Despite widespread reports of the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that it is a "myth" that "Afghanistan's going backwards" and declared that "the Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan." O'Reilly also asserted that "10 years ago, nobody [had] even heard of" Iraq; in fact, the United States led a coalition against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
On the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly presented viewers with a host of misinformation regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to baselessly claiming that "the Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan," O'Reilly also asserted that "10 years ago, nobody [had] even heard of" Iraq, despite the fact that the United States led a coalition against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. O'Reilly further stated that while most of the problems in Iraq are "the Iraqis' fault" because they "are the ones that are killing each other," what is "America's fault, the Bush administration's fault" is that "[w]e thought ... [w]e were going to be greeted with flags, as conquerors." Vice President Dick Cheney famously predicted U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq as "liberators," not "conquerors." Additionally, O'Reilly's guest, Fox News political analyst and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), baselessly asserted that support for "unilateral withdrawal" of U.S. troops in Iraq, which Gingrich attributed to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, "would get about 25 percent of the vote." In fact, polling has consistently shown that a majority of Americans favor a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the position Dean and Pelosi favor.
O'Reilly also claimed during the program that he was "not a partisan as far as telling anybody who to vote for. I think you're [his viewers] smart enough to know who to vote for." As Media Matters for America has noted, O'Reilly has suggested that both North Korea and Iran "want to influence the November election" and want Americans to "vote in the Democrats."
During a discussion with Sarah Sewall, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, O'Reilly claimed that "we were successful in Afghanistan"; that it is "a myth" that "Afghanistan's going backwards," as Sewall claimed; that "[t]here's always going to be a Taliban insurrection" in Afghanistan; that "[e]very military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified"; and that "[o]ur information is that there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none. They'll be annoying. There'll be guerrilla warfare." When Sewall tried to argue otherwise, O'Reilly declared her to be "just parroting the left-wing line that America doesn't know what its doing." Sewall replied: "I'm parroting conversations with commanders who are in uniform serving bravely in Afghanistan."
In fact, as the Associated Press reported October 2, "Afghanistan is suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since a U.S.-led military force toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden." According to the AP casualty count, which is "based on reports from U.S., NATO and Afghan officials, at least 2,800 people have been killed nationwide so far this year," making this year, as ABC News reported "the bloodiest fighting" in Afghanistan "since the Taliban was toppled in 2001." Further, according to CBS News, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai warned in June that "[s]ecurity forces battling the biggest rise in Taliban violence in years will be bolstered by new recruits from local tribes." Additionally, as CBS reported, Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak characterized the increase in violence, notably in southern Afghanistan, as an "all-out Taliban push." ABC News reported on October 23 that Taliban leader Mullah Omar promised to increase violence in the "coming months":
Marking Islam's holiest day with a message to his followers, Mullah Omar warned that the Taliban's campaign would become "more forceful and organized" in the coming months, and would eventually drive the NATO-led coalition from Afghanistan.
"Do not be deceived by the enemy's hollow and unworthy propaganda," he wrote in his Eid ul-Fitr message, explaining that American forces in Afghanistan had already "been faced with defeat."
Further, contrary to O'Reilly's claim that "there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none," Gen. David Richards, NATO's commanding officer in Afghanistan, who claims the situation in southern Afghanistan is stabilized, warned that Afghanistan was at a "tipping point," and that "If we collectively ... do not exploit this winter to start achieving concrete and visible improvement, then some 70% of Afghans could switch sides" and support the Taliban.
While Gingrich baselessly suggested that only 25 percent of the public would support Pelosi and Dean's plan for Iraq, a Pew public opinion poll conducted September 21-October 4, the most recent poll available on the issue, found that 53 percent of respondents favored a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Thirty-nine percent felt that the United States "should not" set a timetable.
From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: See, I'm not a partisan as far as telling anybody who to vote for. I think you're smart enough to know who to vote for. But I'm looking at the unintended consequences. And this is all about Iraq.
Isn't it interesting that Iraq now -- this Muslim country that 10 years ago nobody even heard of, all right, is now impacting on how we live in America.
O'REILLY: Because again, if Iraq had been pacified the way Afghanistan is, if it had been a successful military campaign, Bush would -- 60 percent. There would be no dissatisfaction because the economy's pretty good --
O'REILLY: -- everything's rolling along. But Iraq is now influencing how we live here.
GINGRICH: You know, I watched this as somebody who used to plan elections. And if you had said to me the Dow's going to break 12,000, we're going to set records in the stock market, people are going to have more money in their savings, more money in their pension plan, we're going to see gasoline drop back down by about a dollar a gallon decline in price, I would have said that's a pretty good -- I'd like to have those last two or three weeks to campaign in.
But you're right. Wars are about performance. The American people will support fighting if necessary. They are very concerned. The majority do not want to withdraw.
I mean, the truth is, in a straight up-and-down vote, the Nancy Pelosi-Howard Dean unilateral withdrawal argument would get about 25 percent of the vote. But people don't want to just stay the course. They don't want to be told --
GINGRICH: -- we're not going to change.
O'REILLY: OK. And I agree with that. But it is the Iraqis' fault. The Iraqis are the ones that are killing each other. The Iraqi militias in the south have allied themselves with Iran. The Iraqis are harboring Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda couldn't exist in the country without Iraqi complicity.
So it is the Iraqis' fault. And to give them a pass is ridiculous. Now --
SEWALL: Well, I haven't given them a pass. In January --
O'REILLY: -- our fault is we didn't anticipate the fact -- our fault is, America's fault, the Bush administration's fault is we didn't anticipate that the Iraqis wouldn't step up. We thought they would, remember? We were going to be greeted with flags, as conquerors.
O'REILLY: No, I think that's vital. But look, we were successful in Afghanistan. And nobody thought --
SEWALL: Well, the jury's still out on Afghanistan, though.
O'REILLY: -- we would overthrow the Taliban in that way. So we were successful.
SEWALL: Unfortunately, Afghanistan's going backwards --
O'REILLY: That's a myth.
SEWALL: -- which I think speaks --
O'REILLY: That's a myth.
SEWALL: -- to part of the problem with the focus of effort on Iraq. We risk losing the progress that had been made in Afghanistan.
O'REILLY: Now you're just -- that's not true. There's always going to be a Taliban insurrection. As long as they have mountain --
SEWALL: It is true.
O'REILLY: No, it's not. Every military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified.
SEWALL: Maybe you should be talking to the people on the ground, then.
O'REILLY: I talk to everybody, Professor.
SEWALL: Because they're concerned about the situation there.
O'REILLY: You're just parroting the left-wing line that America doesn't know what it's doing. It's bull.
SEWALL: I'm parroting conversations with commanders who are in uniform serving bravely in Afghanistan.
O'REILLY: All right, so have I. And our information is that there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none. They'll be annoying. There'll be guerrilla warfare. It will not happen, and I believe that. Final question for you.
SEWALL: Well, I assume then that you're discounting the views of the British commander of the new NATO force who's quite concerned about the direction.
O'REILLY: Everybody's concerned --
SEWALL: And I think the point is that we need to --
O'REILLY: -- nobody thinks the Taliban's going to win.
SEWALL: -- have a different strategy in Afghanistan also.
O'REILLY: OK, last question.
SEWALL: There are very serious issues.
O'REILLY: The Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan, I believe. And they've also decimated Al Qaeda. So they've got two wins and a loss. A loss, not means that it can't not turn out. But it's certainly, as you put it, chaotic in Iraq.
So if we do change tactics, and if we don't do anything impulsive, which would lead to disaster, in my opinion, because Iran would move into that gulf, there is still a possibility we can come out of this in a good way. I'll give you the last word.