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Against the Grain

By Jim Wittebols

Buffalo, NY – A sixteen word statement, based on false documents, in President Bush's State of the Union address has gotten a lot of press in recent days.

But in this month's "Against the Grain," commentator Jim Wittebols said not enough questions are being asked - and not soon enough.

Commentator Jim Wittebols is a professor of communications studies at Niagara University. You can read his "Against the Grain" commentary below, or hear it by clicking the "listen" icon above.

The recent uproar over the uranium claim in George Bush's State of the Union makes a perfect example of how you really only get half or less of the story when journalists only focus on the issue of the moment.

Several interviews with Donald Rumsfeld across the Sunday morning talk shows were the last straw for me.

I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on this story since early this Spring, when a lot of the material related to the reliability of intelligence cited by Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Powell and their clueless leader was getting scrutinized in the European press and independent outlets in this country.

So, as a way of critiquing the news media's performance on this question, I want to spend the rest of this segment detailing the activities of the Office of Special Plans -a name which could not be more intentionally ambiguous for an operation with such deceptiveness.

According to numerous reports, but in particular a lengthy article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hirsch, the OSP was a creation of Donald Rumsfeld, who was frustrated with the analysis of both the CIA and his own Defense Intelligence Agency-analyses of Iraq that were not quite sinister enough to whip up support for a war.

These two groups, plus the State Department Intelligence division said in different papers at different times that they found no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and were wary of claims about weapons of mass destruction.

Not good enough for Rumsfeld, he created the OSP to counteract those reports. Headed by Abram Shulsky, a long time associate of Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, these folks proceeded to produce the kinds of reports that the administration war hawks needed to justify their pre-emptive war.

Much of this information came from Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, a character who came not to be trusted by the State Department and who has been convicted in Jordan of bank fraud.

Except for his American backers, Chalabi has no standing in Iraq-he left the country as a child in 1958-- and many of his predictions, such as the one about American soldiers being greeted with open arms in Iraq, have proven false.

But he did find a way to dovetail his interests with Rumsfeld and company's desire for a war which lacked any fact based rationale.

In essence, Iraqi exiles shaped the information used to convince at least some of the public that the war was justified due to imminent threats posed by Iraq.

Ex-CIA officer Larry Johnson is quoted in the London Guardian as saying the OSP "lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda for removing Saddam.

"It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything to the contrary."

By focusing on the personal disputes and blame shifting that has gone on over the last week, the media are missing the big picture.

It is not about sixteen words in a State of the Union speech. It is about wholesale deception which has led to the deaths of thousands.

I have noticed a distinct time lag between the time I begin to read about these kinds of issues and their appearance in the U.S. mainstream media - its about 2-3 months.

Even then, the information often comes out in an incoherent form which fails to capture the big picture and doesn't get the redundant coverage of a story like the Laci Peterson murder.

Establishment types like George Stephanopolous and Tim Russert don't get into these kinds of issues I just addressed because they know Rumsfeld won't return to their shows.

And it's the show, not the truth, which really matters.

Against the grain, I'm Jim Wittebols.

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