From US News & World report

Is the White House “Airbrushing History?”: The White House has posted at least five different versions of a document pertaining to the Iraq war on its website and several of these drafts have been altered or removed from the Web at some time, with no notation that the content has been changed. In a report called “Airbrushing History, American Style,” the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tracks changes to a list of countries aligned with the “coalition of the willing” that actively support U.S. military operations in Iraq. Although only 45 countries had signed on at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “later deletions and revisions to key documents make it seem that there were always 49.” Whether the alterations were part of a “whitewashing campaign” or just “inappropriate archival practices,” the Cline Center report is critical of the practice: “Updating lists to keep up with the times is one thing. Deleting original documents from the White House archives is another. Back-dating later documents and using them to replace the originals goes beyond irresponsible stewardship of the public record. It is rewriting history.” Anticipating critics who may ask why “small changes to an old list” are important, the authors note that this example may indicate larger problems: “If so much energy was focused on reshaping the names and number of coalition countries, one can only imagine what might have been done to higher-profile or more sensitive content on the White House website.” The stakes are high, they say: “Whether by design or neglect, the result is the same: The removals and revisions of White House documents distort the historical record of what our government has said and done.”

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