Wednesday, July 07, 2004

"No WMD"?

Different Reuters stories over the past couple of weeks characterize the question of Saddam's banned weapons in significantly different phrases.

This story, CIA had few Iraqi sources before war - spy chief, is dated Tuesday, June 22. The byline is Tabassum Zakaria, and the dateline is New York.

The Bush administration and U.S. intelligence agencies have been criticized for prewar allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Although CIA Director George Tenet, who will resign next month, had assured U.S. President George W. Bush there was a convincing case, no stockpiles of unconventional weapons have been found.

That may be the most accurate statement of the lot. In fact, banned, unconventional weapons have been found in Iraq, apparently from Saddam's arsenals. There have been no "stockpiles" unearthed to date, but as a search of the U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq will show, the word "stockpiles" does not figure in any of them. The Bush administration talked about "stockpiles." But the legal justification of the war is based on failure to comply with the resolutions.

A week later, on Tuesday, June 29, Reuters, in an article titled Terror threat remains despite better security, the characterization is somewhat different.

"No banned weapons have been found in Iraq and government officials fear the report, expected next month, will make uncomfortable reading for Blair."

The dateline is London, the reporter is Mike Peacock, and now there are no banned weapons.

Likewise on Sunday, July 4, Reuters ran Spy chiefs face Iraq criticism. The reporter was Kate Kelland, the dateline London. It contained this:

"No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq and the 45-minute claim has been discredited."

And that is palpably false. In May, a booby-trapped artillery shell filled with the sarin nerve agent exploded alongside a Baghdad roadoadside. Iraq Survey Group chief Charles Duelfer told Brit Hume in an interview that as many as a dozen WMD-filled weapons have been found recently in Iraq. Two days before Kelland's article was filed, the AP reported that, "Terrorists may have been close to obtaining munitions containing the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin that Polish soldiers recovered last month in Iraq." Cyclosarin is five times stronger than sarin and five times more durable. It turns out the gas in this case was so deteriorated that it would not have worked, but the head of Polish intelligence was rightly "mortified" when he learned terrorists were looking for these warheads and offering $5,000 apiece for them.

The odd part is, the earlier article was the truer one. The New York dateline may have something to do with that, I don't know. Perhaps the nut graf is different in London. But it puzzles me that, as the evidence dribbles in supporting the existence of Saddam's WMDs, Reuters seems to be moving its goalposts in, not out.