Memo To: Rep. Porter Goss [R FL] , chairman House Intelligence Committee
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Don’t Read the Newspapers
Since 9-11, we’ve been seeing a lot of you lately on the TV talk shows, given your key chairmanship on matters pertaining to intelligence and national security -- and the President’s decision to reorganize the government to provide for a Homeland Security Department with cabinet rank. I happened to catch you yesterday on CNN Sunday Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer and heard you mention the need for the government to step up its capability to combat propaganda. I wish you had time to expand on that, Congressman, because the only propaganda I see is delivered by our own national news media. If I had a shortwave radio, I could pick up Al Jazeera or Radio Baghdad, but as I do not understand Arabic it would be hard for me to be propagandized by that part of the world. I do read our own newspapers, though, and can tell you sincerely that they produce almost nothing but propaganda. I mean, they present news colored by one interest group or political party or another, propagating their own version of events. What worries me is that the Central Intelligence Agency reads those newspapers and then comes in to brief you at the Intelligence Committee, and tells you what they have learned from the Times or Post or USA Today. Kind of like one big blender.
As the boss here at Polyconomics these last 24 years, trying to separate wheat from chaff for my Wall Street clients, I had the advantage of spending the previous 18 years as a journalist, for newspapers small and large. So I know when I read something in the papers that bears upon my work in a serious way, I have to “check it out,” to make sure it is not propaganda. Here are some examples of things I have learned in this process:
Report: Saddam Hussein gassed his own people.
My Finding: Saddam Hussein did NOT gas his own people. The Iraqis who died at Halabja in March 1988 were caught between the Iraqi and Iranian armies in one of the last months of the eight-year war. Most of the hundreds of civilians who died were felled by Iranian cyanide gas, delivered not with the intent of killing civilians, but of driving out the Iraqi garrison. If any died because of Iraqi gas, it was collateral damage, not intentional.
Report: Saddam Hussein was behind an attempted assassination of former President Bush in early 1993, while he visited Kuwait City.
My Finding: Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with what Seymour Hersch of the New Yorker later in 1993 found to be an improbable story from first to last. The home-made bomb supposedly planted in the hotel where Bush was staying was actually found in a van miles away. Hersch noted in his report that it was NOT in Saddam’s interest to be involved. A mole inside the CIA named Jim Woolsey, the director, almost certainly cooked up the story to dissuade President Clinton from inviting a rapprochement with Baghdad.
Report: Saddam Hussein has been relentlessly seeking weapons of mass destruction.
My Finding: While Iraq had nuclear, biological and chemical weapon development programs during the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988, there is no evidence he has been hiding any such efforts from international view since November 1991, when Iraq completed the destruction of all such programs in compliance with the UN Resolutions passed at the end of the Gulf War.
Report: The UN weapons inspectors were responsible for finding Saddam’s weapons programs.
My Finding: The UN inspectors found nothing before or since November 1991 that they were not shown by the Iraqi government.
Report: Iraq has weaponized anthrax.
My Finding: Iraq tried to weaponize anthrax during the war with Iran but gave up. No government has succeeded in weaponizing anthrax, unless one means delivering dried spores in envelopes.
Report: In 1998, Saddam “kicked out the UNSCOM weapons inspectors.”
My Finding: The UNSCOM inspectors left in 1998 after Saddam let them look anywhere they wanted for weapons programs. When they found nothing, they announced it was Saddam’s responsibility to take them to his hidden sites and because he did not, they were leaving. They did not want to be bombed by US and British aircraft who were punishing Iraq for not showing their hiding places.
Report: In 2000, Palestinian President Yasir Arafat rejected a generous offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David, clear evidence he is not interested in the peace process. He did not even make a counterproposal.
My Finding: The proposal was not generous and could not have been accepted by Arafat. His negotiations with the Israeli government of Ehud Barak continued in secret and were publicly resumed when the Clinton administration ended. Barak and Arafat suspended the talks on a high note in February 2001 while awaiting the outcome of the Israeli elections.
Report: The World Trade Center twin towers were blown up by Al Qaida Muslims because they hate the United States and resent the wealth of its citizens.
My Finding: Al Qaida targeted the WTC in order to make a point about U.S. refusal to consider the interests of the Islamic world in its management of the world political economy.
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As long as I have your attention, Congressman, I will tell you that twice in 1997 I warned GOP Senator Jesse Helms, then chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, that if he did not hold hearings to understand why the Muslims attacked the WTC in 1993, they would be back to bring down the twin towers. I assure you that I had no contact at all with the FBI or the CIA or the DIA. All I did was add 2+2. There wasn’t even any connecting of dots. It was a no-brainer.
In early January 1980, by the way, I spent three days in close quarters with former California Governor Ronald Reagan, with another 20 fellows helping him prepare for the presidential primaries. The record should show that in a discussion about the intelligence agencies, I suggested that we could do without the CIA and DIA and hire a smart college kid to keep track of where the International Monetary Fund was dispensing money, on condition the recipient nation take their economic advice. I told the Gipper we would find that in six months there would be riots in the streets.
This is a short list of all the persistent errors I find in the news media. It is not because journalists are dishonest or incompetent, but because they can only report what the politicians are saying about the flow of events. It does not matter that Louis Farrakhan never said "Judaism is a gutter religion," the press will continue to report that he did say he did until an important politician says it was a mistake, a misunderstanding, and other politicians are forced to agree. Global warming is a giant hoax, I think, but it lives on because enough people will profit by keeping the idea alive. Slobodan Milosevic was a good guy with whom we negotiated until it was decided he was a bad guy, at which time it served the purpose of our political class to have him branded a war criminal.
I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, Congressman, but I have little hope that the contributions of your intelligence committee will amount to a hill of beans as long as you believe what you read in the newspapers. You have to use your committee to begin asking questions nobody else is asking, and the news media MAY be there to report on the answers you get.