Notes and observations on
the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for
e-mail delivery, click
here. To send
an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click
For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit
For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to
See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
SADDAM AND OSAMA REDUX.
Did Saddam Hussein have ties to Al Qaeda? No one has been
dropping off any secret dossiers here at Media Log Central, so all I
know is what I read in the press. But the current uproar, over the
9/11 Commission report, strikes me as weird on several
For one thing, it would seem to me
that if anyone was stacking the deck against the White House, it
would be fairly simple to identify the culprit. Not so. Some
conservatives - including Vice-President Dick Cheney - are
the media, claiming that
they mischaracterized the findings of the report. "The press, with
all due respect, [is] often times lazy, often times simply
reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their
homework," Cheney said on CNBC last week.
Yet New York Times columnist
William Safire, who believes in the Saddam-Al Qaeda link just as
fervently as Cheney, says the media are blameless, and that in fact
it was the staff of the 9/11 Commission that played down the
relationship. In his column yesterday, Safire reported that the
commission's findings were written up by its staff chief, Philip
Zelikow, who ignored evidence that contradicted the anti-Bush
conclusion he wanted to reach, and who did this behind the backs of
both the Republican chairman, Tom Kean, and the Democratic
vice-chairman, Lee Hamilton. Wrote
Cheney's ire was
misdirected. Don't blame the media for jumping on the politically
charged Zelikow report. Blame the commission's leaders for ducking
responsibility for its interim findings. Kean and Hamilton have
allowed themselves to be jerked around by a manipulative
Now it's true that Safire's column
had the added advantage of exonerating his employer, which had come
under particularly heavy criticism for its news reports dismissing
the Iraq-Al Qaeda link. But Safire's evidence is pretty hard to
The Weekly Standard, the
leading neocon magazine, decides not to decide this week, running a
line that reads: "There
They Go Again: Why the 9/11 Commission and the Media Refuse to See
the Ties Between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda." (Yes, I know the
subhead is too small to read; I've got the print version.) Hmmm ...
if the media accurately reported what was in the commission's report,
how is it their fault?
Inside, editor William
Kristol and staff writer
Hayes recycle some of the
evidence regarding Saddam's alleged ongoing relationship with Iraq.
Both Kristol and Hayes have been known to truck in some
Chalabi-by-way-of-Feith fantasies, but they are serious people, and I
don't take their findings lightly. I was particularly struck by the
charge that the 9/11 Commission ruled out the possibility that
terrorist mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a top Iraqi intelligence
official in Prague, several months before 9/11, partly on the basis
of Atta's cell-phone records. Hayes writes: "It is entirely possible
that Atta would leave his cell phone behind if he left the country.
In any case, the hijackers are known to have shared cell phones." No
But I'm always suspicious when the
White House's supporters are willing to make a better case than the
White House itself. Take, for instance, the matter of Ahmed Hikmat
Shakir, who reportedly attended a January 2000 Al Qaeda planning
meeting in Malaysia, who is known to have possessed contact
information for top Al Qaeda officials, and who may have been a
high-ranking officer in the Fedayeen Saddam. Now that's a
pretty definitive tie, I think we would all agree.
Both Hayes and Kristol concede that
they might be writing about two people with the same name. And, in
fact, today's Washington Post reports
that is apparently the case. After 9/11 Commission member John
Lehman, a former secretary of the Navy, repeated the Shakir
allegations over the weekend, a "senior administration official" was
quoted as saying the apparent tie was the result of confusion over
two similar names. Read Spencer
Ackerman on this,
In any case, such evidence does not
explain the Bushies' obsession with Iraq, especially given the
finding that Al Qaeda had much closer ties with Iran
and Pakistan. Of course,
Pakistan is now our "friend," and Iran is too big and scary to
invade. Iraq remains what it has been from the beginning - a war of
convenience, fought because the White House thought it would be easy.
Getting out the electron microscope to find evidence that Saddam and
Osama bin Laden worked together doesn't change that.
CLINTON'S PSYCHE, TOO MUCH WITH
US. Here's the thing, President Clinton: if you're going to write
about your affair with Monica Lewinsky, and you're going to submit
willingly to questions about it - as you did with Dan
Rather on Sunday - then
you've got to expect that not every interviewer is going to be as
polite and understanding as Rather or, say, Oprah.
You could have set different ground
rules. You could have made it clear that you weren't going to run
around psychobabbling about your inner child. You could have talked
about health care, or global debt relief, even though that would have
cost you a few sales.
So don't throw
a nutty when someone like
David Dimbleby lets you have it on the BBC.
posted at 9:21 AM |
Post a Comment
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.