CNN's Nguyen did not challenge Marine's repetition of widely disputed "follow us home" claim
On CNN Newsroom, Marine Sgt. Marco Martinez claimed that "if we were to pull out prematurely, the terrorists would follow us home, and it would be disastrous for both us and Iraq," a statement that anchor Betty Nguyen did not challenge. As Media Matters has repeatedly noted, this claim is contested by a wide range of U.S. intelligence officials, security experts, and military analysts.
During the September 14 edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Betty Nguyen asked Marine Sgt. Marco Martinez to give his "assessment" and "reaction" to President Bush's September 13 address to the nation on Iraq, but failed to challenge Martinez's claim that "if we were to pull out prematurely, the terrorists would follow us home, and it would be disastrous for both us and Iraq." As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, the claim that "the terrorists would follow us home" if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq -- a claim made frequently by Bush -- is contested by a wide range of U.S. intelligence officials, security experts, and military analysts.
For instance, a "Terrorism Index" survey by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine found that only 12 percent of experts believe that terrorists are either very likely or likely to attack the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Moreover, some foreign policy experts have said that it is the U.S. occupation of Iraq that increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the United States. An April 30 report on NPR's All Things Considered quoted retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns saying, "It's actually leaving American forces in Iraq ... that increases the chances of a terrorist attack on the U.S."
Further, according to an April 6 McClatchy Newspapers article, "[m]ilitary and diplomatic analysts" say that a similar claim by Bush -- that "this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here" -- "exaggerat[es] the threat that enemy forces in Iraq pose to the U.S. mainland." The article continued: "U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bush's own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States." The article quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying that "[t]he war in Iraq isn't preventing terrorist attacks on America" and noted that "the likelihood that enemy combatants from Iraq might follow departing U.S. forces back to the United States is remote at best."
From the 11 a.m. ET broadcast of the September 14 edition of CNN Newsroom:
NGUYEN: We're going to get your story, from being a gangster to being awarded one of the highest honors here in the U.S.
But first off, I want to talk to you about the president's speech last night. You listened to it. After serving in Iraq, what is your assessment, your reaction to what he had to say?
MARTINEZ: I think he said what had to be said, and he's showing that our success in Iraq is working. General [David] Petreaus is a good general, and he's an honorable general, and his planning is actually taking effect, and we're having success in Iraq.
Having served in Iraq, I could tell you that the terrorists that we face over there are savage and brutal, and if we were to pull out prematurely, the terrorists would follow us home, and it would be disastrous for both us and Iraq.
NGUYEN: But apparently it's going to take some time because these benchmarks have not been made, as you heard the president speak about last night.
But let me get back to your story. You are the first Hispanic-American since Vietnam to be awarded the Navy Cross. How exactly did you earn that? Talk to us about what happened in Iraq.