Newsweek in Assassination Mode
I just received the November 17th issue of Newsweek. The tone is set by the cover. They chose the least flattering picture of Cheney they could find and added the subhead “Why He Fell for Bad Intelligence – And Pitched it to the President”. The editor in charge of cover pictures must have been reading antique Desmond Morris. An ape displaying its lower teeth is aggressive and confrontational. So it is with Cheney and his teeth convey their own subliminal message – crooked teeth, crooked guy.
Then we head into the magazine. Page 22 has a double spread photo showing the helmets, rifles and boots of the soldiers who died when a terrorist hit their Chinook with a S.A.M. The headline says “What will it take?” and the subhead says “The death toll among soldiers is mounting”. By historical standards, casualties are light; about equivalent to the murder rate in a large US city. But that helicopter could just as easily have been a 737 taking off from a US airport.
The following page has McCain going head to head with Rumsfeld. McCain is quoted as saying “We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting, and because we limited the tools at our disposal.” The US lost in Vietnam because the Left won the propaganda war on US soil. But Newsweek doesn’t question McCain’s analysis. Instead, they decide it applies to Iraq. “Was the same thing happening in Iraq now?” Well, no. The shooting war is over. The bad guys got beat. Now the US is dealing with pacifying the hold-outs, just as the US did in Japan and Germany for two years after WW2 officially ended. Rumsfeld “harrumphed” that he had read McCain’s speech. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, harrumphed means 1 : to clear the throat in a pompous way
2 : to comment disapprovingly. The implication is that Rumsfeld is an old fogey who doesn’t know what’s going on and Newsweek gets fellow Republican McCain to say what they want you to believe. The reality is that putting more troops in Iraq will give the terrorists more targets. More resources are needed in intelligence operations, in Special Forces, in Iraqi security organizations, but not in the US war machine. The battles are long over.
Moving onto to page 26, we get the dramatic headline “With the Ghost Squad”. It turns out to be a dramatized account of a National Guard Unit’s skirmishes and tribulations. You’d think it was the Somme, given the breathless reporting. The closing sentence gets their point across – “Maybe they will all get home alive”. This is immediately followed by a charming graphic labeled “Bringing Home the Dead”. It shows a map of the US with the number of US casualties by state. California is the worst off with 37 dead followed by Texas with 33. Montana and West Virginia are still stuck at zero, although Jessica Lynch nearly scored for her state.
If Newsweek had shown the toll from previous wars, or annual road-kill, or murder rates, to add a sense of proportion to their analysis, the reader might have understood that casualties, while horrific for those directly affected, are minor in the grand scheme of things.
Page 31 gives us a sob story titled “The Hearts Left Behind”. Perhaps someone should remind the editors at Newsweek that the US is at war with an implacable foe and sacrifices are required. To date the sacrifices have been trivial compared to those made in WW2 when Western Civilization was again in dire peril. On 9/11 the enemy struck a greater blow than the Japanese achieved at Pearl Harbor. But Joseph Goebbels would have been proud of the picture Newsweek chose to use to support the story – a picture of a mother and her two children standing on an empty road while Dad is stuck in Iraq one day away from joining the statistics on the map of death.
OK, so Saddam hasn’t [yet] been directly linked to the 9/11 plot. But he is directly linked to radical Islam’s first assault on the World Trade Center. That attack just missed killing everyone in both buildings and in the impact zone underneath where the collapsed towers would have landed. Estimated death toll had that attack been successful – 40,000.The key suspect Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq.
Yasin is on the FBI’s list of 22 most-wanted terrorist fugitives; there is a $25 million reward for his capture. The bureau questioned and released him in New York shortly after the bombing in 1993. After Yasin had fled to Iraq, the FBI said it found evidence that he helped make the bomb, which killed six people and injured 1,000. Yasin is still at large.
All this propaganda is a lead-in to Newsweek’s hit-piece on uber-hawk Cheney. How do we know it’s a hit-piece? That’s simple. There are few attributions to sources, much speculation, even more distortion, and willful ignorance of the available evidence. Here’s an example.
Cheney has repeatedly suggested that Baghdad has ties to Al Qaeda. He has pointedly refused to rule out suggestions that Iraq was somehow to blame for the 9/11 attacks and may even have played a role in the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993. The CIA and FBI, as well as a congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks, have dismissed this conspiracy theory.
But Yasin is tied to the 1993 attack and was sheltered by Iraq. So, what’s with this “may even” that relegates such a linkage to a lower probability than a link to 9/11?
But it gets worse for Newsweek. The Weekly Standard has just published an article by Stephen F. Hayes detailing a secret memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee that comprehensively demonstrates contact and cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America’s most determined and dangerous enemies.
Surely Newsweek’s high-placed sources had access to this information. Yet they focus on the one item that the writers of the memo doubted.
And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What’s more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta’s activities by Iraqi intelligence.
The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.
And the commentary:
CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague–in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two–on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001–is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It’s not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention–April 9, 2001–is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn’t fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts.
Cheney would obviously have more information than is contained in the memo, including information that would hurt sources if it was made public. Anyone who doubts that the Democrats are politicizing the work of the intelligence committee only has to look at what Carl Levin, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee has been claiming. According to Hayes, Levin said
“The question is whether or not they exaggerated intelligence in order to carry out their purpose, which was to make the case for going to war. Did we know, for instance, with certainty that there was any relationship between the Iraqis and the terrorists that were in Afghanistan, bin Laden? The administration said that there’s a connection between those terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Was there a basis for that?”
There was, as shown in the memo to the committee on which Levin serves. And much of the reporting comes from Clinton-era intelligence.
Al gore is up to his old tricks as well
Not that you would know this from Al Gore’s recent public statements. Indeed, the former vice president claims to be privy to new “evidence” that the administration lied. In an August speech at New York University, Gore claimed: “The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction.” Really?
With Newsweek and the Democrats doing all they can to discredit the Bush Administration, it’s little surprise that this memo leaked. There’s plenty more where that came from.
One of the most interesting things to note about the 16-page memo is that it covers only a fraction of the evidence that will eventually be available to document the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. For one thing, both Saddam and bin Laden were desperate to keep their cooperation secret. (Remember, Iraqi intelligence used liquid paper on an internal intelligence document to conceal bin Laden’s name.) For another, few people in the U.S. government are expressly looking for such links. There is no Iraq-al Qaeda equivalent of the CIA’s 1,400-person Iraq Survey Group currently searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, CIA and FBI officials are methodically reviewing Iraqi intelligence files that survived the three-week war last spring. These documents would cover several miles if laid end-to-end. And they are in Arabic. They include not only connections between bin Laden and Saddam, but also revolting details of the regime’s long history of brutality. It will be a slow process.
One hopes that a reputable news magazine like Newsweek will come to understand that relying on disgruntled Clintonistas in the CIA and Foggy Bottom is not the way to the truth. The Democrats should also learn that their political gamble to criticize the administration on intelligence issues before the analysis of Iraqi material is complete is a dangerous business. Ditto on the WMD.