Five Years Ago

Powell spoke, and the press missed an opportunity

Amidst Super Tuesday hoopla, it’s worth remembering that today is the five year anniversary of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation before the United Nations. This speech moved the U.S. closer to invading Iraq more than any other single event of the period.

All in all, the press telegraphed Powell’s claims with far too little skepticism. Of course, we now know that not only was much of what he said false, but that even Powell’s own intelligence analysts warned ahead of time that many of his central claims were weak.

In a 2004 CJR piece, Gilbert Cranberg recounted his multi-agency odyssey of trying to track down one deception from that day. Why did Powell create and add incriminating phrases in his dramatic reading of what purported to be an incriminating Iraqi radio exchange?

Five years later, and still no answer. That is, except the obvious one: the truth was nowhere near as damning as the administration needed it to be.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.