Thursday, October 23, 2003

Iraqi Newspaper Describes Pre-Sept. 11th al-Queda Training at Salman Pak

What infuriates me about this is that if you ask members of the mainstream media about Salman Pak, they'll give you the same tired Ba'athist cant that it was a "counterterrorist" training facility, and go on to repeat the same tired bullshit about how Saddam Hussein and al-Queda didn't co-operate.

There was an unbearably smug poll by PIPA/Knowledge Networks a few weeks ago. This poll's press release claimed that Fox News viewers were suffering from "misperceptions" of the war, and one of these key misperceptions was the idea that Iraq had something to do with al Queda. All right-thinking people know, of course, that there's no such thing as a postwar link between the Ba'athists and al Queda.

At the time the poll was making the rounds of the self-righteous left, I couldn't find clean links to defend the common right-wing notion of Ba'athist-al Queda linkage. They do exist, and quite extensively, due to a Weekly Standard article by Stephen Hayes and a James Lileks column using that article. However, I couldn't find authoritative non-partisan links that didn't descend eventually to those two articles at the time, and I dropped the subject. But this Salman Pak story qualifies, I think, as definite evidence.

Pardon me while I cover my left flank on this:

Some are worried that the Al-Yawm Al-Aakher article might be bogus - what is the Al-Yawm Al-Aakher and who publishes it? MEMRI, the proximate source of the article (it's an Israeli site that monitors and translates Arabic-language publications across the Middle East - it's generally balanced, unlike say, DEBKA) identifies the publisher of Al-Yawm Al-Aakher in this wrapup as "Al-Munajjed Publications", elsewhere as "Al-Munajjed Publishing", which had previously produced pro-Saddam material, and here as "Al-Munnajed Publishing House". From a scan of the editorials and quotes provided by MEMRI in the above links and elsewhere, I conclude that Al-Yawm Al-Aakher is, indeed, a cranky, nationalist, independent publication, prone to hectoring Bremer, Iraq's neighbors, Jews, and Chalabi in fairly equal terms of scorn and disrespect. This Salman Pak article might still be a fraud, but it doesn't sound as if it could possibly be an American or American conservative fraud. At any rate, it does indeed qualify as evidence from an utterly independent source. Maybe not proof, but definitely evidence.

ANYways, this diversion was made to illustrate the point I had wanted to make about the PIPA/Knowledge Networks polling - that it was badly polluted by a classic case of confirmation bias. They were looking for people with opinions formed by stories like the Weekly Standard article and the Lileks column. They found them. And they discovered that, sure enough, those people's opinions differed from those of people more likely to listen to NPR or read John Pilger stories. Quelle surprise. What offends me, in the end is that the conductors of the poll decided to take their institutional biases, and project them as proper perceptions, and the targeted audience's as "misperceptions". At the time, they were both simple perceptions. I had been waiting for something like the Al-Yawm Al-Aakher Salman Pak story to break the Schrodingerian suspension of the two sets of perception, and make my argument something other than a conflict of opinions. All thanks to Winds of Change's Iraq War Wrapup and MEMRI for giving me that opportunity.

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