In a desperate attempt to make Rudy Giuliani out to be the hero of Tuesday night’s debate, Fox News is continuing to attack Texas Congressman Ron Paul for something he did not say. In the latest installment of this campaign, John Gibson of Fox News says that Paul “suggested that the U.S. actually had a hand in the [9/11] terrorist attacks.” No, what he said was that U.S. foreign policy was a reason why Osama bin Laden attacked America. This is a fact.
Gibson’s comment shows how Fox News has been eager to slant the news in favor of Giuliani, who claimed in his famous response to Paul that the congressman had said that the U.S. “invited” the 9/11 attacks. That was false, too.
Some would say that Ron Paul’s foreign policy views, in this day and age, are somewhat na?ve. But Giuliani’s assault, assisted by Fox News, which co-sponsored the debate, goes so far over the line that an honest media watchdog has to say something. Gibson, trying to make Paul’s comments about 9/11 into “The Big Outrage,” claimed that he was a member of the 9/11 truth movement, the group that claims the terrorist attacks were orchestrated by some kind of secret cabal of U.S. officials. He compared Paul to Rosie O’Donnell, who suggested 9/11 was an inside job.
I have written extensively about this movement, rebutting their contentions and complaining about their claims being picked up by hate-America media such as Al-Jazeera. But this is not what Paul was saying during the debate. His point was that the U.S. has been deeply involved in the Middle East for decades and that Islamists have reacted with violence and terrorism. Indeed, bin Laden mentioned it in his 1996 declaration against America. Paul was correct to say this is considered “blowback” by the intelligence community and that the role of U.S. foreign policy in the attacks was mentioned in the 9/11 commission report.
Is this such a big revelation? The Islamists, after all, did not attack us for nothing. Indeed, we have been under attack by Islamic radicals for decades. Is it such a big surprise to hear somebody say that the 9/11 attacks were linked to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?
Ron Paul is not denying that the Islamists were responsible for 9/11 and should be hunted down and held responsible. He is only talking about their motives. Other factors, of course, include the nature of their brand of fanatical Islam.
Ron Paul is being viciously attacked over this issue because some people don’t want to consider the implications, which Paul is honest enough from his perspective to spell out. These implications are that the U.S. should withdraw from the region, supposedly to spare the U.S. from any further attacks. That is the Ron Paul approach, and he claims it is what President Reagan would do. It may be na?ve to some, but he cites Reagan’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Lebanon after 241 of them were murdered in a suicide bombing. He thinks no good can come from U.S. involvement in such an irrational part of the world.
The other course of action is to defend U.S. foreign policy and insist that what we have done―and are doing―in the Middle East is legitimate. Scholar Bernard Lewis makes the case that we have to be involved in the Middle East because, as he puts it, we either have to free the Muslims and help them establish free and democratic governments or they will continue to destroy themselves and kill us. From this perspective, it is a gamble and a fight to the finish.
President Bush is betting that a new Iraq will pave the way for real change. It is a legitimate point of view, one that Accuracy in Media made in Roger Aronoff’s brilliant film, “Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope.” AIM has always maintained, however, that the war cannot be won only on the military battlefield, and that the information war is equally important. Tragically, the Bush Administration has left us basically defenseless on this battlefield, leaving the outcome in Iraq and globally in question.
Except for Senator John McCain, there was no real defender of the Bush policy on the stage in South Carolina. Most of them didn’t seem to want to talk about Iraq. So when Ron Paul invokes the name of Ronald Reagan and makes the case for U.S. withdrawal, he touches a raw nerve. He is making the case that if Reagan were alive today, he would be against the current policy on Iraq. Judging by Reagan’s response to the carnage in Lebanon, Paul’s point cannot be dismissed out of hand. His point should be debated, not ridiculed, and the media should not take sides.
Fox News personalities transformed Giuliani’s misleading attack on Ron Paul over his 9/11 comments into something it is not. This can be explained by the fact that Fox News, or at least the top executives of its parent company, News Corporation, want Giuliani to become the 2008 Republican presidential candidate. News Corporation even became one of Giuliani’s corporate clients as he was preparing to run for president. The “controversy” over Ron Paul and 9/11 got the attention away from Giuliani’s radical and liberal views on abortion and other social issues.
However, one cannot explain why so many conservatives who should know better, and who are not on the Fox News payroll, should have jumped on Paul with such vehemence.
Ron Paul’s response to Giuliani, if he had been able to read an Associated Press news story that day on Giuliani’s lucrative clientele, could have been that the former New York City mayor had some explaining of his own to do. Why, after rallying the city and nation after 9/11 and rejecting a financial contribution for the victim’s families from a Saudi billionaire prince, did he turn around and decide to represent the Saudis in order to make himself rich?
Why has this not been transformed into the “Big Story” by John Gibson?
Under prodding from Fox News and the rest of the media, Giuliani and the Republican presidential candidates who support the Iraq war should explain to the American people how they intend to win it. Paul contends that it is a no-win war and that we should get out before more American lives are lost. The problem for those opposed to the Ron Paul view is that President Bush doesn’t even speak any longer of victory in Iraq, only success, and that we don’t have a definition of what that is supposed to mean. It’s no wonder congressional Republicans are losing patience and that a leading Republican senator has said that Democratic demands for benchmarks and progress by the Iraqi government have actually done some good on the ground.
With or without Ron Paul, the issue will remain. The Republicans cannot avoid it. The media should do their jobs by facilitating an open and honest debate, not trying to silence one of the candidates through smears, innuendo and character assassination.