On Fox News Sunday, Hume falsely asserted that Al Qaeda in Iraq "was there before we got there"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume asked Juan Williams, "Who are we fighting there [in Iraq] now, Juan?" then answered his own question: "Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were there before we got there, and they're there now." In fact, U.S. military and intelligence officials have reportedly stated that Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, didn't pledge its loyalty to Osama bin Laden until October 2004, and isn't controlled by bin Laden or his top aides. Further, the 9-11 Commission found "no evidence" that contacts between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship" before the Iraq invasion.

On the September 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, following National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams' statement that "the war in Iraq is serving as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, creating this group Al Qaeda in Iraq where it might not otherwise exist," Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume asserted: "That's the whole argument that you've heard all along: you better not go and take these people on in any way because it only stirs them up and creates more of them. I don't buy it." Later, Hume stated, "We were also going [to Iraq] because we believed there was a terrorist connection," to which Williams replied: "And they never proved the terrorist connection, Brit." Hume then asked: "Who are we fighting there now, Juan?" and answered his own question: "Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were there before we got there, and they're there now."

However, contrary to Hume's claim that Al Qaeda in Iraq was "there before we got there," a June 28 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that "U.S. military and intelligence officials" say "[t]he group known as al Qaida in Iraq didn't exist before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, didn't pledge its loyalty to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden until October 2004 and isn't controlled by bin Laden or his top aides," as Media Matters for America noted.

Media Matters has also repeatedly noted (most recently here) that the 9-11 Commission found "no evidence" that contacts between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship" before the 2003 invasion. Several other purported pre-war links between Iraq and Al Qaeda have also been debunked.

Further, as Think Progress noted, a September 6 report from the Congressional Research Service stated that "most of the daily attacks [in Iraq] are carried out by Iraqi Sunni insurgents," not members of Al Qaeda in Iraq. From the report:

A numerically small but politically significant component of the insurgency is non-Iraqi, mostly in a faction called Al Qaeda-Iraq (AQ-I). Increasingly in 2007, U.S. commanders have seemed to equate AQ-I with the insurgency, even though most of the daily attacks are carried out by Iraqi Sunni insurgents. AQ-I was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a June 7, 2006, U.S. airstrike. AQ-I has been a U.S. focus from very early on in the war because, according to U.S. commanders in April 2007, it is responsible for about 90% of the suicide bombings against both combatant and civilian targets.

From the September 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

HUME: Juan, look at what's happening in Iraq. Al Qaeda is a Sunni operat -- organization. And which people in Iraq are turning against Al Qaeda? It's the Sunnis. Al Qaeda --

WILLIAMS: Brit, this is one limited area in Anbar --

HUME: Excuse me --

WILLIAMS: -- and we can't even afford to pull our forces out of Anbar because the progress there is so tenuous.

HUME: It isn't just in Anbar; it is elsewhere as well. The problem that Al Qaeda faces in any war of ideas is that it is a gang of mass murderers. That's what these people are. They offer nothing to the people of the world. And that is why what he [bin Laden] says in the tape is true: All these nations in the world are after them, they're on the run. They're not winning. They're not winning any war of ideas. The truth is, they really have no ideas.

WILLIAMS: Well, in fact, what we're seeing, and this is something that even what the 9-11 Commissioners say this morning in the paper, is that the war in Iraq is serving as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, creating this group Al Qaeda in Iraq where it might not otherwise exist. And so, therefore, what you're seeing is this propaganda effort continuing to grow.

HUME: That's the whole -- that's the whole argument that you've heard all along: You better not go and take these people on in any way because it only stirs them up and creates more of them. I don't buy it.

WILLIAMS: Well, that's not why we went to Iraq --

WILLIAM KRISTOL (Weekly Standard editor): Well, there were about 16 --

WILLIAMS: Remember we were going there after weapons of mass destruction? Remember we were going there to spread democracy?

HUME: We also were going there because we believed there was a terrorist connection and if the terrorists didn't care about Iraq --

WILLIAMS: And we never proved the terrorist connection, Brit.

HUME: Who are we fighting there now, Juan? Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were there before we got there, and they're there now.

WILLIAMS: We are overwhelmingly in the middle of a civil war between Shia and Sunni, and we have switched sides. Initially, we were supporting Shia and we thought that we could get a political structure of governance working -- which is why we had a surge -- to allow a government to take place, a successful government, and to allow the army and the police to stand up so we could stand out. And guess what? They haven't done any of that in the time the surge has been in place.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, FOX Broadcasting Company
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.