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Bill Hemmer Does Not Challenge as Sen. John Cornyn Misleads FOX Viewers About Basra

Reported by Marie Therese - February 22, 2007 -

This morning Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn appeared on American Morning to tell host Bill Hemmer that the announced withdrawal of British troops from Basra is a good thing. Echoing the White House talking points, Cornyn claimed that "Iraq's a big place and Basra - the southern part of Iraq - has now been contained in a way that now the Iraqis can take the hand-off." When asked by Hemmer if "things could get bad again" once the British forces pull out, Cornyn fudged his answer (maybe because he knew that the real story is quite different from the happy-happy talking points he had been spouting for the FOX News viewers).

"Well, it's certainly possible," Cornyn responded. "But the real battle appears to be in Baghdad for the sectarian violence and in al-Anbar province, where Al Qaeda in Iraq is continuing to build bombs and exact attacks against the Shi'ites. So, Basra has long been relatively tame."

According to this morning's San Francisco Chronicle, Cornyn didn't quite get it right.

The White House argued that the southern city of Basra, where the British have been in charge, has no Sunni insurgency and far less violence than Baghdad or western Anbar province, where the additional U.S. troops will be based.

"The fact that they have made some progress on the ground is going to enable them to move some of the forces out, and that's ultimately the kind of thing that we want to be able to see throughout Iraq," said White House press secretary Tony Snow.
Snow said the U.S.-led coalition "remains intact" despite a roster that has fallen from 35 countries in 2004 to 24 now.

But the Pentagon, in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, listed Basra as one of five cities outside Baghdad where violence remained significant, and said the region is one of only two that are "not ready for transition" to Iraqi authorities.

Once a promising beacon, Basra suffers from sectarian violence as well as Shiite militia clashes over oil smuggling. Ferocious street battles have broken out between rival Shiite groups in provincial southern capitals such as Samawa, Kut and Diwaniya over the last year.

Basra is largely run by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Bill Hemmer did not mention any of this to Cornyn, limiting himself to the one generic "what if" question above. He handled Cornyn qwith kid gloves. Can you say "softball interview"?*


More smoke and mirrors courtesy of the group that brought you those other great hits "Saving the World from the Mushroom Cloud," "Grabbin' My Honey at Abu Gurayb," "Lost and Alone, Building 18, Walter Reed," "600,000 and Counting," "Oops! I Didn't Know the Gun Was Loaded!," "Put Your Life on the Line for God's Decider," "He Ain't Slow, He's Tony Snow" and that old favorite "The Bad Guy's Always a Demurrcrat and Librruls Ain't Much Better."

* This paragraph added at 5:55 PM, 2-22-07 - MT