Fibbing It Up at Fox

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out lies should be confronted

Bill O’Reilly; Fox News Channel; May 22, 2003

the Iraq conflict began on March 20, Fox
has been on a mission to legitimize it.  One problem
for Fox’s protracted apologia is that despite promises
of evidence of current weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) by the
Bush Administration, the evidence has been ambiguous at best. 
Unfortunately for the network, I’ve been keeping a scratch
diary of their reports since the war began.

in mind that in the first three weeks of March, before the bombs
started officially dropping, Fox was spreading all sorts of Pentagon
propaganda.  Iraq had "drones" that it could quickly
dispatch to major U.S. metropolitan areas to spread biological agents.
 Saddam was handing out chemical weapons to the Republican
guard to use against coalition troops in a last-ditch red-zone ring
around Baghdad.  Given what we now know about Iraq, these reports
seem to be laughable fantasies, but they were effective in securing
public backing for the war.  The following is a short
chronicle of lies, propagation of lies, exaggerations, distortions,
spin, and conjecture presented as fact.  My comments are in
brackets [ ]s.

March 14:  On The Fox Report
anchor Shepard Smith reports that Saddam is planning to use flood
water as a weapon by blowing up dams and causing severe flood damage.

March 19:  Fox anchor Shepard Smith reports
that Iraqis are planning to detonate large stores of napalm buried
deep below the earth to scorch coalition forces.   Fox Military
Analyst Major Bob Bevelacqua states
that coalition forces will drop a MOAB on Saddam’s bunker [!!] and
give him the "Mother of All Sunburns." 

my last
, one sniveling neocon after another wrote me to tell
me I was unqualified to assess defense matters because I wasn’t
a "defense analyst" (never mind that the article wasn’t
on the war, and the "real" defense experts made one wrong
prediction after another on this war).  It’s interesting how
these sniveling Frumsters cheer on the college-uneducated Hannity
and Limbaugh when they make defense analyses supporting the neocon
view.  I do know enough to say that the informed Bevelacqua’s
suggestion that a MOAB would be used on a bunker was puzzling to
say the least (given the reports of less-than-dazzling performance
of daisy cutters outside caves in Tora Bora).  Anyway, later
reports confirmed that GBU-28 bunker busters were used during The
Decapitation That Apparently Failed.]   

The network begins 2 days of unequivocal assertions that
a 100-acre facility discovered by coalition forces at An Najaf is
a chemical weapons plant.   Much is made about the fact that
it was booby trapped.  A former UN weapons inspector interviewed
on camera over the phone downplays the WMD allegations and says
that booby-trapping is common.  His points are ignored as unequivocal
charges of a chemical weapons facility are made on Fox for yet another
day (March 24).  Only weeks later is it briefly conceded that
the chemicals definitively detected at the facility were pesticides.

[Jennifer Eccleston has to be the worst reporter employed by any
network.  She began one segment with a "Hi there!" – in
no response to any segue from the relaying anchor at Fox headquarters
in New York.  Her bangs are long and constantly blowing in
her face in the wind.  Her head wobbles from side to side with
her nose tracing out a figure 8 all the while arbitrarily syncopating
a monotone voice with overemphasis on the last syllables of different
words (e.g., Bagh-DAD).  The old, white-haired
flag-waving yahoos like her not for her professionalism – she has
none – but because of her innocent Britney Spearsesque beauty; i.e.,
she’s a typical young piece of meat which dirty old men with too
much time on their hands fantasize about.]

Oliver North reports that the staff at the French
embassy in Baghdad are destroying documents.  [How could he
know this?] 

March 24: Fox and Friends. Anchor Juliet Huddy asks Colonel
David hunt why coalition forces don’t “blow up” Al Jazeera TV. [The
context of the discussion makes it clear that she doesn’t know the
difference between Al Jazeera and Iraqi TV!!!! Juliet Huddy is a
beautiful woman but not very bright.]

Repeated assertions by Fox News anchors of
a red ring around Baghdad in which Republican Guard forces were
planning to use chemical weapons on coalition forces.  A Fox
"Breaking News" flash reports that Iraqi soldiers were
seen by coalition forces moving 55-gallon drums almost certainly
containing chemical agents.

Fox, echoing NPR, reports that U.S.
forces near Baghdad have discovered a weapons cache of 20 medium-range
missiles containing sarin and mustard gas.   Initial tests
show that the deadly chemicals are not "trace elements."

the coming weeks, this embarrassing non-discovery is quickly stomped
down the Memory Hole.  The missiles were never mentioned again.]

:  The crowd around coalition troops toppling the Saddam
statue in Baghdad looks strangely sparse despite the network’s assertions
to the contrary.  The perspective is always in close and even
then there is no mob storming the statue to hit it with their shoes.
Just a handful of people.  It’s constantly asserted that there’s
a huge crowd.  [I’m perplexed.  Where’s the huge crowd?!]

:  Fox "Breaking News" report of weapons-grade
plutonium found at Al Tuwaitha.  [In the coming weeks this
"discovery" was expeditiously shoved down the Memory Hole
as well.]

(2:59 EDT):  A report noting with surprise "how
little" the Iraqis were celebrating the coalition invasion. 
[An interesting contradiction of the allegations of widespread celebration
just the day before with the toppling of the Saddam statue.]

(3 p.m. EDT: Reporter Rick Leventhal)  Fox "Breaking
News" report:  A mobile bioweapons lab is found. 
Video of a tiny tan truck—about the size of the smallest truck
that U-Haul rents – which had its cargo bed and fuel tank shot up
with bullets after a looter tried to drive it away. Repeated assertions
that this is most definitely a "bioweapons" lab. 
A graphic sequence is shown of a large Winnebago-type vehicle that
is massive compared to the tiny truck found.  The irony of
this escapes the Fox newscasters and defense "experts." 

was the first "bioweapons lab" found, not the larger one
later found in Mosul.  A week later it is briefly conceded
that the tiny truck was probably never a bio weapons lab, but promises
that real ones will pour forth from the landscape continue. 
The second phantom lab, a large tractor-trailer truck was discovered
around May 2 by Kurdish fighters.]

To show that France is in bed with
Saddam Hussein, Fox begins running old footage of Saddam Hussein’s
September 1975 trip to Paris to meet with Jacques Chirac and tour
a nuclear power plant.  [Because Fox strives so hard to be
"Fair and Balanced," it’s all the more curious how it
fails to inform its audience about another trip four years later,
this one to Baghdad on December 19, 1983 made by Reagan envoy and
then former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld (see pic below). 
The network again, because it’s so very "Fair and Balanced,"
also inexplicably forgot to tell its audience about another trip
by Rummy to Baghdad, this time on March 24, 1984, the very same
day that a U.N. team found that Iraqi forces had used mustard gas
laced with a nerve agent on Iranian soldiers.  Rummy obviously
wasn’t too concerned about the charges of gassing, as in 1986 when
he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination
of 1988, he listed his restoration of diplomatic relations with
WMD-using Iraq as one of his proudest achievements. 

all that’s an eternity ago for Imperial Conservatives with a 20-second
attention span.  The Fox newscasters rename Jacques Chirac
"Jacques Iraq"(yuk, yuk, yuk – what a side splitter!)
and keep going.] 

:  Repeated ominous footage of barrels buried in a below-ground
shed near Karbala.  The implication is that the Iraqi landscape
is replete with these types of shelters, all of them brimming with
evidence of chemical weapons.  [These were revealed to be agricultural
chemicals as well.]

13:  Fox Graphic:  "Bush:  Syria Harboring
Chemical Weapons."

[My favorite Fox war commentator is definitely Colonel David Hunt
From my canvassing of all the cable network war coverage, it’s hard
to find an analyst who is more dogmatic.  When coalition forces
weren’t greeted with hugs and kisses like he predicted and
instead encountered stiff resistance from Iraqi forces in Basra
and other places, Davey was all denial.  Everything’s
going perfect.  Rummy is God, hallelujah and praise Dubya! 
There’s not a problem in Iraq that can’t be solved by blowing some
Iraqi’s brains out.]

Fox analyst Mansoor Ijaz claims
that the top 55 Iraqi leaders (along with the whole stash of chemical
and biological WMDs they have taken with them) are now living it
up in Latakia, Syria.  [This is the same 55 that appeared on
the deck of cards and is still being captured – far from all living
it up in Syria.]  On The Fox Report anchor Shepard
Smith completely breaks with any pretense of objectivity and openly
mocks actor Tim Robbins after playing an excerpt of Robbins’ speech
to the National Press Club.  "Oh, that was so powerful!"
Smith mocked.  [Impressive objectivity there, Mr. Smith.]

April 16:  Fred Barnes on Special
Report with Brit Hume blames the looting of the Iraqi National
Museum on the museum staff.  [Right now there are so many claims
and counterclaims about the looting it’s hard to tell what happened. 
In a Fox segment on May 19 a coalition official asserted that 170,000
items were definitely not missing.  Of course he refused to
give a ballpark estimate of what was missing, which he’d surely
have in order to plausibly deny that the original estimate was wrong.] 

18:  Bill O’Reilly opens his show calling Iraqis "ungrateful." 

Bill O’Reilly opens his show calling Iraqi
Shiites "ungrateful SOBs" and "fanatics." 
He concludes that "[we] can’t tolerate a fundamentalist state"
in Iraq. 

O’Reilly.  I thought we promised the Iraqis that we were going
to implement democracy, not democracy that gives the U.S. the election
results it wants.  That’s not democracy, now, is it? 
By now it’s quite clear that despite the spinning on The No Spin
Zone, Iraq is descending into chaos.]

April 22:  Lt. Colonel Robert Maginnis states on The
O’Reilly Factor that the probability of finding WMDs is a 10
out of 10.  [This is the same Robert Maginnis who predicted
a double-ring defense of Baghdad in the Washington
Times on January 7
.]  O’Reilly states
that if no WMDs are found within a month from today, then that spells
big trouble.  O’Reilly promises to explore the issue a month
later.   [Cool, let’s hold his feet to the
fire on that promise.  On an earlier show he said that U.S.
credibility would be "shot" if no WMDs were found. ]

Fox News Military Analyst Major General Paul Vallely
states on The O’Reilly Factor that "Middle East
agents" have told him that Iraq’s WMDs along with 17 mobile
weapons labs (1 of which was captured around May 2) are now buried
in the Bakaa Valley in Syria 30 meters underground.  He also
claims that France helped Iraqi leaders escape to Europe by providing
them with travel papers [a charge that even the Pentagon later denies
although it’s apparent that’s where Vallely got his information].

:  On The Fox Report with Rick Folbaum it is conceded
that the nefarious captured trailer contains not a shred of evidence
of WMDs, but Folbaum hints that what’s important is that the
trailer could have been used to make them.  [Hmmm. 
I thought we went to war for actual WMDs, not for the ability to
make WMDs.]

16:  Special Report with Brit Hume. 
Muslims, citing Islam’s ban of alcohol, are torching liquor stores
and threatening their Christian owners.   Under Saddam’s secular
regime, Christian names were banned and schools were nationalized,
but guns and alcohol were freely available; there was tolerance
for Iraq’s 1 million Catholic and Protestant Christians.  In
New and Improved Neocon Iraq, there’s a letter circulating in Baghdad
threatening violence to even the families of women who refuse to
wear the traditional Muslim head covering.  [The report is
yet another interesting and reluctant concession of unintended consequences.]

19:  O’Reilly discusses a number of inflammatory and
bogus charges that were floated in the U.S. media about France (e.g.,
France supplied Iraq with precision switches used in nuclear weapons,
French companies sold spare parts to Iraq for military planes and
helicopters, France possessed illegal strains of smallpox, France
helped Iraqi leaders escape to Europe by providing them with travel
papers).  Recall this last charge was made by Major General
Paul Vallely on May 8 on The O’Reilly Factor.  Again,
the Pentagon denies all such charges although much of the Beltway
thinks it’s obvious that the Pentagon is the source of them. 
O’Reilly claims that Vallely is only irresponsible if the charges
don’t turn out to be true.  O’Reilly refers to documents that
prove that the French government was briefing Saddam right until
the war started. [Briefed on what?]

20:  O’Reilly concedes that the Private Jessica Lynch
rescue story could be a fraud, as asserted by the BBC and Los
Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer.  "Somebody
is lying," he states.  He says that if the U.S. military
has concocted a fraud, then it will be a terrible scandal but if
the BBC and Scheer are wrong, nothing will happen to them. 
He says he is skeptical of the BBC and Scheer. 

To prove his point he brings on no other than Colonel David Hunt. 
[Geez.  Transcript here.] 
Over and over, Hunt calls the allegations of staged rescue an "assail
on the finest soldiers in the world."  He claims that
the ambulance with Lynch in it that drove up to a Marine checkpoint
was never shot at, its drivers demanded $10,000 for information
on Jessica, Saddam Hospital was guarded by uniformed Iraqi soldiers
and Fedayeen, Jessica’s life was saved, and coalition forces didn’t
trash the hospital.  What were his sources for this information?
 The special ops members on the raid, some of whom are his
friends and former colleagues.  Over and over Hunt kept saying,
"They’re the best soldiers in the world, they’re the best in
the world.  Why would they make this up?" 

followed next was an exchange that’s priceless and one of many that
goes by far too un-analyzed on Fox every day:]

Hunt:  In my opinion it’s an assault, an effrontery to the
finest men and women in our service, it’s an assault on Jessica,
it’s an assault on these great guys, these great special operations
guys … at a minimum we should no longer buy the L.A. Times, no
longer buy the Toronto Free Press, and shut the BBC off.  It’s
a government to government issue…this is calling into question
the veracity of the finest soldiers in the world and it’s uncalled
for, it’s absolutely unbelievable."

If you [Hunt] turn out to be right, nothing will happen to Scheer…he’ll
just go along blithely printing his lies and living his life and
getting paid for it.

[To the Colonel:  U.S. special ops soldiers may be the best
in the world at what they do, but how does it logically follow from
that assessment that particular actions taken during the raid were
not excessive and unjustified?   How is the BBC’s story an
assault on Jessica?!  What do you mean when you mention a "government
to government issue" given that the U.S. government now controls
Iraq?!  Is the Pentagon the most effective check on its own
possible misdeeds?   How convenient if you’re suggesting that
it is.  Who is your source that Iraqi doctors were trying to
ransom Jessica?  Why hasn’t this allegation made its way into
any other news reports?]

O’Reilly:  If the raid does turn out to be mostly staged, there’ll
be no terrible scandal precisely because you, Fox News, and the
Pentagon will assert just the opposite and allow yet another embarrassment
to slide into the Memory Hole.  This is exactly why your demand
for accountability from the BBC and L.A. Times is so hollow and
hypocritical.  Instead of plumbing the U.S. military to investigate
itself, why don’t you interview Iraqi doctor Harith al-Houssona
as the London Times did on April 16 (where the story was first broken,
not by the BBC or Robert Scheer) who actually saved Lynch’s life
instead of the U.S. special ops who could have jeopardized it? 
The doctor testifies that all Iraqi forces left the day before
the raid and that Jessica was delivered by an ambulance that had
to return to the hospital because it was shot at by Marines. 
Why would he lie?  You say you automatically trust the Pentagon.
  Why, when tales of Lynch’s heroics in fighting off 500 Iraqi
soldiers with one hand while severely wounded and tales that she
had amnesia have already been proven bogus?]

22 (5:54 a.m. CDT):  Richard King, a military doctor,
appears on Fox and Friends with promises by the show’s
hosts that he will verify that the Jessica Lynch rescue wasn’t staged. 
King doesn’t prove anything.  He states that he arrived at
Saddam Hospital the day after the rescue, concedes damage and mal-treatment
of doctors at the hospital, and that he "was told " that
the hospital was guarded by hostile forces but doesn’t specify who
told him.  [The testimony of the hospital staff contradicts
this last hearsay.]                     

22:  O’Reilly fails to live up to his promise to make
a big stink if no WMDs are found by today.  In his Talking
Points Memo he wonders why the U.S. has caught such informed
Iraqis as Dr. Germ and Ms. Anthrax and has gotten no leads. 
He states that more time is needed [contradicting what he said more
than a month ago, when he said that if no WMDs were found after
2 months U.S. credibility would be "shot" and there would
be big trouble].   He ends his Memo saying Bush
must candidly address the situation soon. 

2:  [Unfortunately for O’Reilly, Bush isn’t candidly
explaining anything.]  A video clip on Fox and Friends
is shown with Bush in Poland claiming that "[w]e
found" weapons of mass destruction
.  His evidence? 
Two trailers found near Mosul that were supposedly used as mobile
bioweapons labs.  [A
June 7 article
by the Times’ Judith Miller reports
serious doubts by some analysts that the two trailers were used
as mobile bioweapons labs.   Said one senior analyst about
the initial CIA report, it "was a rushed job and looks political."
  Yes, they violated U.N. resolutions but this is another red
herring to suggest WMDs.]      

4:  O’Reilly’s Talking Points Memo: 
[Surreal.]  O’Reilly says that the WMD issue has now
been politicized [!!].   The war was a just war because there’s
now great progress between Palestinians and Israelis and that alone
made the war worthwhile [?!!].  Also the mass graves and other
horrors discovered add to the case for war.  The intelligence
was either wrong or more time is needed to find the WMDs. 
[Again contradicting what he said on and before April 22.]

11:  Fox reports a bus blast in Jerusalem caused by
Hamas, killing 15 and wounding at least 100.  [Looks like the
real reason for war according to O’Reilly (Israeli-Palestinian peace)
has also disintegrated, but don’t expect O’Reilly to admit it.]

13, 2003

Dale Steinreich [send him mail]
is an adjunct scholar
of the Mises Institute and a
contributor to


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