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Elections + Death Squads = "Happy Iraq" on FNL

Reported by Nancy - January 17, 2005 -

Today (1/17) the last hour of FNL was largely devoted to a series of interviews by David Asman attempting to spin the idea that elections in Iraq & expanding the "War on Terror" to Syria & Iran are going to solve everything. Oh, & by the way: death squads are still just fine as far as Asman is concerned. One thing the hour didn't include was a mention of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr -- aside from a 30-second blurb that "Bush will speak" later today at an event honoring King at the Washington Center.

At 12:13pm (all times ET), citing a poll in Al Mada (an Iraqi paper) showing that 2/3 of Baghdadis want to vote [comment: Asman called them "Baghdadians", but never mind that], Asman interviewed 2 Representatives: Adam Smith (D-WA) & Kay Granger (R-TX). Smith was very effective in pointing out that while 2/3 are likely to vote, the ongoing problems are security & lack of infrastructure. Asman countered by saying that "lots of contractors are targeted" by insurgents & asking Smith "what should we do now?" adding "no Monday-morning quarterbacking"). Smith said there are "not a lot of good options." Asman changed the subject to Syria & Iran. Granger said we have to "protect the borders" & cited as a good thing that "some of our military" who had been scheduled to rotate home "is staying through the election." Granger may want to rethink one phrase she used: " ... so they [Iraqis] can take over their country & we can go home."

This interview was immediately followed by a teaser for what "might be" the "next phase in the War on Terror? 'Target Iran' next." At 12:21pm Asman read the "top" stories FNL was covering, including that 16 Iraqis were killed today.

At 12:21pm Asman interviewed Bret McGurk (former legal adviser, CPA). Eternally spinning, Asman opened by suggesting that the allegation that "Saddam loyalists" are funding insurgents "puts the lie to the idea that Saddam Hussein never had contact with terrorists?" McGurk agreed, in a rambling kind of way. Asman pressed on, noting that "some people are saying" the election may precede civil war, but that McGurk is "saying the opposite." McGurk claimed that Sunnis *should* feel more part of the process after the election & went off into a long, detailed, boring & unclear explanation of what the upcoming election in Iraq is actually about. Here's the gist: Iraqis will vote for 275 individuals who will "determine the process by which the Constitution is drafted." Of those 275, there will be a subset called the "Assembly Council" that will appoint a Prime Minister & approve Cabinet appointments [comment: so much for participatory democracy]. McGurk stated that this "government should be broadly representative of Iraq." Asman summed it up as "voting for folks who will put togeher the process by which a Constitution is written" & asked "will violence increase or decrease" post-election. McGurk claimed he was "not in the business of making predictions" then predicted that "elections will unmask what this insurgency" is about, which is "keeping Iraqis from expressing themselves & forming their own government." [Comments: funny how FNL is perfectly willing to rant against lawyers when it suits them, but use them when it suits them; & again, where's the "balance"? why didn't Asman interview someone who was NOT involved with the CPA?]

At 12:26pm, teasers included "regime change in Iran."

At 12:31pm, citing a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh that allegedly says Iran is next in the WOT, Asman interviewed Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) & Tim Burger (TIME). Rather than addressing the alleged substance of Hersh's article, Asman led off by noting that "Hersh uses 'unnamed sources' a lot." Hirsh tried to explain the concept of "unnamed sources", noting that "Rumsfeld's Pentagon" has "tried to move in on the CIA's old bailiwick." Burger added that he thought Hersh's article was "on the mark" because of Iran's "nuclear program & connection to terror" & agreed that the Pentagon is "trying to take over covert operations." Asman then quoted a Pentagon statement pooh-poohing Hersh's article but neither Hirsh nor Burger thought much of that. Hirsh noted that the Pentagon has become "more aggressive" with covert ops & said he thought that "moving into Syria & Iran secretly" was "likely to happen." Asman tried the classic "let's-change-the-target" ploy, saying he wanted to "focus on journalism" & claiming that Hersh's sources were somehow tainted - "a lot of these people are folks who don't like the way Rumsfeld is running the Pentagon." Burger pointed out that "you have to rely on anonymous sources" in investigating topics like this. Asman sneered that the "October surprise" was "supposd to be a big Seymour Hersh breakthrough" but it never happened. Burger explained that sometimes it's difficult when talking to sources to determine "how much is opninon & how much is fact." Switching again, Asman brought up the "Salvador option." Hirsh said it's "seriously under consideration," noting that "these ops are so secretive they're automatically denied." Asman tried to repeat the spin he had used last week, saying "our special forces were sent to El Salvador to STOP [emphasis his] death squads." Hirsh disagreed, saying their role was "questionable" & adding that there was "no question that the US supported rightwing groups" that used death squads, even though the US never officially acknowledged doing so. Asman retorted that it was "never ackowledged because it never happened" & then wouldn't let Hirsh respond, talking over him & ending the interview.

At 12:43pm there was a teaser about Iraqi expats voting, then at 12:45pm Asman interviewed Nick & Sophia Najjaf [comment: bannered by FNL as "former Iraqi citizsens", which is NOT the same as "expatriate"] voting in Iraqi elections for first time. Nick Najjaf repeated a claim heard elsewhere on FNC -- that these elections are the "first time ever" that Iraqis have voted in real elections [comment: it may be Nick's first time voting in an Iraqi election, but there were elections in 1932].

General Comment: Here's a better follow-up to Fox's "Happy Iraq" stories. No, FNL didn't air it (they don't often indulge in pesky details like following up on "stories" they report). This is from the New York Times.

In the first two weeks of January, at least 202 people died as a result of the insurgency in Iraq. The killings have been indiscriminate. The dead include Iraqi officials, police officers, civilians and, of course, Iraqi, American and coalition soldiers. The attacks shown here took place across the country, but there is a clear concentration in the so-called Sunni Triangle, which stretches from Tikrit in the north to Baghdad in the east and to Falluja and Ramadi in the west.

While the daily toll is noted by the news media in headlines and video clips, many Americans have a hard time incorporating these individual pieces of information into a coherent image over time. This map, based on Pentagon data and news reports, shows the number killed and wounded since Jan. 1. Because of the limits placed on reporters and the military's need to inform families, there may have been additional casualties during this period that are not noted here. The map also does not include Iraqi civilians accidentally killed by coalition forces. Still, it is our attempt to visually depict the human cost of a fortnight in an embattled land.

The link to the map is clickable in the original article.