A brutal dictator cooperated with Islamist terrorists, including
Osama bin Laden's future No. 2 man. His own records show the
dictator funded, trained and armed terrorists who "either
associated directly with al Qaeda" or "shared al Qaeda's stated
goals and objectives."
The evidence -- including tens of thousands of internal memos,
computer files, audiotapes and videotapes -- reveals that in 2002
alone the dictator's regime hosted 13 "conferences" of
anti-American jihadists from other lands and issued hundreds of
passports to known terrorists.
Sound like news?
Perhaps if the dictator's name weren't Saddam Hussein. After all,
the new evidence bolsters the Bush administration's case for going
to war in Iraq five years ago this month.
The pack journalists can't change direction. That helps explain
media indifference to these and many more specifics cited in a
59-page analysis accompanying "Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam
and Terrorism," a study with 1,600 pages of documentation. The
Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded think tank, drew
from 600,000 captured documents to prepare this account of Saddam's
secret dealings with terrorists for the Pentagon's Joint Forces
"Because Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's
terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short
term)," a summary of the report notes, "considerable overlap was
inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the
same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in
some way, a 'de facto' link between the organizations."
Yet the mainstream media -- from The New York Times and The
Washington Post to ABC News and CNN -- misrepresented the study and
dismissed the chilling findings before reading them.
They followed the lead of reporter Warren P. Strobel of the
McClatchy-Tribune wire service, whose March 10 story previewed the
study before its release. His story, headlined "Exhaustive review
finds no link between Saddam and al Qaeda," asserts the study
"found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational
links" with bin Laden's terrorist network.
Strobel, who did not have a copy of the study, quotes an unnamed
"U.S. official familiar with the report." His assessment of the
report -- it doesn't place Saddam in bed with the Sept. 11 plotters
-- hangs on that single anonymous source.
The source's clear intent was to tag the report, inaccurately,
as another official challenge of Bush's stated reasons for invading
Iraq. Namely, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was
in cahoots with al Qaeda.
And so a misleading wire story set the stage for a media
brush-off. Headline of six-paragraph Post story March 12: "Study
Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaida Link." Headline of four-paragraph Times
story March 14: "Study Finds No Qaeda-Hussein Tie."
Steve Schippert, a military blogger for National Review Online,
exposed the mainstream media's rush to deep-six the report as more
of the same.
Stephen Hayes, writing in The Weekly Standard, details the links
missed by reporters who didn't look at the study. Hayes underlines
how media accounts cherry-picked this awkward sentence from the
executive summary: "This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct
connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda."
The report, though, cites what it calls "strong evidence that
links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global
terrorism" -- including precursors to, and allies of, al Qaeda.
One exception to the media blackout was the New York Sun's Eli
Lake, whose March 14 story cited the evidence under the headline
"Report Details Saddam's Terrorist Ties."
Lake's competitors ought to be ashamed. Real editors used to
demand real reporters gather and set down actual facts, not trust
some anonymous partisan's instant analysis, sight unseen.
But days after the study became available, reporters for The
Times, The Post, ABC, CNN and other outlets showed no signs of
having read it and failed to run full stories setting the record
straight. Not even Strobel has come clean.
As recently as March 18, a Post story made glancing reference to
the findings as if they were a matter of partisan opinion.
Ombudsmen, on your marks.
To make matters worse, the White House and Pentagon bungled
modest plans to brief the media and post the study online.
Apparently intimidated by the shoddy early reporting, they made the
study available only by request.
President Bush, this evidence makes clear, had more reasons to
topple Saddam than he knew at the time. Yet the president and his
civilian advisers continue to show a dismaying lack of skill, or
even gumption, in educating Americans about the enemy's nature and
what we're up against.
Good thing any reporter worth the job description can do
is the Marilyn and Fred Guardabassi Fellow in Media and Public
Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation
First appeared in Washington Examiner
A brutal dictator cooperated with Islamist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden’s future No. 2 man. His own records show the dictator funded, trained and armed terrorists who “either associated directly with al Qaeda” or “shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.”
Marilyn and Fred Guardabassi Fellow in Media and Public Policy Studies and Special Projects Editor
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