Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?

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Former VP Darth Cheney made his Sunday morning appearance (along with a number of other CIA defenders on various morning news shows) on Meet the Press. And of course the MSM is howling for his head and calling him a liar.

Cheney made mention that Saddam had a 10-year relationship with al Qaeda. PolitFact rates the claim as “false”:

The 9-11 Commission, an independent, bipartisan body created by Congress and Bush, had the job of writing a complete account of the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among its tasks: Examine the ties between al-Qaida and Hussein’s regime.

The commission found isolated contacts over the years between Iraq and al-Qaida terrorists but nothing more.

“To date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship,” the report, released in 2004, said. “Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al-Qaida in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

Citing from the 9/11 Commission Report is a problem: It’s dated. We know more now than we did at the time; and the Report itself wasn’t claiming that there were no operational ties- it’s claim was more that there was not enough evidence gathered at the time of the Commission investigation to make a definitive conclusion.

PolitiFact (mis)references the findings of the 2007-8 Iraqi Perspectives Project:

In 2007, the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit research branch of the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command, completed its assessment based on over half-a-million captured Iraqi documents.

That study “found no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaida,” the analysts wrote.

When McClatchy’s reporter, Warren Strobel, first “reported” on the Pentagon-funded Iraqi Perspectives Project in 2008, he misreported the content. It’s pretty much the opposite of what he described about the Report. The Report itself hadn’t been released at the time that the article came out. So Strobel hadn’t seen it. Other media outlets then began citing from this one source of misrepresentation.

Because MSM was getting it wrong, one of the researchers involved in the Report recommended releasing the full 1600, 5-volume report immediately. Which they did (ABC News published it).

As Scott wrote at the time:

“Study: Iraq had no link to al-Qaida
Pentagon finds the ‘bulletproof’ prewar evidence turned out bogus”
March 10, 2008, 11:46PM
WASHINGTON — An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

-The opening line is false for two reasons. First it describes it as “exhaustive” which typically means complete, and it’s not. In fact the report itself says in every single area of study that more research is needed; i.e. the intelligence has not been exhausted. Second, it claims that there is no evidence of “operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network,” but in fact the report itself is packed with evidence of operational ties between Saddam’s regime and various groups that are components/participants/elements/members of the network. For example the report confirms that Egyptian Islamic Jihad was supported by Saddam’s regime at a time when 2/3 of the al-Qaida network’s leadership (2/3 of the leadership prior to 2003 was comprised of members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The report is also packed with examples of Saddam’s regime recognizing, supporting, and working with Egyptian Islamic Jihad; i.e. with 2/3 of al-Qaida leadership.

EIJ was Zawahiri’s group. There’s a reason why over the years you often read a media report about a terrorist group, describing it as “….an al Qaeda affiliate” or “….with ties to al Qaeda”. They are all part of the same network. The lines between these various jihadi groups become blurred, with cross-over funding, training, shared ideology, mutual goals and interests, and merging. Sometimes they are in competition (ISIS and al Qaeda); but ultimately, they are all “branches of the same poisonous tree”, as PM Netanyahu described them.

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
-President Bush in an address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, United States Capitol, Washington D.C., September 20, 2001.

It’s not just al Qaeda. It’s a whole jihadi network. Zubaydah is sometimes defended with claims that he was not al Qaeda; yet it’s clear he had a strong operational role within the terror organization. KSM did not swear bayat to OBL until after he was sure his 9/11 plot would be carried out by al Qaeda. Yet no one would argue that KSM was not at war with the U.S or separate from al Qaeda. Zarqawi did not swear allegiance to OBL until after OIF; yet he was also an enemy of the U.S. and part of the same network of jihadis.

Prior to OIF, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters poured into Iraq, seeking refuge after their OEF defeat.

Ray Robison’s “Both in One Trench” also corrects the myth that a supposed “secular” Saddam would not cooperate with religious fanatics. It’s true that he did not trust them; and it’s true that al Qaeda despised secularized Muslim apostate governments like Saddam’s regime; but both were willing to cooperate for short-term, mutual interests.

The other issue I have with PolitiOpinion’s hitpiece is that Cheney is not overstating the Iraq-a-Qaeda connection. Timelines are important, and if one reads the transcripts to his Meet the Press interviews, he’s very careful in what he says; and it evolved over time, as intelligence information came to him (I have the Prague-Atta controversy in mind, here).

Final peeve: President Bush never said Saddam’s Iraq had an operational link to the events of 9/11. Any responsible administration would have been derelict in its duty had they not turned over that stone and examined it thoroughly after a decade of deceit and defiance on the part of Saddam. However, that angle never became an official part of the case for the Iraq War. Nowhere will you find a quote from Bush saying that Iraq attacked us on 9/11. So that tiresome strawman talking point (“Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11″…..”….invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11”, etc.) needs to die.

13 Responses to “Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?”

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    I mean, let me go to Gul Rahman. He was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water, froze to death in C.I.A. custody. And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity.


    –right. But the problem I had is with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield. Of the 600 and some people who were released out of Guantanamo, 30% roughly ended up back on the battlefield. Today we’re very concerned about ISIS. Terrible new terrorist organization.

    It is headed by named Baghdadi. Baghdadi was in the custody of the U.S. military in Iraq in Camp Bucca. He was let go and now he’s out leading the terror attack against the United States. I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.


    25% of the detainees though, 25% turned out to be innocent. They were released.


    Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are–


    Well, I’m asking you.


    –you going to know?



    Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?


    I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got authorizing from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

    Dick Cheney seems to believe that as long as he can claim that he protected America from another 9/11, Americans shouldn’t question anything he has authorized or done in our name. Putting aside the dubiousness of that claim, does anyone have a problem with that logic? The list of things the government can do and potentially justify in those same terms is unending. Dick Cheney’s logic if that if we’re attacked, torture is the answer; if we’re not attacked, torture is the reason. How convenient. As disgusting as it is to hear this man continuously toss around 9/11 like it’s a get out of jail, free monopoly card, we should ask ourselves if we agree that torturing innocent people is just the ugly side of how we make the sausage. It’s a scary thing to see, a once powerful man whose moral compass has gone cartoonishly haywire, and we see it right on national TV. The man admitted on national TV that he doesn’t care if we torture or kill innocent people if it’s nominally in the cause stopping another 9/11. I wonder what he’s willing to stop at?

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    Another troll time Flopping Aces post.
    Clearly the U S is no longer entitled to her own defense.
    She is required to follow standards which do not apply elsewhere.
    She must submit to random acts of terror. She must do this because she empathizes with the terrorists. See H Clinton on this topic.
    Sen DiFi was disrespected by the CIA. Let me say it bluntly. You do not diss a Senator. You kiss whatever part of her anatomy she tells you to. When she says frog, you hop. So she wrote up her conclusions, and hired a group of “journalists” to sift mounds of data for that information which confirmed her judgment.
    And Cheney? He tried to keep us safe. Shame on him.

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    One thing I argue constantly is that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Many on the left, probably willfully, cannot understand that 9/11 was just the first battle in the War on Terror. Most think that once we killed or captured a few of the remaining planners, we were done and criticize Bush and Cheney for the invasion of Iraq because “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11”. Well, they (the ignorant left) are the only one’s saying they did. It was the WMD’s thought (and recently proved to have been found) and Hussein’s links to al Qaeda that was the threat. No thinking person thought beyond the first few days that Iraq may have been involved in 9/11. Like Clinton blowing a few holes in the empty desert in retaliation for the USS Cole, the retribution ends nothing. The enemy has to be defeated.


    @Tom: Dick Cheney is a soulless old chicken hawk. He’ll torture and kill indiscriminately–meanwhile -5 f-ing deferments kept him safe and warm.

    Some people go into public service prepared to make the tough decisions, if necessary. Some, like Obama, play politics with every decision, weighing the impact on HIM before moving… sometimes never making the decision.

    Cheney had the responsibility to order 93 to be shot down if it could not be contacted; the passengers made that decision unnecessary. However, based on Obama’s history, he would still be making political calculations and getting the usual suspects lined up for blame while 93 was buried into the Capital.

    So, you can condemn Cheney for supporting the tough measures that found bin Laden and foiled numerous plots after 9/11. You can find whatever reasons you like to despise him (I’ll bet he IS a real asshole, if required). However, I much prefer someone that can make a call and execute a command to someone that dilly-dallies, hoping the crisis would just pass so he didn’t have to go out on a limb and defend the nation or sleeps through a crisis.

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    Dick Cheney is a soulless old chicken hawk. He’ll torture and kill indiscriminately–meanwhile -5 f-ing deferments kept him safe and warm.

    How many draft deferments did Clinton receive? He “indiscriminately” killed civilians in Bosnia and Kosovo by bombing them. You do remember those wars, correct? Are you going to hold him to the same standards you hold Cheney to or do you have double standards like the rest of the left?

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    @another+vet: I do resent Clinton’s failure to serve. The biggest difference between these two men is one is without heart or soul and the other is not.
    This may not mean anything to you A.V.

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    @Rich+Wheeler: Hey, Clinton uses women like dirty linen, abuses them and discards them, then drags their reputations through the mud if they have the audacity to accuse him of it… but I wouldn’t say he was soul-less.

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    He’ll torture and kill indiscriminately–meanwhile -5 f-ing deferments kept him safe and warm.

    You seem to have a problem with Cheney legally getting deferments but have no problem with Slick Willie actually being a draft dodger. Is there a double standard there.
    Rich, I don’t believe you have a problem with the concept of gentle, safe supervised ‘enhanced interrogation when it is for the express purpose of saving American lives. I think your problem is only related to who was in the White house at the time. Had it been Hillary doing the interrogations, I’m sure you would have been happy with her dedication. I personally would torture anyone I had to if the direct result was to save the life of a relative of mine, I’m sure you would be the same. So don’t play the role of a hypocrit just to make your lib buddies slap you on the back.

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    @Redteam: You’ve been spelling hypocrite wrong for a couple of months.
    Read what I’ve said about Bill and his service dodge and then what I’ve said about HRC.
    I’ll stay with Cheney is a soulless old chicken hawk–the worst of Conservatives.
    I’ll side with Mac on this one.

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    @Rich+Wheeler: thanks for pointing out the spelling on hypocrite. I’m the best speller I know and don’t know why it has the e on the end of it. I’m also likely the best speller you know also. Sometimes the computer spells word incorrectly, but I will confess to not putting the e on the end of that word. Looks more correct without it. If I were just spelling crit, it wouldn’t have an e on it.
    Didn’t see where you really knocked Bill for being Anti-American via draft dodging. While Cheney did avoid service, at least he did it legally, not like Slick did. There are legitimate reasons for avoiding the draft and I’ll leave it up to the local draft boards to decide the merit. Slick didn’t do that. He ‘dodged’ the draft and should have been sent to prison.

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