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Smearing Joe Wilson, Again

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In a world that wasn't upside-down, the editorial page of Washington's biggest newspaper might praise a whistleblower like former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for alerting the American people to a government deception that helped lead the country into a disastrous war that has killed 2,627 U.S. soldiers.

The editorial page also might demand that every senior administration officials who sought to protect that deception by leaking the identity of a covert CIA officer (Wilson's wife) be held accountable, at minimum stripped of their security clearances and fired from government.

But the United States, circa 2006, is an upside-down world. So the Washington Post's editorial page instead makes excuses for the government deceivers, treats their exposure of the CIA officer as justifiable - and attacks the whistleblower by recycling the government's false spin points against him.

If future historians wonder how the United States could have blundered so catastrophically into Iraq under false pretenses and why so few establishment figures dared to speak out, the historians might read the sorry pattern of the Post's editorial-page attacks on those who did dissent.

Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who fell for virtually every Iraq War deception that the Bush administration could dream up, is back assaulting former Ambassador Wilson, again, in a Sept. 1 editorial, falsely accusing Wilson of lying and concluding that "it's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously."

In the view of the Post's editorial page, Wilson's chief offense appears to be that he went public in July 2003 with a firsthand account of a fact-finding trip that he took in early 2002. At the CIA's request, he traveled to the African nation of Niger to check out a report alleging that Iraq was trying to obtain yellowcake uranium, presumably for a nuclear bomb.

The yellowcake allegations had attracted Vice President Dick Cheney's attention because, in 2002, the Bush administration was trying to build a case to justify invading Iraq. But Wilson found no hard evidence to support the suspicion that Iraq had tried to obtain any uranium ore - and U.S. intelligence subsequently agreed that the claim was a fraud.

Government Lies

Nevertheless, President George W. Bush cited the claim of Iraq's supposed attempt to procure the yellowcake during his State of the Union Address in January 2003. The next week, on Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made his famously bogus presentation to the United Nations accusing Iraq of hiding vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (though Powell knew well enough to leave out the yellowcake canard).

The next day, Hiatt's pro-war editorial page hailed Powell's evidence as "irrefutable" and chastised any remaining skeptics. "It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction," the editorial said.

Hiatt's judgment was echoed across the Post's Op-Ed page, with Post columnists from Right to Left presenting a solid wall of misguided consensus. [Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2003]

But the Post's gullibility about Powell's testimony wasn't a one-day aberration. As a study by Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin noted, "The [Post] editorials during December [2002] and January [2003] numbered nine, and all were hawkish." [American Prospect, April 1, 2003]

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the failure to discover evidence supporting the administration's pre-war WMD claims, Hiatt acknowledged that the Post should have been more circumspect.

"If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction," Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. "If that's not true, it would have been better not to say it." [CJR, March/April 2004]

But Hiatt's supposed remorse didn't stop him and the Post editorial page from continuing their attacks on Bush's critics, from Democrats who showed insufficient enthusiasm when Hiatt was detecting war progress in 2005 to retired generals who challenged the war strategy in 2006. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Shame on the Post's Editorial Page."]


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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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