Hoover Institution senior fellow and National Review Online (NRO) contributor Victor Davis Hanson used a solo interview on the January 24 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume to offer several misleading statements and distortions about the Bush administration's handling of Iraq. Though Hanson is a conservative whose NRO columns consistently praise President Bush while attacking Democrats, Special Report provided no differing perspective.
Chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle, who conducted the interview, introduced Hanson merely as a "military historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow," but he never mentioned that the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is a conservative think tank whose board of overseers includes right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife (and which receives funding from conservative foundations including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) or that Hanson's columns for NRO frequently include observations such as "[John] Kerry's hypocrisy is finally catching up to him" and criticism of "Kerry's own failure in any honest fashion to offer a coherent and principled alternative course of action to defeat the terrorists." Hanson also offered the following pre-election musing on the fate of Democrats after the 2004 presidential election:
When this is all over, and George Bush is reelected -- Republicans then controlling all branches of federal government, and most of the state legislatures and governorships -- then, and only then, will Democrats grasp the march of folly in 2004, and either return to their roots or perish from increasing irrelevance. Meanwhile, George Bush, oblivious to the hysteria, will finish and win this war.
Apart from his partisanship, it's far from clear what qualified Hanson to speak as an expert on Iraq. His bio explains that he is a Greek and Latin scholar by profession, and while the bio claims that Hanson has published writings on "military history," the titles of many of his books (e.g., Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience, The Wars of the Ancient Greeks, and The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece) appear to indicate that his expertise is in the military history of ancient Greece.
The presence of conservatives in its daily one-on-one interview slot is part of a well-documented pattern on Special Report. Liberal media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) categorized 101 guests who appeared on Special Report's solo interview slot between June 30 and December 29, 2003, and found that "[a]mong ideological guests, conservatives accounted for 72 percent, while centrists made up 15 percent and progressives 14 percent." This survey is the most recent of three studies by FAIR of Special Report guests; all three found similar results.
During Hanson's January 24 appearance on Special Report, an interview ostensibly devoted to discussing upcoming elections in Iraq, Hanson misleadingly praised the U.S.-led occupation's administration of Iraqi oil as a historic departure from the corruption of the United Nations and France:
HANSON: All the old stereotypes don't apply. The oil is under transparent control. The U.N. and French are not involved, and the Russians are not involved. ... Billions are going to be under control of the Iraqi people. It doesn't fit any of the old conspiracy theories that we're after oil.
In fact, as the Associated Press reported on December 15, 2004, international auditors charged with ensuring transparency had criticized U.S. oil administrators in Iraq:
The international board monitoring Iraq's oil revenue criticized the former U.S. administrators of Iraq and the current government for mismanagement, citing smuggling, inadequate spending records and contracts worth at least $812 million where there was no competitive bidding. ... The board was authorized by the U.N. Security Council in May 2003 to ensure the "transparent" operation of the Development Fund for Iraq.
Hanson also praised U.S. action in Iraq as "historic"; declared that "Americans should be proud we're on the right side of history"; and downplayed concerns about violence disrupting the upcoming Iraqi elections.
When Angle asked about "all of the skeptics" who "say, 'Look, this can't work, there's too much violence,'" Hanson insisted, "So far, they have been proven wrong, I think. We were told that the Shia would be puppets of Iran. That has not happened." In support of his rosy description of Shia independence and moderation in Iraq, Hanson cited the relatively pro-American Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. But he never mentioned Iran's apparent support for radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose bloody rebellion against the U.S.-led occupation peaked in April 2004. In a November 22, 2004, article titled "The Iran Connection," U.S. News & World Report reported (full text here):
Iran has been a principal supporter of Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric whose black-clad Mahdi Army fighters have clashed often with U.S.-led forces. Months before the worst of the insurgency in southern Iraq began last April, U.S. intelligence officials tracked reported movements of Iranian money and arms to forces loyal to Sadr.