Holbrooke: "I Don't Know the Truth"
Even his campaign's senior foreign policy adviser can't vouch for the New York Times's "explosive" explosives story. But that isn't stopping John Kerry from using it as a political prop.
11:00 PM, Oct 26, 2004 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
IT SEEMS THAT Monday's groundbreaking New York Times story on missing explosives in Iraq was certainly not groundbreaking and may not even be true. The allegations that nearly 400 tons of "high explosives" were missing from the al Qaqaa arms dump are based on charges leveled by Mohamed al Baradei, chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The claims are old and increasingly suspect. But that hasn't kept John Kerry's presidential campaign from using the story in a new television ad and in virtually every stump speech and media appearance over the past two days.
Now, however, the Kerry campaign admits that the information that is the basis of Senator Kerry's statements and his campaign advertisement may not even be true. Pressed on Tuesday afternoon about the accuracy of the allegations on Fox's Big Story with John Gibson, Richard Holbrooke, a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, said: "You don't know the truth and I don't know the truth." He later underscored this point: "I don't know the truth."
That minor issue hasn't kept the Kerry campaign from creating a television ad based on what may well be untruthful claims.
The ad, called "Obligation" shows John Kerry speaking solemnly about the responsibilities of a president.
The obligation of a Commander in Chief is to keep our country safe. In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives. The kind used for attacks in Iraq, and for terrorist bombings. His Iraq misjudgments put our soldiers at risk, and make our country less secure. And all he offers is more of the same. As President, I'll bring a fresh start to protect our troops and our nation. I'm John Kerry and I approved this message.
The claim is, well, explosive. John Kerry says the Bush administration's incompetence is killing U.S. soldiers. Reporting from a variety of news sources suggests that the explosives may have been gone before the U.S. troops arrived. In any case, Kerry's top advisers have conceded that their claims may prove false.
Yet, Kerry has leveled an extraordinarily harsh wartime charge against President Bush.
Shouldn't he at least make sure that such a charge is true?
It also now turns out that CBS 60 Minutes was planning to echo the New York Times story two days before Election Day. So what we have is an attempt by the New York Times, CBS, and a U.N. agency to work together to promote a very likely false story to damage President Bush's reelection prospects. Perhaps no one should be surprised that the liberal media and the United Nations are willing to go to quite extraordinary lengths to promote Kerry's prospects against Bush, but their behavior is not the issue. The issue is Kerry's willingness to advance allegations that his own campaign acknowledges may not be true.
William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard.