Right-wing media have claimed that the current violence in Iraq is the result of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and President Obama's willful failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In reality, Iraq refused the terms of a SOFA with the U.S. despite Obama's efforts to maintain a military presence there.
NBC and ABC's Sunday news shows turned to discredited architects of the Iraq War to opine on the appropriate U.S. response to growing violence in Iraq, without acknowledging their history of deceit and faulty predictions.
This week a Sunni Iraqi militant group (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) seized control of several Iraqi cities and is focusing their sights on taking control of Baghdad and the rest of the country. The United States is still debating a response to the escalating violence, and has reportedly moved an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.
To discuss the growing unrest and potential threat of terrorism that could emerge, NBC's Meet The Press turned to Paul Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense under the Bush administration.
Wolfowitz, who served in the Bush administration from 2001 -- 2005 as Deputy Secretary of Defense, is universally recognized as one of the original architects of the Iraq invasion. He infamously predicted the war reconstruction effort could pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenue (for reference, the cost of the Iraq War is now estimated to be more than $2 trillion), and publicly accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction long after the intelligence community informed the Pentagon that he did not. Later, Wolfowitz claimed that the conflict was primarily about liberating the Iraqi people rather than confronting the WMD threat, while also making the assertion -- without evidence -- that without the invasion, "we would have had a growing development of Saddam's support for terrorism."
Ten years after the start of the war, Wolfowitz admitted that the Bush administration bungled the conflict and should never have taken control of the country away from Iraqi leadership, despite having been the first senior Bush official after September 11, 2001 to call for Hussein's overthrow.
And on June 15 from his NBC platform, Wolfowitz opined that the current Iraqi violence could be traced to the absence of U.S. troops, suggesting that we should have stayed in Iraq just as we "stuck with South Korea for 60 years." When Meet The Press host David Gregory asked the former Bush official for advice on how to mitigate the potential terrorist threat merging from ISIS, saying "what do you do then, as a policy matter, to stop this," Wolfowitz responded that the Obama administration must convince the Middle East that the U.S. "is serious," arguing, "I would do something in Syria."
That same day ABC's This Week invited network contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to discuss how the U.S. should handle the growing violence in Iraq, a notable decision given Kristol's poor record on Iraq War predictions.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge claims that a classified 2012 Department of Defense (DOD) memo would demonstrate that the Obama administration had deliberately concealed the fact that the Benghazi attack was perpetrated by terrorists. But news reports and subsequent investigations show that administration officials were quick to acknowledge the attackers' apparent links to terror groups.
Fox News exploited the violent turmoil in Iraq to baselessly lay blame for increasing gasoline and oil prices at the feet of President Obama. Fox hosts cited Obama's alleged "policy mistakes" in Iraq as the impetus for the rising cost of petroleum products, continuing a long pattern of attacking Obama over the price of gasoline while ignoring the fact that global market trends are largely out of the president's control.
On the June 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney discussed the impact of the recent turmoil in Iraq on the global oil market. Varney used the opportunity to attack President Obama for the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq from 2009 through 2011:
VARNEY: Let me make this very clear, we are all paying for the president's policy mistakes. The retreat in Iraq, the chaos in Iraq, will be paid for by us at the pump.
The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was completed on December 18, 2011. According to data from the United States Energy Information Agency (EIA), the market prices of crude oil and refined gasoline have fluctuated since that time, but the withdrawal itself spurred no appreciable price corrections. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, overlaying the prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil with inflation adjusted prices for gasoline, confirm that the withdrawal had no lasting impact on market prices:
Reputable market analysts agree that the outbreak of violence in Iraq -- the world's eighth largest oil producer -- is driving market speculation and investment in petroleum futures. This in turn has resulted in a slight, but noticeable increase in global crude oil market prices during the past several days. Varney is correct in noting that instability in Iraq is impacting global oil prices, but his analysis veered into well-worn Fox News paranoia when he used that fact to pin the blame for rising prices on President Obama.
Fox has a storied history of blaming this president for rising oil and gasoline prices.
From the June 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News host Steve Doocy attacked Hillary Clinton's statement that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi in September 2012 of his own volition -- a fact supported by independent investigations and Congressional testimony -- as a "flat-out ... lie."
From the June 6 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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From the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Many Fox News hosts and pundits rushed to brand recently released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter and a traitor, but Shepard Smith took a different line by saying he was "disgusted" by the rush to judgment, cautioning that Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty.
On May 31, the White House announced it had secured the release of Bergdahl from the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Right-wing critics of President Obama began reporting as fact that Bergdahl had been a deserter and collaborated with the enemy, despite the fact that an investigation into the matter has not yet taken place.
On the June 3 edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, host Smith took umbrage at the reporting, saying, "If you desert or commit treason, you have to be proved to have done so. We can't just decide because some people come on television and yakety yak, and we've got a report of this and a report of that and that's what happened. As the Army said, as the Pentagon said, you bring them home. You bring them home first, and then you investigate."
A Fox News correspondent maligned Hillary Clinton for the State Department's alleged refusal to identify Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. In reality, during Mrs. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, the State Department identified three of the group's leaders as foreign terrorists and noted that they were connected to al Qaeda.
On Wednesday, the United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces to Chad to aid in the search for the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin jumped off this new development on the May 22 edition of Special Report, falsely claiming that the State Department "resisted" listing Boko Haram as "an Al Qaeda linked group" until November 2013 and implied that this characterization could have prevented the kidnapping:
As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank pointed out on May 13, right-wing media have been quick to falsely tie Hillary Clinton to the kidnapping of over 234 young school girls by an extremist group known as Boko Haram, which The New York Times described as a "cultlike Nigerian group" known for "senseless cruelty and capricious violence against civilians."
Milbank noted that the "nascent effort to pin blame for Boko Haram on Clinton ... shows how a scandal is born" -- highlighting the fact that while the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian school girls "has little to do with the United States," right-wing media have seized the opportunity to search "for ways to blame the kidnappings on the favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination." And "inevitably the accusations landed on the House floor," parroted by Republican congressmen.
The smear kicked off with a Daily Beast article that relied on an anonymous official criticizing the former Secretary of State for previously turning down requests to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization, implying that such a designation could have prevented the kidnapping.
Jumping to Fox News, host Steve Doocy argued that if Clinton had designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization, it could have "saved these girls earlier," while anchor Megyn Kelly pushed the notion that Clinton had tried to appease Boko Haram.
Conservative congressmen picked up the baton, reportedly arguing on the House floor that Clinton "protected" Boko Haram.
But as Media Matters has explained, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first to blacklist top Boko Haram leaders, as the State Department identified three Boko Haram leaders as "foreign terrorists" in June 2012.
According to Reuters, the group's leaders were identified as terrorists rather than the group itself so as not to "elevate the group's profile," and academic experts on Africa agreed that such a group designation could embolden the terrorist group.
To use Milbanks' words, it's the "textbook example of the anatomy of a smear."
From the May 6 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From the March 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News invoked President Obama's cancellation of a Bush-era missile defense program in Poland as evidence of Obama's failing foreign policy. But Fox failed to mention that the program was replaced with a system that experts say provides equivalent, if not better, protection of U.S. foreign interests, including Poland.
Fox's Chris Wallace falsely claimed that the United States has taken "no action" following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ignoring numerous U.S. steps in response to the crisis.