David Rose in the Observer is prompted by the NYT mea culpa on media sources to have a look at the "hidden agendas on all sides" that "can still distort reporting". Naturally enough, he concentrates on the INC-Chalabi stories of WMDs, and the accusations now flying around that they were pushing an Iranian agenda for getting rid of Saddam. He then goes on to describe the OSP, "Office of Special Plans", within the Pentagon, whose job it was to plan Iraq's post-war future. There were, it seems, stories that the OSP was being used to channel WMD stories through to Dick Cheney:
All the stories about it appear to share a single source, Karen Kwiatkowski, a now-retired lieutenant colonel who worked in the Pentagon - but not in the OSP - on North Africa. So how would she know what went on there? The answer she gave me was that she regularly had 'conversations in the hallway' with someone who did, an official called John Trigilio. Trigilio denied any such conversations took place, saying neither he nor his colleagues ever met an INC defector. Why would Kwiatkowski make it up? On the one hand, she has written for Pat Buchanan's extreme right-wing journal, the American Conservative, and described herself to me as a 'conservative anarchist'. Meanwhile, her story first surfaced - with her name concealed - in a dubious outlet: the Executive Intelligence Review, a virulently anti-semitic magazine run by conspiracy theorist, Lyndon LaRouche.
Kwiatkowski told me she admired LaRouche's work and admitted giving his editor, Jeff Steinberg, an interview. However, she also needed an echo chamber. She got one in Patrick Lang, former Middle East chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency, who supplied quotes endorsing her story. He sent an email to several journalists, enclosing the transcript of the Kwiatkowski-Steinberg interview. 'Jeff Steinberg is a first-rate scholar,' Lang wrote. 'I am not concerned where he works.'
Lang popped up again, last week with the claim that he had learnt from his associates that Chalabi and his defectors were an Iranian intelligence scam, 'one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history'.
I assume Lang, who is widely admired in Washington, would not knowingly disseminate inaccurate information. But it is possible his political beliefs may make him credulous. The Pentagon, he said, had been seized by extremists, 'Zionist revisionists', whose goal was to 'de-Arabise' the Middle East. Ariel Sharon's Likud party had in effect directed America's invasion of Iraq, and the way to visualise Likud's power was as 'a steel barbell, with one ball in Israel and another in the Pentagon, among the neo-conservatives'.
It is, I suppose, interesting that such groups exist, if we can take Rose's word for it, but this is lunatic fringe stuff - Lyndon Larouche; the Likud party directing America's invasion of Iraq. The strongest language Rose manages about this is that it's "contentious", which seems a little understated.
It's certainly true though that there are hidden agendas within the media as far as Iraq is concerned. Take Rose himself:
Now, with the war fought and Iraq on the brink of catastrophe, does any of this matter? It does: for the propaganda battles continue to resonate politically. Disinformation helped to drag Britain and America into a war.
On the brink of catastrophe? Don't you just wish. And this line about disinformation dragging us into the war....wasn't there something about Saddam not complying with UN resolutions? Just a vague far-off memory now of course, as the media line hardens around the idea that the sole reason for war was that Tony lied to us about Saddam having WMDs ready to fire in 45 minutes....