(By Ray D.)
UPDATE: SPIEGEL ONLINE has attempted to correct the article, without much success. More here...
SPIEGEL ONLINE has done some questionable work in the recent past. It has repeatedly bungled translations, exploited populist, anti-American sentiment and mischaracterized facts. This sad tradition of misreporting the news now has a new chapter. In an article entitled, "Late Insight: Even USA Now Sees Iraq as Terror Incubator," the introductory paragraph reads as follows:
"The war against terror was one of the US government's arguments for the march into Iraq. Three years later it has been shown that the goal has been totally missed: The State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism calls the country a "safe haven" for extremists."
Another paragraph later in the article reads:
"The report calls Iraq a "safe haven" for terrorists. In the country there is a quasi "pipeline" for extremists in the entire world. Iraq is therefore the most important location in the fight against worldwide terrorism."
And here is the actual text from the State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism. The first section on Iraq in Chapter 3 reads:
SPIEGEL ONLINE's claim that the US State Department views Iraq as a "safe haven" for terrorists is obviously false to anyone who actually bothered to read the report. Not only that, but German consumers of news are once again being blatantly misled by a media outlet many believe to be reliable and trustworthy. Looking at other media outlets, this is clearly a case of SPIEGEL ONLINE massively botching the news. This from the BBC:
"Iraq, the report adds, is "not currently a terrorist safe haven" although Islamist militant groups view it "as a potential safe haven and are attempting to make it a reality"."
Had the "journalists" at SPON actually looked at the source material instead of cutting and pasting together segments of several secondary sources, they might have also noticed that the State Department does not even consider Iraq's most volatile province, Al Anbar, a terrorist haven. Here is what Ambassador Harry Crumpton said at the State Department's briefing on the report:
"QUESTION: In your opening remarks you listed the suspected or known terrorist safe havens and one of them you listed was Al Anbar Province in Iraq. I was wondering if you could give a little more detail about why you consider Anbar to be a terrorist safe haven.
AMBASSADOR CRUMPTON: We don't see it to be a safe haven; we see it to be a battleground. It's particularly challenging, however, given the border with Syria. And I think we stressed this before that often the enemy safe havens, and more often than not in fact, enemy safe havens reside in border areas and that makes it more challenging. Enemy forces know very well where national borders are and that's a big piece of the problem in Al Anbar, plus some of the conditions there, there's been a historical distance politically between some of the local elements there and the Baghdad Government. So that's going to take a longer-term, more enduring solution."
And here is another segment of the State Department briefing that SPON obviously missed:
"Another trend -- we have denied Iraq as a safe haven for Saddam Hussein's terrorist regime, for remnants of Abu Nidal, for Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas and Ansar al-Sunna, which operated a base near the Iranian border. Iraq now harbors a democratically elected government. Iraq is also a battlefield, where U.S. coalition and Iraqi forces are engaging international terrorists as part of the security mission mandated by UN Security Council Resolutions 1546 and 1637."
So not only does the State Department NOT describe Iraq as a "safe haven" for terrorists, it also explicitly describes the removal of the Saddam Hussein as a significant denial of "safe haven" to a terrorist regime as well as other fanatical groups residing in Iraq before March 2003.
So much for facts at SPIEGEL ONLINE. The arrogant "späte Einsicht" headline coupled with the outrageous mischaracterization of the State Department's position is sadly what we have come to expect of a media establishment more interested in propagating self-reinforcing views than reporting factual news.
Endnote: We would like to encourage our readers to email SPIEGEL ONLINE and point out this obvious mistake at: email@example.com