Limbaugh falsely claimed Obama's statement on Al Qaeda in Iraq is "manifestly not true"

››› ››› ANNE SMITH

Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a statement by Sen. Barack Obama that "[t]here was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until [President] George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq" is "manifestly not true." In fact, 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 invasion.

On the February 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh played audio clips of an exchange between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain regarding Al Qaeda in Iraq, and falsely asserted that Obama's claim that "[t]here was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until [President] George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq" is "manifestly not true." In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, numerous sources have determined that the group Al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A profile of the group by the Council on Foreign Relations notes that "a number of experts say it wasn't until 2004, when [Abu Musab Al] Zarqawi vowed obedience to the al-Qaeda leader [Osama bin Laden], that the groups [Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in Iraq] became linked." McClatchy Newspapers, citing "U.S. military and intelligence officials," also reported in June 2007 that "[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."

Furthermore, a 2006 Senate Intelligence Report established that "[n]o postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom." The 9-11 Commission also found "no evidence" that contacts between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship" before the invasion.

The exchange was sparked by Obama's response at the February 26 Democratic primary debate to a question by NBC News' Tim Russert: "[D]o you reserve a right as American president to go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn, with sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?" Obama responded: "As commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests, and if Al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So, that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places."

At a campaign stop in Texas, the following day, McCain addressed Obama's comment: "Senator Obama made the statement that if Al Qaeda came back to Iraq after he withdraws, then he would send military troops back if Al Qaeda established a base in Iraq. I have some news: Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It's called Al Qaeda in Iraq. And my friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base; they'd be taking a country. I will not surrender to Al Qaeda."

As Media Matters noted, McCain falsely suggested Obama claimed Al Qaeda currently has no presence in Iraq.

From the February 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: To the audio sound bites: Tuesday night, CNN Live. This is the debate. Barack Obama said this about being president.

OBAMA [audio clip]: As commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests, and if Al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah. Now, this is after Obama had said he'd pull everybody out of there. He'd pull all the troops out of there and then he was asked, "Well, what happens if Al Qaeda goes in there and starts remaking a base?" "Well, I'll reserve the right to make sure we're looking out for our interests. If they're forming a base, we'll have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad" -- which is pure pap! It is pure pap.

And McCain took the opportunity to attack Obama.

McCAIN [audio clip]: Senator Obama made the statement that if Al Qaeda came back to Iraq after he withdraws, then he would send military troops back if Al Qaeda established a base in Iraq. I have some news: Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It's called Al Qaeda in Iraq. And my friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base; they'd be taking a country. I will not surrender to Al Qaeda.

LIMBAUGH: All right, so then this gets back to Obama in Columbus at a campaign rally.

OBAMA [audio clip]: McCain thought that, you know, he could make a clever point -- like I wasn't reading the papers. Like I didn't know what was going on. I said, well, first of all, I do know that Al Qaeda's in Iraq and that's why I said we should continue to strike Al Qaeda targets, but I have some news for John McCain: There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.

LIMBAUGH: That's manifestly not true, but more than that, do you hear how -- wait a minute now. As far as his supporters are concerned -- remember, we're talking about people who are attached to him by virtue of faith -- facts don't matter. This was a deft turn on McCain's charge. He didn't answer the charge. What McCain was trying to do was to say this guy is a fool. He's going to pull us out of Iraq and then put us back in if Al Qaeda tries to establish a base. They are already doing that. They're in the process of being defeated in that effort, by the way. McCain was trying to point out this guy doesn't know what he's doing, and barely knows what he's talking about, and is going to pose great risks to our country if he's in charge of these kinds of things.

But Obama got to turn it around and say, "Well, we wouldn't be talking about this if you hadn't gone along with Bush and sent them there." The retort to that -- if I were McCain, or if I were Obama's opponent -- say, "Senator, with all due respect, that was then, and this is now. And the reality is, we are facing this enemy not just in Iraq, but we're facing them everywhere. They have made no bones about their intentions, and whether you disagree with how we ended up in Iraq, the fact is we are there and we are the United States of America and we do not lose unless we have people like you in charge."

Now, I don't know if McCain responded further to this, but this is -- you know, this is -- I mean, this is clear on the facts, and on the competence, experience. This is a clear slam dunk for McCain, but as far as Obama supporters, they think that Obama just wiped the floor with McCain, without any concern for any fact, without concern for any of the relevancy and importance of what the whole debate was about.

Network/Outlet
Premiere Radio Networks
Person
Rush Limbaugh
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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