- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Which has become more politicized — the major media or the September 11 Commission?

The answer was clear last week: The New York Times, NPR, the BBC, the television troika (Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather), the “news” columns of the Wall Street Journal … in short, all the usual suspects in the media.

Note the big headline on the front page of Thursday’s New York Times: “Panel finds no al Qaeda-Iraq tie.”

The Times wasn’t the only one to get out the big type. “Al Qaeda-Hussein link is dismissed,” proclaimed The Washington Post. “No signs of Iraq-al Qaeda ties found,” reported the Los Angeles Times. And so loudly on. (And earnest liberals wonder why folks increasingly turn to the Fox channel or talk radio.)

As for the “discovery” that Saddam Hussein’s intelligence apparatus had no direct connection with September 11, well, the administration has never claimed it did. (“No, we’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11.” — George W. Bush, Sept. 17, 2003.)

What the administration did claim was that Saddam’s ties to terrorism go back at least a decade, which is when Iraq made the State Department’s list of terrorist-supporting states. The administration also noted Saddam’s agents established contacts with al Qaeda, which no one seriously disputes — including the September 11 Commission, however its actual findings may have been distorted by the major media, or anybody with an interest in hunting this president.

Indeed, the commission’s investigators confirmed an Iraqi intelligence officer met with Osama bin Laden himself in the Sudan as early as 1994.

All this editorializing in the guise of news was too much for even the usually patient Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the September 11 Commission and Mr. Integrity himself:

“I must say I have trouble understanding the flak over this. The vice president is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government. We don’t disagree with that. What we have said is … we don’t have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Hussein’s government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media have drawn, are not that apparent to me.”

Indeed, they are not apparent at all — unless you’re a believer in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, et al. “Challenges Bush,” blared the subhead on the New York Times story about the September 11 Commission’s report.

Once again strawmen are strewn about everywhere as the major media all agree a claim the Bush administration never made now has been refuted.

Remember the fuss over the small but critical word “imminent” some time back? Not too long ago everybody who was anybody in The Media or the opposition (or do I repeat myself?) was claiming the administration had taken us to war to avert an “imminent” threat that never really existed.

The only problem was the administration claimed the threat represented by Saddam Hussein’s rogue regime was imminent — more like grave and growing. Even today the occasional critic who never got the word may still throw that old canard into the election-year cauldron.

Conclusion: After all this time and these investigations, the Major Media still haven’t connected the dots:

No, Saddam Hussein’s regime may not have had anything to do with the surprise attack on the American mainland September 11, 2001 — as opposed to various attacks on our embassies in Africa, on the USS Cole, and on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. No more than Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy had anything to do with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. And yet they were all in it together — Japanese militarists, German Nazis, Italian Fascists, and the whole worldwide web that then constituted a threat to freedom.

Our enemy at the time was no single regime or nation but a whole international movement that had declared war on freedom and even civilization itself. Just as today it is a radical Islamic movement that seeks to dominate the Muslim world and mobilize it against Western civilization.

Only slowly did this country awaken to the fascist threat, but even by 1941 a still largely isolationist America was drafting a citizen army, staging maneuvers, sending lend-lease shipments to Britain, and conducting an undeclared naval war against the Nazis in the North Atlantic.

Then, as now, Americans debated intensely about just how serious the threat was, and who posed it. Then, as now, a large segment of pubic opinion — and of the media — just didn’t get it, and refused to connect the dots.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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