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Keith Olbermann vs the News

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If there’s one thing more worthless than a revenuer amongst our moonshine stills, it’s hack supposed journalists too busy making ridiculous partisan arguments that would embarass James Carville than to report actual emerging NEWS.

One could make an example of a great many schmucks, but right this minute Keith Olbermann over at MSNBC is taking the cake. Newsbusters has a report on his particularly annoying March 20th Countdown show. I was watching this show as well.

Short version, Olberman, in his special smug talking-down-to-dumb-red-staters style, accused the President of saying that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 as part of his effort to get us into war in Iraq (which of course wasn’t true), and lying now when he says that he did not make that argument in the first place.

Olbermann played two current quotes to mock President Bush: “First, just if I might correct a misperception. I don’t think we ever said, at least I know I didn’t say, that there was a direct connection between the September 11th and Saddam Hussein. We did say that he was the state sponsor of terror.” A second Bush soundbite followed up the first clip: “I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America.”

Olberman has no tape to show Bush in fact saying that Hussein knew of or plotted 9/11, because there is none. His principal argument was by counting proximity of words in Presidential speeches, with no regard to the context. Bush used the words “Iraq” and “Al Qaeda” or “Saddam” and “9/11” within ten or twenty words of each other X number of times, so how can Bush claim he wasn’t saying that? This argument is idiotic on the face of it.

But beyond that, there have in fact been numerous reports, including the vaunted 9/11 Commission Report, which make connections between Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime. Bush could very accurately claim that Hussein was cooperative with Al Qaeda. Does it only count if Hussein absolutely personally recruited the 9/11 hijackers? Arguably, just being in bed with those people as the Hussein regime clearly was goes a long way toward justifying military action — not that there aren’t any legitimate arguments against it. Still, you have to start with acknowledging reality.

While Olbermann’s trying to play some cheap gotcha game with the President, the US Army Foreign Military Studies Office is even this week releasing bunches of documents captured in the liberation of Iraq.

Here is part of an ABC News story on one of the documents:

“Osama bin Laden Contact With Iraq”

A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein’s government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested “carrying out joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam’s presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995, and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further “development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what’s open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation.” The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

The report then states that “Saudi opposition figure” bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. “The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We’re currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location,” it states.

(Editor’s Note: This document is handwritten and has no official seal. Although contacts between bin Laden and the Iraqis have been reported in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere (e.g., the 9/11 report states “Bin Ladn himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995) this document indicates the contacts were approved personally by Saddam Hussein.

It also shows that the discussions were substantive, in particular that bin Laden was proposing an operational relationship, and that the Iraqis were, at a minimum, interested in exploring a potential relationship and prepared to show good faith by broadcasting the speeches of al Ouda, the radical cleric who was also a bin Laden mentor.

The document does not establish that the two parties did in fact enter into an operational relationship. Given that the document claims bin Laden was proposing to the Iraqis that they conduct “joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia, it is worth noting that eight months after the meeting — on November 13, 1995 — terrorists attacked Saudi National Guard Headquarters in Riyadh, killing 5 U.S. military advisers. The militants later confessed on Saudi TV to having been trained by Osama bin Laden.)

Mr Olbermann might also want to clear a moment on his journalistic calendar to take a quick gander at another document detailed in that same ABC report regarding Saddam’s interest in the particulars of French campaign finance law. Might be nice if some big shot journalists gave that story a little look-see. What with his interest in exposing the corruption of lying liars, Mr Olberman might put some of that crack staff on looking into whose campaigns he was trying to finance. Maybe while he’s getting his hair done, someone on staff can make a couple of phone calls or something.

But even the supposed evil right wing Fox News doesn’t seem to be featuring this story. Haven’t heard a peep about any of this there that I’ve seen. What the hell is Karl Rove paying Sean Hannity for, anyway? For that matter, why is the President not waving copies of this stuff around?

Cindy Sheehan’s busy getting her martyr-chic glamor shot for Vanity Fair taken on her son’s grave as Susan Sarandon prepares to play her in the, no doubt, heroic movie. Now, that’s news?

Or should I say, THIS IS NEWS.

Hurry down doomsday, the bugs are takin’ over.

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  • Dave Nalle

    Great stuff, Al. Thanks for the link to the full set of documents. I only had access to a list of those in translation. It’s troubling how many of them are NOT translated and could have even more damning information on them.


  • troll

    Good report Al – thanks for the links…but ya better stop sippin’ that libertine moonshine – one bad batch ‘ll leave ya blind

    my one bone to pick is that you discount the administration’s use of ‘proximaty of ideas’ to establish a link in the listener’s mind between OBL and Saddam – isn’t the technique a tried and true tool in debate/propaganda – ?

    Dave – as rosy speculation based on prejudice and scant data is your forte…why don’t you write a feature article about what information might be in those untranslated docs…

    let’s start some rumors


  • troll, having just read through many of the translated documents my guess would be that most of the others consist of selecting pizza toppings for a delivery from Dominos and ordering flunkies shot for not picking up dry cleaning fast enough.


  • sal m

    olbermann is an example of the peter principle in broadcasting…great at sports, usually embarrassing in the real world…

    and i know this is asking the obvious, but how is it that the one voice of cindy sheehan – who obviously has become unbalanced by her son’s death – rises above the voices of her other family members and the rest of the families who have lost soldiers, who support the military?

  • Al, good job at reporting what’s been a surprising revelation. And expecting anything from Fox News in the way of balance is like expecting George Clinton…or is it Bill Bush…to ever get their acts together.

    But your well-drawn picture of the trees doesn’t excuse the fact that the forest is on fire. Pulling the only Arab-speaking military force out of Afghanistan just when we had a chance of catching O Susanna Bin Laden (got that from a recent conversation with the head of that outfit who had just returned from Iraq, and boy, was he pissed.

    It doesn’t excuse going in with too few troops, inadequate armor, no plan for winning the peace, alienating all our allies with our arrogance and intransigence. (I mean, come on, think of how helpful the French could have been…on second thought, forget that.)

    The lies bother me–and there were enough lies to make Richard Nixon a candidate for Sainthood–but what bothers me a whole lot more is the incredible, inexplicable incompetence. They wouldn’t even listen to their own military in Iraq–the hell with us liberal woosies here in the States.

    That’s the real issue. That’s why, contrary to what I’ve seen my esteemed partner in crime, Dave N. say in other comments, we’re either teetering on the bring of civil war or wallowing in it.

    And that’s the truth.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Agreed, Al. I can’t abide Keith Olbermann as a serious journalist…I could barely abide him as a sports journalist, frankly. More than anything he just comes off looking like a jerk.

    That said, I feel nothing but love for the man with every gleeful shot he takes at Bill O’Reilly. It’s probably petty and juvenile of me…but no more so than O’Reilly hanging up on any caller to his radio show that mentions Olbermann’s name. Doesn’t that last just make you bubble up with lovely warm laughter?

  • sc813

    From The Harris Poll, Feb. 2005:
    – 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November, 2004).
    – 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37% in November).

    You cannot tell me that GWB was not making, albeit indirect, connections between 9/11 and Iraq.

    On a personal note, I see the blog here is sustained by the art of personal attack, but yet said-same is not allowed here in the comment section. What can I say? It’s your site, but please, the decency to at least spell Mr. Olbermann’s name correctly as you sully it.

  • neocondi

    So he was making indirect connections. So what? He probably believed there were connections on some level. Maybe Americans thought the same thing on their own. Aren’t Americans entitled to their opinion? Isn’t the President entitled to his?

    As it turns out, it looks like there were connections. There were Al Queda training camps in Iraq. That’s certainly an indirect connection to any terroism Al Queda commits, is it not?

  • Dave Nalle

    From The Harris Poll, Feb. 2005:
    – 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November, 2004).

    That’s a year-old poll. The latest polls show this number in the low 20s.


  • Bliffle


    I’m a little confused about your point here. Are you saying that OBL conspired with Saddam, and GWB never said so?

    Why has Olberman become so important in this matter? Is he more influential than, say, Sean Hannity?

    And what does Sheehan have to do with that?

  • Fair questions, Bliffle. Saddam Hussein was clearly in some cahoots with Al Qaeda, among other terrorist organizations. Bush actually UNDERSOLD that point, and continues to do so, for whatever reasons. If 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers, they would be somewhere close to correct. No one suspects Hussein of personally interviewing the hijackers, but he certainly was a friend of Al Qaeda.

    Reiterating my original second paragraph, Olbermann is just an example of the more ridiculous end of the liberal journalists in the mainstream press. I could have used other examples, but he jumped out at me as particularly annoying this week. But I must concur with Mr West in giving him some points for slapping Bill O’Reilly around- he’s sure got it coming.

    But even the more middle or right wing types among the major media don’t seem to be jumping on these documents and similar stories. Thus the question that I use for the description tag for the front page: What’s Karl Rove paying Sean Hannity for, anyway? Yet I haven’t seen it mentioned on his show- though I don’t watch it all the time. But he SHOULD be shouting from the rooftops with some of this stuff.

    Sheehan is significant to the story as an example of what IS considered newsworthy. Everyone in the country has had this fool run up their ass for most of a year, but hardly a peep about significant actual news such as these documents.

  • Scott Butki

    Al, are you actually saying the administration did not mislead the public on this issue as Cheney et al made suggestions of connections between 9/11 and Saddam?

    Or are you just saying Olbermann didn’t do a convincing job.

    I think you cheapen your own argument when you suggest that he’s a journalist. He’s a showman just like O’Reilly.

  • Mr Butki, let me try to be yet clearer: President Bush never ever said that Hussein had any specific involvement in the attacks of 9/11. I don’t see where he made any direct connection, but he would have in fact been correct in implying that the Baath regime in Iraq including Hussein specifically were in cahoots with Al Qaeda.

    I agree Olbermann is no kind of journalist, but he is the anchor of an MSNBC news show. I’ll hold him against NBC News, as I hold O’Reilly against Fox.

  • JP

    Honestly, I give Olbermann credit for being the only major media anchor with the cajones to challenge the White House these days. Anyone who was watching Bush’s speeches in 2002 and 2003 knows he was using every kind of implication to link them together; even the conservative Weekly Standard reported in 2003: “For months before the war in Iraq, the Bush administration claimed to know of ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” CNN reported “Does Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein provide assistance to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda? It’s a case the Bush administration has tried hard to make.”

    Furthermore, the administration has already said this new trove of documents hasn’t proven anything:

    “Our view is there’s nothing in here that changes what we know today,” said a senior intelligence official, who would discuss the program only on condition of anonymity because the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, directed his staff to avoid public debates over the documents. “There is no smoking gun on W.M.D., Al Qaeda, those kinds of issues.”

    The Newsbusters folks are concentrating on the fact that Bush never said “9/11” with Iraq, but ignoring the many many times he linked Iraq to Al Qaeda, which is somewhat misleading. Olbermann’s analysis of Bush’s wording was largely accurate, arguably, as any reasonable person would have been led to believe there was a connection given how closely “9/11” and “Al Qaeda” were tied in the public’s minds.

    Note – Bush also did NOT say “I didn’t say that there was a direct connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein” because that would have been *clearly* incorrect. Hats off to Olbermann, in my view.

  • JP

    Bliffle, Olbermann has become important in that he’s been in a feud with O’Wrongly on Fox.

    Bill actually came out and threatened one of his callers with sending the “Fox Police,” believe it or not, for mentioning the name “Olbermann” on the air!

    Olbermann’s ratings are going up lately, incidentally, as he’s becoming known for having the ballz to stand up to O’Reilly’s nonsense. In my opinion, it’s about time, and I only wish my cable system carried MSNBC! (instead, I read Blogcritics..haha)

  • In what way does it take “cajones” for a tv anchor to trash-talk the president? People do it all day, every day. That’s nothing.

    Plus, there certainly are direct connections between Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime. There has been documentation of such in the past, and these documents provide more. You can put your fingers in your ears and say “La, la, la, la, la, I am not listening” but it’s still true.

  • RogerMDillon

    Considering Phil Donahue was fired by the network due to his opposition against the war it does take some cajones. Name another network anchor that trashes the President. Not comedian, but news anchor.

    It seems odd that bloggers keep trumpeting these “documents”, but the President and his administration, who would benefit the most from their authenticity, don’t mention them.

  • Scott Butki

    Yes, there are connections between Al Queda and Hussein but stronger ties have been shown between Al Queda and Saudi Arabia so why aren’t we attacking that country?
    Al, go to this link and tell me Bush is not implying a connection between Al Quadi and Hussein.

  • Brother Butki, President Bush et al could well be reasonably seen to have been broadly implying some connections between Hussein and Al Queda, but so far as I can tell never, ever even implied that Hussein had knowledge or connections to the specific attacks of 9/11. But as you posit, there really were connections between them, so that’s good.

    There are connections between Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, yes, and I’d say that they should be getting a lot harder time from US than they have. However, those ties appear to be more in the range of paying protection money rather than willful collusion- a lesser offense.

    Plus, we can’t attack everyone or all at once. Iraq looked like the best pressure point for a major offense against the terrorist infrastructures for a number of reasons. But if you wanted to argue that we should have gone after, say, Iran instead, I might be sympathetic to that argument.

    However, very few critics of the Iraq invasion are arguing that we should have done Iran instead. Rather, they’re arguing essentially that we should have done nothing militarily past Afghanistan, and just hoped for the best.

  • Scott Butki

    Specifically you quote this quote from Bush:
    “I don’t think we ever said, at least I know I didn’t say, that there was a direct connection between the September 11th and Saddam Hussein.”

    Does this not sound like a connection, however indirect:
    “The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001.”
    “The reason I keep insisting there was a relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship beween Iraq and Al-Qaeda.”

  • Scott Butki

    You said:

    Rather, they’re arguing essentially that we should have done nothing militarily past Afghanistan, and just hoped for the best.

    I haven’t heard any analysts say “hope for the the best.”
    Rather they said not to go to war without good intelligence justifying it and evidence is proving intelligence was faulty and, that available, was misused.

  • Scott, you say “does this not sound like a connection?” Again, I agree, yes they were making a connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda. Bush was correct to do so, because there clearly were ties.

    Some of the intelligence seems to have been incorrect, but it’s not like Bush was having it fabricated. I don’t see how it was misused.

    I haven’t heard any analysts say “hope for the the best.”
    Perhaps I was a bit overly sarcastic in that wording, as no one is literally saying those words, obviously. But that seems to be the gist of it.

    Other than that, I’ve mostly heard from opponents of Iraq no other real answers. What, yet more foreign aid? Paying the protection money hasn’t spared Saudi Arabia. That’s not a viable solution. More giveaways and more international bureaucracy, multi-jurisdictional UN study committees and such are supposed to stop people from killing us how?

    Keith Olbermann et al can pretend not to see the Al Qaeda-Iraq connections, and he can lawyer his way through the text of George Bush’s speeches looking for some gotcha moments. But his ilk are worse than worthless in helping US understand what’s really going on- much less helping us find any viable alternatives to our current policies.

  • Scott Butki

    So why in your opinion is the Hussein – Al Quaida connection, as small as it is, given more mentions by the administration than the direct Saudi Arabia- Al Queada connection?

  • Fair enough, Brother Butki. Bush could reasonably be faulted for soft-pedaling Saudi connections to Al Qaeda. However, I could imagine a somewhat reasonable defense that Hussein was an eager state sponsor of terrorism that just had to go. Almost anything would be better than him.

    The Saudi royals, the government, are a whole different kettle of fish. Their connections to Al Qaeda seem to be much more in the line of paying protection money. That’s not good, but it’s not the same as sponsoring terrorist training camps and openly offering payoffs for Palestinian suicide bombers.

    The Saudi ruling family are not responsible for a million people or so massacred, as Hussein. Plus, if their regime falls, it’s pretty likely that they’ll be replaced by something much worse.