WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2003
SPINNERS LIST: As usual, the spin was preceded by a small bit of lying. Yesterday, shape-shifting secretary of state Colin Powell issued a list of thirty countriescountries supporting the war in Iraq. As well see, Powells claim was heavy with spin. But before the general released his list, the Administration had engaged in its trademark lying. Dan Balz did the honors in this mornings Post:
BALZ: The list was shorter than previously suggested by administration officials, who recently said the coalition supporting the United States was in the high two digits, and it included such nations as Eritrea, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Colombia and Ethiopia, which have little to offer beyond moral support. Only a handful will contribute to the U.S. military effort in the Persian Gulf region.Thirty is not in the high two digits. But dissembling has become second nature to this Adminso before the good general released his spin, others had offered a flatly bogus assertion.
Meanwhile, how drenched in spin was Powells claim? Balz noted that some of Powells List of 30 were offering almost no real support. Later, Balz even reported that some of those on the list released by the State Department were surprised to be included. Colombia was one example:
BALZ: A senior diplomat at Colombias embassy in Washington seemed unaware that his nation had been listed. Asked what support Colombia would contribute, the diplomat referred to a statement issued by his government Monday expressing support for stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and prevention of all forms of terrorism in a timely manner.Wow! That should really help out! But then, other countries were scrambling to downplay their support for the U.S. action. An accompanying article by Jonathan Weisman noted that two of the 30Hungary and the Netherlandshad specifically issued public statements noting that they wouldnt send troops to Iraq. In the New York Times, meanwhile, Alan Cowell noted that even Spainone of the Azores Big Threehad issued such a statement:
COWELL: [I]n Spain Prime Minister José María Aznar emphasized that Madrids support for Washingtonwhich has been greeted with widespread opposition by Spaniardsfell short of combat involvement.How did he get to go to the Azores? Meanwhile, others in the Group of 30 detailed the limits of their support:
COWELL: In the protracted diplomacy leading up to the ultimatum, the United States and Britain calculated that they had won unequivocal support from several former Warsaw Pact allies of Moscow now poised to join the European Union.Gee, thanks. Meanwhile, Hungarys government said it would not send troops or combat units to Iraq, limiting its support to the use of the Taszar Air Base, where hundreds of Iraqi émigrés are being trained as liaison officers for American forces in the gulf. This is the level of support Powell had to include just to get his spun list up to 30.
Of course, none of this has a thing to do with the merits of the impending action. For now, well leave that discussion to others; well focus today on the endless dissembling of those now in charge in DC. But lets take a look at the bright side of this. Powells delivery was simply flawless as he offered his List of 30. So look for a gang of hapless Post columnists to say how persuasive and convincing he was. It doesnt take much for Colin Powell to please the Cohens, the McGrorys or the Raspberrys. Soon the Gang of 3 will sing high praise for Powells Gang of 30.
And what does a major newspaper do when a Major Official releases such a list? Simple! At the Post, they take the spin and make it a headline! Was it true? Had Powell really named thirty nations that were supporting the US in Iraq? The claim was spintendentious at best. But at the Post, the spin became a page-one headline! Here is what the headline says at the top of this mornings front page:
POST HEADLINE: U.S. Names 30 Countries Supporting War EffortWas that true? Or was that spin? At the Post, its a top-of-page headline.
ADDING TO THE BUFFOONISM: Adding to the general buffoonism, Powell said that his List of 30 understated the actual case. Once again, Balz does the honors:
BALZ: Powell said fifteen more nations privately support military action to support Hussein.They support itbut only in private! Where else can you go for such clowning? And, adding to the air of high camp, the New York Times decided to add these Private 15 to the Public 30. In this mornings print edition of the Times, Cowells text says this:
COWELL (print edition): Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said 30 nations supported the move to disarm Iraq, including Estonia and Uzbekistan.But if you look at the story on the Times web site, the number has been changed. It says this:
COWELL (on-line edition): Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said 45 nations supported the move to disarm Iraq, including Estonia and Uzbekistan.Note to Powell: Say that a hundred nations support you in private. Mary McGrory will fall in a swoon, saying how convincing it all is.
CRYING WOLF: For the record, who said that the list would be in the high two digits? We had to search and search to find itthe Post had dumbed the agents words down. But who said it? It turned out to be Dep Def Sec Paul Wolfowitz, quoted by the Chicago Tribunes Howard Witt on March 12:
WITT: Wolfowitz also said that, even without Security Council endorsement of a war, Washington would be able to assemble a large coalition against Iraq.Omigod! It was Wolfie who got it wrong! Any chance that he told it to Bush? Or maybe it all depends on what the meaning of support in one form or another is.