Last night, my dinner companiion said that she was getting increasingly upset and angry at the Bush administration. She is otherwise very smart and analytic, but here she seems to have blown a gasket. Rather than engaging in a sane/rational assesment of the facts, she was simply parroting all the party-line Democrat/liberal mud slinging! It was shocking and a bit weird to hear her talk like this. Every time I tried to respond to an issue she brought up, she would instantly switch to another rather than try to understand what was said. With each answer and transition she was getting more visibly upset. I told her that if she just enjoys the feeling of moral outrage associated with throwing around lots of accusations, that is fine. But if she wants to be a rational person and take a look at the evidence, she would have to calm down. The primary subject of the conversation was, of course, the 9/11 commission and the question of whether there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Queada and whether the Administration claimed Iraq was involved with 9/11.
She is, of course, an avid reader of the NYTimes and of course her emotions were stoked by headlines like “Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie” and editorials saying :
Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were “ties” between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong.
But, it is the editorial that is wrong. The 9/11 panel does agree with Bush:
A commission staff report, released last week, said there were contacts between Osama bin Laden’s terror network and the Iraqi government, but they did not appear to have produced a collaborative relationship. Commission chairman Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said “we don’t see any serious conflicts” between the panel’s and the White House’s positions.
Of if she actually read beyon the NYTimes, she would find Lee Hamilton, Vice Chairman of the commission, saying:
“The sharp differences that the press has drawn [between the White House and the Commission] are not that apparent to me,” Hamilton told the Associated Press, a day after insisting that his probe uncovered “all kinds” of connections between Osama bin Laden’s terror network and Iraq.
. . .
But the Indiana Democrat said the press accounts were flat-out wrong.
“There are all kinds of ties,” he told PBS’s “The News Hour” late Wednesday, in comments that establishment journalists have refused to report.
“There are all kinds of connections. And it may very well have been that Osama bin Laden or some of his lieutenants met at some time with Saddam Hussein’s lieutenants.”
Hamilton said that while his probe had failed to uncover any direct operational link between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden’s terror network in attacks on the U.S., there’s no question that “they had contacts.”
[Update] Or Commisioner Lehman from Meet the Press
The Clinton administration portrayed the relationship between al- Qaeda and Saddam’s intelligence services as one of cooperating in weapons development. There’s abundant evidence of that. In fact, as you’ll soon hear from Joe Klein, President Clinton justified his strike on the Sudan “pharmaceutical” site because it was thought to be manufacturing VX gas with the help of the Iraqi intelligence service. Since then, that’s been validated.
Eventually the NYTimes grudgingly had to concede:
Critics of the Bush administration argue that it falsely created a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks to help justify the war. Last week, the administration countered that it had never made such an assertion — only that there were ties, however murky, between Iraq and Al Qaeda. A survey of past public comments seems to bear that out — although whether there was a deliberate campaign to create guilt by association is difficult to say.
Note the new accusation. Was there a deliberate campaign to create guilt by association? Or did the NYTimes faili its readers in giving them an accurate accounting of what was said versus what was perhaps implied? Or is the NY Times engaging in revisionist history because it does not want to confront the arguments the administration actually used to justify the invasion. To wit, Saddam had developed, used, and posessed WMD, was refusing to let UN inspectors determine accurately whether he had destroyed them, had threatened the US with terrorism (involved with WTC 1993 and attempting to assasinate an former US President), was planning terrorist attacks against the US (according to Russian intelligence), was working with terrorists (Zarqawi in particular), was in control of a good location to base US forces to contend with terrorism more generally, and was a mass murderer. Here is the NYTimes missing the forest for the trees:
Mr. Bush has also used a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush used to refer to Mr. Zarqawi as a “senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner” who was in Baghdad working with the Iraqi government. But the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime, nor under the direction of Al Qaeda.
Ignoring the fact that the Times is misreporting Tenet’s testimony and accepting the world as the NYTimes describes, there are two possibilities here. Either Iraq was a failed state and terrorists like Zarqawi were able to operate freely despite Saddam’s nominal control of Iraq or Zarqawi was operating in Iraq with the tacit acceptance and perhaps support of Saddam. In the real world, whether Zarqawi worked with Saddam or with the acceptance of Saddam and whether Zarqawi is under direction of Al Queada or is a leader of Al Qeada (that gives it direction) or whether Al Queada is a distributed organization which does not give direction matters very little. The threat and the justification for action are the same.
That the report itself has lots of factual mistakes is beyond the scope of this post. But what I would observe is that we are seeing the same misreporting of the administration’s claims here that we say earlier with respect to imminent threat.
We have an opposition in this country that is too emotionally overwrought to engage in rational discussion and debate. Instead they have a deep need to make up arguments of the other side that they know they can win. When they are caught doing it, they say instead that the Administration implied it and that they were too stupid to notice the difference. But they are clearly NOT stupid. If the administration really was making the claims they accuse it of making, (1) the NYTimes would have reported/analyzed the difference between what was said and what was implied and (2) if it didn’t, they would have been making arguments against what they interpreted the Administration to have been saying. The shocking lack of contemporaneous opposition material claiming, contra the Administration, that Iraq was NOT an imminent threat or that Iraq did NOT have ties to Al Queada is the biggest evidence of all that the left is losing touch with reality.
(Major hat tip: Jim Miller)