Lid Blown Off O’Neill/Suskind Hoax

Laurie Mylroie sent out an email about Paul O’Neill’s appearance on 60 Minutes last night; she notes what appears to be a major error in Ron Suskind’s book, which casts doubt on the credibility of both Suskind and O’Neill. Here is the key portion of Mylroie’s email:
“In his appearance this evening on ’60 Minutes,’ Ron Suskind, author of The Price of Loyalty, based to a large extent on information from former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, made an astonishing, very serious misstatement.
“Suskind claimed he has documents showing that preparations for the Iraq war were well underway before 9-11. He cited–and even showed–what he said was a Pentagon document, entitled, ‘Foreign Suitors for Iraq Oilfield Contracts.’ He claimed the document was about planning for post-war Iraq oil (CBS’s promotional news story also contained that claim).
“But that is not a Pentagon document. It’s from the Vice-President’s Office. It was part of the Energy Project that was the focus of Dick Cheney’s attention before the 9/11 strikes.
“And the document has nothing to do with post-war Iraq. It was part of a study of global oil supplies. Judicial Watch obtained it in a law suit and posted it, along with related documents, on its website at: Indeed, when this story first broke yesterday, the Drudge Report had the Judicial Watch document linked (no one at CBS News saw that, so they could correct the error, when the show aired?)”
What Mylroie says about the “Foreign Suitors” document is correct. The Judicial Watch link still works as of this morning, and as you can easily see, the document, dated March 5, 2001, has nothing to do with post-war planning. It is merely a list of existing and proposed “Iraqi Oil & Gas Projects” as of that date. And it includes projects in Iraq by countries that obviously would not have been part of any “post-war” plans of the Bush administration, such as, for example, Vietnam.
So Suskind (and apparently O’Neill) misrepresented this document, which appears to be a significant part of their case, given that Suskind displayed in on 60 Minutes. It would not be possible for anyone operating in good faith to represent the document as Suskind did.
But the truth is even worse than Mylroie pointed out in her email. The CBS promo linked to above says that this document “includes a map of potential areas for exploration. ‘It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,’ says Suskind. ‘On oil in Iraq.'”
True enough; there is a “map of potential areas for exploration” in Iraq here. But what Paul O’Neill and Ron Suskind don’t tell you is that the very same set of documents that contain the Iraq map and the list of Iraqi oil projects contain the same maps and similar lists of projects for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia! When documents are produced in litigation (in this case, the Judicial Watch lawsuit relating to Cheney’s energy task force), they are numbered sequentially. The two-page “Iraqi Oil Suitors” document that Suskind breathlessly touts is numbered DOC044-0006 through DOC044-0007. The Iraq oil map comes right before the list of Iraqi projects; it is numbered DOC044-0005.
DOC044-0001 is a map of oil fields in the United Arab Emirates. DOC044-0002 is a list of oil and gas development projects then going on in the United Arab Emirates. DOC044-0003 is a map of oil fields in Saudi Arabia. DOC044-0004 is a list of oil and gas projects in Saudi Arabia. So the “smoking gun” documents that Suskind and O’Neill claim prove that the administration was planning to invade Iraq in March 2001 are part of a package that includes identical documents relating to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Does Paul O’Neill claim the administration was planning on invading them, too? Or, as Mylroie says, was this merely part of the administration’s analysis of sources of energy in the 21st century?
There is only one possible conclusion: Paul O’Neill and Ron Suskind are attempting to perpetrate a massive hoax on the American people.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman is ecstatic about O’Neill’s allegations, and views them as vindicating his three years of over-the-top Bush hatred. Needless to say, Krugman has nothing to say about O’Neill’s and Suskind’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the documents on which their claims are based. The battle is joined: the New York Times propagates lies, the blogosphere points out undeniable facts that are inconvenient for the left. Spread the word.
FURTHER UPDATE: Judicial Watch notes that these documents originated in the Commerce Department, not Vice-President Cheney’s office, but were turned over to Judicial Watch in connection with that organization’s lawsuit against Cheney relating to the Vice-President’s energy task force. This, of course, has no bearing on the point we make about Suskind and O’Neill’s fraudulent use of these documents, which relate generically to world energy supplies and had nothing to do with a purported plan to invade (or reconstruct) Iraq. Indeed, the documents’ origin in the Commerce Department underlines the absurdity of Suskind’s and CBS’s claim that they demonstrate the existence of a scheme to invade Iraq.