Jewish World Review July 16, 2004 / 27 Tamuz, 5764

Michael Graham

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Nothing (Anything?) but the truth | Dear NBC, ABC, CBS, New York Times, Washington Post,

Thanks so much for your communications of the past 18 months. I have clearly received your message, as have millions of other Americans, which I would summarize as follows:

  • George W. Bush lied to get America to invade Iraq.

  • There were never any weapons of mass destruction or "yellowcake" from Niger. Bush made all that up, or at least pressured others to make it up for him.

  • We are at war to liberate the oil from Iraq and give it to Halliburton and/or the Carlyle Group.

  • The Bush Administration crushed all dissenters, including poor Ambassador Joe Wilson and his CIA agent wife, by spreading lies about them in the press.

  • Invading Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism.

  • Everything America has done in Iraq has either been stupid, pointless or a war crime.

Got it. I'm with the program. Case closed. Tell Peter, Tom, Dan and the boys America hears them loud and clear. George Bush, wrong; Michael Moore, right. You bet.

There's just one little problem. What am I supposed to do with these facts?

You remember facts, don't you? They used to be a mainstay of the media. Bigger than the Beatles, back in the day. Today they rarely make the nightly news or the front page, but still —I'm a little uncomfortable ignoring them altogether.

For example, remember all that front-page reporting you did about George W. Bush "misleading" America by claiming Iraq was trying to get uranium out of Africa? I know, I know —it's old news. "Bush lied." Right.

Only, he didn't.

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The British intelligence review out this week says that, not only was Bush right about his general statement that Iraq wanted uranium from Africa, he would have been accurate with the more specific claim that Saddam tried to get yellowcake from Niger. Iraq's attempts to go nuclear (again) was tracked for three years by British eavesdropping and spying, then confirmed independently by the French. President Bush was absolutely right, and the media's coverage of this story was absolutely wrong.

And speaking of "wrong," how wrong was your coverage of that Joe Wilson guy who wrote one of the dozen "Bush Sucks!" books hyped on CNN and Larry King? After being declared a saint and a true-telling anti-Bush hero, it turns out Wilson was lying the whole time.

Not only was Wilson wrong about the African uranium, he lied about it. He told the media he never saw any evidence of an Iraq/Africa connection, but he told the CIA that a former prime minister of Niger approached him with a lead about Iraq's attempts to get their yellowcake. He also said his CIA agent wife did not suggest sending him to Africa. Turns out, she set up the entire mission and there's a memo from her confirming it.

Yes, yes, yes —Wilson and his wife are "victims of the Republican attack machine," I know. I say the Dateline: NBC story. But given Wilson's over-the-top, utterly false accusations against President Bush, which thanks to your front-page pressure has resulted in an ongoing federal investigation, shouldn't there be, I dunno, some kind of little follow-up story?

Hey, I'm just asking. (For the record, the Washington Post did run such a story acknowledging they had been lied to by Wilson in their front page story. The real story ran on a Saturday. On page A9.)

For the record (pardon the pun), I feel your pain. I understand what you're going through. You in the mainstream press have told the story you wanted to tell about Iraq: Bush lied and the war was wrong. Anything that doesn't fit that story line is inconvenient, annoying, and certainly beside the point.

But the constant collisions between this media-driven story line and the observable facts are creating so much logical dissonance that even some reporters have picked up on it. Have you read the Newsweek piece eviscerating Michael Moore's movie for being filled with fact-free fertilizer? Or the coverage of the US Senate's report on the CIA disappointedly conceding that none of our spies were pressured to make pro-Bush conclusions about Iraq?

But perhaps the hardest story line to stick with is your insistence that the war on Iraq is exclusively about weapons of mass destruction. You keep saying "No WMD = bad war." I want to believe you, I really do, but I keep stumbling over the fact that Afghanistan didn't have any WMDs. Does that mean toppling the Taliban was wrong, too?

Now that you mention it, Al Qaeda and Osama don't have WMDs either (at least, we hope not). And yet, somehow, blowing them up seems like a pretty good idea. Perhaps that's because, given how many Americans the terrorists killed in a day without chemical and biological weapons, I don't want to think about what Al Qaeda might do with them.

That's why I appreciate the fact that you've refused to report the fact that Polish troops have found shells filled with sarin nerve agent in Iraq, or the nuclear equipment buried in an Iraqi scientist's back yard, or the report that two people were arrested trying to smuggle a barrel of Iraqi uranium across the Iranian border.

I'm a good American. I don't want to know. I pick up the paper in the morning and turn on my TV at night and wait for you to tell me your story. I can't be bothered with "facts."

I'm just lucky you feel the same way.

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JWR contributor Michael Graham is a talk show host and author of the highly acclaimed "Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War." To comment, please click here.



© 2004, Michael Graham