The New York Times stands accused of providing coverage of Iraq that at times has become “malicious.” Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear, in an interview on CNBC, that the paper is determined to undermine the credibility of the administration’s Iraq policy.
The Times has already apologized for its own reporting on Iraq, but the New York Times now wants the President to apologize. The Times said that the 9/11 commission had found that “there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.” As a result, it said, “?President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.”
It’s the Times that has gotten the facts wrong again. Elsewhere in the Times, in a story by David E. Sanger and Robin Toner, one could read about Vice President Cheney’s charge that the Times’ coverage of the commission’s findings “was outrageous.” The Times noted that, appearing on “Capitol Report” on CNBC, Cheney said, “They do a lot of outrageous things.” Cheney specifically criticized a four-column front-page headline that read “Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie.” Mr. Cheney added: “The press wants to run out and say there’s a fundamental split here now between what the President said and what the commission said.”
According to the Times’ own account, Cheney “said that newspapers, including the Times, had confused the question of whether there was evidence of Iraqi participation in Sept. 11 with the issue of whether a relationship existed between al Qaeda and Mr. Hussein’s regime.” Cheney said the commission “did not address the broader question of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda in other areas, in other ways.” He said “the evidence is overwhelming.” The Times added, “He described the ties and cited numerous links back to the 1990’s, including contacts between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials.”
The CIA had reported to the Senate Intelligence Committee about Iraq contacts with al Qaeda going back many years. The 9/11 commission staff report, accepted as the Gospel by the Times, was full of weasel words such as “reportedly” and “apparently.” It did not confirm an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda but acknowledged links between the two. With that kind of evidence, how could the Times run a headline saying the panel found “no Qaeda-Iraq tie?”
On the matter of Iraq, al Qaeda and 9/11, the commission did not discuss the significance of the Salman Pak facility in Iraq where terrorists trained in conducting hijackings on an airplane fuselage. The New York Times had reported on this training camp in a story that the Times now questions. But the only question is whether al Qaeda operatives were among those who trained there. If so, that’s practically a smoking gun connecting Iraq to 9/11. After hearing testimony in a trial, Judge Harold Baer ruled that the evidence was sufficient to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11. This matter goes far beyond the Times’ anti-Bush political agenda. As Cheney said, the paper has become “malicious.” That means deliberately dishonest.