Press loath to tell rest of Wilson story

When diplomat's report is disputed, headlines vanish

by David Kopel

July 17, 2004

Remember U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame? In 2003, Wilson made himself a national celebrity by announcing that the CIA had sent him to Niger to see if Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy uranium there.

According to Wilson, he conclusively reported that there was no such attempt, but the White House ignored him, and lied to the American people in order to justify the Iraq War. In retaliation, the White House "outed" Wilson's wife, exposing her as a CIA agent by telling columnist Robert Novak.

It used to be a very big story. The Newsran 19 articles on it, most recently on June 25. The Posthad nine articles including a glowing review of Wilson's book, A Defense of Truth, on May 16, and an excerpt from Wilson's book on May 23.

So given all this attention to Wilson and his claims, it would seem responsible for the Denver papers to let readers know that the U.S. Senate has determined that Wilson is not exactly a guy who always acts "in defense of truth," as detailed recently by The Washington Post.

Wilson told the public that Niger had denied the uranium connection. But the Senate found that Wilson's report said that the Niger government had confirmed that Iraq had tried to buy uranium.

Wilson told the public that his report proved that certain documents showing that Saddam had approached Niger were unreliable, and were probably forged. According to the Senate, Wilson never even saw the documents, which did not come into CIA custody until months after Wilson's report.

Wilson had very publicly complained that the White House had ignored his report. But the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA never sent the Wilson report to the White House.

Wilson told several journalists the same thing he said in his book: that his wife had nothing to do with him going on the trip to Niger. But actually, the Senate found a memo in which she recommended to the CIA that he be selected for the mission.

The Washington Poststory has traveled all over the Internet, but has been ignored by much of the establishment media. From the Denver dailies, we have not a word now that a major anti-Bush scandal - which the papers considered newsworthy just a few weeks ago - has turned out to be a con.

In the U.K., an official independent investigative committee on WMD intelligence, the Butler Report ( www.butlerreview.org.uk , section 6.4 of the report) has found that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger as late as 2002. The report declared that Bush's statement in the 2003 State of the Union, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," was "well-founded."

The Financial Timesbegan reporting the story a week ago, but the Denver dailies remain oblivious - refusing to let their readers know that all the partisans like Wilson and various newspaper columnists who proclaimed "Bush lied!!!!" about the African uranium are completely wrong.

The Daily Sentinelin Grand Junction and TheAspen Times, though, take the booby-prize for being fooled by Wilson. In articles about Wilson's recent speech in Aspen, The Timesand Daily Sentinelwent beyond summarizing Wilson's remarks; the papers restated many of Wilson's claims as if they were facts - even though readers of The Washington Posthad learned two days beforehand that Wilson was not telling the truth. (Hat tip to ombudsgod.blogspot.com for noticing the Sentineland Timesstories first.)

Smugness and ignorance are a bad combination, as demonstrated by The Denver Post'sJuly 4 book review of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?

To review the book, The Postchose Dorman T. Schindler, a prolific book reviewer from Missouri who appears to have seriously misread and misunderstood the book.

Schindler's review begins: "Anyone with a whit of historical knowledge should wonder how Kansas - a state that led the fight for the abolition of slavery . . . has become a Republican stronghold during election years."

Any reviewer with a whit of historical knowledge would know that Kansas did not lead the fight for the abolition of slavery. In the Kansas Territory in the 1850s, Jayhawkers and Border Ruffians fought a bloody war over whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state. The pro-slavery folks won, and even outlawed criticism of slavery - as What's the Matterdetails.

The results of the Civil War forever changed the political balance of power in Kansas. The Republicans took over, and have pretty much ruled the state ever since, except when Kansas flirted with populism around the turn of the 20th century.

The Post'sreviewer finds it strange that Kansas "has become a Republican stronghold." But if he had read the book more carefully, he would have learned that, "Republicanism has always been central to the state's identity." As Frank points out, the last time Kansas elected a Democratic U.S. Senator was 1932.

Despite the reviewer's befuddlement, What's the Matter with Kansas?does not explain how Kansas "became" Republican, any more than the book explains how the state become flat. It's been that way longer than anyone can remember. Instead, the thesis of What's the Matteris that, "The greatest and most consequential shift in Kansas has been within the Republican Party, where a civil war pitting moderates against conservatives has been raging for over a decade now."

The review insinuates that modern Kansans are racist (having supposedly abandoned their anti-slavery legacy). Yet Frank observes that modern Kansas "doesn't do . . . racism." None of the racial hot-button issues, which are so important in some other states, have had much influence in Kansas, he notes.

The Post'sreview laments "how much the once radical state of Kansas has changed: This is a state where . . . abortion rights were in full measure before Roe v. Wade in 1973."

Not really. As What's the Matterdetails, only four states had legalized abortion on demand before Roe v. Wade. Kansas was among 13 other states which had legalized abortion in limited circumstances.

All of Schindler's previous reviews for The Posthave been of fiction, and The Postmight do well to take a pass should Schindler again venture a non-fiction review.

 

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