Accuracy in Media

The gleeful self-flagellation regarding the alleged Iraqi prisoner humiliation has become sickening. Those soldiers accused of abusing prisoners are innocent until proven guilty, a right we guarantee for murderers. The most sickening images are the “outraged” politicians, using this incident for furthering their politicization of the war. Furthermore, I do not see the same “outrage” at the treatment received by our personnel at the hands of the enemy.

From everything I understand, the U.S. Military justice system is functioning effectively and several Article 32 investigations are currently underway into the alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. Recall, the investigations began before the outbreak of media and political outrage. As with civilian law enforcement, these things take time, since both the prosecution and defense need adequate time for presenting their cases.

The released pictures display a conduct that is totally abhorrent, and a clear violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, we must not look for “scapegoats,” for then we become what we seek to punish. The punishment should fit the crime, and not to appease either foreign or domestic media feeding frenzies.

While nothing justifies the alleged conduct by prison MPs, I am certain those “detainees” were not picked up for jaywalking. It seems illogical to subject “low-level operatives” to this type of interrogation. What possible information did these “detainees” have that would tempt someone to cross the line?

The alleged conduct of those few soldiers has jeopardized the safety, and overall mission, of the remaining 130,000 serving honorably. But so does the conduct of American politicians and journalists who use these images for furthering their personal agendas and careers. When Congressmen asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld who will restore America’s image, I was incensed. My answer would be, “You Congressman, you will say this is not America.” If members of Congress will not stand up for their country, then why do we provide them their over-pampered pay and perks?

I am not asking them to remain silent in the face of these violations of several laws. But they are in positions of power and responsibility, and purely political rhetoric merely inflames our enemies and demoralizes our troops.

The American news media seemed so concerned with this story that it was dominating all media outlets. These pictures are labeled as humiliating, and they are, particularly in that part of the world. However the media praises such images when produced by Hollywood, or in a San Francisco “Gay Pride” parade. In these instances we are told we must “embrace” this behavior or else we are “intolerant.” I understand the Iraqi prisoners did not consent to this treatment, but I find all the above-mentioned images revolting.

But a strange double standard seems at work. The pictures of abused Iraqis and the accused soldiers are plastered all over the media, yet the horrific pictures of Americans dying in the 9/11 attacks have been buried as too “inflammatory.” Gone are the pictures of those leaping from the World Trade Center to avoid death in the inferno. Also absent from the media are the pictures of celebration in the Middle East of our 9/11 tragedy. So to you American journalists, who lost one of your brethren, Daniel Pearl, to these vermin, where is your outrage at this?

About one year ago a CNN executive admitted that while assigned to Baghdad before the war he covered up Saddam’s atrocities. The reason was that he did not want the regime to close CNN’s news bureau and wanted access to Saddam. Yet there was no outrage over this… The stories of Saddam’s massive atrocities, and the murder and abuse of American POW’s in Iraqi custody, have received scant attention.

We proved through the President’s apology and our open investigation our difference from the totalitarian regime we toppled. We received no apology from those who perpetrated 9/11, or those in Iraq who mistreat our people they capture. I saw no equivalent outrage at the capture, torture and burning of our citizens in Fallujah. Nor did the media ask persistent questions of how we would retaliate against this brutality. Only Senators Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, and James Inhofe, R-OK, mentioned that point during the televised hearing. The remainder conveniently ignored it.

In the Fallujah incident, Iraqi insurgents murdered and mutilated the bodies of American civilian contract workers before hanging them from a bridge. A few days later they murdered an Italian national, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, and publicly beheaded an American civilian, Nick Berg. The fate of others captured, including Americans, remains uncertain. Where is the outrage of not only our news media, but the Int’l Red Cross and the human rights organizations as well?

Since the outrage of this allegation is so selective, it tells me that it is not genuine. For the politicians, the outrage is for the benefit of the camera, and in order to further their political agendas.

I am not asking for a cover-up of this incident, but I am asking for at least the same level of outrage expressed against our enemies for their atrocities. During World War II, the American public was made aware of the brutality suffered by American POWs. The media also produced the images which led to our intervention in Somalia, Haiti and the Balkans during the 1990s.

Enemy Brutality

However, the news media seem reluctant to show the brutality exhibited by our current enemies, while sensationalizing this prison abuse. More inexcusable, many of our political leaders do not seem equally outraged by the brutal murder and torture of our captured people. While they passed a resolution condemning the prisoner abuse, I have seen no similar congressional resolution condemning our enemies.

We must remember and honor the conduct of the overwhelming majority of our troops, who have performed magnificently under the most trying conditions. They have exercised amazing restraint, even at the risk of their lives. They have avoided collateral damage as much as possible, while our enemies have used sanctuaries and civilians for cover.

Justice should?and will?be done. But we will not win the war, or successfully conduct this investigation, by beating ourselves publicly. Our expressed outrage only encourages our enemies to greater resistance, and more horrific atrocities. If casualties increase, it is not just the fault of those accused of the abuse, but also those who have chosen to sensationalize it.

MEDIA INFLAME RATHER THAN INFORM

The criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the Iraqi prisoner abuse “scandal” boils down to the complaint that he didn’t give the Congress a heads-up about the photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse. He may not have thought the American media would recklessly exploit them to the detriment of America’s image throughout the world.

Some of the coverage reflects bias against Bush. The anti-Bush media bias was exposed by Mark Halperin in his ABC newsletter, the Note, months ago. He predicted the use of hyped-up “scandals” to undermine the President, and he confirmed media opposition to the President’s Iraq policy. Equally significant, a new study from the Pew Research Center and the Project on Excellence in Journalism confirms that “news people especially national journalists are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.”

The abuse photos were constantly presented without context. The interrogations were conducted to get information and save American lives. And it’s not clear that what is depicted in many of these photos is in fact torture.

It is apparent that some of our media want the U.S. to fail in Iraq. But why did Senators such as John Warner of Virginia pose for the cameras as if they had somehow uncovered the whole affair? “The Senate has been mesmerized by cameras,” declared Rep. Duncan Hunter. He said the abuse story “has probably received more publicity than when we invaded Normandy.” He noted that military leaders had launched their own inquiries into the problem months before reporters and senators began paying attention.

No Cover-Up

It was repeatedly charged that Rumsfeld had kept this story hidden from Congress and the President until CBS came into possession of the first set of photos of the harassment of the detainees. But there is a paper trail, and it shows something very different. It shows that some in the media were aware of the problem and the efforts by the Pentagon to solve it.

In fact, there have been numerous reports about this since January, but no one saw it as a scandal. Instead, it was a developing story. For example, on January 17, Rehema Ellis on NBC’s Saturday Today show reported that, “The U.S. military has called for an investigation into reports of abuse on Iraqi prisoners in that country.” One reporter who had stayed on this story was CNN’s Barbara Starr. She aired stories on January 21 and March 20. Similar stories appeared on March 21 in the New York Times (page A 9) and the Washington Post (page A 20), detailing the criminal charges against the men, and updating the status of the investigation.

The story was in the public domain, but not given a high priority by anyone except, perhaps, the military, which was carrying out an internal investigation while proceeding with criminal charges, reprimands and suspensions. It wasn’t until General Antonio Taguba’s report on the findings of his investigation was seen by Seymour Hersh, the intrepid reporter of My Lai fame, and the shocking photos were seen on CBS’s Sixty Minutes II on April 28, that the story became red hot and the accusations began to fly. It then became a “scandal” and it was unfairly claimed that Rumsfeld and the military had been orchestrating a cover-up.

Fake Photos

The story “was revealed and investigated by the military; not by the media, by the military,” Rumsfeld noted in a speech at a Heritage Foundation event. “The media have piled on, to be sure, but the public announcement was by the U.S. Central Command in Baghdad.”

When he was in Baghdad to visit the troops, Rumsfeld said, “I’ve stopped reading the newspapers,” to cheers and applause.

But the media were so anxious to smear American soldiers in Iraq that the Boston Globe published pornography taken from a website as if it depicted U.S. abuse of Iraqis.

The trick was simple?someone cut and pasted porno pictures and advertised them as evidence of mass rapes of Iraq women by American soldiers. The Boston Globe, hot and bothered over the Iraqi prisoner story, took the bait. Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner had received the photos from a representative of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and gave them to the Globe.

In Britain, the Daily Mirror ran shocking photos, one of which purported to be of a British soldier urinating on an Iraqi prisoner wearing a hood over his head. The other was of another prisoner being hit in the groin by a rifle butt. It paid $40,000 for the photos, and claimed to have gotten them from British troops. But on May 14, the Mirror admitted that the photos were fake, and it fired their editor, Peirs Morgan. The Mirror said that it had been the victim of a “calculated and malicious hoax.”

The paper had wanted to believe the worst. It opposed the Iraq war and became known as the paper that hired Peter “Baghdad Pete” Arnett after he was fired by MSNBC for doing propaganda for Saddam Hussein during the war.

Over at MSNBC, on “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews once again got carried away, declaring that the prisoner story was “another My Lai?” He then quickly added, “Obviously, it’s not that bad.”

On the May 6 edition of the “Deborah Norville Tonight” show on MSNBC, Egyptian-born former New York Times “journalist” Youssef Ibrahim offered the opinion that the photos proved that Rumsfeld was guilty of “war crimes.” Rumsfeld, he said, will one day “be judged as a war criminal.” Norville’s reaction was, “These are awfully harsh statements.” You bet they were. He also failed to produce any evidence for those charges. Rather than committing crimes, Rumsfeld supervised the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Outrageous Charges

To compound this outrage, Norville asked what could be done, and Ibrahim replied, “This is happening under three years of a Bush administration by a coalition of neoconservative and evangelical Christians. These people have taken action after action that can only be interpreted as anti-Arab, anti-Muslim.”

Ibrahim apparently believes that Jews and Christians are out to get the peace-loving Arabs and Muslims. He neglected to mention that the invasion of Afghanistan was undertaken because of 9/11. And Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was invaded because it didn’t account for weapons of mass destruction and had ties to terrorist groups.

The Leakers

The question of who leaked the photos remains unanswered. There can be no serious doubt, however, that they undermined the mission in Iraq at a critical juncture. CBS aired the photos despite a warning from Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard B. Myers that they would provoke the killing of Americans in Iraq. That came to pass with the beheading of American Nick Berg.

Calling CBS the “unpatriotic” network, Chris Core of WMAL radio in Washington, D.C. was urging listeners to email the CBS 60 Minutes II program in protest of its plan to air another broadcast about abuse of Iraqi prisoners. It went ahead anyway, airing an American soldier’s home video that showed a young soldier’s disdain for the Iraqi prisoners.

Core said CBS was pouring “gasoline on the fire” and putting “salt in the wound” after having provoked the beheading of Berg. Core conducted a poll on the WMAL website asking if people thought that the complete video of the beheading should be aired, in light of the fact that CBS and other media had run so many photos of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. The results were that 90 percent wanted it shown, while only 10 percent were opposed.

Showing the video might have convinced some that the media feeding frenzy over the Iraqi prisoner abuse story might be overblown, and that the real story is the need to confront and destroy Islamic killers determined to destroy our nation.

Investor’s Business Daily newspaper conducted a poll finding that 52 percent said the media should not have released any photographs of prisoner mistreatment. “People just might prefer to be informed rather than inflamed,” it said.

The Saddam Torture Video

The media’s agenda became clear when the U.S. Government released a videotape of Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers and the broadcasting networks declined to run it. The Washington Post did run a page-21 story about the tape, noting that it included “scenes of floggings, forced amputations and a beheading.” The video was aired by the U.S.-supported Arab-language TV network, Al Hurra, and had previously been broadcast by Fox News.

A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times, ripped coverage of the Iraqi prisoner story, saying in the New York Sun that “many editors have failed to present background stories about the millions killed by Saddam.” He added, “They worry about being accused of minimizing the brutalization of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, if they recall in print the masses of people Saddam slaughtered. These journalists are truly embarrassing…”

Soldiers Criticize Press

Soldiers on the front lines were increasingly critical of the media. The Washington Post quoted Spc. Jesse Haggert, a 21-year-old U.S. soldier in Iraq, as saying, “We need to stop publicizing this so much. Now we have the beheading of a civilian in retaliation for it. This abuse was a terrible thing and it needs to be punished, and someone will be turning big rocks into small ones in Leavenworth for a long time. But we need to get back to our mission.”

The Post added, “Most [soldiers] said the photos have not undermined their relationship with Iraqis. But they worried that a group described by one sergeant as ‘a few stupid privates’ has tainted the collective mission in the eyes of the world, including an American public bombarded with the images in the news media.”

Peter Herman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel foreign staff reported that some U.S. soldiers in Iraq were “angry” because coverage of the matter “put them in more danger.”

Spc. Aaron Humphrey told Herman, “I don’t watch TV at home; why should I watch it here? I’m not trying to justify what they did. It was wrong. But I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion.”

The St. Petersberg Times interviewed several returning MPs, some of them guards at Abu Ghraib. Reporters Alex Leary and Tom Zucco quoted Sgt. Philip May, 37, as saying, “What they did was wrong. But in the Army, we take care of our own. There was an investigation to find the people who were responsible. But once the story leaked out, it was blown way out of proportion by the media.”

The barrage, however, was having its intended effect. “Six months before the November election,” reported the Post, “President Bush has slipped into a politically fragile position that has put his reelection at risk…”

The controversy demonstrated that while conservatives have developed their own alternative media, the mainstream media continue to set the national agenda and promote liberal themes and “scandals” designed to benefit the Democratic Party.

The bias was demonstrated yet again when the broadcast networks declined to air the President’s May 24 speech on Iraq at the Army War College. The White House did not formally request that the networks do so, but Norah O’Donnell of NBC News said that was probably because the administration knew that it would not be given the air time.




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