June 04, 2003

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH says that The Guardian is grossly distorting a comment by Paul Wolfowitz to make it sound like the war was about oil:

This time Wolfowitz is accused of now admitting the U.S. went to war because of oil.

The Guardian is headlining as follows:

"Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war.

The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.

The latest comments were made by Mr Wolfowitz in an address to delegates at an Asian security summit in Singapore at the weekend, and reported today by German newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt.

Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

But this quote is inaccurate on its face as well as taken completely out of context. Wolfowitz was answering a query regarding why the U.S. thought using economic pressure would work with respect to North Korea and not with regard to Iraq:

"The United States hopes to end the nuclear standoff with North Korea by putting economic pressure on the impoverished nation, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Saturday. North Korea would respond to economic pressure, unlike Iraq, where military action was necessary because the country's oil money was propping up the regime, Wolfowitz told delegates at the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore."

"The country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse," Wolfowitz said. "That I believe is a major point of leverage." "The primary difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options in Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil," he said. Wolfowitz did not elaborate on how Washington intends to put economic pressure on North Korea, but said other countries in the region helping it should send a message that "they're not going to continue doing that if North Korea continues down the road it's on." [my emphasis]

Now it might not have been smart of Wolfowitz, on the heels of the Vanity Fair interview imbroglio (however much the press distorted his comments there too) to describe Iraqi oil supplies using evocative language like "the country floats on a sea of oil." But any judicious analysis of his comments begs the conclusion that he was making an explicit reference to his contention that there were no viable punitive economic options with regard to pressuring Iraq on compliance with relevant U.N. resolutions given the monies the Baathist regime could access because of its oil supplies. This is patently different than the Guardian's spin (no, lie) that Wolfowitz said the U.S. had "no choice" regarding going to war in Iraq because of a too-tempting-to-pass-up-neo-imperialistic-oil grab-opportunity.

It is hugely irresponsible of the Guardian to run such a distorted, tabloid-style headline.

(Bolding added). Say it ain't so! Next they'll be rewriting Salam Pax's stuff to keep The Guardian from looking bad!

I predict, however, that a lot of people will jump on this false report and keep repeating it -- because that'll save them from having to talk about mass graves full of children. To coin a phrase: "Pheh."

UPDATE: Here's a direct link to the transcript.

Those online transcripts are hell on Dowdifications.