war needs myth, not truth

No, Iraq did not throw UN weapons inspectors out of the country in 1998, and, yes, UN weapons inspectors did exceed their mandate sufficiently to collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to overturn the government. They left because they were told we were about to bomb Iraq, and they were indeed spies.

Facts are irrelevant to the warlords in Washington, but some of us prefer to relate to things other than myths. FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) alerts us to the sins of just one media outlet, USA Today, but it seems to me that these same false stories are ubiquitous in the American press and TV news.

An August 8 USA Today article that described how Saddam Hussein is "complicating U.S. plans to topple his regime" repeated a common myth about the history of U.S./Iraq relations. Reporter John Diamond wrote that "Iraq expelled U.N. weapons inspectors four years ago and accused them of being spies."

But Iraq did not "expel" the UNSCOM weapons inspectors; in fact, they were withdrawn by Richard Butler, the head of the inspections team. The Washington Post, like numerous other media outlets, reported it accurately at the time (12/17/98): "Butler ordered his inspectors to evacuate Baghdad, in anticipation of a military attack, on Tuesday night.

"USA Today wouldn't have to consult the archives of other media outlets to find out what happened: A timeline that appeared in the paper on December 17, 1998 included this entry for December 16: "U.N. weapons inspectors withdraw from Baghdad one day after reporting Iraq was still not cooperating." USA Today also reported (12/17/98) that "Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov criticized Butler for evacuating inspectors from Iraq Wednesday morning without seeking permission from the Security Council."

But there's more.
As for Iraq accusing weapons inspectors of being spies, Diamond might have mentioned that this accusation has proven to be correct. The Washington Post reported in 1999 (1/8/99) that "United Nations arms inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine the Iraqi regime."

USA Today was clearly aware of the spy story, since the paper wrote an editorial excusing it. Headlined "Spying Flap Merely a Sideshow" (1/8/99), the paper argued that "spying on Saddam Hussein is nothing new and nothing needing an apology. But the Clinton administration suddenly is scrambling to explain why it did just that." The paper added that the information gathered "no doubt found uses other than just weapons detection. That may not be playing by the books, but it's understandable and probably inevitable."

But this is all irrelevant, since both the Bushie gang and, apparently, the majority of Americans think it's really better not to let sleeping dogs lie.

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Published on August 13, 2002 2:22 PM.

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