Thursday, June 17, 2004
A dark day for the media: Link after link to media reports of today's 9/11 commission staff reports contain stunning inaccuracies -- claiming that Iraq and Al Qaeda were not involved with each other. (Saddam: "Al Qaeda? Never heard of him.)
From the Los Angeles Times:
No Signs of Iraq-Al Qaeda Ties Found
9/11 report appears to dismiss a key rationale made by Bush to topple the Hussein regime.
The story itself is much more careful with its wording, but leads the reader to the (false) conclusion that President Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein was in the room with Osama bin Laden as the 9/11 attacks were planned.
In fact, the third paragraph of the story contradicts the headline.
Bin Laden made overtures to Hussein in the mid-1990s while he was in Sudan and again after he went to Afghanistan in 1996, but they "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," the staff said in a report. And two of Bin Laden's most senior associates, interrogated by U.S. authorities, "have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq."
This, of course, depends on what you mean by "ties." Saddam and bin Laden were talking. Emissaries were sent back and forth. That's a "tie" to me.
Imagine if the standard the media appears to be using was adopted by President Bush to deny that he had "ties" to former Enron chairman "Kenny Boy" Lay. They met once or twice, conferred, etc. But there's no evidence of a "tie" between them.
You can see the double standard.
For the record, what has President Bush said about Saddam and Al Qaeda?
From a Sept. 2003 BBC report:
Bush rejects Saddam 9/11 link
US President George Bush has said there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks.
The comments - among his most explicit so far on the issue - come after a recent opinion poll found that nearly 70% of Americans believed the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks.
Mr Bush did however repeat his belief that the former Iraqi president had ties to al-Qaeda - the group widely regarded as responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington.
So that was a "key rationale" for going to war? That Saddam was behind 9/11?
The New York Times report is even more inaccurate than the Los Angeles Times report. Where the Los Angeles Times dances around the periphery, the New York Times steps right into the middle.
The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Further down in the story, the Times states:
As for Iraq, the commission's staff said its investigation showed that the government of Mr. Hussein had rebuffed or ignored requests from Qaeda [sic] leaders for help in the 1990's, a conclusion that directly contradicts a series of public statements President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made before and after last year's invasion of Iraq in justifying the war.
But the closest the Times comes to backing up this claim is this paragraph:
Mr. Bush said in September of last year that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties." Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism director in the White House, testified to the commission in March that Mr. Bush had pressed him right after the attacks to search for a link to Mr. Hussein. In last year's State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda."
All of that is true. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reportedly got medical treatment in Iraq and continues to commit terrorist attacks there.
Last year, Secretary of State Colin Powell used al-Zarqawi as an example of Al Qaeda ties to Saddam's regime, saying al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan. Intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg.
U.S. intelligence officials also said then that al-Zarqawi considered himself and his followers to be operating independently of Al Qaeda's chain of command. But they said he relied on Al Qaeda for money and logistical support.
The Washington Post too follows the rest of the media pack in attributing justifications to the Bush administration that never occurred.
The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.
Along with the contention that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials have often asserted that there were extensive ties between Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network; earlier this year, Cheney said evidence of a link was "overwhelming."
But the report of the commission's staff, based on its access to all relevant classified information, said that there had been contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no cooperation. [emphasis added]
Once again, the media has set the bar much too high on what it takes to claim "ties" between Hussein and al Qaeda.
The following paragraph also has me befuddled:
Speaking about Iraq's alleged links to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks, Cheney connected Iraq to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by saying that newly found Iraqi intelligence files in Baghdad showed that a participant in the bombing returned to Iraq and "probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven." He added: "The Iraqi government or the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s."
Was he speaking about the 9/11 attacks really? The rest of the paragraph appears to refer to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, not 9/11.
It's not until you get to the very bottom of the Post story that the top of it (the portion most people will read) starts to fall apart.
The staff report on Iraq was brief. Though not confirming any Iraqi collaboration with al Qaeda, it did not specifically address two of the other pieces of evidence the administration has offered to link Iraq to al Qaeda: Zarqawi's Tawhid organization and the Ansar al-Islam group.
In October 2002, Bush described Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, as "one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks."
Zarqawi wrote a January 2003 letter to bin Laden's lieutenants, intercepted at the Iraqi border, saying that if al Qaeda adopted his approach in Iraq, he would swear "fealty to you [bin Laden] publicly and in the news media."
In March, in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tenet described Zarqawi's network as among groups having "links" to al Qaeda but with its own "autonomous leadership . . . own targets [and] they plan their own attacks."
Although Zarqawi may have cooperated with al Qaeda in the past, officials said it is increasingly clear that he has been operating independently of bin Laden's group and has his own network of operatives.
The other group, Ansar al-Islam, began in 2001 among Kurdish Sunni Islamic fundamentalists in northern Iraq, fighting against the two secular Kurdish groups that operated under the protection of the United States. At one point, bin Laden supported Ansar, as did Zarqawi, who is believed to have visited their area more than once. Tenet referred to Ansar as one of the Sunni groups that had benefited from al Qaeda links.
At least the Post mentions this. It doesn't appear at all either the New York Times or Los Angeles Times stories.
The media has done a horrible job on this story. The coverage of this one story is probably the clearest demonstration that I've ever seen of the liberal media bias.
One would almost think they all got in the same room and decided to spin it this way. That didn't happen, of course, this is a simple case of groupthink.