Stories this week about the Iraq War policy debate sat next to others about the anniversary of September 11th. A more deliberate attempt to link the anniversary and the war came in a series of TV spots from the conservative group Freedom’s Watch. Founding member Ari Fleischer defends the controversial ads.
Meanwhile, a pro-war group called Freedom's Watch has been producing attack ads attacking MoveOn for producing attack ads. [CLIP/MUSIC UP AND UNDER]: MALE NARRATOR: MoveOn.org is losing their battle because America and the forces of freedom are winning theirs. More and more, Democratic and Republican members agree the surge in Iraq is working. To most Americans, that's good news - but not to MoveOn.org. Shamefully, now they're attacking a Democratic congressman for honestly stating the progress he sees.
Keep calling your congressmen and senators. Tell them victory is America's only choice. [END OF CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer heads Freedom's Watch. ARI FLEISCHER: Here's what troubles me the most about MoveOn.org. They really are a vestige, a leftover of the whole peace movement of the '60s and '70s that favor deep military cuts and oppose funding of intelligence budgets. MoveOn.org, immediately after the attack on our country on September 11th, urged that no military force be used to respond to the attack on our nation. They instead said we should work through international judicial organizations, to quote them.
And then just recently, to use the word "betrayal" in a description of a member of the American military is akin to accusing him of being Benedict Arnold. It is the worst type of attack you can make on a member of the military. And I think this is what MoveOn represents, the old "if it's in the military, if it's in the national defense it must bad" movement. BROOKE GLADSTONE: But it is part of your strategy to identify MoveOn with the entire anti-war movement? Not all of the people who oppose the war hold the same positions as MoveOn. ARI FLEISCHER: Well, hardly anybody in the leadership of the Democrat Party condemn MoveOn. This far left, when it comes to national security, is the growing power base of the Democrat Party, and too many Democrats are afraid to stand up to MoveOn and to take them on. BROOKE GLADSTONE: With polls suggesting that a majority of Americans would like to see America's forces drawn down sooner than the President would like, it seems to be an uphill climb for you. Do you think this campaign will work? ARI FLEISCHER: Oh, there's no question it's an uphill climb. The war has been very difficult and it has turned many Americans against the current mission. And that won't deter us from trying to make our voice be heard. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's move on - let us move on [FLEISCHER LAUGHS] to the next ad of yours we have, which is a very affecting ad with a soldier who lost both his legs. [CLIP]: [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] SOLDIER: Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I reenlisted after 9/11 because I don't want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything I've given and sacrificed will mean nothing.
They attacked us, and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: In the ad, images of the burning Twin Towers are juxtaposed against his hospital stay, his walking on two prosthetic legs, and so obviously you want to build that association. And virtually everyone, with the exception of perhaps the Vice President, accepts that al Qaeda was not established in Iraq until after the invasion and was never allied with Saddam Hussein.
So when he says I went there so that our kids would not suffer the fate of the Twin Towers, that association is made and it is frankly misleading. Wouldn't you agree? ARI FLEISCHER: No. I've thought about this whenever people do make the case about how can you show the Twin Towers. If, God forbid, we were struck again, every good journalist would make comparisons. Every TV network you know would show pictures of New York City and show pictures of this attack - the point not being that the same people did it - the point being America got struck.
You know, people, after September 11th, all of a sudden they replayed Cobart Towers. They replayed the U.S.S. Cole. They replayed what happened to our embassies in Africa. I think it's too literal and narrow a reading that because al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 we can never talk about anybody else planning the next attack and refer back to 9/11. BROOKE GLADSTONE: When your soldier says they attacked us, which "they" does he mean? He seems to be referring to Iraq. ARI FLEISCHER: The ad makes clear it's terrorists. When he says they attacked us, he's referring to the war against terror writ large. To me, it doesn't matter what the name of the terrorist organization is. If they want to strike at the United States, we need to keep them all on the run. BROOKE GLADSTONE: In a war essentially of images, images stand in for facts. And so to tie the Twin Towers to Iraq suggests that they were utterly related, and, of course, they were not. ARI FLEISCHER: So if we had run an ad that had Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Cole, Twin Towers and said, America's been hit before, we should never get hit again, you'd say that's illegitimate? BROOKE GLADSTONE: It depends what the larger topic was. My question was the validity of using those images in this case, and on that, I guess, we disagree. ARI FLEISCHER: We do. [LAUGHS] Okay. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much. ARI FLEISCHER: You're very welcome. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer heads Freedom's Watch.