Coulter delivered falsehoods and smears during FOX debate on Iraq war


During a December 21 appearance on Hannity & Colmes, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter delivered a series of distortions and misleading claims about the Iraq war. She falsely implied that the group behind a December 21 attack on American soldiers in Mosul was not linked to Al Qaeda; distorted a 2002 article by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof that predicted the difficulties of the Iraq war; and defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by claiming that a reporter had devised a controversial question a soldier posed to Rumsfeld, and that the secretary's response had been taken out of context. Coulter also joined guest host, nationally syndicated radio host, and frequent FOX News Channel contributor Mike Gallagher in suggesting that Democrats and progressives are pleased with the latest attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.

Coulter suggested that the group claiming responsibility for the deadly Mosul attack, Ansar al-Sunnah, was completely separate from Al-Qaeda: "this attack did not come from Osama bin Laden. It didn't even come from Al Qaeda. It came from yet another insane Muslim group." But as the Los Angeles Times reported on December 22, Ansar al-Sunnah "has links to al Qaeda." Also, on February 28, Agence France-Presse noted that Ansar Al-Sunnah was "a group linked to Al-Qaeda." And on March 10, USA Today reported that Ansar al-Sunnah is an "offshoot" of "Ansar al-Islam, which is tied to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network."

Coulter then said, "Nicholas Kristof wrote about, you know, I'd support this war if A, B, and C happened. Well, A, B, and C have happened. And it did go better than liberals were predicting." Coulter's vague claim follows her May 27, 2004, syndicated column "Tit-for-Tat," in which she declared:

The goalpost of success keeps shifting as we stack up a string of victories. Before the war, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warned that war with Iraq would be a nightmare: "(W)e won't kill [deposed Iraqi dictator] Saddam, trigger a coup or wipe out his Republican Guard forces." (Unless, he weaseled his way out, "we're incredibly lucky.")

We've done all that! How incredibly lucky.

Kristof continued: "We'll have to hunt out Saddam on the ground -- which may be just as hard as finding Osama in Afghanistan, and much bloodier."

We've captured Saddam! And it wasn't bloody! Indeed, the most harrowing aspect of Saddam's capture was that he hadn't bathed or been de-liced for two months.

But Coulter distorted Kristof's account and overstated American accomplishments in Iraq. She claimed that Kristof believed the U.S. would neither kill Saddam nor eliminate his forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but Kristof was writing about the potential success of a bombing campaign -- not a troop invasion on the scale of the one the United States subsequently launched.

From Kristof's September 27, 2002, New York Times column -- published more than five months before the Iraq war started:

As the last gulf war showed, a bombing campaign can knock out bridges and barracks, but unless we're incredibly lucky, we won't kill Saddam, trigger a coup or wipe out his Republican Guard forces. We'll have to hunt out Saddam on the ground -- which may be just as hard as finding Osama in Afghanistan, and much bloodier.

Further, Coulter's claim that Kristof's outlined goals "have happened" is false, even when the ground war is taken into account. As the Associated Press reported on December 21, Saddam's Republican Guard has not been "wipe[d] out," as Coulter suggested: "Saddam's Republican Guard and security services ... went underground following the collapse of the regime, forging alliances with foreign and Iraqi Islamic extremists." While Saddam has been captured, Coulter's claim that capturing the Iraqi dictator "wasn't bloody" is questionable in light of the 1,319 Americans killed in Iraq as of December 22 (according to a CNN tally).

Later on Hannity & Colmes, Coulter echoed other conservative pundits in attempting to defend Rumsfeld from criticism of his December 8 response to a soldier who inquired about the lack of armored vehicles in Iraq. Coulter suggested that a reporter had fed the question to the soldier, stating: "Rumsfeld gave the answer to the serviceman who had the question from the reporter." But as Media Matters for America has noted, while conservatives have sought to discredit the question by suggesting that a reporter planted it, the soldier has asserted that he formulated the question himself -- and the soldier's remarks do not conflict with the reporter's account.

Coulter also asserted that the media had engaged in "the most irresponsible journalism I've ever seen," by "doctor[ing]" Rumsfeld's response to include only the clip in which he said, in Coulter's words, "You go to war with the army you have, not the one you want." Some news reports did include Rumsfeld's claim -- immediately preceding the statement in question -- that the armor shortage is a result of production capacity, but as Media Matters has documented, that claim is false.

In addition to spreading falsehoods, Coulter joined Gallagher in launching several attacks against Democrats and progressives. While discussing the Mosul attack, Coulter asserted that liberals "gloat" every time there is an attack against American soldiers -- a remark she retracted later on the show when challenged by Alan Colmes -- while Gallagher claimed liberals were "enthusiastic" for such events. Referencing British Prime Minister Tony Blair's December 21 assessment that the violence in Iraq leading up to the January 30, 2005, election is a "battle between democracy and terror," Gallagher asked, "Do you think the Democrats who are Bush bashers, are they pro-terror or anti-democracy or both?"

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