June 05, 2003


One of Maureen Dowd’s impressive sources (her optometrist? Some gal at the waxing salon?) has Colin Powell nailed:

As the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, prepared to make his case for invading Iraq to the UN on February 5, a friend of his told me that he had to throw out hours' worth of sketchy intelligence other Bush officials were trying to stuff into his speech. He reportedly became so frustrated that he tossed several pages in the air saying, "I'm not reading this. This is $%&."

We cross now to an ABC interview with Anthony Cordesman:

MARK COLVIN: What do you think of the report that Colin Powell looked at some of the intelligence he was given and said that it [was] a pile of expletive deleted?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: The problem with reports like that is, I doubt that they come from Colin Powell.

One problem when you're doing these unsourced background reports is you can say anything you want. You as a journalist are basically accusing governments of not being responsible by quoting people you cannot name saying that somebody said something under circumstances where you have no corroborating evidence.

And it is a fascinating exercise in how you can use any rumour or report you want to criticise a government. Again, if you look down the list of what Secretary Powell said, the uncertainties and the issue he raised are raised in the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC reports, they weren't invented whole.

Could anybody have known exactly what Iraq was doing in a climate of concealment, of lies, of proven cheating, of continued imports, of discovered programmes that were in clear violation of the UNSCOM regulation? The answer to that is no – intelligence isn't psychic and it can't look inside buildings of trace every activity, there's no magic capabilities involved.

Meanwhile reader Bruce Bridges has begun a letter-writing campaign to the New York Times in which he complains bitterly about Maureen Dowd comments - that he has aggressively altered by means of Dowdesque ellipses:

Dear Editor,

I would like to bring to your attention something that Maureen Dowd wrote today:

"For the first time in history ... war is over."

It seems that this is an incredible statement to make even if you are a Pulitzer Prize winner. How can she be so sure? What gives her the ability to make such an announcement?

Have your fact checkers confirmed that this is actually true?


Bruce Bridges

Join in the fun!

Posted by Tim Blair at June 5, 2003 03:29 AM

Here's my contribution:

Dear editor,

I couldn't help but be shocked by the bombshell Maureen Dowd drops in her June 4th piece, "Bomb and Switch":

"Before the Iraq invasion...Colin Powell...cooked...9 and 10 year old boys...for...the U.N."

If she can back this up, where is the evidence? Why is this the first I've heard of such a bizarre ritual? Is this information that was sourced by Ms. Dowd herself, or was it unearthed by some poor intern stringer with no hope of pay or byline?

I look forward to more in-depth reporting on this grotesque and macabre revelation.

Best regards,

Eric Alexander

Posted by: Eric Alexander at June 5, 2003 at 03:59 AM

More juicy quotes from "Bomb and Switch" (with my comments)

"...America has no intelligence." Tell us how you really feel!

"For the first time in history, America...went to war after the war was over." Yup, unique to say the least....

"...reporters....were guilty of hypebole..., '...the President....saw 9- and 10-year-old boys coming...in Baghdad.'" Please cite source; this is simply a disgusting statement and its author(s) deserve(s) the rebuke of every decent person.

"But it was...the U.S....that...struck a Western compound, killing eight Americans." They didn't kill Kenny! You bastards!

"'...Western Europeans...inflamed the Muslim world, softened and significantly weakened...the pillars...of the U.N....,' said Pew's director, Andrew Kohut." Huh? I thought the chant went "Europeans good, Americans bad. Europeans good, Americans bad. Four feet good, two feet bad..." Well, I suppose he's right, though, about the inflammation. France can't be moving fast enough toward Shari'a for some fundamentalists but it ain't for lack of effort....

Posted by: Tongue Boy at June 5, 2003 at 05:15 AM

My letter:

Dear Sir,

In response to Maureen Dowd’s recent article (June 5th, 2003) titled “Iraq dictum: all's well that ended well” I am shocked at the following statements:

As the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, prepared to make his case for invading Iraq to the UN on February 5, a friend of……….British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and President George Bush……….saw 9- and 10-year-old boys coming out of a prison in Baghdad………offering a bouquet of new justifications for a pre-emptive attack…….against Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

This is horrible!!!! Can she prove this……I mean to justify an attack on Iraq based on little boys being released from prison is scandalous!!!! I knew they were heartless, but to imply that these little children we released to work on Saddam’s WSD program is shocking!!!

Please investigate these claims and tell Maureen to keep on digging….as more of these lies are exposed, the motives of the Bush regimen will be exposed.



Posted by: j at June 5, 2003 at 05:43 AM

Geez, this is fun:

The Time’s…[v]anity…almost unnoticed but huge…was…scary. [W]e express our alarm to the world now…crying…[p]ew…

Posted by: E.A. at June 5, 2003 at 06:43 AM

ALP frontbenchers and a rear-ender finally admitted today: the Kockums submarine is a fabulous...death trap ...wasted...taxpayers money and....the Australian Submarine Corporation dodgy ... we were playing politics.We kocked up.

Posted by: d at June 5, 2003 at 09:01 AM

Dear Editor,

I was shocked and amazed to read Maureen Dowd's piece, first, that:

"...al-Qaeda...may be...a good idea..."

and was even more shocked to read:

"...Maureen Dowd...co-ordinated...September 11"

How dare your hire one of the WTC terrorists as an op-ed columnist! I am outraged!

Scott Helgeson

Posted by: scott h. at June 5, 2003 at 09:31 AM

I think I just noticed the best "Dowdified" quote:

"...Maureen Dowd...is $%&."

Posted by: scott h. at June 5, 2003 at 09:33 AM

Being mean about MoDo is an exercise in futility -- how do you take the piss out of someone who is a walking, talking, fully articulated self-parody?

Posted by: Craig Ranapia at June 5, 2003 at 10:11 AM

The first bit of this post is nonsense, on two counts.

First, the "this is bullshit" story has been around for days, first published on June 3 in the U.S. News & World Report (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/030609/usnews/9intell.htm). Dowd didn't break it, and is far from the only outlet reporting it.

Second, it's nonsense to imply that reporting on the basis of unnamed sources is automatically supsect: if reporters stopped using sources who disclose information on condition that their identity not be revealed, our newspapers would be empty. There's a reasonably well-defined set of rules for using unnamed sources, and most big media outlets require at least two corroborating sources for this sort of reporting.

Given the nature of this "leak" and the absence of any denial from Sec. Powell, it's almost certain that the source is someone on his staff, who acted with the authority of Powell himself.

It's pretty obvious why he would want to do this . . . and it seems to me to bode ill for a number of people in the Administration. Lying to the American people to get them to support a war - no matter how justified it is on other grounds - is a pretty big breach of trust, as I think we're about to find out.

Posted by: Mork at June 5, 2003 at 10:50 AM

If, per unfortunate chance, you should meet MoDo in the flesh, drop the jaw and fix the eyes and noggin into a deadpan, gobsmacked , bottom licking expression which carries also the unexpressed but transparent sentiment: MoDo, it's all so true, you are so so right.
Then, crack up in a hearty laugh.

Posted by: d at June 5, 2003 at 10:52 AM

You were probably too young at the time Timbo but the Watergate scandal was broken by err unnamed sources!

Posted by: Homer Paxton at June 5, 2003 at 10:59 AM

Mork, the fact that several "outlets" pick up and repeat a story doesn't mean it's true. Everything is based on the original story, which is based on a single unnamed source. There's no way to two-source something like this, and few newspapers require two sources if the story is juicy enough. (How often do you get two leakers in the room with Powell?)

Nor does Colin Powell's silence mean anything: If he denied everything said about him, he'd have no time to do anything else.

Bush hates leaks, and I don't think Powell would play that game with this president.

Powell clearly felt there was strong evidence that Saddam had a WMD program, or he wouldn't have said so at the UN. Whether he thought some of the intelligence was "bullshit" we don't know.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at June 5, 2003 at 11:09 AM

Joanne: I would bet big money that given that fact that the US News story is reported as fact rather than as "a source tells us", they had at least one corroboration (or non-denial) by someone else in the room - remember that there were "two dozen" people who saw this . . . and if you've got one good source, it's not that hard to get corroboration from other people, unless they're prepared to lie outright. All you have to do is tell them what happened, ask them whether it's true, and if they aren't prepared to say "yes", you ask them if they are prepared to say that it's not true. At that point, a "no comment" becomes a corroboration.

Anyway, there are lots of other original stories reporting more or less the same thing: try this description of the same meeting in Newsweek: http://msnbc.com/news/919753.asp?0cv=CB10

As for the significance of a non-denial: Powell refutes plenty of innacurate reporting about himself, if it's significant enough. If it were untrue, and he thought it damaged his interests, he'd deny it.

We also know that Powell (and those close to him) are very good at getting their differences with the Pentagon hawks into the public arena.

The only way this isn't true is if Powell WISHES it were true . . . which tells you pretty much the same story.

Posted by: Mork at June 5, 2003 at 11:21 AM

nonsense Mork,nonsense.And the last line ???????

Posted by: d at June 5, 2003 at 12:37 PM

Dowd appears to have crossed over to the dark side. Her latest article states:

"Conservatives...are...not...foes. Saddam...Iran...North Korea...Western Europeans...and...the Muslim world...are."

Posted by: Alex Robson at June 5, 2003 at 12:43 PM

Am I evil? I am man.
My dealy:

Dear Editor:

I am shocked and appalled by the column entitled "Bomb and Switch" by your award winning columnist Maureen Dowd. As much as it pains me to type it, here is a verbatim quote that just makes my skin crawl.

"A new Pew survey of 21 nations shows ... Americans and Western Europeans, ... Muslim world support for the war on terrorism, and ... global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era... , the ... C.I.A. ... and ... Pentagon."

This is outrageous! I demand that these blatantly pro-Bush statements be a) apologized for, and b) never repeated. What happened to the New York Times? Just because a substantial portion of your paper is made up or improperly credited does not mean you can shirk your duty to attack the Bush Junta at every turn.

I could not be more disappointed in you. Shame.

Dave Mason
Omaha, Nebraska
Silently Weeping

Posted by: Dave at June 5, 2003 at 02:18 PM

Unnamed sources are fine if independently corroborated, sure. But Mork is simply hypothesising, because he apparently wants to believe. Since no one involved is offering corroboration, we cannot know whether or not this is bullshit, and as an example of naughty Bush trumping up the war, it therefore doesn't fly. It is useless to the record as anecdotal evidence and it can't be used to build any sort of case.

And if you believe editors are all doublechecking their journalists in the august organs of today, I say to you: Jayson Blair.


Posted by: Dave F at June 5, 2003 at 07:02 PM

Yeah, Dave, or perhaps Mork's hypothesizing because he's trying to work out the most likely chain of events that led to this story being reported in all these places in this way, and he's honest enough that he's prepared to face up equally to truths that he finds palatable and those that he does not. Maybe he's also prepared to judge leaders he supports by the same values he applies to leaders that he does not.

But obviously, he's gone crazy, writing such things and talking about himself in the third person.

Posted by: Mork at June 5, 2003 at 07:55 PM

Here is my attempt

To quote Muaureen Dowd in her op-ed column: "...Al-Qaeda....is....crying....for....Ted Koppel"
I had no idea terrorists were fans of Nightline.

Of course, it could read like this: "Al-Qaeda...is...crying...for...the Times"
Maybe they were big Howell Raines fans, that wouldn't suprise me.

It's informative quotes like this that set the New York Times apart from all other newspapers. Really.

Posted by: Richard at June 6, 2003 at 03:32 AM

Where's Niall?
Out riding his bike, at speed, alone, with his mates?

Posted by: Pete at June 10, 2003 at 01:22 AM