And a jaw-droppingly beautiful one it is, dead smack in the middle of its news section, mind you – not as an op/ed.
McClatchy (formerly the excellent Washington bureau of Knight Ridder) begins:
Administration leaving out important details on Iraq
By MARK SEIBEL
WASHINGTON - President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.
The astounded emphasis above (and throughout this post) is mine.
After quoting extensively from Bush’s speech on escalation given Wednesday, the gutting begins:
That version of events helps to justify Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq, in which U.S. forces will largely target Sunni insurgents and leave it to Iraq's U.S.-backed Shiite government to - perhaps - disarm its allies in Shiite militias and death squads.
But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities prior to the Samarra bombing.
Reporter Seibel then hammers Rice for repeating the same "incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events" during Barbara Boxer’s questioning at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing the following day. Then Rice is smacked down for repeating the same fairy tale before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Then Stephen Hadley gets nailed for repeating it on Meet the Press this morning. Then the reporter observes:
Much like the administration's pre-war claims about Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaida and purported nuclear weapons program, the claims about the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra ignore inconvenient facts and highlight questionable but politically useful assumptions.
A brief historical background is then offered about Shiite death squads, much of it relying on McClatchy’s own reports from the past few years – reports that were dead-on and in direct contradiction to most of what the administration was peddling.
Why is this important? Because of this:
Beginning in 2002, the administration's case for a pre-emptive war in Iraq was plagued by similar oversights, oversimplifications, misjudgments and misinformation. Unlike the administration's claims about the Samarra bombing, however, much of that information was peddled by Iraqi exiles and defectors and accepted by some eager officials and journalists.
... The administration has continued to offer inaccurate information to Congress, the American people and sometimes to itself. The Iraq Study Group, in its December report, concluded, for example, that the U.S. military was systematically under-reporting the violence in Iraq in an effort to disguise policy failings. The group recommended that the military change its reporting system.
Are these people liars or fools, McClatchy implicitly questions near the end of the piece:
Whether many of the administration's statements about Iraq for nearly five years have been deliberately misleading or honest but gullible mistakes hasn't been determined. The Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to complete an investigation into the issue that was begun but stalled when Republicans controlled the committee.
Real journalism. Real fact-checking. Real analysis. Go read the amazing piece in full, folks, to get an idea what real reporting looks like. It’s enough to make you weep for joy.