Nevada GOP’s foreign policy aired

During the early months of this year, in a throwback to the journalistic gullibility that characterized the first years of the war, media entities were still going along with George Bush’s claims about two groups, both called Al Qaeda.

On June 28, there was a break in that practice. The Los Angeles Times ran an Iraq story that contained language designed to distinguish between Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and Iraq’s Al Qaeda (AQI): “Al Qaeda in Iraq is one of several high-profile Sunni Arab groups in the insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces. … Despite its name, the extent of the group’s links to Osama bin Laden is unclear.” (Qaeda means foundation. Bin Laden’s group is believed to call itself Qa’idat al-Jihad, not Al Qaeda, a term often attributed to U.S. intelligence.)

The Los Angeles story drew praise from the Columbia Journalism Review, a publication that monitors reporting practices and ethics.

On July 13, the New York Times carried a front-page piece, “Bush Distorts Qaeda Links, Critics Assert.” It quoted a typical Bush statement: “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that’s why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.” The Times then quoted Middle East experts and reported that Bush’s “references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.”

On July 24, the Nevada Republican Party, however, sent out a mailing, “IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: President Bush: ‘We Are Fighting Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda In Iraq.’

The only substantiation in the GOP mailing for describing Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and AQI as one and the same was 19 more quotations from George Bush.

If such repetition makes it true, that might explain Bush’s behavior of late. “Could Al Qaeda possibly have found a better publicist than President Bush?” asked the Washington Post on July 27. “At a South Carolina Air Force base yesterday, Bush mentioned Al Qaeda and bin Laden 118 times in 29 minutes.”