CNN's Schneider, Tribune columnist falsely claimed Obama talked about "invad[ing]" Pakistan

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On the August 12 edition of CNN's Late Edition, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider claimed that during an August 1 foreign policy speech, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "said that he might invade Pakistan if we could target Osama bin Laden and other known terrorists." In an August 13 Chicago Tribune op-ed, columnist Dennis Byrne went a step further, claiming that Obama "promise[d] that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan." In fact, Obama did not say he would "invade" Pakistan, nor did he "promise" any sort of military action in Pakistan. Rather, Obama said: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistan] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will." Obama has since pointed out that he "never called for an invasion of Pakistan."

Schneider and Byrne are just the most recent media figures to assert that Obama proposed "invading" Pakistan. As Media Matters for America noted, after reporting -- based on "some exclusive excerpts and comments" he had received before the speech -- that Obama would propose "going so far as to invade Pakistan," ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper acknowledged in an August 7 blog entry that Obama did not use the word "invade" and reported that he had emailed ABC News national security analyst Anthony H. Cordesman to determine whether "the media (and I) overstate[d] the case by using the term 'invade.' " Tapper wrote that Cordesman, "told me that Obama is correct, what he's talking about militarily would not be considered an invasion."

From the August 12 edition of CNN's Late Edition:

JOE JOHNS (guest host): Bill Schneider, obviously you've been at this for a long time. It's been a week now. Was that a mistake for Barack Obama, at least among the people you would consider the base that he's trying to appeal to right now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think what he did was, he committed what I call "not supposed to's." He said a number of things you're not supposed to say if you're trying to be president of the United States. Now, a lot of the base thought, well, why not? He's just saying what we all believe.

He said that, you know, he'd be willing -- he would set aside the use of nuclear weapons if there would be civilian deaths, even if we could target known terrorists. You're not supposed to say that. Hillary Clinton was quick to respond.

The base says, well, of course we wouldn't use nuclear weapons if there would be civilian deaths. No president would do that. And Clinton's response was, well, we're not supposed to say whether or not we would or whether or not we wouldn't.

He said that he might invade Pakistan if we could target Osama bin Laden and other known terrorists. Hillary Clinton said, you're not supposed to threaten an ally, particularly one that's in a very unstable situation. So she gets credit for professionalism, but I think with the base that you asked me about, I think they don't understand what you're not supposed to say. And a lot of them like what Obama's been saying.

However, as the text of Obama's speech makes clear, Obama did not say "he might invade Pakistan"; instead, he promised to "act" if Musharraf didn't, leaving open what such actions would consist of:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America's commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists' program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair -- our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.

In his Tribune op-ed, Byrne wrote that "Obama's promise that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan sure has a familiar feel; anyone remember the Iraq war?" Byrne then noted Obama's clarification but asserted: "Obama has objected that his remarks have been taken out of context, so, fair enough, let's look at the speech in which he issued the warning." Byrne provided the excerpt of Obama's August 1 speech quoted above -- despite the fact that it in no way supports his claim that Obama "promise[d]" to "invade Pakistan" -- writing that the "Bush White House could have written some of" Obama speech:

But Obama has more going against him than being the spawn of political hacks and hypocrites. His recent statements raise troubling questions about his competence, such as his ham-handed declaration about invading a sovereign ally, Pakistan.

Supposedly an "agent of change," Obama's promise that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan sure has a familiar feel; anyone remember the Iraq war? Who would have thought that within Obama lurked a neocon?

The impact of Obama's threats were immediately apparent, in helping to destabilize Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 's shaky government and raising the specter of Islamic extremists running a nuclear-armed state. Obama has objected that his remarks have been taken out of context, so, fair enough, let's look at the speech in which he issued the warning.

The Bush White House could have written some of it: "It's time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action," he said. And: "As president, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

George W. Bush reborn? A reminder for Bush haters and Obama fawners: Bush also said he had actionable intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq.

In fact, as Media Matters has detailed, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Obama's proposed policy toward Pakistan involve different situations: Iraq was not involved in the 9-11 attacks, while a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) -- which Obama cited in his August 1 speech -- indicated that Al Qaeda, which did attack the United States on 9-11, is gaining strength along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Moreover, Obama was highly critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy during his August 1 speech, and the policy he offered regarding Pakistan differs significantly from that of the Bush administration, which, as Media Matters noted, reportedly "reluctantly endorsed" a cease-fire in Pakistan that "intelligence officials and White House aides" saw as one of "the main reasons for Al Qaeda's resurgence" in Pakistan.

Network/Outlet
CNN, Chicago Tribune
Person
Bill Schneider
Show/Publication
Late Edition
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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