An Intent to Misinform?

Last night, CBS News did a segment on President Bush’s speech in South Carolina earlier in the day. We posted on the speech, which was excellent, here; you can read the full text here.
Here is the CBS story on Bush’s speech:

CBS’s attack on Bush is remarkable. The network essentially called the President a liar. Here are some of CBS’s key statements; let’s take them one by one:

President Bush appealed today for more time for his Iraq strategy to work, but this time with a new rationale. *** President Bush’s rationale is clearly shifting, from policing sectarian violence to targeting al Qaeda.

As the White House pointed out today, the President has talked about the threat of al Qaeda in Iraq in more than 40 speeches and other public appearances this year. It’s interesting, too, that CBS thinks the old rationale was “policing sectarian violence.” I’d be interested to see a single instance where President Bush has said that our mission in Iraq is “policing sectarian violence.” CBS continued:

The President linked al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq directly to Osama bin Laden…

Bush: Fellow citizens, these people have sworn allegiance to the man who ordered the death of nearly 3,000 people on our soil.

But this is a clear contradiction of the January speech setting limits on U.S. involvement.

First, what Bush said is obviously correct. The leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have indeed sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. CBS doesn’t directly deny this fact, but claims instead that it somehow contradicts Bush’s speech on January 10. CBS next shows a clip from that speech, in which Bush says:

I have made it clear to the Prime Minister, and Iraq’s other leaders, that America’s commitment is not open-ended.

How on earth are these two statements in conflict? Bush said in January that our commitment to Iraq is not open-ended. He said yesterday that the leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And CBS calls this a “clear contradiction?” This can only have left viewers scratching their heads.
But let’s take it a step farther. Does the President’s statement, made yesterday, that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq in any way contradict what he said in his January 10 address to the nation? Here are some quotes from the January 10 speech:

Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

Note how this exposes the fatuity of CBS’s claim that al Qaeda can have nothing to do with sectarian violence. As has been widely reported, and as Zarqawi himself wrote to bin Laden, the essence of al Qaeda’s strategy was to provoke sectarian violence, and tragically, it succeeded. More from January 10:

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists’ plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq’s democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.
Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America’s men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan — and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.

So: President Bush said that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq in January; he has said it more than 40 times since, including yesterday. There was no contradiction. CBS was wrong.
CBS’s report creates a conundrum. It is inconceivable that CBS’s reporters would broadcast this segment without reading President Bush’s speech of January 10. It is equally inconceivable that they could read that speech without realizing that there is, in fact, no contradiction between it and the President’s speech in South Carolina yesterday. The obvious inference is that CBS has deliberately chosen to mislead and misinform its viewers on the most vital issue of our time. I would much rather not believe that. But what other explanation can there be?
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