Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We must ask the question

Whatever else Patrick Fitzgerald’s announcement of indictments last week against Scooter Libby may have accomplished, they have shown definitively how little the facts matter to the way in which the liberal-left frames its version of events.

The indictments, of course, all allege essentially the same crime, namely that Libby lied to both the FBI and the grand jury in its investigations into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee. Notably, the indictments do not charge Libby, or anyone else, with deliberately leaking her status contrary to the law, nor did the investigation draw any conclusions whatsoever about the controversy over the British intelligence claim that Saddam had sought to buy uranium in Niger, which was the basis for Joe Wilson’s attack on the administration’s justifications for the war. To put it plainly, following Fitzgerald’s investigation and the indictments, we are no more informed about the validity of the British intelligence claims, or the Bush administration’s understanding of those claims, than we were last week, last month, or last year.

And, just in case journalists had a hard time figuring out for themselves that his investigation had nothing to say on that topic, Fitzgerald made a very explicit point about it in his press conference, saying that:

This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel….The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And I think anyone's who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.

It is difficult to see how that can be misinterpreted. Even a dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks reporter ought to be able to grasp its meaning.

Yet, in the wave of analysis that has followed, we have seen the liberal-left media trying to lead its audience to draw precisely the opposite conclusion. As I have already pointed out, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds wrote that “[The indictment of Lewis Libby] raises serious questions about how the administration sought to justify the war against Iraq.” And The Guardian’s Paul Harris claims that “[The Plame investigation] goes to the heart of the Iraq issue: was intelligence deliberately misused to railroad American into believing Saddam Hussein was a direct threat?”

Yesterday The Guardian’s Gary Younge took this deception even one step further. He claims that “Fitzgerald’s investigation…[lays] out in clear detail the proof for some of the central criticisms the liberal-left has asserted about the Bush administration over the past five years.” Specifically, he claims that the investigation has proven “that the case for the invasion of Iraq was built on a lie.” This is, of course, ludicrous.

These people are not, I don’t believe, stupid. It cannot be the case that they have misunderstood or misinterpreted the investigation and its results, especially in light of Fitzgerald’s own words clearly disavowing the conclusions they then go on to make. Are they, then, knowingly deceiving their audiences in the pursuit of a larger political agenda? This is the question that must be asked given the standard to which journalism at the likes of the BBC and The Guardian has descended.

Younge’s efforts to deceive his readers are particularly egregious, and the slippery mischaracterizations numerous. Detailing the “proof” that has allegedly been laid out by the investigation, he claims that:
Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent.
This was not established by the investigation, and is still in doubt. Fitzgerald explicitly refused to confirm that she was covert, referring to her status as merely “classified”. She may have at one time been a covert agent, but the relevant issue is whether or not she still was in 2003. Again, that she was covert at the time is in much doubt.

Younge says:
Joseph Wilson was sent on a CIA-sponsored trip to investigate whether Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons. Wilson concluded that this was unlikely…
This is simply false. According to Wilson’s own article, he was sent to Niger to investigate whether Iraq had bought uranium yellow cake. He concluded that “it was highly doubtful that any transaction took place.” He did not conclude that Iraq did not try to buy it, which is what the British intelligence report referenced by Bush had claimed. And according to the Senate investigation into the matter, his report back to the CIA even tended to heighten suspicions there that just such an attempt had indeed been made. As it happens, British intelligence continues to stand by the claim to this very day.

Hence, when Younge uses Wilson’s reported doubt to conclude that the White House was a “willful perpetrator of a known falsehood” in trumpeting the British intelligence claim, it is in fact he who is guilty of that charge. He has cleverly juxtaposed Wilson’s doubt about one thing with Bush’s assertion about another, and pretended that they refer to the same thing, thus enticing his readers to share in his false conclusions.

It is the height of irony, then, that Younge goes on to trash the “supine character of America’s mainstream media in the run-up to the war.” Specifically, he condemns NYT reporter Judy Miller for agreeing to identify Libby as “a former hill staffer”, which he had been at one time, rather than a “senior administration official”. Says Younge:
I once played centre forward for Cygnet Rovers of Stevenage. But to cite me as "a former footballer" would, in most instances, be as true as it is misleading.
Ah yes, misleading reporting. Something with which Younge is demonstrably, and intimately, familiar. The atmosphere at The Guardian is as thick with hypocrisy as it is with deception.


Anonymous BC10 said...

OT again but thought this link may be of interest

Basically a BBC rant about the increase in digital channels in the UK. And for digital channels read "more choice for the consumer>falling ratings for BBC channels as a result>less justification for the license fee"

Suppose it was a lot easier for them when they had the only 2 channels allowed!

7:07 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

The atmosphere at both BBC and Guardian is thick with mediocrity as well as hypocrisy, so it's a truly toxic fog.

The good news: the stupefyingly rotten "reporting" of the last few days becomes a club with which to bludgeon them into the far future. Many folks have saved the links (Katrina, too).

I believe you've done a pretty cool job of putting it together: wading in the BBC's slop must be exhausting.

One thing may have been underplayed: The BBC is indifferent to the simple unspinnable fact that Libby has merely been indicted not tried and convicted. He will only be convicted if the prosecutor can meet the high standard of proof needed in criminal cases, an entirely different jug of brown'n'mild from that facing Fitzgerald and the grand jury, who merely had to determine if there's a case to answer.

In part this may be Beeb ignorance (what else is new?) because the Brits don't do indictments -- they no longer have the grand jury -- and I frankly doubt whether a big girl's blouse like Frei would recognize one if it bit him on the ass. More likely, though, since they certainly understand "charged" and "presumption of innocence," it's also at least partly deliberate, i.e., in keeping with the tendentious drivel coughed up daily to conform to the BBC newsroom's contempt for all things American. That road runs directly to the Director of News, Helen Boaden.

Ergo, some predictions: Libby will be acquitted; the BBC not only will not lead with the news but will bury it as fast as possible; on that day, Reynolds will be busy elsewhere and Grauniad will dust off the global warming and wind power headlines (tomato flu, anyone?)...

...and the pitiful Briddish public will shuffle on, paying their annual TV license fee as usual.

They get what they deserve.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tomato flu, anyone

"Broken News" was not really a parody - it was too close to the overblown, self-important, yet incompetent, reality of TV News. Chris Morris had already trodden that path with "The Day Today", but the news broadcasters are still too arrogant to see how ridiculous they are.

12:23 AM  
Anonymous bc10 said...

anon... ah Chris Morris-a genius, you have reminded me of my Day Today tapes and Brass Eye DVD.

11:25 PM  

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