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Context of 'February 23, 2003: Fox News Labels France a Member of ‘Axis of Weasels’'

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With the passing of UN Resolution 1284, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is created to assist in the disarming of Iraq. The new body replaces the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). UNMOVIC is deliberately designed to prevent infiltration by spies of the UN Security Council member states, specifically the US and Britain. This had been a problem with its predecessor, UNSCOM. The UN diminishes the role of Americans in the new commission by abolishing the powerful office of deputy chairman, which had always been held by an American, and by appointing non-Americans to important positions. In the new inspections body, “The highest-ranking American in the agency now has a relatively lowly job, in charge of the training division.” A Chinese official holds the senior “activity evaluation” position and a Russian official is in charge of “liaising with foreign governments and companies.” Another reform is that the inspectors will use commercial satellite companies, instead of US spy satellites, to monitor Iraq’s activities. [London Times, 9/18/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, United Nations Special Commission

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The US and Britain present a jointly drafted UN resolution to Russia, China, and France that goes “far beyond anything previously agreed to by America’s partners on the UN Security Council.” The draft resolution seeks to authorize the use of military action against Iraq in the event that Saddam’s regime fails to comply with the new demands outlined in the draft resolution. The draft, which is not immediately made public, is reportedly three and a half single-space typed pages. [New York Times, 9/28/2002; Daily Telegraph, 9/29/2002]
Iraq in Repeated Violation of US Resolutions - In its opening paragraph, the draft resolution summarizes how Iraq is in violation of numerous past United Nations resolutions. [New York Times, 9/28/2002; New York Times, 10/2/2002]
7 Days to Open Country for Inspections - The draft resolution proposes giving Iraq seven days “to accept the resolution and declare all of its programs of weapons of mass destruction, and a further 23 days to open up the sites concerned and provide all documents to support the declaration.” [New York Times, 9/28/2002; New York Times, 10/2/2002]
Inspectors Protected by US Forces - Weapons inspectors would operate out of bases inside Iraq, where they would be under the protection of UN troops. UN military forces or those of a “member state” (presumably the US or Britain), would enforce “no-fly” and “no-drive” zones along the roads on the way to and around alleged weapons sites to be visited by the inspectors. This would discourage Iraqis from removing anything before inspections. “Diplomats at the UN said there was no doubt that US troops would play a leading role in any such enforcement, allowing the Pentagon to deploy forces inside Iraq even before hostilities got under way,” reports the Guardian. [New York Times, 10/2/2002; Guardian, 10/3/2002 Sources: Unnamed UN Diplomats]
Open Skies - The US-British draft resolution includes provisions that would demand that Iraq permit the free and unrestricted landing of aircraft, including unmanned spy planes. [New York Times, 10/2/2002; Guardian, 10/3/2002]
UN Can Remove Anyone for Interrogation - The UN inspections teams would be authorized to remove anyone it wishes to a location outside out of Iraq, along with his or her family, for interrogation. The stated reason for this would be to remove the person’s fear of possible Iraqi government reprisals. [New York Times, 10/2/2002; Guardian, 10/3/2002]
Overrides Resolution 1154 - The draft resolution would override the provisions of UN Resolution 1154, requiring inspectors to notify Iraqi authorities prior to inspecting presidential sites and to perform the inspections in the presence of Iraqi diplomats. That provision applies to eight such sites in Iraq, spanning about 11.5 square miles. [New York Times, 9/28/2002; Associated Press, 9/30/2002; New York Times, 10/2/2002]
Complete Openness or 'Material Breach' Allowing for Overthrow - The document stipulates that errors in a “currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects” of its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction or “failure by Iraq at any time to comply and cooperate fully” would constitute “a further material breach… that authorizes member states to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area,” which the New York Times notes is “a diplomatic euphemism for American and British military action to remove Mr. Hussein from power.” As one US official explains to the Times, “If we find anything in what they give us that is not true, that is the trigger. If they delay, obstruct or lie about anything they disclosed, then this will trigger action.” [New York Times, 9/28/2002; New York Times, 10/2/2002] The BBC reports that Russia, China, and France suspect “that the ultimatum is really designed to be turned down, leaving the way open for military operations during the December to February period.” [BBC, 9/30/2002]
US Nationals On Inspection Teams - The draft resolution would also allow the permanent members of the UN Security Council to place their own nationals on the inspection teams. This is significant because the current inspections team, UNMOVIC, currently does not have any US officials in high positions. The reason for this is because the last UN inspections team, UNSCOM, had been sabotaged by US spies (see December 17, 1999). [London Times, 9/18/2002; BBC, 10/1/2002; New York Times, 10/2/2002]
Iraqis, Allies Find Resolution Unacceptable - Iraq is infuriated by the draft resolution and calls it “unacceptable.” Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan states, “The position on the inspectors has been decided and any new measure intended to harm Iraq is unacceptable.” French President Jacques Chirac immediately expresses his opposition to the US-proposed draft resolution and seeks to form a coalition to prevent its passing. He explains that France favors the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq absent of any ultimatums because of “the seriousness of the decisions to be taken and the consequences.” He meets with Chinese premier Zhu Rongji and calls Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Russia is also upset with the proposed draft resolution. “In its current form, this resolution cannot be implemented by its very nature,” a source tells Reuters. [New York Times, 9/28/2002; Daily Telegraph, 9/29/2002; Reuters, 9/29/2002; Sydney Morning Herald, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Zhu Rongji, Jacques Chirac, US Department of Defense, United Nations Security Council, Taha Yasin Ramadan, Vladimir Putin, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, United Nations

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

France circulates an alternative draft resolution to the US-British version that drops the assertion that Iraq is “in material breach” of Resolution 687 and changes the order of some paragraphs to provide a different emphasis. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells reporters: “There is still work to be done, progress to be made and we have said so to our American friends for weeks…. If there is no breakthrough, we shall obviously officially submit our own document.” [Washington Post, 10/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Dominique de Villepin, United Nations

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

New York Post cover labeling the United Nations ‘weasels.’New York Post cover labeling the United Nations ‘weasels.’ [Source: New York Post]When it becomes clear that France will oppose the US resolution at the UN for war with Iraq (see September 28, 2002 and October 26, 2002), Fox News anchor Bob Sellers sarcastically describes France as a member of the “axis of weasels.” The phrase first appeared in the New York Post (both Fox News and the Post are owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch), and over the following days the phrase often appears in a banner at the bottom of the screen. Later in the year, Fox executive Roger Ailes will be asked if he approved of the banner; he answers: “We shouldn’t have done that, if we did. I would call that bad journalism.” The practice will continue. [New Yorker, 5/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Bob Sellers, Rupert Murdoch, New York Post, Roger Ailes

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Judith Regan (left) and Roger Ailes.Judith Regan (left) and Roger Ailes. [Source: Business Insider]Roger Ailes, a powerful Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988) and the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), becomes embroiled in a legal conflict involving former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and his mistress, Judith Regan, a book editor for another arm of Fox News’s parent company News Corporation (NewsCorp). Ailes learns that Kerik has commandeered an apartment overlooking the site of the devastated World Trade Center, intended for the use of rescue and recovery workers, as a “love nest” for his trysts with Regan. Ailes is a close friend and political ally of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who recommended Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik is already being pilloried in the press for a number of other ethical and perhaps even criminal activities, and is being vetted for the DHS slot. Ailes and Giuliani do not want the Kerik-Regan affair, and the commandeered apartment, to come to the public’s notice. Court documents later say that Ailes “told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.” Ailes “advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, [federal] investigators concerning Kerik.” The attempted cover-up will later be brought to light when NewsCorp fires Regan in 2006, and she brings a wrongful-termination suit that secures a $10.75 million settlement. Regan will not identify Ailes by name, only as a “senior executive” for NewsCorp, but other documents accidentally made public will reveal Ailes’s identity. Reportedly, Regan has her telephone conversations with Ailes on tape. NewsCorp will later claim that Regan has sent it a letter stating that “Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.” Regan’s lawyer will say that NewsCorp’s claim does not reflect the entirety of Regan’s letter. Kerik himself will withdraw his name from consideration, and will later be sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud. [New Republic, 2/24/2011; New York Daily News, 2/24/2011; New York Times, 2/25/2011; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Bernard Kerik, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, News Corporation, US Department of Homeland Security, Roger Ailes, Judith Regan

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Four of Fox News’s presumptive presidential candidates. Clockwise from upper left: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee.Four of Fox News’s presumptive presidential candidates. Clockwise from upper left: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. [Source: Huffington Post]New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman profiles Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), who also serves as a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988). According to close friends and advisers to Ailes interviewed by Sherman, Ailes wants far more than the continued ratings and advertiser success of Fox News—he wants the network to steer one of its own into the White House in 2012 (see October 2008). He is tremendously influential; a Republican strategist tells Sherman: “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”
Letdown? - Ailes has been keenly disappointed in the results of his network’s official and unofficial candidates so far. Former Alaska governor and Fox commentator Sarah Palin (see September 15-16, 2010), who has not yet announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is polling at around 12 percent among Republican voters. Official presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Rick Santorum, a former senator, who both are commentators for Fox, have even lower numbers, at 10 percent and 2 percent respectively. Ailes has asked Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), who is not a Fox employee, to run; until recently, Fox News was enthusiastically promoting the putative presidential run of billionaire “birther” Donald Trump (see March 17, 2011). Ailes has envisioned General David Petraeus as a potential candidate, but Petraeus has instead accepted the post of CIA director. “He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” says a Republican close to Ailes. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of [President] Obama is a disaster.” None of the current crop of candidates meets Ailes’s expectations. Ailes is particularly disappointed in Palin; according to the same Republican, Ailes considers her “an idiot”: “He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.” After Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, and other media outlets focused on Palin’s use of gunsight graphics to “target” Giffords and other vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election (see March 24, 2010), according to Sherman, “Ailes recognized that a Fox brand defined by Palin could be politically vulnerable.” After the Giffords shooting, Ailes told an interviewer, “I told all of our guys, ‘Shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.’” Ailes was infuriated when Palin refused his advice to remain quiet until after the memorial service, and accused her critics of committing “blood libel,” a phrase often seen as anti-Semitic. The problem with Palin was further exacerbated when she argued about the amount of work Fox expects her to do: she does not want to host special broadcasts or other tasks the network expects of her. In March 2011, Fox suspended the contracts of Gingrich and Santorum so they could run their campaigns without legal or ethical entanglements. Shortly thereafter, Huckabee chose to remain at Fox and abandon his plans for a primary challenge. The network is still waiting for Palin’s decision whether to run for president.
Creation of the Tea Party - While Ailes and Fox News did not directly create the “tea party” “grassroots” movement, Ailes was involved in its creation and promotion from its outset (see February 19, 2009, February 27, 2009, and April 15, 2009). Ailes has always been somewhat leery of having Fox News too closely associated with the burgeoning movement (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 2, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 12, 2009, and September 12, 2010), and at one point banned Fox News host Sean Hannity from hosting a tea party rally. However, according to Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and the founder of the national Tea Party Express tour, “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.” Fox News has promoted a number of successful “tea party” candidates (see May 14, 2008 - February 2010), including former host John Kasich (see March 27, 2008 - June 1, 2009 and After), who won the Ohio gubernatorial election in 2010. Before that election, Gingrich, still a Fox News commentator at the time, said that he was confident the “tea party” would evolve into “the militant wing of the Republican Party” (see April 21, 2010). Ailes used some of the same “astroturf” tactics (see February 27, 2009 and April 14, 2009) in developing the “tea party” as he did when he represented tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds, creating phony, seemingly independent “front” groups to push the “tea party” messages in the media. [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]

Entity Tags: John Kasich, Donald Trump, David Petraeus, Christopher J. (“Chris”) Christie, Fox News, Gabrielle Giffords, Rick Santorum, Sal Russo, Gabriel Sherman, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Roger Ailes

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

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