In today’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is currently in Iraq, describes his search for Iraqis who were maimed by Saddam Hussein but who nevertheless hate President Bush and the Americans. Somewhat to his surprise, he couldn’t find any. Iraqis whose tongues and ears had been amputated universally viewed the Americans as liberators.
Kristof was only slightly chastened by this discovery. It didn’t take him long to get back to attacking the Administration:
“Hawks need to wrestle with the reckless exaggerations of intelligence that were used to mislead the American public. Instead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Tuesday, ‘I don’t know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons.’
“Let me help. Mr. Rumsfeld, meet George Tenet, director of central intelligence, who immediately before the Congressional vote on Iraq last October issued a report asserting: ‘Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.’ Meet Vice President Dick Cheney, who said about Saddam on March 16: ‘We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.’
The Cheney quote used by Kristof to ridicule Rumsfeld has taken on the status of an urban legend. Based on a quick Google search, Kirstof’s is at least the 75th column or news story to use the Cheney quote in the last 25 days. The New York Times has been in the forefront, using the Cheney quote to accuse the Administration of lying in this article earlier today, this article a few days ago, and this typically intemperate column by Paul Krugman.
But the Times hasn’t been alone. The Washington Post has used the Cheney quote, as has CNN, the Sydney Morning Herald, AlterNet, the New Republic, and, well, every liberal news outlet in the United States.
Two obvious questions leap to mind: first, if the Administration deceived the American people by claiming that Iraq had nuclear weapons, why don’t the liberals have a whole bunch of quotes to offer from a variety of Administration officials? Why is it always exactly the same Cheney quote? And second, what is a “reconstituted nuclear weapon”?
The truth about the Cheney quote is not difficult to find. Donald Luskin did a great job of debunking this story in NRO on June 11. But liberals don’t read National Review, and they don’t let the facts get in the way of an attack on the Administration. So once-respected newspapers continue to repeat the Cheney slur even though anyone with access to Google can figure out in less than five minutes that it’s a hoax.
Here is what Cheney actually said on the subject of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs in the famous Meet the Press interview on March 16. I will quote at length, since context is important here:
“But we also have to address the question of where might these terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons? And Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and because we know he has, in fact, developed these kinds of capabilities, chemical and biological weapons. We know he
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