Saturday, July 12, 2003
An ax to grind: Clifford D. May over at National Review Online offers some background on one person that the New York Times and other national media outlets are touting as a nonpartisan, career foreign diplomat whose criticisms against the Bush administration should be taken seriously.
Joseph C. Wilson, in a Times op-ed last week alleged that: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
After raising some questions about Wilson's detective work, something any properly skeptical editor should do, May outlines why Wilson may not be the unbiased, principled observer that he claims to be.
- He was an outspoken opponent of U.S. military intervention in Iraq.
- He's an "adjunct scholar" at the Middle East Institute — which advocates for Saudi interests. The March 1, 2002 issue of the Saudi government-weekly Ain-Al Yaqeen lists the MEI as an "Islamic research institutes supported by the Kingdom."
- He's a vehement opponent of the Bush administration which, he wrote in the March 3, 2003 edition of the left-wing Nation magazine, has "imperial ambitions." Under President Bush, he added, the world worries that "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness."
- He also wrote that "neoconservatives" have "a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party." He said that "the new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our world view are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme."
- He was recently the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions — and even the no-fly zones that protected hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
- And consider this: Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wilson did believe that Saddam had biological weapons of mass destruction. But he raised that possibility only to argue against toppling Saddam, warning ABC's Dave Marash that if American troops were sent into Iraq, Saddam might "use a biological weapon in a battle that we might have. For example, if we're taking Baghdad or we're trying to take, in ground-to-ground, hand-to-hand combat." He added that Saddam also might attempt to take revenge by unleashing "some sort of a biological assault on an American city, not unlike the anthrax, attacks that we had last year."
Early on in my journalism career, I had lunch with a source who had all sorts of juicy info about one of the city's civic leaders. The information made my eyes grow large with the prospect of an award-winning array of stories. When I ran the information past my editor and my publisher, they cautioned me: "What's your source's interest in the issue? Where's his ax to grind?"
After doing numerous interviews, tracking down leads and scouring public records, it turned out that many of the "tips" had little basis in fact. Those that did have a factual basis were colored to the point of being lies.
The New York Times, likewise, would have been well-advised to consider their source.