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A Compelling Story

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 31, 2006; 10:54 AM

Slowly but surely, investigative reporter Murray Waas has been putting together a compelling narrative about how President Bush and his top aides contrived their bogus case for war in Iraq; how they succeeded in keeping charges of deception from becoming a major issue in the 2004 election; and how they continue to keep most of the press off the trail to this day.

What emerges in Waas's stories is a consistent White House modus operandi: That time and time again, Bush and his aides have selectively leaked or declassified secret intelligence findings that served their political agenda -- while aggressively asserting the need to keep secret the information that would tend to discredit them.

The latest entry in Waas's saga came yesterday in the highly respected National Journal. Waas writes: "Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration."

This happened, Waas writes, after "then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true."

The aluminum-tube allegation was perhaps the strongest, most concrete piece of evidence the White House had in its campaign to drive the American public into the proper frame of mind to go to war against a country that had never before been seen as a threat to the national security.

In a March 2 story, Waas documented how Bush had been explicitly informed that the aluminum-tube allegation might not be true well before his State of the Union Address.

Yesterday's new twist is that Rove apparently understood that if American voters found out how Bush had intentionally misled them, the election might be lost. He was intent on not letting that happen.

Waas's narrative also helps explain why the White House felt so compelled to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson's charge in May 2003 that another key justification for war was manifestly false.

More of Waas's stories can be found here.

The blogosphere is abuzz with Waas's latest revelation. The Booman Tribune blog explains how it is in fact Waas's "magnum opus on the Plame Affair."

But in the traditional media, the reaction has been utter and complete silence -- both after Waas's well-documented March 2 story, and again today. There's not one word about it in a single major outlet this morning.

And that's just not acceptable. Waas's fellow reporters at major news operations should either acknowledge and try to follow up his stories -- or debunk them. It's not okay to just leave them hanging out there. They're too important.


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