[Marxism] Jane Franklin: NY Times and WMDs IN CUBA

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 13 18:30:14 MST 2005

(One of our most knowledgeable scholars on Cuba shows how the NYT
set up Cuba as a target for charges of possessing WMDs. Important.)


November 17, 2005


by Jane Franklin

"U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" blared the
lead article of the New York Times on Sunday, September 8, 2002. That
fateful article is now a notorious example of the disastrous
symbiosis between the White House and corporate media. Using White
House sources, co-authors Judith Miller and Michael Gordon stated as
fact that "Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed
aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as
components of centrifuges to enrich uranium" for use in making
nuclear bombs.

The article warned that American officials are "alarmed" by Iraq's
"quest for nuclear weapons": "The first sign of a `smoking gun,' they
argue, may be a mushroom cloud." Here was the perfect gift to
President Bush's quest for war: an article parroting the
Administration's own words on the front page of the liberal New York
Times, "the newspaper of record." Timed for the Sunday talk shows and
their White House guests, the article was deployed within hours of
its publication by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State
Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, each
seizing the opportunity to spread their scary disinformation to TV
audiences throughout the country and the world.

On "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert, Cheney cited the article as
evidence for the administration's case: "There's a story in the New
York Times this morning...I want to attribute the Times. I don't want
to talk about, obviously, specific intelligence sources, but it's now
public that, in fact, [Saddam Hussein] has been seeking to
acquire...the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a
centrifuge" as a step toward building a nuclear bomb. General Colin
Powell, the media's image of a moderate (despite such achievements as
his cover-up of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, support for the
contras in Nicaragua, and oversight of the invasion of Panama), was
part of the show.

In his interview on "Fox News Sunday" by Tony Snow and Brit Hume,
Powell delivered a bellicose argument for quick "regime change"
because "time is not on our side." "As we saw in reporting just this
morning," he gravely warned, Hussein has ordered "the specialized
aluminum tubing one needs to develop centrifuges that would give you
an enrichment capability" for making nuclear bombs. Condi Rice,
interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition," stated that the
White House knows of "shipments going into Iraq" of aluminum tubes
"that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs."

She failed to mention that her own staff had been informed a year
earlier of serious doubts about that claim. Borrowing a key phrase
from the Times article, she warned, "We don't want the smoking gun to
be a mushroom cloud." This phrase became a rallying cry used by
President Bush on October 7 in Cincinnati in his speech that took the
nation to war. "Iraq," he said, "has attempted to purchase
high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas
centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."

"Facing clear evidence of peril," he continued, "we cannot wait for
the final proof--the smoking gun--that could come in the form of a
mushroom cloud." Four days later, a cowering Congress surrendered to
Bush the authority to make war. So the collusion between the Bush
Administration and the New York Times contributed to a catastrophic
war. Journalists reported what White House sources reported and then
the White House reported what the journalists reported. Even though
the so-called facts--later revealed as bald concoctions--were already
in dispute, White House fiction subtly morphed into truth because it
bore the respected imprimatur of the Times.

After the damage had been done, Times editors published on May 26,
2004, a pathetically anemic apology, given the role they had played
in facilitating a so-called War on Terror that threatens to be the
Forever War. Embarrassed by blatantly false reports, the editors
particularly mentioned six articles, including, of course, the
September 8, 2002 history-making piece. Judith Miller was responsible
for more of the articles than any other reporter (author or co-author
of four out of the six) but there were four other reporters who were
authors or co-authors: Chris Hedges, John Tagliabue, Patrick E.
Tyler, and Michael Gordon. Those five of course are not the only
eager mouthpieces.

Now publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is blaming Times editors as well
as Judith Miller for the phony pre-war reports about weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq. He said editors "didn't own up to it quickly
enough." Where was he? And why did the Times publish those jingoist
articles about WMDs in Iraq in the midst of a massive White House
campaign aimed at building support for Bush's plan to take out
Hussein and take Iraq? When it comes to foreign policy, the owners of
the New York Times are embedded with the White House team that feeds
"information" to the eager mouthpieces of corporate media. They
share, for examples, the same clear positions on such crucial matters
as Israel and Cuba.

Misinformation and disinformation in the New York Times and other
corporate media are of course nothing new. Those who want to explore
the sordid record, especially of the Times, should start by
consulting Lies of Our Times, a monthly magazine published from
January 1990 through December 1994; Edward Herman's forthcoming
article, "The New York Times Versus The Civil Society," in the
December, 2005, Z Magazine; and Howard Friel and Richard Falk's The
Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign

Judith Miller was able to use her job at a prestigious newspaper to
embed herself with key personalities like Cheney's favorite, Ahmad
Chalabi, an Iraqi with Iranian ties able to produce lying defectors.
At the White House itself Miller embedded herself with various
acolytes of Dick Cheney, not just I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Her
entanglement with John R. Bolton is equally insidious. Just as she
collaborated with the White House to stampede us into invading Iraq,
she attempted to do the same with Cuba.

In the spring of 2002 former President Jimmy Carter was scheduled to
visit Havana, becoming the first president in or out of office to
visit the island since the revolution of January 1, 1959. Because the
visit was contrary to the White House policy of isolating Cuba with
sanctions against travel and trade, the White House of course wanted
to sabotage Carter's trip. On May 6, six days before Jimmy and
Rosalyn Carter were to fly to Havana, Under Secretary of State for
Arms Control John Bolton delivered a speech to the Heritage
Foundation in Washington called "Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional
Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction." He announced, "The United
States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological
warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use
biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such
technology could support BW [biological warfare] programs in those

On cue, Judith Miller immediately published in the New York Times an
alarming article headlined "Washington Accuses Cuba of Germ-Warfare
Research." Framed in the "he says-she says" format of what passes for
"objective" journalism nowadays, Miller adroitly presented the case
on behalf of her White House connection. Who is the only person she
could find to deny or even question Bolton's claims? Why, a Cuban
official, of course. On the other side, cited in support of Bolton
were a Soviet defector, a Cuban defector, and unnamed "administration

Miller ended her article with a quote from right-wing Cuban-American
Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Republican of Florida), who has
publicly called for the assassination of President Fidel Castro.
Diaz-Balart said that Bolton's remarks "`begin to put into the proper
perspective the debate about Cuba, a terrorist state with biological
weapons 90 miles from the shores of the United States.'" Thus, the
article proceeded from Bolton's claim of a "research and development
effort" to Diaz-Balart's affirmation of "biological weapons" 90 miles
from Florida.

Hurried newspaper readers would probably miss the article's internal
evidence indicating opposition to Bolton's claim among Washington's
intelligence agencies. Miller reported that Bolton "publicly alluded
to conclusions that American intelligence agencies have reached in
recent months after protracted internal debate." Internal debate?
What's that about? An investigative reporter could have easily found
out. Bolton's unsubstantiated charge was so outrageous that it became
one of the main issues in his failure to be confirmed by the Senate
last summer as ambassador to the United Nations because he had tried
to bully analysts into saying that there was a definite attempt by
Cuba to develop biological weapons. Reportedly due to Cheney's
urging, Bush gave him the job anyway with a recess appointment.

The New York Times, which hardly pretends to cover news about Cuba
fairly, seemed like a good site for promoting Bolton's onslaught.
Miller's report aimed to convince Times readers that Cuba's vaunted
health system is actually a cover for terrorist activities. Why would
Jimmy Carter want to visit a rogue nation armed with germ weapons?

But this time the Administration was going too far. Even much of the
rest of the corporate media recognized how perverse it was to portray
Cuba's health system, admired and helpful around the world, as a
terrorist threat. There was a virtual chorus of "Where's the
evidence?" The Florida Sun-Sentinel brought up the question of
timing, following up with an editorial that asked, "Where's the
beef?" New York's Newsday called the charge of terrorism a
"Preposterous suggestion," noting that the upshot is that Cuba has
"the most sophisticated biomedical resources in Latin America," and
adding, "So what?" Skeptical responses came from all over, including
the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the Guardian of London.
(Bolton's charge was part of a broader campaign alleging WMDs in
Cuba, as explored in my article, "Looking for Terrorists in Cuba's
Health System," Z Magazine, June 2003.)

Jimmy Carter did not call off his trip. Quite to the contrary. As he
and Rosalyn took a tour with Fidel Castro of the Center for Genetic
Engineering and Biotechnology, he revealed that during briefings
before his visit, he asked the White House, State Department and CIA
if there were any "possible terrorist activities that were supported
by Cuba," and the answer from all three was "No." Why didn't Judith
Miller do that? Why didn't her editors make sure she did?

It would have been interesting to be the fly on the wall when Bolton
visited Judith Miller last summer while she was in jail. Was it
friendship or fear that took him there? The New York Times has never
apologized for the May 7, 2002, report that promoted Bolton's false
charge about Cuba even though the editors must have heard what Carter
had to say just a week later.

In October, as her stories continued to unravel, Miller told Times
reporters, "`W.M.D.--I got it totally wrong.'" Blaming her sources,
she said, "`The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered
them--we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.'"
It shouldn't take much effort to find better sources than Ahmad
Chalabi, John Bolton, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, and the
rest of the Bush mob.

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