When Secretary of State Colin Powell stepped down earlier this month, the flood of political obituaries were packed with praise, but almost all contained obligatory paragraphs highlighting the top diplomat?s ?low point?: his February 2003 speech on Iraq to the United Nations.
But no matter how much conventional media wisdom says otherwise, Powell?s presentation on the eve of the Iraq War remains as true today as it was then, which is to say almost entirely so.
To claim, as the New York Times editorialized recently, that ?Mr. Powell in fact offered half-truths, poorly analyzed intelligence and outright fantasies? is pure fiction retrofitted to match anti-war rhetoric. Most of the case the four-star general presented was based not on shaky human sources, but telephone intercepts, satellite imagery, and not unimportantly, Saddam?s own admissions and track record.
Perhaps the most flagrant revisionism, though, occurred not in the opinion pages, but in news stories from the country?s most respected source for objective news: the Associated Press.
Near the end of its original story reporting Mr. Powell?s departure, AP scribes George Gedda and Deb Riechmann wrote: ?Powell will perhaps be best remembered for that U.N. Security Council appearance on Feb. 5, 2003, during which he argued that Saddam must be removed because of its possession of weapons of mass destruction. There is no evidence that those claims had any foundation.?
The AP report is, in turn, both misleading and simply untrue.
General Powell did not rest his entire case on Saddam?s possession of WMD. Nor was his primary argument founded on Saddam?s extensive ties to terrorism or his clear, savage history of human rights abuses, though both were included near the conclusion.
No, Mr. Powell tailored his message for his audience. His first and foremost argument was that Saddam was in violation of UN Resolution 1441, which warned Baghdad of ?serious consequences as a result of its continued violations.? Saddam was, in fact, in violation of Resolution 1441?and Mr. Powell proved it.
One of the first pieces of evidence offered by Mr. Powell was a telephone intercept of a conversation between two senior officers from the Republican guard on November 26, 2002?the day before UN weapons teams started up inspections. The most damning line: ?We evacuated everything. We don?t have anything left.?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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