As of today, neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times has reported the discovery of a memorandum by the head of Iraqi intelligence which, if genuine, shows that Saddam’s government trained Mohammad Atta and conspired with him prior to Sept. 11. Now, I don’t know whether the memo is genuine or not, but the provisional government of Iraq, which discovered the memo, swears that it is. It seems to me that the fact that the Iraqi government claims the existence of this information is a huge news story. Not to report it is ridiculous.
This morning Robert Kaiser, Associate Editor of the Washington Post, conducted an online chat session. He explained why the Post has blacked out news of the memo:
“Annapolis, Md.: Will the Post be looking into the story reported by the Telegraph about connections between Abu Nidal, Mohammad Atta and Saddam Hussein? Very likely to be untrue, but would be immensely significant if true. And there’s no mention on the Post’s Web site about it yet.
“Robert G. Kaiser: If we put every rumor and story in the British press (not to mention many others around the world) on the Web site, you’d be dizzy–and no wiser. The Post does not print other papers’ uncheckable ‘exclusive’ stories. And I can tell you that there have been dozens of bad–that is, wrong–ones over recent months. The Telegraph, Daily and Sunday, has not earned our respect for accuracy or careful reporting.”
There you have it: we decide what you need to know, and what might only confuse you. Note the absurdity of Kaiser’s reply. He says the Post hasn’t printed the report because it doesn’t trust the Telegraph. But wait a minute–there isn’t any doubt that the Telegraph accurately reported that the Iraqi provisional government claimed to have discovered the Atta memo. No one in the Iraqi government has disavowed the Telegraph’s report. The issue isn’t whether the Telegraph’s reporter is credible, but whether the Iraqis who say they discovered the memo are credible. And there are all kinds of ways that reporters and others use to evaluate the authenticity of a document. The Post has no knowledge whatsoever whether the memo is genuine or not genuine. They are simply choosing not to report its existence because they don’t like the political implications if, in fact, it is authentic.
The Post’s general attitude toward the war is no secret, as this exchange demonstrates:
“Eureka, Calif.: Why do so many people seem to believe that with Saddam’s capture the war is now over? Are they really so naive as to think the Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation is going to suddenly evaporate? Does Saddam’s capture change the fact that the U.S. is engaged in an illegal occupation of a sovereign country, and that the majority of Iraqis want the U.S. forces to leave their country?
“Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for your comment. I love your giant redwoods in Eureka! ‘Illegal’ is obviously a loaded word, but without endorsing its use, I agree with you. The U.S. still faces huge problems in Iraq and the entire Middle East, and capturing Saddam does not solve any of them.
“Chicago, Ill.: This war was originally sold as a necessary action to prevent a ‘mushroom cloud’ appearing over the U.S. — and has been in typical media hyperventilating fashion, reduced today to a ‘we got Jesse James’ melodrama.
Do you actually think that Hussein’s capture will make a whit of difference to Islaamists who hated him anyway, or normal Iraqis who abhor being occupied?
“Robert G. Kaiser: More of the same. And I agree with you, too.”
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