June 21, 2003


Robert Fisk hasn’t received much attention of late, mainly due to The Independent’s recent policy of hiding their star misreporter behind a cash firewall. But his column of June 11 has been reproduced here, and it is remarkable reading. Safe from the fact-checking piranhas of the blogosphere, this is what Fisk has been up to:

Then we have Paul Wolfowitz — or ‘Wolfie, as George Bush likes to call him — blowing the whistle on America’s motives for the invasion of Iraq. Asked at a Singapore conference why the (real) threat of North Korean nuclear weapons was being treated differently from Iraq’s (less real) threat, Wolfie was reported in ‘Die Welt’ to have given a truly revealing reply. “Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.” This, by the way, comes from the same man who told Vanity Fair that “for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on: Weapons of mass destruction.”

Incredibly, some three days after The Guardian had apologised for using the misleading and poorly-translated Die Welt quote - and many days after the inaccuracy had first been noticed - Fisk repeats it. By the time Fisk put this column together, the entire world knew exactly what Wolfowitz had said, in the English used during the press conference. But it suits Fisk’s purposes to use a version translated from English to German and back to English.

Maybe that’s how he writes all of his columns. It would explain a lot.

The second quote, from Vanity Fair, isn’t from Vanity Fair. The magazine never published Wolfowitz’s words in that form, nor did he say them. Fisk is misquoting a misquote. Here are the relevant lines from the DoD transcript:

”The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two.”

And this is the Vanity Fair version, as reported by CNN way back on May 30:

The article by Sam Tanenhaus quoted Wolfowitz as saying, "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

Another thing everyone can agree on: Robert Fisk is a complete basketcase.

(Apologies in advance to any bloggers who’ve already covered this. If you did, I failed to notice it.)

Posted by Tim Blair at June 21, 2003 03:46 PM

The misreporting and correcting of Wolfowitz's comments didn't stop the Weekend Australian publishing a letter from a reader in this weekend's "Editor" that relies on the misquote for its publication value. The letter, one of two "letters of the week" at page 5, and headed "It's the oil stupid" was published without editorial comment. What's become of Rupert?

Posted by: Geoff Kenney at June 21, 2003 at 11:34 PM

I started checking on what was being said in The Independent almost a year ago. Yahoo used to link to their opinion pages pretty regularly. Well they mumbled a bit about all the hatefull email coming at them from across the pond. Then most of the columnists e-mail address's diappeared. Now they require paid subscriptions.

For a group of clowns so intent on voicing their opinions, they sure seem frightened by others doing so.

Posted by: puggs at June 22, 2003 at 06:54 AM

Re: your comment "Apologies in advance to any bloggers who’ve already covered this. If you did, I failed to notice it."
By its' very natuure, you cannot have an excess of Fisk exposure

Posted by: Mikhal at June 22, 2003 at 11:47 AM

Will someone please slap this guy with a "D-Notice?" He's inciting me to violence. Possibly a riot - and I don't mean "Laff."

If censorship goes beyond actual calls for violence, there may be a problem. But tripe like "And meanwhile he’s fired a quarter of a million Iraqi soldiers from their jobs — ready, no doubt, to join the nascent resistance movement." I don't seem to recall that there is any requirement, in any form, to pay the armed forces of an enemy. If they join the "resistance" rather than accept food, medicine, clothing, job training, transport home, etc. how is that the fault of the Coalition?

Ah, Fisk... Next week, how the food from Israel (by way of Jordan, yet) is proof of a plot to force pork upon unsuspecting Muslim troops among the Coalition...

Posted by: John Anderson at June 23, 2003 at 07:01 AM

If Murdoch was to demand of excutives of each publication owned by NCP they ensure balanced journalism, every communard in U.S. and Australia and Britain would cry , wail, gnashing teeth to boot, that he was overthrowing editorial independence, censorship. As opposed to fair minded loveable types like Dowd, Fisk, Pliger Adams, the champions of truth at BBC-ABC.

Posted by: d at June 23, 2003 at 06:30 PM