The al-Maliki Interview, starring WOLF BLITZER

by Richard Nadler

One certainty by which American news viewers can set their clocks is the unremitting hostility of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to America’s attempt to plant democracy in the Middle East.  On Sunday, Aug. 27, watchers of Late Edition could see Blitzer interview – no, hector – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The segment, which ran 3500 words in transcript, provides a remarkable window into CNN’s freakish hatred not only of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but of our Iraqi allies in that fight.

The “interview” provided a great platform … for Blitzer, who advances the following insinuations over the “inarticulate” objections of his foreign guest:

  • America needs to get out of Iraq
  • Iraqis hate Americans
  • Iraq is in a civil war
  • The security situation is deteriorating
  • Al-Maliki coddles killers of Americans
  • The death of al-Qaeda leader al Musib al-Zarqawi was meaningless
  • Al-Maliki is ungrateful for the help he’s received from America
  • Al-Maliki is an enemy of Israel. 

We will look at each of Blitzer’s assertions, and al-Maliki’s rebuttals.  But first, I’d like to point out something about the “Late Edition” framework.

When an American journalist interviews a non-English speaker on a live broadcast, the “guest” is at the mercy of his translator, who must struggle to cross the language barrier twice with each question.  A hostile interviewer will use this to make the foreigner sound like a fool.

Nouri al-Maliki is a literary scholar.  He earned his university degree in Arabic literature before he got involved in the risky profession of anti-Baathist politics.  In exile, he became the official spokesman for the Dawa Party, the largest anti-Saddam revolutionary movement in the 1980s.  Later, back in Iraq, he was the voice of the United Iraqi Alliance – the Shi’ite list that dominated the last two Iraqi elections.

The man is hardly inarticulate.  But listeners to CNN were treated to “translations” like this:

BLITZER: Is it a good idea, Mr. Prime Minister, for there to be a specific timeline, a deadline if you will, when U.S. and other international forces should leave your country?

MALIKI: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Perhaps I don’t find it suitable to have certain historic periods.  But we are committed, with the events that our forces to continue with the rebuilding efforts.

Now, al Maliki is simply making his standard point: he wants the departure of foreign troops to be conditioned by the ability of the government’s forces to provide security for the democracy.  But the translator’s English hardly conveys this.

The whole interview is laced with such incoherent exchanges.  It’s as though Mike Wallace were grilling an autistic child.  It makes the interviewer look sharp, and the interviewee look like a dim bulb.  But anyone familiar with the career trajectories of Blitzer and al-Maliki must reject this.

I fault the prime minister for granting this interview personally, rather than through an English-savy spokesperson. It defies credibility that al-Maliki, a former communications director, knows nothing about the politics of CNN or Wolf Blitzer.

Now, for the “substance” of the Blitzer-al Maliki interview.

America needs to get out of Iraq
 Fully a third of Blizer’s interview was dedicated to tricking al-Maliki into saying something – anything – that could be construed as a request for a date certain for the withdrawal of American troops.  Al Maliki kept answering it the same way Bush does – the coalition can stand down as the Iraqi forces stand up.

But that didn’t deter Blitzer from rephrasing the question.  Examples:

#1 – “How much longer do you anticipate U.S. troops will be needed in Iraq?”
#2 – “Are you talking about months? Are you talking about years? Are you talking about many years?”
#3 – “If the forces withdrew, let’s say in the next year, would Iraqi security forces be OK in dealing with the security and stability of your country?”
#4 – “One United States Congressman, Chris Shays, who’s visited Iraq 14 times,… said “It may be that the only way we are able to encourage some political will on the part of Iraqis is to have a timeline for troop withdrawal…”  Is it a good idea, Mr. Prime Minister, for there to be a specific timeline?
#5 – “So you think you need the bulk of these troops for another year, a half a year, two years?
#6 – “Can you give us a little guideline of how much longer to think it’s necessary to have this foreign presence in Iraq?”
#7 – “And you say that they could leave in a year or less.  Is that what you’re saying?”

The prime minister answered the question of troop withdraw again and again. He would be delighted to see foreign troops depart after three months, six months, one year, two years, whenever – but NOT at the price of the Iraqi nation’s hard-purchased progress in democracy.

But Blitzer was determined to trick a “date certain” out of him, rather like the “Iraqi civil war” the Left squeezed out of our generals a couple weeks ago.  The generals denied the description.  But properly coaxed, even a denial can be interpreted as an admission. 
When was the last time YOU beat your wife?

Iraqis hate Americans
Blitzer’s next loaded question:

“There are those in Iraq who say that this [the presence of U.S. troops – ed.] is part of the problem, that the perception among many Iraqis is that the American troops are occupiers and that you would be better off seeing these American troops leave… In other words, does the presence of American forces help your government or hurt your government with the Iraqi people?”

“It helps,” answered al-Maliki.  And every poll of the Iraqi people confirms what he said.

It’s not a matter of “liking” Americans – who could like foreign troops on their soil?  Rather, in poll after poll, the Iraqi attitude breaks down this way:

  • Shi’ites (60% of the population) want us there between 6 months and 2 years more.
  • Kurds (20% of the population) want us there until security is restored – whenever that may be.
  • Sunnis (20% of the population) want us to leave YESTERDAY.

This latter attitude appears, anecdotally, to be changing.  As American troops help disarm the Shi’ite death squads, their stock has risen steadily in the Sunni areas of Baghdad.

Iraq is in a civil war
 Next, Blitzer cites the opinion of “many analysts” who contend that Iraq “is approaching a civil war, if there hasn’t been a civil war yet.”

Maliki answers: “[N]o, we’re not in a civil war.”  Alluding to the national gathering of tribal leaders in Baghdad last week, he adds, “What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation [among] the leadership of the tribes, of the parties.”

Needless to say, Blitzer asked no follow-up questions regarding this initiative. He had no intention of being upstaged in this, HIS interview.

The security situation is deteriorating
Again, citing “many analysts”, Blitzer suggests that “the [security] situation in Iraq is getting worse.”

He is obviously not citing defense department analysts who reported a 46% drop in the Baghdad murder rate from July to August.

But al-Maliki answers: “No, the violence is not increasing… The violence is in decrease.  And our security ability is increasing.”

Al-Maliki coddles killers of Americans
 Next, Blitzer invites Al-Maliki denounce Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi’ite radical who has vacillated between acts of terror against Americans, Sunnis, and fellow Shi’ites, and acts of co-operation with the new democracy.  “So,” Blitzer asks, “Muqtada al-Sadr, from your prospective is a legitimate political figure inside Iraq?”

Al-Maliki refuses to rise to the bait.  He answers (with the usual translator bobbles) that al-Sadr is legitimate inasfar as he is committed to the law.  “But any violation of law and security,” he adds, “will remove him from that description.”

Blitzer, like any good Leftist, knows perfectly well that “reconciliation commissions” are imperative if Iraq is to progress beyond the sectarian-ethnic violence of the past.  CNN had no problem supporting such commissions in South Africa, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia.  But like any good Democrat Party activist, Blitzer has no problem portraying al-Maliki’s attempts at reconciliation as anti-American.

The death Musib al-Zarqawi was meaningless
Echoing a viewpoint common on the loony Left, Blitzer says, “The U.S. killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaida leader in Iraq …was supposed to be a major turning point in stopping the terrorism. But it seems to be continuing. Was that overblown, the assessment that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
would turn things around?

Al-Maliki will have none of it. The raids that followed the takedown of Zarqawi resulted in scores of “safehouse” raids, confiscations of weapons caches, and arrests of al Qaida associates.  He responds:

[T]he killing of the Zarqawi has weakened Al Qaida a lot, especially that many leaders of Al Qaida that were hunted down and were arrested. We have achieved a lot, and Al Qaida is now suffering a huge weakness in Iraq. And we’ll continue to hunt them down and defeat them.

Al-Maliki’s ingratitude
Blitzter’s next red herring runs thus: “On June 1st, after an incident involving alleged U.S. military atrocities in Iraq, you said this – and I’ll quote.  You said, ‘They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion.  This is completely unacceptable.”.. Those words were seen as very harsh on the U.S. military at a time when the United States military has done so much to try to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq.

Given the CNN obsession first with Abu Ghraib, the Haditaha, Blitzer’s remarks are genuinely weird.  It is CNN, not al-Maliki, that has harped on the American military’s rare atrocities, to the virtual exclusion of terrorist atrocities committed in Iraq on a daily basis.

Al-Maliki takes a more balanced view than his interrogator.  “When the violations occur,” he says, “they should be condemned.  But we don’t want to generalize what’s happening.”

Al-Maliki and Israel
Finally, Blitzer attempts to tag al-Maliki as an anti-Semite, on the basis of Shi’ite support of Hizbollah during the Israel-Lebanon conflict.  “Do you personally believe,” he asks the Prime Minister, “that Israel has the right to exist?”

This question is as tough as it is irrelevant.  As a member of an Islamic Shi’ite party, Al-Maliki has mixed feelings about Hizbollah.  On the one hand, members of the Dawa regard the Palestinians as a wronged people.  On the other hand, Hizbollah supported Saddam during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and its sponsors, Syria and Iran, have trained death squads that are part of the insurgency.

The irrelevance of the question is simple:  the Iraqi government, locked in a life-and-death struggle with terrorist and criminal elements, has no interest whatever in the foreign adventures of Hizbollah.  This is in marked contrast to the Baathist regime it replaced, which, under Saddam, paid cash benefits to Palestinian suicide bombers.
Al-Maliki doesn’t fall for the bait.  He points out first, that freedom of expression in foreign policy is part of democracy, and second, that Iraq is committed to international law, which recognizes the state of Israel.

* * * * *

So ends the Blitzer/al-Maliki exchange on Late Edition:  Quite as interesting as what Blitzer asked is what he left unasked:

  • About the major new security initiative in Baghdad Wolf Blitzer had no questions.
  • About the recent tribal reconciliation conference in Baghdad Wolf Blitzer had no questions.
  • About  the Iraqi Army’s steady assumption of security responsibility in the 14 (of 18) provinces unplagued by insurgents Wolf Blitzer had no questions.
  • About the major reforms in Iraq’s banking and investment laws – no questions.
  • About the new oil and electrical facilities on line – no questions.
  • About the steady reduction in U.S. casualties – no questions.

In this CNN morality play, there is only one rule:  President Bush must lose.  Wolf Blitzer doesn’t care who else loses. If the brave Iraqi democrats die – tough luck.  If Iraq’s plucky new class of entrepreneurs are expropriated – well, they well they were just businessmen.  If the collapse of the democracy initiative in the Middle East leaves terror-sponsoring nations with billions of petro-dollars to export Islamo-fascism – tough luck, America.

But if the terrorists win, Wolfie gets his ultimate thrill.  He can say, “I told you so.”

Author’s postscript:
I love Al-Jazeera
I have spent much of the past year denigrating the Arab MSM, personified in al-Jazeera, for its coddling of inhuman slaughters, for its ubiquitous disregard for objective truth, and for its resolute rationalization of global Islamo-fascist atrocities.

I hereby renounce my criticism (tho’ not my criticisms). The slugs who work for al-Jazeera, be they turbaned communists, frothing jihadists, or martinet pan-Arab nationalists, share one virtue hideously absent in their Western counterparts:  In the ongoing war of cultures, they NEVER forget whose side they are on.

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