Statement and Refutation

In Dana Milbank’s latest Washington Post piece, Mr. Milbank actually presents White House statements about Iraqi WMD, and then follows them up with direct refutations. This is a very welcome departure from the more typical but less informative style in which a journalist first writes “Democrats allege X” and then adds “Republicans deny allegation X,” followed by no reporting on which side is correct:

On Wednesday, for example, Bush suggested that war came because Saddam Hussein did not let inspectors into Iraq, when in fact it was the United States that called for inspections to end. “It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in,” Bush said.

That same day, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan said the White House never said Iraq was an “imminent” threat. But when McClellan’s predecessor, Ari Fleischer, was asked whether Iraq was an imminent threat, he replied: “Absolutely.” And when White House communications director Dan Bartlett was asked whether Hussein was an imminent threat to U.S. interests, he replied: “Well, of course he is.”

In addition, Bush aides have regularly said that they were following the advice of intelligence experts. On Thursday, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the weapons conclusion “was the judgment of our intelligence community, the judgment of intelligence communities around the world.” Yet the White House, at various times, went beyond what the CIA advised.