Bloomberg, Reuters joined CNN in uncritically reporting Bush's new position that he "[a]bsolutely" would send troops into Pakistan to get bin Laden

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In recent reports on President Bush's September 20 statement that he "[a]bsolutely" would order U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture Osama bin Laden, Bloomberg News and Reuters joined CNN in ignoring Bush's contradictory statement that the United States could send troops into Pakistan to hunt for bin Laden unless it was "invited" to do so, because Pakistan is a "sovereign nation."

In recent reports on President Bush's September 20 statement that he "[a]bsolutely" would order U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture Osama bin Laden, Bloomberg News and Reuters joined CNN in ignoring Bush's contradictory statement, which he had uttered five days before, that the United States could not send troops into Pakistan to hunt for bin Laden unless it was "invited" to do so, because Pakistan is a "sovereign nation." On September 20, CNN host Wolf Blitzer stated that Bush had made his position "clear" on whether the United States would go after bin Laden, saying that "the U.S. is going to do whatever it takes ... to find Osama bin Laden." By contrast, the Associated Press and Cox News Service noted Bush's earlier assertion that Pakistan is a "sovereign nation" and that he could not send troops into that country unless "invited."

As Media Matters for America noted, in an interview aired on the September 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Blitzer asked Bush if he would give the order to pursue bin Laden into Pakistan "even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory." Bush replied: "We would take the action necessary to bring him to justice." This answer, as Media Matters noted, contradicted what Bush said at a September 15 press conference, during which, when asked why he thinks "it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden wherever he is," Bush responded: "Because, first of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation. ... In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan." Blitzer, as Media Matters noted, did not ask Bush to explain the contradiction between the two statements.

Subsequently, in reports noting Bush's most recent statement about bin Laden, several other news outlets failed to note either Bush's September 15 statement or any of the other inconsistent statements Bush has made on the necessity of capturing bin Laden or the measures he would take, as Media Matters has documented. In particular, CNN repeatedly aired Bush's statement, but never hinted that Bush had seemingly changed his position on the issue, with Blitzer saying, during a segment on the September 20 edition of Paula Zahn Now, that Bush has "made it clear" that "the U.S. is going to do whatever it takes, even five years after 9-11, to find Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri, the top leaders of Al Qaeda."

From the 7 a.m. ET broadcast of the September 21 edition of CNN's American Morning:

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (host): So, the chorus of anti-American rhetoric at the U.N. this week hasn't seemed to deter President Bush, who took a break to talk exclusively with CNN's Wolf Blitzer about Iraq, [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: With New York's scarred skyline behind us, President Bush made it clear he still wants Osama bin Laden dead or alive. And he says he'd order U.S. forces to go inside Pakistan to get him and other top Al Qaeda leaders.

If you had good actionable intelligence in Pakistan -- where they were -- would you give the order to kill him or capture him?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And go into Pakistan?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory?

BUSH: Absolutely. We would -- we would take the action necessary to bring him to justice.

BLITZER: A quick and angry response from the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf.

MUSHARRAF [video clip]: No, we wouldn't like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves. We would like to do it ourselves.

BLITZER: I sat down with President Bush a day after he and the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave dueling speeches at the United Nations.

From the 6 a.m. ET broadcast of the September 21 edition of CNN's American Morning:

O'BRIEN: How far would the U.S. go to capture Osama bin Laden? In an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, President Bush says he would order American troops into Pakistan to get bin Laden, despite opposition from Pakistan's government.

[begin video clip]

BLITZER: If you had good, actionable intelligence in Pakistan -- where they were -- would you give the order to kill them or capture them?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And go into Pakistan?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory?

BUSH: Absolutely. We would -- we would take the action necessary to bring him to justice.

[end video clip]

O'BRIEN: Well, speaking to reporters at the U.N. on Thursday, Pakistan's President Musharraf responded this way to President Bush.

MUSHARRAF [video clip]: We wouldn't like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves. We would like to do it ourselves.

O'BRIEN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is weighing in as well on Pakistan's role in the war on terror, referring to the country as a terrorist sanctuary. Presidents Bush, Musharraf, Karzai -- all scheduled to meet next week in Washington, D.C.

From the September 20 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now:

O'BRIEN: President Bush had a lot to say today when he sat down with Wolf Blitzer. Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Soledad. How are you doing?

O'BRIEN: I'm doing great. Let's talk a little bit about what the president told you. First and foremost, talk about 9-11 and Osama bin Laden. Did he -- did the president talk about the -- the strategy for -- for finding Osama bin Laden?

BLITZER: Basically, he made it clear that the U.S. is going to do whatever it takes, even five years after 9-11, to find Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the top leaders of al Qaeda. He's not giving up. And, then, he was really blunt. Listen to this exchange.

[begin video clip]

BLITZER: If you had good, actionable intelligence in Pakistan -- where they were -- would you give the order to kill him or capture him?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And go into Pakistan?

BUSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory.

BUSH: Absolutely. We would -- we would take the action necessary to bring him to justice.

[end video clip]

BLITZER: Shortly after that, Soledad, the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, was asked about the U.S. crossing the border, going into the sovereign territory of Pakistan, and Musharraf was not happy at all. He said that would not be good. He said, leave it up to Pakistan. But I got to tell you, Soledad, a lot of U.S. officials right now are nervous that Pakistan is not necessarily doing everything it should.

From the September 21 Bloomberg News article:

U.S. forces hunting Osama bin Laden and other terrorists in Afghanistan will cross into Pakistan if necessary, U.S. President George W. Bush said, as the leaders of the two neighboring countries traded blame over the insurgency.

"We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice,'' Bush said in an interview with Cable News Network yesterday. When asked if he would order U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture or kill bin Laden, if intelligence indicated he was hiding there, Bush responded: "Absolutely.''

Bin Laden has been on the run since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Islamist Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who sheltered the al-Qaeda chief and hosted his training camps, has also evaded capture.

The guerrilla war being waged by Taliban rebels is a source of tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The pair clashed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday, each saying the other must do more to tackle the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Bush will hold talks with Musharraf and Karzai in Washington on Sept. 27 to discuss the joint fight against terrorism, White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

"I view President Musharraf as somebody who would like to bring al-Qaeda to justice,'' Bush told CNN, when asked whether the Pakistani leader was doing enough to track down terrorists in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. "There's no question there is a kind of a hostile territory in the remote regions of Pakistan that makes it easier for somebody to hide.''

Pakistan Operation

Musharraf, who has faced opposition from Islamist groups for supporting the U.S.-led war on terrorism, said his government would oppose any U.S. action in Pakistan.

"We wouldn't like to allow that at all,'' he told reporters in New York. "We will do it ourselves.''

A January 13 U.S. air strike on suspected al-Qaeda figures in a village in northwestern Pakistan killed 18 people and sparked protests against the U.S. across the country.

From the September 20 Reuters article:

President George W. Bush said on Wednesday if he had firm intelligence that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would issue the order to go into that country after the al Qaeda leader.

His statement drew an immediate response from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who said Pakistan would handle such a situation itself. Musharraf is extremely sensitive about possible foreign military intervention inside his borders.

The two leaders are to meet at the White House on Friday.

Asked in an interview with CNN whether he would issue an order to go into Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, Bush replied: "Absolutely."

He added: "We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice."

When Bush's remarks were put to Musharraf at a news conference at the United Nations, the Pakistani leader replied: "We wouldn't like to allow that. We'd like to do that ourselves."

Bush considers Musharraf a valuable ally in fighting terrorism, but the Pakistani leader faces strong anti-American sentiment at home.

He is also disputing U.S. and Afghan government statements that he is not doing enough to crack down on militants operating in the rugged border area.

Bush is intent on portraying his administration and party as tough on terrorism before the November election, in which his Republican party is fighting to keep control of Congress.

Bush noted that al Qaeda has made attempts on the Pakistani leader's life and said: "I view President Musharraf as somebody who would like to bring al Qaeda to justice."

Bin Laden and Zawahri [sic] have eluded a U.S. manhunt over the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks. They are believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"There's no question there is a kind of a hostile territory in the remote regions of Pakistan that makes it easier for somebody to hide," Bush said. "But we're on the hunt. We'll get him."

Last week, Bush dismissed as an "urban myth" that his administration was not focused on hunting for bin Laden.

By contrast, both the Associated Press and the Cox News Service noted the Bush's earlier assertion that Pakistan is a "sovereign nation" and that he could not send troops into that country unless invited:

From the September 21 AP article:

In a news conference last week, Bush said he could not send thousands of troops into Pakistan to search for bin Laden without an invitation from the government. "Pakistan's a sovereign nation," Bush said then.

In the television interview, Bush was asked whether he would give the order for American troops to kill or capture bin Laden or other terror leaders if good intelligence pointed to their whereabouts, even if it was inside Pakistan's borders.

"We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice," the president said.

From the September 21 Cox News Service article:

President Bush, who last week said Pakistani sovereignty prevents U.S. forces from searching for Osama bin Laden in that nation, insisted on Wednesday he would send forces there to capture or kill al-Qaida leaders if solid intelligence information pinpointed them in that country.

"Absolutely," Bush said when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he would give the order under those circumstances.

The comment came five days after Bush cited Pakistan's sovereignty as a prohibition against searching for al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.

Blitzer asked Bush on Wednesday whether he would send troops in despite Pakistan's claims of sovereignty.

"We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice," the president replied.

U.S. officials have privately complained about sporadic cooperation on the part of Pakistani officials in hunting al-Qaida leaders.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly session, said Wednesday that he would not allow U.S. troops into Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden.

"No," he said. "We wouldn't like to allow that at all.We will do it ourselves. We would like to do it ourselves."

Musharraf said his country has a solid track record in dealing with terrorist leaders.

Bush, Musharraf to meet

"We have been, whenever we locate anybody, and there have been many such occasions where we have located al-Qaida or Taliban activity, we have struck, and we have struck with good force, very successfully," he said. "We will carry that on our side of the border."

Bush and Musharraf are scheduled to meet Friday at the White House.

Bush's tough talk about potential action within Pakistan stood in contrast to his comments at a Rose Garden news conference last Friday when he downplayed the possibility of sending U.S. forces into Pakistan to track down bin Laden or other al-Qaida leaders.

"In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan," Bush said.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg
Show/Publication
American Morning, Paula Zahn Now
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