[UPDATED 4/3 with Reaction from Document Expert] Forged Docs About Bush, No Problem, Just Don't Mess with Tupac!

April 1st, 2008 3:58 PM

NewsBusters.org | file photo of Mary MapesUpdate: Reaction from document examiner Emily Will added at bottom of post (April 3 | 13:02 EDT)

Mary Mapes (file photo at right), the former CBS producer behind the Bush National Guard memo scandal that eventually felled Dan Rather's career has a post up at the liberal Nation magazine's Web site insisting that comparisons between Memogate and the L.A. Times falling for fake documents about Tupac Shakur's murder are "simplistic, unfounded and unfair." (h/t Patterico)

Apparently, there's a profound difference between trying to sway a presidential election with questionable documentary evidence and messing with Tupac.

Mapes defended her work in Memogate before turning, predictably, to fire on the Bush administration. Of course in doing so, Mapes, who had just finished defending her reliability as a journalist, laid out at least two commonly-repeated falsehoods propagated by the Left about the Iraq war. First, Mapes insisted that:

The greatest fraud perpetrated in modern journalistic history was the Bush Administration's linking of Iraq to September 11.

But the Bush administration never argued such a thing in the lead-up to the war. As the BBC, hardly a Bush cheerleader, rightly noted in September 2003:

Mr Bush has never directly accused the former Iraqi leader of having a hand in the attacks on New York and Washington, but he has repeatedly associated the two in keynote addresses delivered since 11 September.... Despite his stated rejection of any clear link between Saddam Hussein and the events of that day, Mr Bush continues to assert that the deposed president had ties with al-Qaeda.

For her second charge/tired left-wing talking point, she insisted:

The biggest forgery foisted on the media was the Niger documents claiming that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake to be used in nuclear weapons.

Once again Mapes is wrong. Well, maybe half-right but wholly hypocritical.

While it seems pretty clear now that Saddam was unsuccessful in purchasing uranium, that doesn't mean he wasn't trying to buy it in the first place, which is the leap of logic that Mapes insisted on making from the discredited Niger yellowcake memo. You'd think Mapes wouldn't make this error, especially if she adhered to the now infamous Dan Rather "fake but accurate" defense.

Writing in April 2006 at Slate magazine, Christopher Hitchens noted that while the Niger document was a forgery, there's little doubt that Saddam was trying to, but never succeeded in, purchase uranium (emphasis mine):

In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)


[In the mid-1990s], most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden). There was one exception—an Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacy—namely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000.


In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious.

Update (April 3 | 13:02 EDT):

I received an e-mail yesterday from Emily Will, one of the document experts CBS hired who didn't tell Mapes what she wanted to hear:

I read your NewsBusters post with interest. I am one of the 4 document examiners retained by CBS to look at those National Guard documents, and one of the 2 who cautioned Mary Mapes directly not to use them. During my conversation with Ms. Mapes giving her my thoughts on the documents, I mentioned that I had noted some possible chronological inconsistencies among the various documents that had been provided to me. This irritated her, and has turned into her assertions that I am my opinion on the documents was politically motivated. I see that in her Nation piece she elaborates further on this idea. Rest assured that every true expert knows that an opinion based on politics rather than analysis of demonstrable observations is doomed to failure and is a good way to ruin a career.