Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Spinning the no-fly zone

We used to do more posts about the Wall Street Journal online editorial page, Opinionjournal. But as it got ever more hysterical and spin-driven, there didn't seem to be much point anymore. There probably still isn't. But they provide an egregious example of selective quotation today.

As part of their critique of John Kerry's Iraq speech on Monday, they set up a supposed contradiction between Kerry's claim that Saddam's Iraq was not a centre of international terrorism, and irrefutable evidence of the contrary in their minds, drawn from Colin's Powell infamous vial-waving speech at the UN in 2003. By the way, does anyone think Powell himself is still proud of that speech? And even James Taranto has to give the relevant quotes the curate's egg treatment:

[Opinionjournal] Kerry pleaded Saddam's case that "Iraq played no part in September 11 and had no operational ties to Al Qaeda":

...[quoting Kerry] Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops.

Yet here's what Colin Powell said to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003:

Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated in collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants...When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern Iraq.

But what they are leaving out is what Powell said a few sentences later:

Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq.

As others have repeatedly explained, Zarqawi's camp was based in the northern no-fly zone, which the US and Britain could have bombed anytime they wanted, so the mystery is why they didn't [see for instance Brad DeLong's explanation and links here]. We need a word for when spin blows back in one's face.

UPDATE (23/9): It's clear that the WSJ is going to give this Zarqawi-Saddam link a new push, with careful phrasing necessary to cover the huge hole in the story. In an editorial today (subs. req'd), they say:

It's worth remembering that Zarqawi had fewer qualms about the secular Saddam, with whom he worked visibly enough to be cited in Colin Powell's February 2003 U.N. presentation.

Yes, that really helps solidify the link...they were cited in the same speech!

No comments: