May
04
2012

Matthews Remembers Mission Accomplished (Some of It)

On Wednesday (5/2/12), MSNBC host Chris Matthews played a long clip from the Daily Show, where Jon Stewart mocked Republicans who are complaining about Barack Obama's celebration of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Stewart naturally recalls George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" photo op stunt from 2003.  Stewart points out that if Republicans are angry about Obama "spiking the football," Bush was spiking the ball before the game started. So the clip played, and then we cut to Matthews, chuckling away. Of course Stewart's point is right on–anyone who listens to this whining from the right is bound to recall […]

Sep
12
2011

Biden's Feel-Good 9/11 Spin Goes Unchallenged

Al-Qaeda, bin Laden, never imagined that the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day would inspire 3 million to put on the uniform and harden the resolve of 300 million Americans. They never imagined the sleeping giant they were about to awaken. – Vice President Joe Biden at September 11 commemoration (9/11/11) Actually, that's precisely what bin Laden imagined: Al-Qaeda's central strategy was to draw its Western foes into economically ruinous wars in Muslim lands (Extra!, 7/11). But I suppose it would be bad form for journalists to raise this fact as the U.S. commemorates a decade of war […]

May
10
2011

USA Today and the Torture 'Debate'

USA Today weighs in today (5/10/11) on the argument that U.S. torture of detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was instrumental to tracking down Osama bin Laden. Like other outlets, the newspaper does a pretty lousy job of summarizing the evidence. Under the headline "Raid Renews Debate on Interrogations," reporter Oren Dorell suggests this starting point: But the revelation that tips prodded from captured Al-Qaeda members subjected to "enhanced interrogations" led to the capture of Osama bin Laden has ignited a debate over whether Obama should revisit the policies he cast aside. There is no strong evidence that torture "led" to […]

May
10
2011

Newsweek, Like Time, Clutching at Straws to Cheer for Torture

The argument that the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden shows that George W. Bush's torture policies were justified got another rehearsal in Newsweek fromYale professorStephen Carter (5/5/11): In the end, we were able to track bin Laden because he communicated only through two couriers believed to be brothers. And what was the source of this vital clue? The intelligence apparently came from detainees imprisoned in secret facilities overseas and subjected to what has been euphemistically called "enhanced" interrogation…. So the information from the detainees was crucial, and we face an uncomfortable irony, both political and ethical. The finest […]

May
09
2011

On Second Thought: The White House's Shifting Story on bin Laden Raid

Certain features of the White House story about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound were irresistible to the media: A fierce firefight. The feared terrorist leader crouching behind his wife as the Navy SEALs approached, before resisting or possibly even reaching for a weapon. And on and on. Of course, those details have been substantially altered by the White House, if not scrapped altogether. And thus we started to see headlines like this one in the New York Times: "Raid Account, Hastily Told, Proves Fluid." As that story put it: a classic collision of a White House desire to […]

May
09
2011

Sunday Morning Torture

It's bad enough that corporate media are having such an ill-informed debate about whether torturing some prisoners helped find Osama bin Laden. But considering whom the media invite to this debate, it's probably not a surprise. Take yesterday's Sunday shows (please!). On NBC's Meet the Press, Obama national security adviser Thomas Donilon basically refused to take a definitive position on torture, waterboarding and intelligence. "No single piece of intelligence led to this," was his line. They followed up with a segment with former CIA head Michael Hayden and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom basically endorsed the idea that torture worked. […]

May
06
2011

Everything Proves That Torture Worked

Time magazine's new issue (no link to the text is available) includes this weird explanation of how torture helped track down Osama bin Laden: Interrogators grilled 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed for details about the courier. When he pleaded ignorance, they knew they were on to something promising. Al-Libbi, the senior Al-Qaeda figure captured in 2005, also played dumb. Both men were subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including, in Mohammed's case, the waterboard. As best I can tell, the argument here is that they got no information about the Al-Qaeda courier from torturing these two detainees–which was just the […]

May
05
2011

Navy SEALs: Subtle, Brainy Superhumans

Salon.com's Justin Elliot has a good piece about media adoration for the Navy SEALs, focusing on an NBC report. Lest anyone think that report is a weird outlier, here are some quotes from the May 3 broadcast of ABC World News (you can watch it here, if you must): DIANE SAWYER: Tonight, details are surfacing about that super-human force that took down bin Laden, the Navy SEALs known as Team Six. A force so elite you cannot apply to join their ranks, you are just silently recruited. ** CHRIS CUOMO: You know, Diane, as impressive as the details of the […]

May
05
2011

Did the WaPo Hire Sean Hannity?

OK, this isn't Sean Hannity's byline in the Post today, but it might as well be. The headline should stop you: In bin Laden Victory, Echoes of the Bush Years The piece–actually written by Scott Wilson and Anne Kornblut–lays out the argument: As President Obama celebrates the signature national-security success of his tenure, he has a long list of people to thank. On the list: George W. Bush. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have forged a military so skilled that it carried out a complicated covert raid with only a minor […]

May
02
2011

The Wrong Time to Talk About the Afghan War?

During an interview on CNN last night (5/1/11) with New York firefighter and 9/11 first responder Kenny Specht: BLITZER: Did you ever give up hope, Kenny, that the U.S. would kill bin Laden? SPECHT: No, but I'd be lying to you, Wolf, I'd be lying to you if I thought about it every night. No, I didn't give up hope. That's all we had. That's all we had. It's like anything else, though. It's just sometimes we think that when it's not spoken about anymore, we wonder really what's being done. I mean, we're in a quagmire, for lack of […]

May
02
2011

Bush's Palpable Persistence in Pursuit of bin Laden

In today's edition of the Washington Post (5/2/11), Dan Balz puts forth what is probably going to be a popular theme in the coverage of the killing of Osama bin Laden: that catching the Al-Qaeda leader was a top concern of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Bush put down the marker not long after the September 11 attacks, saying he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive." That was taken as a sign of cowboy swagger by a Texan president by some of his critics, but it was a reflection of the absolute importance that he and much of the […]

Oct
19
2009

Know Your Enemy

Politico (10/14/09) published a list of top topics on Glenn Beck's Fox News show, based on a search of Nexis transcripts since the show's January 2009 debut. It's instructive to look at the placement of some individuals, groups and places in the news as an indication of Beck's sense of whom and what his audience should be informed about: ACORN: 1,224 Van Jones: 267 SEIU: 259 Afghanistan: 97 Iraq: 95 Valerie Jarrett: 52 Mark Lloyd: 50 Al-Qaeda: 50 Bill Ayers: 46 John Holdren: 43 Jeremiah Wright: 42 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 41 Osama Bin Laden: 40 Taliban: 38

Jul
02
2009

Fox: New 9/11 Needed for U.S. to Become Violent Enough

The folks at Fox News, so quick to denounce dissent as unpatriotic during the George W. Bush era, have now moved from generally hoping for the failure of the Obama government to wishing another September 11 upon a country too slow to violence for their taste. Mark Howard of News Corpse (7/1/09) gives us video and a transcript of Glenn Beck & Co.'s suggestion for a remedy for our diseased nation that is so far gone now that there is only one solution: Another 9/11…. [guest Michael] Scheuer: …The only chance we have as a country right now is for […]