May 17, 2003

MIKE CARLTON, joke, blunders again

MIKE CARLTON, joke, blunders again in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Only last week George W. Bush was boasting that al-Qaeda was on the run, "not a problem any more".

Only he wasn't. Here are Bush's words in their proper context:

So far, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Just about that number met a different kind of fate. They're not a problem anymore.

Maureen Dowd made the same stupid mistake. As Andrew Sullivan wrote:

It's perfectly clear that the president is referring, sardonically, only to those members of al Qaeda who are "either jailed or dead," not to the group as a whole.

Carlton continues:

Colin Powell and Tony Blair, and I think Lord Downer of Baghdad, condemned the attacks [in Saudi Arabia last week] as "cowardly", which also missed the point. Evil and murderous, yes, but no more cowardly than dropping bombs on unseen Iraqi civilians from B-52s at 35,000 feet.

For one thing, the purpose of the air attacks was not - unlike the Riyadh bombings - to kill civilians. And for another, the war in Iraq was largely fought on the ground, where many US soldiers died. Were they "cowards", Mike?

Meanwhile, one expert thinks Bush is right:

An Australian expert on terrorism in South-East Asia has raised doubts about the prospect of fresh terror attacks in the region, saying extremist groups have been beaten back.

Carl Thayer, a political science professor with the Australian Defence College, said while an attack could not be completely ruled out, the ability of such groups to carry out large-scale attacks was "extraordinarily limited".

Professor Thayer also doubts the extent of al-Qaeda's influence in the region.

"I think the organisation has been rolled back," he said.

UPDATE. Carlton's error - he presumably read Dowd's account of Bush's remarks rather than an original source - is similar to Robert Manne's mistake of last year, in which he fell for the NY Times' line that Henry Kissinger opposed a war against Irag. No correction was ever published.

UPDATE UPDATE. Bargarz has more.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 17, 2003 06:52 PM