Thursday, December 18, 2003

Pillars made of straw and forged documents

Last week Jonathan Gurwitz, the Express-News’ right-wing columnist, rushed out a column
in the wake of the U.S. capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Gurwitz sought to trumpet the capture as an ideological victory for war proponents and as an excuse to throw sand in the face of liberal war critics.
“Saddam’s capture, news reports erode anti-war myths” touted the headline.
The only problem is that Gurwitz based much of his column on a report in the London Daily Telegraph that as it now turns out was based on a phony document. (Thanks to Allen Brill for the links).

“Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that the new Iraqi government has uncovered documentary proof that Mohamed Atta, mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, was trained in Baghdad by the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.”

I knew when I first read Gurwitz’ column that it did not pass the smell test but I had no way of proving it. As it turns out, it was only a matter of time until someone exposed the story as a sham - MSNBC - Dubious Link Between Atta and Saddam.

“A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in  the summer of  2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.”

Gurwitz also throws out another lame argument in his column which tries to invent the “pillars of criticism” upon with liberal anti-war sentiments are based.

“The third pillar of criticism ridicules the notion that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction or programs to produce them. This pillar, too, is crumbling.”

That’s because this pillar is made of straw - as in it’s a strawman argument. The majority of war critics have never denied that Hussein “possessed weapons of mass destruction” - i.e. in the past tense. That Hussein once possessed chemical weapons is a historical fact. The question was whether or not he still has these weapons in sufficient quantities so as to be an imminent threat and thus merit a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. military. It looks like that is the real myth. Even now the Bush administration’s chief weapons hunter in Iraq is about to give up and throw in the towel.

I would say that Gurwitz and the Express-News owe their readers a correction, but I doubt that any will be forthcoming.

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