Jack Kelly, national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, writes that journalists who accused Bush of "cherrypicking" the intelligence on Iraq's WMDs "have cherrypicked facts and quotes to give the false impression there is civil war in Iraq."
For instance, The Washington Post reported on Feb. 25 that 120 Sunni mosques had been attacked in retaliation for the destruction of the Golden Mosque, holy to the Shiites. In a March 3 news conference, Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said:
"We can confirm attacks on about 30 mosques around the country, with less than 10 of those mosques moderately damaged, and only two or three severely damaged. We visited eight mosques (in Baghdad) that were reportedly damaged. We found one broken window in those eight mosques."
The Washington Post turned Gen. Casey's words into this:
"He said 350 Iraqi civilians had died in a surge of sectarian killings, militia violence and revenge attacks on about 30 mosques around the country after the bombing."
Greyhawk, the Army officer who runs the Mudville Gazette blog, said: "The media is free to dispute the general's claims. But in this case they aren't, they are simply using his words selectively to support their own previously published fictions."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during a news conference that much of the reporting "has exaggerated the situation."
"The number of attacks on mosques had been exaggerated. The number of Iraqi deaths had been exaggerated. The behavior of the Iraqi security forces had been mischaracterized." But all this exaggeration "seem to be on one side," he said. "The steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and give heart to the terrorists."
There is sectarian violence in Iraq -- as there is in India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland -- but no civil war....
There is no civil war in Iraq, but al-Qaida would dearly love to provoke one. Knowledge of that fact should make journalists more careful about separating rumor from fact. But many apparently have chosen instead to act as the propaganda arm of our enemies.