Winston Churchill and Mark Twain are among those credited with some version of the observation that “a lie gets half-way around the world before the truth gets its shoes on.” An April 25 Washington Post correction suggests that occasionally the truth—with the help of a Freedom of Information Act request and enough time—may catch up.
Here is the correction in full:
“Walter Pincus’s Fine Print column in the Nov. 29, 2012 A-section cited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publications for his assertion that the Corps had built facilities in Israel used for handling nuclear weapons. Pincus no longer retains the documents that were the basis for this statement. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the Army by a reader seeking to verify Pincus’s claim, an attorney for the Corps wrote that ‘none of the facilities that USACE has been involved with [in Israel] were nuclear weapons handling facilities.”
Early this year, Pincus argued that pro-Israel lobbies, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, did indeed “intimidate” the U.S. Senate (“Another day of Hill trivia, and Hagel plays along,” Feb. 5, 2013). Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), had been questioned during the confirmation hearing considering his nomination to be secretary of defense about having made that assertion.
Although Hagel’s record included a number of positions worth Senate scrutiny, including opposition to sanctions on Iran for its presumed nuclear program and statements equating both Hezbollah and Hamas terrorism with Israeli counter-attacks, Pincus characterized the confirmation hearing largely as senators pandering to pro-Israel or anti-administration voters.
Last year, Pincus argued (“Is the U.S. going too far to help Israel?” May 17, 2012) that the United States, in a time of budget pressure, could not afford to help Israel pay for the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system. Iron Dome subsequently proved successful in reducing potential damage and casualties from Palestinian rocket fire during November’s “Pillar of Defense” operation against Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip. It thereby probably helped limit the extent of the fighting. Israel and the United States may share Iron dome technology.
A Pincus column headlined “Familiar theme to Netanyahu’s call to arms—budgetary woes” (August 21) started this way:
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing domestic problems at home the past few weeks, began frantically banging his ‘I am threatening to attack Iran’ drum. One reason, which has gotten little publicity in the United States, is that Netanyahu has budget problems.” Pincus added that “Netanyahu’s Iran drumming, though in Israel a tool in the defense budget fight, is also directed at getting President Obama to take a more aggressive public military stance toward Tehran.”
Even if his characterization of Israeli politics was correct, Pincus was silent on the over-riding reality: Iran’s radical Islamic regime is governed by leaders who have incited genocide against the Jewish state.
In 2011, Pincus again sniped at Washington’s aid to Jerusalem in a column headlined “U.S. must reevaluate its assistance to Israel” (October 18). “If Israel can reduce its defense spending because of its domestic economic problems, shouldn’t the United States—which must cut military costs because of its major budget deficit—consider reducing its aid to Israel?”
Pincus called the American commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge—a pledge gong back three decades—“a bizarre formula.” According to him it fueled “a U.S.-generated arms race” among Washington’s Middle Eastern security partners.
But The Post’s security and defense columnist tends to ignore what America gets in return for military assistance to Israel.
Jerusalem must spend most of that aid in the United States, as required by law; this both supports employment and helps keep defense production lines operating. Israeli-pioneered technology used by U.S. forces includes advances in remotely piloted aircraft and the co-developed helmet-mounted display system for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Then there is the modern, friendly U.S. Navy port of call at Haifa, and regional intelligence cooperation.
Regardless, Pincus’ view of Israel leans to the negative, obsessively so. In 2009, when Charles “Chas” Freeman withdrew as head of the National Intelligence Council, Pincus spent parts of four columns downplaying the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia’s Saudi and Chinese ties and his bizarre anti-Israel statements. Instead, the columnist over-emphasized opposition by supporters of close U.S.-Israel ties.
Pincus has other, perhaps related, hobby horses in addition to Israel. He periodically inveighs against nuclear arms—for example, “Nuclear weapons just don’t make sense,” May 24, 2012 and “A nuclear mind-set frozen in the Cold War,” Nov. 15, 2011—simultaneously recognizing and diminishing their deterrent effect.
He has not questioned Iran’s false claim that, under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), it has a “right” to enrich uranium (“Iranians know their history,” June 12, 2012). Pincus has written that Saddam Hussein’s bluffs suggesting he might have restarted Iraq’s nuclear weapons program relate to Iran now. “The lesson for today is not to accept Iran’s current defiance of the U.N. Security council as proof that Tehran wants a bomb” (“On Iran, lessons from Iraq?” Sept. 18, 2012). He discusses the mullahs’ presumed fear of U.S. regime-change intentions without mentioning Iran’s drive for regional hegemony or its sponsorship of international terrorism, on its own or through Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Iranian obstruction of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors gets glossed over.
There have been corrections to other Pincus’ columns in The Post, including these:
* “Walter Pincus’s Fine Print column in the November 1 A-section misstated the time frame during which Iran was reported to have converted nearly half of its highly enriched uranium into a ‘peaceful’ form that cannot be used for nuclear weapons. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the conversion took place between mid-December 2011 and mid-August 2012, not between mid-December 1991 and mid-August 1992.”—Nov. 2, 2012.
* “Walter Pincus’s Fine Print column on the May 31 Fed Page, about how earmarks are defined on the House Armed Services, incorrectly said that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) issued a news release May 20 saying he had secured $3 million in additional budgetary authority in the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Bill that would benefit Technology Ventures Corp., a New Mexico nonprofit involved in the satellite industry. In fact, that release was issued in 2010 and referred to an amendment in the 2011 defense bill. Heinrich did have an amendment in the 2012 bill that added $3 million for space research, but he did not issue a news release about it.”—June 4, 2011.
When it comes to Walter Pincus’ “Fine Print” columns, it would behoove Post editors to read the fine print more closely, especially when the topics are Israel, Iran or nuclear weapons. A caution to readers appears to be in order as well.