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Beating a Dead Link

What part of "we have no evidence Saddam was involved with 9/11" does NewsMax not understand? Plus: A NewsMax columnist gets all hysterical about Wesley Clark.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/19/2003

More and more, NewsMax appears to be increasingly untethered to this plane of reality. Which is just another way of saying it holds to its slants and biases even as real journalists prove them wrong.

Case in point: The nonexistent direct link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, despite a recent survey reporting that 69 percent of Americans believe there is one.

After Vice President Dick Cheney declared on the Sept. 14 "Meet the Press" that there was evidence tying Saddam to 9/11, he was proven wrong by everyone else who deals in facts, from the Boston Globe to blogger Joshua Micah Marshall to, well, Condoleezza Rice.

Even WorldNetDaily got into the act, pointing out Sept. 17 in a story by Paul Sperry (currently the token Bush-basher at WND, mainly because WND is publishing his new book) that Cheney admitted during the very same "Meet the Press" program that he "misspoke" when he said in March, just before the U.S. invaded Iraq, that "we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons" and that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz backed off a claim that "a great many of [Osama] bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq."

NewsMax, meanwhile, sent in from its parallel universe a Sept. 15 piece praising Cheney for setting "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert straight and outlining "a mountain of evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 catastrophe." It dutifully regurgitated Cheney's assertions about "reports of a meeting between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, Czechoslovakia, just months before the attacks" without mentioning the fact (noted in the Boston Globe story) that the CIA had discovered that Atta was in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting and the Iraqi intelligence officer in question, now in U.S. custody, has also refuted the report.

The evidence that NewsMax clings to on this issue is the alleged existence of a "South Baghdad terrorist training camp'" called Salman Pak (not to be confused with Salam Pax, the Iraq blogger), "where radical Islamists rehearsed 9/11-style hijackings on a Soviet-era Tupelov 154 airliner."

The news for Cheney (and NewsMax) got worse on Sept. 17, when none other than President Bush stated that "we've had no evidence that Saddam was involved with the September the 11th." (Though he added that "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties.")

How did NewsMax take this? The usual way -- by blaming the liberal media! It claims to have done a Lexis-Nexis search of the three months after 9/11 for a Sept. 17 story and found "no fewer than 85 mainstream news reports" containing "repeated and as yet undisputed reports documenting compelling evidence of Iraq's role in the attacks." It also recounts the Salman Pak story and some federal district judge's ruling that "Iraq played a material role in the 9/11 attacks in a case brought against Baghdad by families of two World Trade Center victims." Then, on to the media-bashing:

    But for a mainstream press that now seems primarily interested in making the case that President Bush made war on Iraq under false pretenses, these old reports and dozens more like them are suddenly very inconvenient. That's why they've disappeared down the media's collective memory hole.

What NewsMax never does, of course, is make any direct connection. If the Salman Pak evidence is so convincing, why isn't the Bush administration making it a household word? If Cheney is repeating such shaky stories as the alleged Prague meeting (which the Sept. 17 NewsMax story glosses over as being merely "disputed" without giving any details -- which contradicts what it wrote earlier about mainstream news reports not being disputed), why isn't throwing Salman Pak around with the same abandon?

NewsMax has an answer for that too, actually -- it's the CIA's fault! "The Salman Pak defectors, for instance, were reportedly treated dismissively in interviews with CIA debriefers who showed no interest in pursuing a possible Iraq-9/11 link," the article states.

It's quite an interesting construct NewsMax has put together: It's never Bush's fault. The news media and even the CIA are always undermining him, even tricking him into saying what turned out to be the truth. And even then, NewsMax obscured the fact that the president told the truth, insisting that he "gave reporters a giant helping hand in perpetuating their cover-up."

NewsMax has done something else, too: It hasn't run any stories its wire service, UPI, may have done regarding this issue. (Assuming UPI has done any, which is difficult to verify because it's hard to name a UPI subscriber other than NewsMax and the Washington Times. If you'll recall, the Times and UPI are both owned by Unification Church-controlled News World Communications, and former Times and UPI editor Arnaud de Borchgrave is on the NewsMax board of directors.) All links to genuine news items on this issue thus far have been outside ones; for instance, the NewsMax link to Bush's statement that Saddam wasn't behind 9/11 goes to Fox News.

Linking Saddam to al-Qaida and linking him to 9/11 are two separate things; evidence of the former does not equal evidence of the latter. NewsMax not only refuses to make a distinction between the two, it refuses to give its readers all the information to make its own decision -- which, last time we checked, is what quality journalism is supposed to be.

Looks like NewsMax has quite a nicely upholstered memory hole of its own. But then, it has to be -- NewsMax spends a lot of time there throwing stuff down it.

It has taken Bush to task before picking the truth over the conservative script, back in 2001 when he denied allegations that Clinton administration staffers stripped Air Force One of everything that wasn't nailed down. NewsMax all but called Bush a liar, despite the fact that to this day no evidence by a source who wasn't anonymous has ever surfaced to confirm NewsMax's beliefs.

And just like NewsMax's hatred of all things Clinton leads it to automatically believe (and print) the worst despite evidence to the contrary (in fact, NewsMax usually goes of its way to ignore any positive story about the Clintons or the Democrats), it seizes on circumstantial evidence about Iraq and 9/11 and declares it irrefutable direct evidence, even after it's proven unreliable or just plain wrong.

NewsMax can't handle the truth -- a trait that comes in handy in whatever plane of reality it occupies.

* * *

While we're on the subject of NewsMax's tenuous connection to reality, NewsMax columnist Dan Frisa wins the Anthony LoBaido Award for most hysterical denunciation of Wesley Clark upon his entry as a Democratic presidential candidate. (Rush Limbaugh ran a close second.)

Frisa starts off his Sept. 17 column by calling him "Weasley Clark," and it just kinda goes downhill from there. Among the terms of invective hurled Clark's way: "traitorous," "opportunistic," "grandstanding," "more like a leader of a Pinko Parade," "self-promoting egotist," "unsettling beady eyes" and "a four-star jackass." Bonus points were awarded for references to "Sen. Hilarious Clinton, D-N.Y."

(An update on the LoBaido article referenced above: Click on the link to it now, and it gives a "404 Not Found" error; no reference to it can be found in LoBaido's WND article archive. What could have possibly happened? Surely LoBaido and Joseph Farah have not suddenly become embarrassed by, say, LoBaido's description of New York as a den of evil that deserved to be attacked by terrorists and of Hillary Clinton as "openly Marxist, treasonous and abortion-mongering, occultic," have they?)

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