A familiar journalistic principle at work again

By

Powerline and Ray Robison are both arching metaphorical eyebrows at the odd position taken by the Washington Post in recent reporting on al Zarqawi, and the US emphasis on him. Ray writes:

Powerline dissects a Washington Post story that bugged the heck out of me as well. The main problem for me is that the WaPo is implying without actually having the nerve to state that U.S. psychological operations are targeting American citizens with factually incorrect information about jihadist al Zarqawi, the guy from those beheading videos.

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al—Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Powerline notes:

This is the Post at its worst, trying to portray perfectly legitimate action by our government in a bad light. The U.S. should be emphasizing Zarqawi's role in Iraq by "painting" him for what he is —— a "foreign threat to Iraq's stability." We should be doing so in order to drive a wedge between Zarqawi's crew and Iraqis who may be hostile to the U.S. but who are also hostile to foreign terrorists. As the Post grudgingly acknowledges, some tribal insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists. Every time Iraqis attack Zarqawi loyalists or provide information about their whereabouts, our troops become safer. Thus, it would be scandalous for the U.S. military not to stress Zarqawi's role and his status as a foreigner.

But, astonishingly, the Post seems scandalized that we're engaged in a "propaganda campaign" against Zarqawi. To give the scandal legs, it informs us right out of the box that "some military intelligence officials believe that [the military] may have overstated [Zarqawi's] importance." (emphasis added). The Post goes on to identify one intelligence officer who says that, although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers." (It's not clear whether this means the actual number of bombing attacks or the actual number of terrorist—insurgents). The same official also opines that "former regime types and their friends," not Zarqawi, represent the real long—term threat in Iraq. But the Post eventually admits that the significance of Zarqawi is the subject of a "running argument among specialists in Iraq."

So here's the situation: (1) Zarqawi, a foreign terrorist, indisputably is conducting deadly bombing attacks, (2) there's disagreement about his precise level of activity and overall significance, (3) playing up his role is reasonably calculated to create deadly conflict among Iraqi terrorist—insurgents. Under these circumstances, should the U.S. "play up" Zarqawi's role or give him the benefit of the doubt? Unless one is on Zarqawi's side or is suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, the question answers itself.

If one keeps in mind the basic principle that Bush Is Always Wrong, the position of the WaPo becomes much clearer.

Powerline and Ray Robison are both arching metaphorical eyebrows at the odd position taken by the Washington Post in recent reporting on al Zarqawi, and the US emphasis on him. Ray writes:

Powerline dissects a Washington Post story that bugged the heck out of me as well. The main problem for me is that the WaPo is implying without actually having the nerve to state that U.S. psychological operations are targeting American citizens with factually incorrect information about jihadist al Zarqawi, the guy from those beheading videos.

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al—Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Powerline notes:

This is the Post at its worst, trying to portray perfectly legitimate action by our government in a bad light. The U.S. should be emphasizing Zarqawi's role in Iraq by "painting" him for what he is —— a "foreign threat to Iraq's stability." We should be doing so in order to drive a wedge between Zarqawi's crew and Iraqis who may be hostile to the U.S. but who are also hostile to foreign terrorists. As the Post grudgingly acknowledges, some tribal insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists. Every time Iraqis attack Zarqawi loyalists or provide information about their whereabouts, our troops become safer. Thus, it would be scandalous for the U.S. military not to stress Zarqawi's role and his status as a foreigner.

But, astonishingly, the Post seems scandalized that we're engaged in a "propaganda campaign" against Zarqawi. To give the scandal legs, it informs us right out of the box that "some military intelligence officials believe that [the military] may have overstated [Zarqawi's] importance." (emphasis added). The Post goes on to identify one intelligence officer who says that, although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers." (It's not clear whether this means the actual number of bombing attacks or the actual number of terrorist—insurgents). The same official also opines that "former regime types and their friends," not Zarqawi, represent the real long—term threat in Iraq. But the Post eventually admits that the significance of Zarqawi is the subject of a "running argument among specialists in Iraq."

So here's the situation: (1) Zarqawi, a foreign terrorist, indisputably is conducting deadly bombing attacks, (2) there's disagreement about his precise level of activity and overall significance, (3) playing up his role is reasonably calculated to create deadly conflict among Iraqi terrorist—insurgents. Under these circumstances, should the U.S. "play up" Zarqawi's role or give him the benefit of the doubt? Unless one is on Zarqawi's side or is suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, the question answers itself.

If one keeps in mind the basic principle that Bush Is Always Wrong, the position of the WaPo becomes much clearer.