Monday, September 19, 2016

"Mostly False" that France and Germany thought Iraq had WMD? Seriously?

PolitiFact recently weighed in on French and German intelligence about Iraq's WMD programs. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said the French and Germans believed Iraq had WMD.

PolitiFact ruled Wolfowitz's claim "Mostly False."

Some may remember the media routinely reporting that French and German intelligence assessments, along with others, mirrored those of the United States (bold emphasis added):
U.S. government analysts were not alone in these views. In the late spring of 2002 I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: Did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).

Other nations' intelligence services were similarly aligned with U.S. views. Somewhat remarkably, given how adamantly Germany would oppose the war, the German Federal Intelligence Service held the bleakest view of all, arguing that Iraq might be able to build a nuclear weapon within three years. Israel, Russia, Britain, China, and even France held positions similar to that of the United States; France's President Jacques Chirac told Time magazine last February, "There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right ... in having decided Iraq should be disarmed." In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Some may remember French President Jacques Chirac, who opposed the invasion, nonetheless admitting the French believed Iraq had WMD:
There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right to be disturbed by this situation, and it's right in having decided Iraq should be disarmed.
Chirac's statement came from early 2003, not long before the invasion started.

But it's a trivial matter for PolitiFact to work its way around these inconvenient facts by making its own one-sided case against Wolfowitz's claim.

Why would PolitiFact take that approach? Incompetence? Bias? A little of both?

I'm working on a column for Zebra Fact Check that will expose PolitiFact's fact-checking sins in excruciating detail.

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