November 17, 2003
Lying Liars and the Editors who Sponsor Them

Lying liar Molly Ivins latest column is in today's Seattle Times [print version only], in its entirety, including the most blatantly false bit

There was no nuclear weapons program. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda...
This in spite of my pre-emptive missive yesterday afternoon to editorial page editor James Vesely ("the final arbiter for material that appears in [the editorial] pages"). [Yes, Mr. Final Arbiter, Saddam Hussein really did have ties to Al Qaeda].

Granted, Mr. Vesely might not have received my e-mail in time to make any changes to today's newspaper. But given that I know without doubt that members of his staff, if not he himself, were aware of Molly Ivins numerous recent distortions of fact, would it not be his responsibility to his readers to check the facts on any of Molly Ivins columns? One would at least hope so.

So why would Molly Ivins' columns continue to appear unchecked, in spite of their defects? One can only speculate, but here are some theories:
1) Laziness /apathy
2) Insufficient staff for the exhaustive fact checking that Ivins requires.
2) Marketing reasons -- Molly Ivins is probably popular, and her loyal readers keep buying the newspaper whether or not Molly is honest
3) Partisan kinship
4) An attitude of "anything goes" on the editorial page.

In any case, Molly Ivins work belongs less to the category of editorial opinion and legitimate commentary than to the category of "humorous fiction" as one finds on the comics page.

James Vesely and the Seattle Times would do well to recognize that deliberately printing fiction as legitimate commentary does not increase readers' confidence in the rest of the paper's content.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at November 17, 2003 11:08 AM
Comments

Molly Ivans wrote:

There was no nuclear weapons program. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda...


The first two sentences were corroborated by David Kay's report. The most damning evidence in his report was that Iraq may have kept the ability to restart their nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs at a later date.

As for Hussein's ties to al Qaeda, it is very much a question of what you mean by "ties." The US had ties to al Qaeda, in that we had many known operatives living here and trained them in how to fly planes, etc. The stuff leaked to the Standard has been disavowed by the US Defense Department and at could just as easily be explained by al Qaeda trying and failing to court Hussein as anything else. Remember that al Qaeda was firmly opposed to secular government, and Hussein was completely secular. Bin Laden wanted Hussein out.

Posted by: Simon on November 18, 2003 06:32 PM

"Simon", you're fantasizing.

The DoD did not disavow the Feith report that was cited by the Weekly Standard, all they did was to decline to confirm "new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq". In fact, much of the information in the Feith report was not new. It's been out there before.

I read the Kay report. It would be nothing but sheer recklessness for any administration to conclude from that report that Iraq had no WMD programs of any kind, as you and Molly Ivins believe the administration should have done.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on November 18, 2003 09:24 PM

The Kay report most definitely said that no weapons of mass destruction have been found: "We have not yet found stocks of weapons...."

Ivins didn't say there was no WMD program, just no nuclear program. The Kay report indicated there was no active nuclear weapons program. "[T]o date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."


The full DOD sentence you excerpt is: "News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate." (emphasis added). How you define "ties" is, of course, pretty murky, so people can disagree about that, but there's still no evidence Hussein gave materiel or moral support to al Qaeda or shared common goals. There's greater evidence bin Laden wanted Hussein dead and his secular goverment replaced with a Taliban-style religious one.

Posted by: Simon on November 19, 2003 03:37 PM

Simon,

You're not reading what you're typing.

News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.

(my emphasis added)

It has nothing to do with the old information that had previously been discussed.

As to the divergent goals of Al Qaeda and Hussein, they were apparently operating under the old "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" alliance of convenience. We've seen it before; after all, you don't think France REALLY supported Hussein as much as they disliked the US?

Posted by: timekeeper on November 21, 2003 04:04 AM
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