From the June 19 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the June 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 16 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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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.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz took Art Laffer to task for a piece of economic analysis the former Reagan adviser penned in 2009 that proved drastically wrong. Ritholtz used the column to ask : Why aren't pundits held accountable?
It's an important question, and one that warrants consideration, particularly as unrepentant architects of the Iraq War enter the public sphere to opine on the deteriorating situation in that country.
Following President Obama's speech on the increasing violence in Iraq, Ari Fleischer weighed in on Twitter:
Regardless of what anyone thinks of going into Iraq in 2002, it's a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.-- Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) June 13, 2014
As critics were quick to point out, it's impossible to have a credible discussion about the situation in Iraq without consideration of how we got there in the first place (also, we actually invaded Iraq in 2003). And it's certainly convenient for Fleischer to wave away questions about the initial invasion given that he helped to sell it as President Bush's press secretary.
Here are some quotes from the former Bush flak that Think Progress assembled in 2007, when Fleischer surfaced as a leading voice behind that year's escalation:
"[T]here's no question that if force is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far faster than the current path that we're on." [2/14/03]
"My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors." [10/11/02]
"There have been contacts between senior members of -- senior Iraqi officials and members of the al Qaeda organization, going back for quite a long time. ...Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. There are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda." [1/27/03]
"There is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. ... And all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes." [3/21/03]
"[N]o, I don't think there's any chance of losing the peace, but it is going to be a battle to continue to win the peace." [5/19/03]
Fleischer has no apology for what he did -- he'd simply prefer not to speak of it.
The role people like Fleischer played in supporting and selling the invasion of Iraq and whether or not they've assessed that role and found their actions wanting are factors media should consider as they report on current efforts by conservatives to pin all the blame for the current state of that country on President Obama.
This need for pundit accountability isn't limited to Iraq. Earlier this month, Fox News hosted Oliver North to criticize President Obama for negotiating with terrorists to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. North, of course, is famous for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which he facilitated the illegal sale of missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of U.S. prisoners in Lebanon.
Such pundit antics are par for the course at Fox, which hosts Judy Miller to discuss Middle East weapons of mass destruction, Mark Fuhrman to opine on race, and "heckuva job" Michael Brown to talk about disaster relief.
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.
A Fox News timeline stripped more than six years of the Iraq War from the record in order to link escalating violence in Iraq to decisions made by the Obama administration.
This week an extremist group called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and vowed to march on more top targets like Baghdad. In response, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for a state of emergency and appealed for U.S. military assistance by way of airstrikes.
The June 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom attempted to tie the escalating violence to President Obama and the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. As an illustration, anchor Patti Ann Browne laid out a timeline of U.S. engagement in Iraq, and eventual withdrawal -- a timeline that eliminated over six years of critical moments, agreements, and damaging scandals from the record:
BROWNE: It's been a long battle to liberate Iraq. It was over a decade ago in October 2002 that Congress agreed to U.S. involvement in Iraq. That was followed by President Bush signing Authorization of Military Force.
BROWNE: Then in March 2003, shock and awe. The United States launching strikes against Baghdad after the deadline for Saddam Hussein's exile expired.
BROWNE: Fast forward to 2007, President Bush announced the surge, the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq.
BROWNE: And then, the end. 2011. President Obama announcing the end of the Iraq War and saying troops will be withdrawn by the end of that year.
Fox's timeline glosses over years of crucial events in the war. Noticeably absent:
May 1, 2003: President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq from the deck of an aircraft carrier, less than two months after U.S. troops entered the country and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.
January 25, 2004: Former CIA weapons inspector testified that the U.S. intelligence community failed to determine that the Iraqi weapons program was in a state of disarray prior to the U.S. invasion of the country.
April 30, 2004: Photographs emerged showing American soldiers torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. At least 11 U.S. military police personnel went on to serve prison sentences for the crimes.
June 28, 2004: U.S. officials transferred formal sovereignty of Iraq to Iraqi leaders.
November 17, 2008: U.S. and Iraqi Parliament ratified a status of forces agreement that mandated the end of 2011 as the date by which American troops must leave Iraq.
From the October 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens used the possibility of military intervention in Syria to rewrite the history of the Iraq war, falsely claiming the Bush administration's case against Iraq was supported by solid evidence.
Stephens, the Journal's foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor for international opinion pages, criticized the Obama administration's case for intervention in Syria by comparing it to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, which he claimed was made based on "highly detailed" intelligence revealing weapons of mass destruction. Stephens claimed the "testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix" supported the Bush administration's case for war, and accusations that the Bush administration lied were "libel" and "cheap slander":
Then there's the intel. In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration's evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The "dossier" consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as "we assess with high confidence" and "we have a body of information," and "we have identified one hundred videos."
By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.
The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.
So what should President Obama say when he addresses the country Tuesday night? He could start by apologizing to President Bush for years of cheap slander. He won't.
But Hans Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration "chose to ignore" his team's concerns about the lack of solid evidence in favor of war, and that prior to the invasion the evidence of WMDs in Iraq was revealed to be "shaky":
"I think it's clear that in March, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart," Hans Blix, who oversaw the agency's investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
Blix described the evidence Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 as "shaky," and said he related his opinion to U.S. officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"I think they chose to ignore us," Blix said.
Furthermore, an investigation into the lead up to the Iraq war found that statements President Bush made about Iraq misled the American people and Congress by inaccurately depicting the available intelligence. The 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee's report found that "policymakers' statements" in particular misrepresented the nature of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that Bush's allegations "that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership" were "not substantiated by the intelligence." The report also found that statements by Bush and Vice President Cheney indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give WMDs to terrorists for use against the U.S. "were contradicted by available intelligence information."
While there are serious questions about the wisdom of using military force in Syria, any debate must include the facts -- not the Journal's fanciful rewriting of history.
From the September 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News' Brian Kilmeade whitewashed the history of the Iraq war, misleadingly implying the diplomatic community supported military intervention, to claim that the Obama administration should respond to the conflict in Syria with similar military force.
Amid reports that the Syrian government launched a possible attack with chemical weapons against civilians, the Obama administration announced it is gathering more information and waiting for the findings of a United Nations investigation into the attack before taking action. But before the facts have become clear, media figures have rushed to push for U.S. military intervention against the Bashar Assad regime. The New York Times reported that while some senior officials "from the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence agencies" think intervention is necessary, others "argue that military action now would be reckless and ill timed."
Fox News hosts dismissed these experts' concerns to beat the drums of war, with Fox & Friends guest co-host Tucker Carlson falsely claiming "there's no doubt now [chemical weapons] have been used," and co-host Brian Kilmeade criticizing the Obama administration's response to the Syrian conflict for not resembling the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Kilmeade went on to misleadingly suggest the United Nations supported Bush's actions in Iraq, claiming the 2003 invasion gave "the U.N. teeth for the first time in their history":
KILMEADE: It's just unbelievable that they get on President Bush for saying to Saddam Hussein, you have violated 13 separate U.N. Resolutions. We are willing to back that up and give the U.N. teeth for the first time in their history. And he goes and does that. And the message was sent throughout the Middle East, if you cross a line, there will be action. Even Bill Clinton and Bush 41 enforced a no-fly zone for almost a decade because we backed up what we said we would. And now, our words mean absolutely nothing. You can cross us, you can cross that line and we give you a stern tweet as a retort.
In fact, the United Nations Security Council refused to endorse the invasion of Iraq, and then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan "warned the US and its allies a week before the invasion in March 2003 that military action would violate the UN charter." The Security Council had previously told the Iraqi government that there would be "consequences" if they did not meet with certain demands, but as The Guardian reported, Annan said "it should have been up to the council to determine what those consequences were."
Annan also made clear in the year following the invasion that according to the U.N., U.S. military intervention in Iraq was "illegal":
Mr. Annan was repeatedly asked whether the war was "illegal." "Yes," he finally said, "I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."
The Secretary-General said the war in Iraq and its aftermath had brought home painful lessons about the importance of resolving use-of-force issues jointly through the UN. "I think that in the end everybody is concluding that it is best to work together with allies and through the UN to deal with some of those issues.
"And I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time," the Secretary-General told the interviewer, noting that such action needed UN approval and a much broader support of the international community.
The Bush administration's rush to invade Iraq was based on the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was still pursuing a nuclear weapons program, a claim that has been thoroughly discredited. U.N. weapons experts told CNN in 2004 that they had cautioned the Bush administration prior to the invasion that any evidence of WMDs in Iraq was "shaky," but that the administration "chose to ignore" the lack of solid evidence in favor of war -- a war that lasted nearly a decade and resulted in thousands of American deaths and the deaths of many more Iraqis.
But rather than wait for United Nations inspectors and the U.S. intelligence community to determine whether or not chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and then to assess the best course of action in response, Fox News hosts would rather rush into the conflict and forget the past.
From the June 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is seizing on a recent poll showing that George W. Bush's approval numbers are up to declare "Bush is back," arguing that America is starting to appreciate Bush's policies in the light of what she calls the "rotten" Obama presidency. To make her case, Rubin neatly excises from Bush's record every single massive failure and disaster that resulted in Bush leaving office as one of the least popular presidents in history.
Rubin managed to cram so much misinformation and nonsense into seven short paragraphs that it's tough to pick a place to start, but this one is worthy of special attention:
Why the shift? Aside from the "memories fade" point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt). Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11. People do remember the big stuff -- rallying the country after the Twin Towers attack, 7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity, millions of people saved from AIDS in Africa, a good faith try for immigration reform, education reform and a clear moral compass.
"Aside from the 'memories fade' point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt)." Funny thing about those "spending" and "debt" failures of Obama's that make Bush's supposedly seem so mild: Bush-era policies are responsible for the lion's share of the current public debt and will continue exacerbating the debt situation long after President Obama has left office.
"Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11." This is false. There were a number of successful terrorist attacks between 9-11 and the end of the Bush presidency, most prominently the DC-area sniper attacks of 2002. But I'm dodging the real problem, which is the phrase "after 9/11." Her argument -- an argument she's made before -- is that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, despite happening on Bush's watch, doesn't count against Bush. Why? She doesn't say. Rubin doesn't allow Obama any terrorism Mulligans, calling his record "spotty at best with Benghazi, Libya, Boston and Fort Hood."
Fox News suggested that an attack in Syria might have involved chemical weapons from Iraq, pushing a conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein hid WMD in other countries prior to the Iraq war. Fox made a similar claim just two days ago.
On March 19, the Syrian government and Syrian rebels accused each other of launching a chemical weapon attack within the country. The United States government has said there is no confirmation that such a strike occurred, but the United Nations announced on March 21 that it will investigate the accusations that chemical weapons were used.
On the March 22 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Fox News military analyst and birther Thomas McInerney: "What are the chances of the return address on these chemicals being from Iraq?" McInerney said that this was conjecture but that there was still a high probability of that being the case, explaining: "[W]e do know prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom that there was a lot of vehicles crossing the border into Syria ... I think that it would be a very high probability if we could get into those bunkers, that they would have Iraqi signatures on them."
The claim that Iraq transferred WMD to other countries before the U.S.-led invasion is not supported by evidence.
In 2004, the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (ISG) released a report that found that Iraq "ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program." The report further stated, "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991."
The ISG also concluded that after 1995, Iraq "abandoned its existing [biological warfare] program in the belief that it constituted a potential embarrassment, whose discovery would undercut Baghdad's ability to reach its overarching goal of obtaining relief from UN sanctions." The report stated that Iraq appeared to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of biological warfare-related weapons in 1991 and 1992.
A 2005 Associated Press report stated that intelligence officials said they found no evidence "indicating that WMD or significant amounts of components and equipment were transferred from Iraq to neighboring Syria, Jordan or elsewhere." The AP report continued:
The Iraq Survey Group's chief, Charles Duelfer, is expected to submit the final installments of his report in February. A small number of the organization's experts will remain on the job in case new intelligence on Iraqi WMD is unearthed.
But the officials familiar with the search say U.S. authorities have found no evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein transferred WMD or related equipment out of Iraq.
Last week, a congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said suggestions that weapons or components were sent from Iraq were based on speculation stemming from uncorroborated information.
On the March 20 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News' Oliver North made a similar claim of the Iraq war, saying: "We got rid of a brutal despot who used chemical and biological weapons against his own people. Weapons of mass destruction that he probably exported to Sudan before we got there."
Fox News covered this week's tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq the least of the three major cable networks. MSNBC provided more coverage than Fox and CNN combined.
From March 18 through March 20, MSNBC devoted more than four and a half hours of coverage to the Iraq anniversary. CNN spent 2 hours and five minutes on the story, while Fox News covered it for only an hour and twenty one minutes.
This study is a tally of the raw volume of Iraq anniversary coverage and did not take into account the quality of the content.
For example, Fox News segments included in the study include one in which an anchor questioned criticism of the media's coverage of the Bush administration's case for war, and another in which a Fox host declared the invasion "the smartest thing George Bush did."
While much of MSNBC's coverage was focused on the heavy toll of the war, segments like Morning Joe's report falsely claiming Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) originally supported the invasion (and co-host Joe Scarborough's subsequent apology for doing so) were also counted.
After being sold on faulty pretenses, according to a recent Brown University study, the war in Iraq cost the lives of 4,488 U.S. service members, at least 3,400 U.S. contractors, and an estimated 134,000 Iraqi civilians. (The study clarifies that the estimate for civilian deaths "does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.")
The Brown University study estimates the war "will cost the U.S. $2.2 trillion, including substantial costs for veterans care through 2053, far exceeding the initial government estimate of $50 to $60 billion."
Media Matters searched raw video for any variation of "Iraq" on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC's all-day news programming (from 6 a.m. through 11 p.m.) for the day before, of, and after the Iraq War's 10th anniversary, March 18 through 20, 2013. We did not include repeats of programs; for instance, even through MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews airs at both 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., we only included the 5 p.m. broadcast. We included and timed any teasers, promos, news briefs, news packages, and full segments on the Iraq war anniversary as well as any relevant parts of interviews and panels discussing the Iraq war. We did not including any passing mentions of the Iraq war made in segments on other topics, such as the frequent invoking of the Iraq war during segments about the recent allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria.
Oliver Willis contributed research to this report.