June 17, 2004

Media Distortion Challenged By Bush Team

Richard Miniter lists (again) the various established links between Saddam's Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, after nearly every newspaper in the country led with misleading or downright distorted headlines about what the 9/11 Commission supposedly concluded in their report.

The distortion of the commission's findings, committed by everyone from the Washington Post to USA Today, is in their reporting that the group found no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, when in fact the commission reported no such thing. They did say that there was no credible evidence of Saddam's involvement in Al Qaeda attacks on America, to include 9/11, something that the Bush administration has never even contended. This afternoon, Bush clarified:

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," Bush said. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."

Apparently the White House's forceful replies to this morning's blatant propagandizing has had some effect. The USA Today headline of this morning, "Commission Confirms No Iraq-Al Qaeda Link" no longer seems to be available online, having been replaced by an editorial this evening taking the opposite view, and confirming that news outlets have been selectively and misleadingly reporting what the Commission said;

A 9/11 commission staff report is being cited to argue that the administration was wrong about there being suspicious ties and contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda. In fact, just the opposite is true. The staff report documents such links.
The staff report concludes that:

• Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan."

• "A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting bin Laden in 1994."

• "Contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan."

Chairman Thomas Kean has confirmed: "There were contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, a number of them, some of them a little shadowy. They were definitely there."

Thanks for that correction guys, but the damage done by your headline this morning can't be undone.

Vice President Dick Cheney was characteristically blunt in an interview on CNBC's Capitol Report:

"The press, with all due respect, (is) often times lazy, often times simply reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their homework."

Andrew McCarthy has an excellent piece at NRO that deals in facts instead of political campaigning. Under the heading of "inconvenient facts", McCarthy goes back to the pre-Bush year of 1998, when the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection was an established truth, even among journalists:

The staff's back-of-the-hand summary also strangely elides mention of another significant matter — but one that did not escape the attention of Commissioner Fred Fielding, who raised it with a panel of law-enforcement witnesses right after noting the staff's conclusion that there was "no credible evidence" of cooperation. It is the little-discussed original indictment of bin Laden, obtained by the Justice Department in spring 1998 — several weeks before the embassy bombings and at a time when the government thought it would be prudent to have charges filed in the event an opportunity arose overseas to apprehend bin Laden. Paragraph 4 of that very short indictment reads:

Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.
(Emphasis added.) This allegation has always been inconvenient for the "absolutely no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda" club. (Richard Clarke, a charter member, handles the problem in his book by limiting the 1998 indictment to a fleeting mention and assiduously avoiding any description of what the indictment actually says.)

UPDATE 6/18: David Horowitz calls it "The Big Lie".

Posted by dan at June 17, 2004 1:29 PM