of corroboration of the original Niger uranium reports
  • the fact that there was no evidence that the February 1999 visit of an Iraqi envoy to Niger (as part of a broader visit to various African countries) had anything to do with uranium
  • the fact that the July 1999 meeting between Iraq and Niger at Algiers had nothing to do with uranium
  • the fact that (mythical) discussions relating to "commercial relations" could have involved oil products (among other things) rather than uranium
  • the fact that there was not a single corroborated report that any Iraqi had ever uttered the word "uranium" to any Nigerien official (or vice versa) in recent times
  • etc. etc. etc.

Thus, the only conclusion that one could have rationally reached after Wilson's visit to Niger was that the case for Iraq having sought uranium from Africa/Niger was far far worse (unless one is a Feith-based neocon).

Email (courtesy of Media Matters): woodwardb@washpost.com

eriposte :: 7:53 PM :: Comments (9) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!