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I am honored and flattered that the Washington City Paper found my reporting on Iraq for Insight on the News magazine so important that it assigned a reporter to ask me questions about it (Dept. of Media, “Last Man Standing,” 7/23).
Erik Wemple spelled my name right, for which I am grateful. That’s about all that he managed to get right in a dishonest masquerade of reporting that would have earned my daughter a failing grade in 10th-grade English. Wemple misquoted repeatedly from the original Insight article, and deliberately mischaracterized statements I made about it. I say “deliberately” because we went over these areas in detail to avoid ambiguity.
For example, I explained that the one area where the intelligence on Iraq fell down was the expectation of finding “stockpiles” of ready-made chemical weapons. I explained the concept of materials accountability, which is what misled U.S. intelligence analysts. It’s not complicated. Iraq purchased far more material to make chemical weapons than the weapons it claimed to have used or to have otherwise destroyed. From that discrepancy, among other things, the analysts extrapolated the size of the potential stockpiles; apparently, they were wrong.
I also explained that the United States has found large quantities of “agricultural pesticides” in buried ammo dumps all across Iraq that were in fact chemical weapons precursors. I expressed surprise that the U.S. government did not draw more attention to this fact.
Wemple dismisses “Timmerman’s case for a Bush slam-dunk on unconventional weapons.” Unfortunately for the truth, the items he then quotes were not any “case” I had concocted, but were drawn from testimony by the CIA’s former chief arms inspector, David Kay. Wemple cites the least among these examples, then ridicules the finds as inconsequential. This is called selective reporting. Some call it a firing offense in our profession.
Both Kay and his successor, Charles Duelfer, reported to Congress that while they found no “stockpiles,” the evidence they did find showed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in “material violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions many times over.
But this is just symptomatic of the tactics Wemple used throughout his piece. It’s called the willful and malicious misrepresentation of the truth by someone who is impervious to the facts.
I am proud to be the “last man standing” when it comes to reporting the truth.