Editorial: Bush critics distort 9-11 report, misquote his comments on Iraq

June 20, 2004

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill - or twisting the facts to fit a political point of view - that's exactly what many of President Bush's critics in the media and the Democratic Party have done with the staff report released Thursday by the September 11 Commission.

Headlines such as "No Iraq aid to al-Qaida found" and "Sept. 11 report contradicts Bush" were trumpeted at the top of the front pages of the metro dailies that circulate in this area, and the New York Times called on the president to apologize for misleading Americans into thinking that Iraq was linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Sen. John Kerry, called the report evidence that the "administration misled America and the administration reached too far."

In fact, it's the liberal media and their fair-haired boy Kerry who are reaching too far.


In the first place, they are misquoting the 9-11 panel's staff report, which didn't say there was "no Iraq aid to al-Qaida." At the same time, senior members of the 9-11 panel went out of their way Thursday to point out that the report in no way "contradicted" the White House.

What the report did say was, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States."

And that is something neither President Bush nor members of his administration have ever claimed. The liberal spin is that the administration created "an impression" that Saddam was involved in the 9-11 attacks. Yet even the New York Times, the president's harshest media critic, admits that he never actually said Saddam was involved.

What Bush has been saying about any link between Saddam and al-Qaida is same thing he said Thursday in response to questions about the panel's report.

"We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with (Osama) bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two," he said.

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida," Bush said.

The relationship between Saddam Hussein and terrorists - al-Qaida and other groups - has been widely documented going back, at least, to the mid-1990s. Even the Clinton administration included Iraq on a list of states that sponsored terrorism.

One can't blame the Democrats for trying to make an issue out of something Bush never said. That's politics, and generally the American public takes those kinds of statements with a grain of salt.

The media's twisting of the facts on this issue is more serious, however, because the public gives greater weight to news reports than it does to partisan banter. How the media can say a report "contradicts" something the president never said or demand that he apologize for something he never said is beyond our understanding. The fact - and its facts that the media should be reporting - is that the president never said Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

It's too bad news coverage didn't focus on the incredible danger facing our country that was revealed by the 9-11 report - like the "fact" that al-Qaida remains determined to carry out more terrorist attacks in the United States and is extremely interested in conducting chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks.

The "fact" is that because of the job the Bush administration has been doing since 9-11, there have been no more terrorist attacks on American soil. That's the one aspect of the terrorism issue that ought to be of the utmost importance to all Americans.

The Bush administration has made some mistakes in its war on terror, but ultimately you have to give the administration credit for protecting the homeland and you have to judge all other candidates for the White House on the basis of whether they have the leadership qualities to do the primary job of the president of the United States - protecting the lives of Americans.

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