Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Are any of the "missing weapons" documents false?
A "government source" is quoted in The Corner suggesting that it may be. They call the memo a "false letter."
Now, I'm unsure whether this person is accusing El Baradei of writing a false memo in his IAEA report to the U.N. Security Council, or if the original memo El Baradei allegedly received from the Iraqi Ministry of Science & Technology is false.
Obviously, if the original Iraqi memo is false, so is the story. Then again, we already know the story is false-- but what do the memos say?
If the El Baradei memo is false, that may mean the IAEA deliberately glossed over key facts about the Iraqi memo, such as the dates when the explosives cache at Al-Qaqaa went missing.
First off, has anyone seen the original Iraqi memo on this? Or are we all relying on the IAEA interpretation of the memo?
Second off, I'm assuming that the New York Times used the United Nations or the IAEA as their primary source.
In their main story about the missing explosives, the New York Times says that, in a joint interview with 60 Minutes of the Iraqi Minister of Science & Technology, Dr. Rashad Omar, Dr. Omar "confirmed the facts described in the letter."
Here's what else Dr. Omar said:
"Yes, they are missing," Dr. Omar said. "We don't know what happened." The I.A.E.A. says it also does not know, and has reported that machine tools that can be used for either nuclear or non-nuclear purposes have also been looted.
Dr. Omar said that after the American-led invasion, the sites containing the explosives were under the control of the Coalition Provisional Authority, an American-led entity that was the highest civilian authority in Iraq until it handed sovereignty of the country over to the interim government on June 28.
"After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control," Dr. Omar said. "So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials."
Now, pardon me for highlighting the obvious, but the NYT states that it relied on Dr. Omar to verify his memo, but did not say whether it had a copy of the memo itself. Also, every quote by Dr. Omar is entirely consistent with the NBC story reporting that the explosives were already missing from Al-Qaaqa when American forces arrived there in April 2003.
When the free Iraqis took over the site from the CPA in the summer, the explosives were gone. Dr. Omar is simply reporting that fact. Whether or not he can get a decent explanation from the Americans of why or when the explosives disappeared is a separate issue from whether the Americans are culpable in their disappearance. And whether or not he told the IAEA, the NYT, or 60 Minutes *when* the explosives went missing is unknown.
Perhaps Omar doesn't know, or if he did know, the IAEA memo doesn't say when. Or both say when, but the NYT and 60 Minutes decided or neglected to report when.
However, if the NYT didn't have a copy of the memo, did it have a copy of the IAEA letter sent by El Baradei to the Security Council? And what, precisely, does THAT letter say? Does it have dates? Or does it simply say "the explosives were gone" and leave it up to the readers to determine when?
This is where the NYT story becomes critically important, as this key fact is missing: when, precisely, did the explosives disappear?
By not mentioning this key fact, the NYT article does one of three negligent things:
1. It hides the facts of the Iraqi memo to make it look like the Administration has failed.
2. It hides the facts of the El Baradei memo to make it look like the Administration has failed.
3. It is complicit with either the Iraqi or El Baradei memo's factual neglect in order to make it look like the Administration has failed.
The first two actions indicate bias; the third action is either bias, or grossly negligent sloppiness. I'll leave it up to the readers to decide which is likeliest.
UPDATE: Just as I was about to post, Drudge flashed up that this 60 Minutes planned to do this story this weekend, just before the election, in order to, in Drudge's words "knock the Bush Administration into crisis mode." Nope, nothing fishy here.