There's not much to fact-check on in this week's column
by our friend Jack Kelly. So this will be short.
This week's column is about the death of Imad Mugniyah, international terrorist
. Here's how Jack descrbes him:
A Lebanese Shiite, Mr. Mugniyah was for many years the most wanted man on the planet. He got his start in terrorism as a bodyguard for PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. He masterminded the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut. He was behind the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, in which Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered, and the bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s. He is suspected of having planned the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia.
And then J-Kel continues:
Mr. Mugniyah first met Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, in Sudan in the early 1990s. "He then played a role in moving fighters loyal to bin Laden from Afghanistan to Iraq, through Iranian territory, by exploiting his relationships with the Revolutionary Guards, al-Zawahiri, Saad bin Laden (Osama's son) and Mohammed al-Islambouli, whose brother assassinated the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat," reported Asharq al-Awsat. Some Israeli intelligence officers think he played a support role in the 9/11 attacks on America.
the article from Asharq al-Awsat that Jack quotes. Pretty safe to say that Mugniyah was a bad bad man.
Jack, however, kinda sorta fudges things (no surprise) with this paragraph:
Mr. Mugniyah's connections indicate relations between Sunni Islamists and Shiite Islamists are not as standoffish as some benighted CIA analysts and most Democrats believe. "The relationship between al-Qaida and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shiite divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations," noted the 9/11 commission in a portion of its report journalists rarely cite.
Here's the paragraph from the 9/11 Commission report that Jack quotes. It's from Chapter 2, page 61:
Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support—even if only training—for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States.Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993,another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983.The relation-ship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.As will be described in chapter 7,al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued in ensuing years.52
Notice something? The dates are all from at least 15 years ago. The last sentence points to contacts that "continued in the ensuing years" with a footnote that points to research all at least 7 years old:
52. Intelligence report, Establishment of a Tripartite Agreement Among Usama Bin Ladin, Iran, and the NIF, Jan. 31, 1997; Intelligence report, Cooperation Among Usama Bin Ladin’s Islamic Army, Iran, and the NIF, Jan. 31 1997; FBI report of investigation, interview of Fadl,Nov. 10, 1996; trial testimony of Fadl, United States v. bin Laden, Feb. 6, 2001 (transcript pp. 290–293); FBI report of investigation, interview of confidential source, Sept. 16, 1999.
Yet, sneaky Jack is using that, it seems to me, to infer how Shia-Sunni divisions are not an insurmountable barrier now
Don't get me wrong. Things may be exactly the way Jack Kelly describes them - his argument just isn't solid enough to prove it, however. Need to work a little harder, my friend.
Which brings me to my final point. I am not sure if Jack Kelly realizes this, but in this column he puts George Washington, first President of the United States, father of our country, etc etc and so on, in the same analogous position as Imad Mugniyah, international terrorist.
Look, he starts with the story of Captian Patrick Ferguson, British marksman who reportedly almost killed Washington before the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 (for you coincidence phreaks, the battle was on September 11,
that year). Here's what he says:
At the battle of Brandywine in 1777, Capt. Patrick Ferguson, the deadliest marksman in the British army, had a bead on a tall, distinguished American officer, but the officer's back was turned to him and Ferguson thought it would be ungentlemanly to take the shot. He lowered his rifle.
History is biography. Would there be a United States of America if Capt. Ferguson had killed George Washington that day?
Our most dangerous enemy is dead. [emphasis added]
And then he goes on to talk about Imad Mugniyah. The inclusion of the first two paragraphs only make sense if you're able to shift your frame of reference to that of the British in 1777. To them, Kelly seems to be saying, Washington was their
"most dangerous enemy." It was only because of Ferguson's sense of right and wrong that he wasn't killed that day.
The message (inadvertant as I hope it was) that if Mugniyah was a dangerous terrorist, then Washington was a also dangerous terrorist, if only to the British 230 years ago.
According to the rhetorical rules of our current climate, Jack Kelly just equated George Washington to Imad Mugniyah. Nice going, Jack.
Who would have thought of the possibility that Jack Kelly, former National Security Correspondent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, could be calling the father of our country a terrorist?