Taking on the Times

Andrew McCarthy:

A week ago, the New York Times reported, in a screaming page-one headline, that the 9/11 Commission had found "No Qaeda-Iraq Tie." Today, in a remarkable story that positively oozes with consciousness of guilt, the Times confesses not only that there is documentary evidence of at least one tie but that the Times has had the document in question for several weeks. That is, the Times was well aware of this information at the very time of last week's reporting, during which, on June 17, it declaimed from its editorial perch that the lack of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden's terror network meant President Bush owed the nation an apology.

Today, the Times concedes that the Defense Intelligence Agency is in possession of a document showing that, in the mid-1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service reached out to what the newspaper euphemistically calls "Mr. bin Laden's organization" (more on that below) regarding the possibility of joint efforts against the Saudi regime, which was then hosting U.S. forces. To be clear, the document records that it was Iraq which initiated the contacts, and that bin Laden finally agreed to discuss cooperation only after having spurned previous overtures because he "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative[.]"

Why does it matter who was enticing whom? On June 17, when, despite having this document, it was trashing the whole notion of an Iraq/Qaeda connection, the Times asserted without qualification that: The 9/11 Commission had found that any collaboration proposals had come from bin Laden's side; all such proposals had been declined by Saddam; and this scenario undermined the Bush administration's rationale for deposing the Iraqi regime. (The Times on June 17: "As for Iraq, the commission's staff said its investigation showed that the government of Mr. Hussein had rebuffed or ignored requests from Qaeda 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.")


...it is the continuation of a pattern — another instance of an effective but misleading tactic repeatedly used by the Times, the intelligence community, the 9/11 Commission staff, and all the Iraq/Qaeda connection naysayers. To wit: When they can't explain something, they never say they can't explain it; they say it didn't happen — even if saying so is against the weight of considerable counterevidence.

Best example? The 9/11 Commission staff, as gleefully reported by the Times last week, has concluded that there was not a meeting between top-hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi Intelligence Officer Ahmed al-Ani in Prague five months before the 9/11 attacks. There is an eyewitness (a watcher for Czech intelligence) who says he saw them together, and there is substantial corroboration (including an entry in al-Ani's appointment calendar that he was to meet with a "Hamburg student," a pair of highly suspicious trips that Atta undoubtedly made to Prague in 2000 right before coming to the United States, and the fact that no witness has been found who can say he saw Atta in the U.S. when the Czechs say he was in Prague). Did the 9/11 Commission staff actually interview the eyewitness? No. Did the staff or the Times discuss the corroboration that supports the occurrence of the Prague meeting? No. Did either of them grapple with what is to be inferred from Atta's trips to Prague in 2000? No — not a word about them. Just a flat conclusion that the meeting never happened.


Most pathetic of all in today's article is the Times's self-serving rationale for withholding critical information while it was accusing the president of misleading the country. First, even though the document inescapably shows a tie to bin Laden, the Times slyly suggests it may not really show a tie to al Qaeda. After all, so the story goes, this was the mid-90s, "before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization." Nice try. As established by federal indictments, the embassy bombing trial, the 9/11 Commission staff report released last week, and innumerable other sources, al Qaeda was formed in Afghanistan in the late 1980s — years before this document existed.


The Times has been against the Iraq war from the start. Its relentless propaganda, in conjunction with its media allies, has taken a sizable toll. President Bush has taken a ratings hit, and a poll out this morning suggests that a slim majority of Americans now believes the war was a mistake. But that could turn around in a heartbeat. No one is more aware than the "newspaper of record" that if the American people become convinced Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots, the national perception of the necessity for this war will drastically change, and the president's reelection will be a virtual lock.

That's what this is about. And who knows what else the Times is not telling us?

The NY Times editorial Board, could restore some of the public confidence in its integrity, if they would just admit their error and apoligize to the President and the public. Isn't that the advice they offer in these situations?


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