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Jon Schwarz

Jon Schwarz is editor of MichaelMoore.com and was research producer for 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' He's also contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Saturday Night Live and NPR.

February 28th, 2013 12:25 AM

Bob Woodward Describes 'A Kind of Madness'

Bob Woodward went on TV yesterday and got very upset that Obama says the upcoming budget sequester will reduce the number of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf from two to one:

WOODWARD: Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’ Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.

Lots of people are making fun of Woodward for his belief that it would have been a terrible disaster if budget cuts had prevented Bush from invading Iraq. But let's also take the time to make fun of him for believing it would have been awful if Clinton hadn't bombed Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters.

The attack to which Woodward was referring took place in June, 1993, and was in retaliation for Iraq's attempt to assassinate George H.W. Bush in Kuwait the previous April. Six to eight civilians were killed, including the Iraqi painter Layla Al-Attar.

But here's the thing: after we conquered Iraq and captured the files at its (previously bombed) intelligence headquarters, we found no evidence of any kind that this Iraqi plot to kill Bush, Sr. had ever existed. This was reported in 2008 by Newsweek, when Newsweek was still owned by the Washington Post Company, which also employs...Bob Woodward. I assume the Washington Post had a subscription.

powell.jpgMoreover, the likelihood it was all crap was easily knowable by Clinton at the time in 1993. Soon after we bombed Iraq, Seymour Hersh reported the evidence used by Clinton was "conflicting and dubious." Madeleine Albright—exactly like Colin Powell ten years later—made dramatic but false claims at the UN. (And in fact Colin Powell was involved in the 1993 attack, in his position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's him describing it, at right.) The FBI inspector general eventually determined the findings of a bureau chemist, Frederic Whitehurst, had been altered; Whitehurst later left the bureau and said, "You can't keep your job too often in the United States government by saying what you think is true." And the CIA determined the plot in the first place might have been fabricated by Kuwait, which had the obvious possible motive of keeping tensions high between Iraq and the U.S.

So I guess Woodward hasn't been following the news much for the past twenty years. Either that or he just loves bombing Iraqis on principle.

BY THE WAY: America has ten aircraft carriers, our NATO allies have five more, and China has one. Iran has zero. We managed to survive with only one aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf up until 2010, when Obama doubled the number to two.

ALSO: Woodward is such a horribly sloppy reporter that it once actually motivated me to defend Donald Rumsfeld.

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