Days after several former Blackwater guards were found guilty of violent crimes related to the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians, Fox News' Brian Kilmeade hosted Blackwater founder Erik Prince for an interview that glossed over the severity of the convictions and provided a platform for accusations that the prosecution was politicized.
On the October 27 edition of Fox & Friends, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince joined Brian Kilmeade to discuss US troops leaving Afghanistan. After decrying President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan, Kilmeade asked Prince about the recent murder, manslaughter, and weapons-related convictions of four former Blackwater guards. Kilmeade noted that the Blackwater guards had been found responsible for the deaths, describing the violent crimes as "something controversial." Kilmeade explained, "They have been convicted for what they say is that crime," though he made no mention of which specific crimes were being referenced.
KILMEADE: In 2007, your contractors were involved in something controversial in Iraq. And they've been convicted now -- four Blackwater guards responsible for the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians, wounding 17 others. They have been convicted for what they say is that crime. What's your reaction to that?
Prince described the case as "highly politicized" and suggested contractors like Blackwater were "scapegoats."
Kilmeade ended the segment by hyping Blackwater as a solution to success in Iraq, saying, "And if actually we want to win the war, they should call you up."
Right-wing media falsely claimed that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion vindicated former President George W. Bush's rationale for the Iraq war - ignoring the fact that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush's rationale which relied on an active, on-going chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.
The hosts of Fox News' The Five distorted the history behind the rationale for the U.S. war in Iraq by reshaping an investigative report by the New York Times.
Fox News' Special Report left out necessary context when previewing former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's upcoming interview with 60 Minutes in which he stated, "it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq."
During his September 19 coverage of Panetta's statement, host Bret Baier depicted Panetta's account of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the latest in "a very public back-and-forth between the White House and the Pentagon." Baier added, "Now this weekend, 60 Minutes has an interview with former CIA director and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in which he will say the U.S. should not have pulled out all of its troops out of Iraq in 2011":
But Baier failed to mention that the Iraqi government refused a deal to allow U.S. military forces to stay in Iraq. As the New York Times reported in 2011, "Iraqis were unwilling to accept" the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement to leave thousands of troops as a residual force. Fox News has repeatedly failed to mention this important detail.
During his 60 Minutes interview with Panetta, CBS' Scott Pelley provided the crucial bit of context that the Iraqi government "didn't want the U.S. force." Watch:
From the September 11 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News accused President Obama of ignoring warnings from President Bush about the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, claiming that Bush's warnings in 2007 predicted the rise of the Islamic State extremist group. In reality, Obama followed the extended withdrawal timeline that Bush set in 2008 with the approval of military leaders.
Fox News' The Kelly File hosted 2012 Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to attack President Obama's foreign policy and rewrite the history of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
President Obama on August 7 authorized limited airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq to prevent "genocide" and protect Americans in the region. The Islamic State released a video of its murder of American journalist James Foley on Tuesday, citing the U.S. airstrikes and demanding an end to them. The airstrikes prompted a right-wing media backlash blaming President Obama for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, which they accused of increasing the danger posed by the Islamic State.
On August 21, Fox host Megyn Kelly accused President Obama of a reversal on "whether he did or did not order the withdrawal of all of our troops," and of making the decision not to leave a residual force in Iraq. After making this assertion, she asked 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney whether Obama "is misleading the American people." Romney claimed President Obama had made "extraordinary errors with regards to the Middle East," and cited the lack of "the Status of Forces Agreement that would allow us to have troops in Iraq" as a fundamental cause contributing to the growth of the Islamic State and the danger it represents.
Contrary to this attempt to rewrite history, President Obama did not refuse to negotiate a SOFA with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to leave behind American forces. His attempts to negotiate the SOFA were thwarted by the Iraqi government, whose parliament was unwilling to approve the agreement -- approval that was made necessary by a precedent set in 2008 by President Bush.
Time reported in 2011 that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was "an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending" the existing SOFA. The AP also noted that the Iraqi government stopped the SOFA negotiations when it became unwilling to grant American troops legal immunity -- protections "common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate," and similar to those guaranteed in Bush's 2008 SOFA. Colin H. Kahn, the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, explained:
Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki's own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections.
Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular (only in Iraqi Kurdistan did a majority of people want American G.I.s to stay). Maliki was willing to consider going to parliament to approve a follow-on agreement, but he was not willing to stick his neck out.
So when Iraq's major political bloc leaders met in early October 2011 in an all-night session, they agreed on the need for continued U.S. "trainers" but said they were unwilling to seek immunities for these troops through the parliament. The die was thus cast. Obama and Maliki spoke on Oct. 21 and agreed that U.S. forces would depart as scheduled by the end of the year.
From the August 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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If you weren't aware of the widespread problems with the New York Times reporting during the run-up to the Iraq War more than a decade ago, this lede from today's page-one Times story about political developments inside that besieged country might not seem unusual:
He took millions of dollars from the C.I.A., founded and was accused of defrauding the second-biggest bank in Jordan and sold the Bush administration a bill of goods on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
At first championed by the Bush administration's neoconservatives as a potential leader of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi ended up persona non grata, effectively barred from the wartime American Embassy here. Now, in an improbable twist of fate, Mr. Chalabi is being talked about as a serious candidate for prime minister. He has also been back to the embassy.
If you are aware, the gaping holes in the above description are profound.
Here's what the Times left out of its Chalabi story today and here's what the newspaper continues to grapple with eleven years after President Bush ordered the costly invasion of Iraq: Chalabi was reportedly the main source of bogus information that former Times reporter Judith Miller used in her thoroughly discredited work about Iraq's supposedly brimming stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. It was Chalabi who wove Saddam Hussein fiction and it was Miller, then a widely respected Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who gave it the Times stamp approval as the paper did its part to lead the nation to war. (Miller is now a Fox News contributor.)
That history is one that the paper continues to wrestle with, especially as the effects of the war return to international focus and the country struggles with internal violence that threatens its very stability.
From the June 29 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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Fox News' upcoming investigative report on the growing crisis in Iraq will feature Iraq War architect Dick Cheney blaming President Obama for the turmoil there.
The special, Iraq and the Rise of a Terrorist State, is set to air on June 27 and will examine the current state of Iraq as "al Qaeda threatens to take over." The report will also feature former Vice President Dick Cheney in order to add his commentary on "who says he knows who is to blame: President Barack Obama":
Iraq is in turmoil as an offshoot of al Qaeda threatens to take over and expand their reign of terror. We look at what happened there and the danger this explosion of violence has created for the entire Middle East and beyond. Chris Wallace interviews former Vice President Dick Cheney who says he knows who's to blame: President Barack Obama. We examine that claim and explore the threat America and the rest of the world faces if the violence spreads beyond the Middle East.
Fox's willingness to give air time to Cheney to cast blame on President Obama for the current situation in Iraq completely ignores the former vice president's own role in creating the problems there. Even the network's own Megyn Kelly called out Cheney, telling him that "[t]ime and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong in Iraq as well, sir." Fox's promotion for the Iraq special does not indicate if Cheney will be held accountable for his Iraq role.
Former President Bill Clinton also weighed in on Cheney's denial during an interview with NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory, calling Cheney out on "the mess that he made" in Iraq:
"Mr. Cheney has been incredibly adroit for the last six years or so attacking the administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made," Clinton told NBC News "Meet The Press" host David Gregory. "And I think it's unseemly. And I give President Bush, by the way, a lot of credit for trying to stay out of this debate and letting other people work through it."
Clinton argued that if the U.S. had not gone to war with Iraq during the Bush administration, the chaotic sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq in recent weeks would not be happening.
"Well, it might be happening in Syria, but what happened in Syria wouldn't have happened in Iraq. Iraq would not have been, in effect, drastically altered, as it has been," said the former president.
Mainstream media have been quick to embrace Iraq war architects in their rush to explain the growing turmoil in the region, often without calling them out for their part in creating the crisis. Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and Cheney have all been regular figures across the Sunday news shows since the current Iraq crisis surfaced.
This won't be the first Fox News special to practice questionable judgment in an effort to make the news fit into the network's narratives. Previous specials have been met with controversy after relying on debunked myths on Benghazi, providing no evidence of voter fraud in a report on voter fraud, and falsely blaming unions for problems created by the recession.
From the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Karl Rove argued that the Obama administration's effort to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq in 2011 failed because Obama placed unprecedented conditions on Iraq -- conditions that the Bush administration actually included in its 2008 agreement with Iraq.
Fox contributor Karl Rove went on the June 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom and accused the Obama administration of adding unprecedented demands into the renegotiation of the 2011 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq. According to Rove, the U.S. and Iraq failed to agree because the Obama administration insisted on parliamentary approval of the agreement -- a condition that "was impossible for Iraqis to meet" and divergent from "what we've done in any other country around the world where we have a Status of Forces Agreement" (emphasis added):
BILL HEMMER (co-host): Are you of the mind that the reason why we did not leave a force of 10,000 behind in Iraq -- you know, the president said yesterday 'the Iraqis didn't let us, Maliki would not give us the agreement, so we had no decision but to pull out.' Are you of the mind that this administration did not want that agreement in order to have the reason and the rationale to pull American forces out of Iraq and say to the American people 'campaign promise fulfilled, the Iraq war is winding down and now ended.' What do you think?
ROVE: Well it's hard always to define intent, but I do think the administration, they said they wanted it, they assigned Joe Biden to negotiate it, and then at the last minute they put in a condition that was impossible for the Iraqis to meet -- that is to say, they wanted parliamentary approval of the SOFA. That's not what we've done in any other country around the world where we have Status of Forces Agreement. We've signed it with the leader of the country. And Maliki had the authority to do it, but it was impossible for him to go to his parliament at that time because he was trying to form a government and this would have been embroiled in domestic politics. So the administration basically made it impossible to do the deal.
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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