February 04, 2008

AFP: Something Old is New Again

Agence France-Presse (AFP) the oldest news agency in the world and the largest French news agency, has been caught recycling two-year-old Congressional subcommittee testimony as current news.

On Sunday, AFP released an article, "US Qaeda strategy fatally flawed; analysts," which opened:

In its ideological struggle against Al-Qaeda, American anti-terrorist strategy too often overlooks the basic tenets of the infamous Chinese warlord Sun Tzu, namely: know your enemy.

That is the fixed view of leading analysts, who conclude that through ignorance of the enemy it faces, ignorance of its nature, its goals, its strengths and its weaknesses, the United States is condemned to failure.

"The attention of the US military and intelligence community is directed almost uniformly towards hunting down militant leaders or protecting US forces, (and) not towards understanding the enemy we now face," said Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

"This is a monumental failing not only because decapitation strategies have rarely worked in countering mass-mobilisation terrorist or insurgent campaigns, but also because Al-Qaeda's ability to continue this struggle is based absolutely on its capacity to attract new recruits and replenish its resources.

"Without knowing our enemy, we cannot fulfill the most basic requirements of an effective counter-terrorist strategy: pre-empting and preventing terrorist operations and deterring their attacks," Hoffman added.

What AFP neglected to mention is that the quotes from Professor Hoffman were issued in written testimony to The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities in February of 2006. The testimony can be found in a PDF document published at the RAND Corporation web site on page 5 and a "dowdified" quote from the bottom of page 5 and the top of page 6.

This written testimony was issued eleven months before President Bush proposed the "surge" of American troops into Iraq, almost eleven months before General David Petraeus was confirmed as the new Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq, and a full year prior to the beginning of the buildup of American forces beginning in February of 2007 as part of the new Strategy for Iraq.

The AFP article, written in present tense, in no way indicated that it was citing obsolete information as current news.

The information is so obsolete as to render the article itself as fraudulent in nature. Agence France-Presse should immediately retract this article, and explain how such "journalism" ever made it to press.

Thanks to CY reader Cameron Gilchrist for the tip.

Update: I updated with the correct page numbers from the RAND PDF. I had originally pulled the page numbers 21 and 22 from this version of the testimony.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 4, 2008 01:13 PM

Oldest news agency, oldest news. What's wrong with that?

The packet ship that brought them the report was caught by Hurricane Katrina, has just arrived. They did their best to typeset their article and send them back here by another packet. Thanks to Allah, they arrived safely, we should be thankful to have their news to mull over.

Posted by: ic at February 4, 2008 01:55 PM

Hey, when you know the war was lost before it started, and you know Bush is the worst and stupidest President even theoretically possible, of what use is it to check up on more recent developments? War is NOT the Answer. Not before. Not now. Not ever. This is the level of ignorant certitude that is the norm for our Intellectual Betters. Hilarious!

Posted by: megapotamus at February 4, 2008 02:11 PM

In other AFP news today, Neville Chamberlain was praised for achieving "peace in our time," and a newfangled invention called the "automobile" was deemed too noisy and unreliable to ever achieve commercial success.

Posted by: TallDave at February 4, 2008 02:44 PM

Just the start of relentless barrage about to restart again to shape the public narrative about the war to have max negative effect on any Republican candidate regardless of the current situation or how we got there. This will be happening every week until November.

Posted by: Sam at February 4, 2008 03:02 PM

Every 80 or so years the Germans start sitting around, having a few beers and sausages and reminicing about the "Old Days" of the Visigoths stomping the Gauls and the Romans, The Kaiser and his boys running roughshod across Belgium and France, The days of Blitzkrieg and strolling on the Champs D'Elise...

It seems that every 80 to 100 years the Germans have it genetically programmed to go down the Rhine and stomp the ever-loving sh*t out of the French.

The last two times we pulled their a$$es out of the fire. This time, however, I think we should join with the Germans and just eliminate the threat that the french pose to the world... after all they HAVE been, (for the most part) resposible for MANY of the world wars, misery and general problems dating back over 100 years.

I'm not anti-frank per se... just sick of the ingratitude and continual 'down the nose' meddling of a notoriously incompetant social subset of the human race.

And to define specific examples of a personal nature? Iraq: Baghdad, July 2004 Personally found and examined French Manufactured Milan Anti Armor Fire N Forget tank killing weapons in a cache that had a manufacture date of January 2003 on the weapon and shipping containers. That means they had to have been built, and shipped within a 2 month period as the war started on March 20th of that same year. That means the armaments were the latest and greatest that France could produce and shipped immeadiately, despite all UN prohibitions nothwithstanding...

Posted by: Big Country at February 4, 2008 04:35 PM

"Infamous Chinese warlord"???

Strange, I thought he was a famous Chinese general and author. Or is he "infamous" just because he is a well known military authority? Any and all wars are bad, after all, so anyone who wages one can only be infamous.

In any event, he was hired as a general by a king. I don't think that makes him a "warlord".

Posted by: Jim Thomason at February 4, 2008 05:14 PM

Reuters does this on a regular basis.
They just change the headline slightly and the first paragraph.

Posted by: NortonPete at February 4, 2008 07:08 PM

Another example of the importance of Quality blogs today. Without them "news" would be manufactured like the dime store novels of the old west,demi lies, tuned to fit the needs of a given advertiser while any inconvenient truth would go into the memory hole, not Google.

Posted by: mytralman at February 4, 2008 07:25 PM

Jim: I thought the exact same thing. Isn't this Sun Tzu, one of the most brilliant strategists of all time? One of Sun Tzu's quotes is "Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." I dont think such a brutal warlord would advocate such non-violent behavior...

As for "mega", above, you're right war is never the answer: when Hitler and Mussolini tried to take over the world fifty years ago, we should have just sat at home and just felt sorry for Europe, right? A better example of "ignorant certitude" would be liberals' idealistic (and unrealistic) outlook on the geo-political world.

Posted by: ConservativeLawStudent at February 4, 2008 08:04 PM

Mussolini's aspirations were somewhat less than "the world". Ethiopians with spears gave the Italians a pretty hard time.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 4, 2008 08:43 PM

"War is not the Answer"

Talk about old news. I remember when John Lennon wrote that in the sixties. Of course it was wrong then and remains ignorantly wrong.

War ended slavery in this country, war stopped Hitler from truly exterminating Jews, war stopped the North Koreans from enslaving and starving the other half of the Korean peninsula and allowed the free people of Korea to become prosperous.

It is you who are self referentially chanting a mantra. What a waste of mental energy.

Posted by: red at February 4, 2008 08:44 PM

"War is not the Answer"

Talk about old news. I remember when John Lennon wrote that in the sixties. Of course it was wrong then and remains ignorantly wrong.

War ended slavery in this country, war stopped Hitler from truly exterminating Jews, war stopped the North Koreans from enslaving and starving the other half of the Korean peninsula and allowed the free people of Korea to become prosperous.

It is you who are self referentially chanting a mantra. Poor, ill-educated sheep. What a waste of mental energy.

Posted by: GPatton at February 4, 2008 08:47 PM

I guess the press really is stuck in the past... otherwise they'd have realized how easy it is to debunk stuff like this.

Posted by: C-C-G at February 4, 2008 08:55 PM

Sun Tzu said "Know your enemy and know yourself, and you will fight 100 battles without peril (of defeat); knowing yourself but not knowing your enemy, you will win half the time and lose the other half; knowing your enemy but not knowing yourself, you will win half and lose half; not knowing yourself OR your enemy and you will lose 100% of the time."

This was not a warning against going to war, it was a prescription for preparation for war.

Sun Tzu also said that the way to know your enemy was through spies and double agents. Considering that the CIA is actively opposed to the Bush Administration and its foreign policy goals, I would say that the enemy isn't al-qaeda, the enemy is us.

Posted by: R. Ford Mashburn at February 4, 2008 09:19 PM

Great catch, CY.

Posted by: sf at February 5, 2008 08:38 AM


ya gotta put the close sarcasm tag on for the sarcasm-impaired.

As in:

War is never the Answer. And it is bad for trees, children, and other things....

and those who would rather live on their knees--or their bellies--than on their feet always believe that war is never the answer. this is not sarcasm, btw.

Posted by: iconoclast at February 5, 2008 12:11 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/05/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by: David M at February 5, 2008 01:29 PM