Accuracy in Media

It is becoming apparent that one element of the new anti-Bush media strategy is to blame the Katrina disaster on the president and argue that too many resources are being spent on Iraq. This enables the media to bash Bush on two fronts. But a U.S. withdrawal will not end the war in Iraq, any more than a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam ended that war. It only meant an enemy victory and millions more dead. Only through continued American involvement in Iraq do the forces of moderate Islam who are friendly to the U.S. stand any chance of being ultimately victorious. This hard fact of life is why so few liberal Democrats currently favor a withdrawal from Iraq.  

However, Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, was making the case for withdrawal from Iraq even before the hurricane hit. In an August 22 editorial, he argued that “the editorial pages of American newspapers face a moment of truth on the Iraq war” and that it is time for them to call for U.S. disengagement. With the new argument about the federal government failing to respond adequately to Katrina because of the costs of the Iraq War, Mitchell’s editorial might be taken more seriously in the newsrooms and on the editorial pages of our major papers.

Predictably, Mitchell invoked Vietnam several times, and quoted Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a veteran of Vietnam, to the same effect. He also quoted Knight Ridder’s Joe Galloway and Gannett’s Al Neuharth, as well as Sen. Russ Feingold, (D-Wis.), who favor some kind of timetable for leaving Iraq.

Although he quotes a Republican and a Democrat, it is quite extraordinary for the editor of a major media house organ to take such a radical position that is so far to the left of most politicians, including Democrats. Democratic Party leaders who have argued against a timeline for withdrawal are former Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations committee Joseph Biden, Sen. Joe Lieberman and both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

It is worth remembering that the liberation of Iraq has been a long-standing U.S. policy, supported by Democrats and Republicans, and dating back to the days of the Clinton Administration. The war was the ultimate implementation of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which called for the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime. When President Bush got congressional approval for the war itself, 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions had already been violated by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 demonstrated what can happen when radical regimes in the Middle East are left alone and emerge as bases of international terrorist operations. Iraq was already a designated state sponsor of terrorism, and Bush did not want to see Iraq turn into another launching pad for global attacks on America, possibly using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Still, he went to the U.N. and gave Hussein one last chance, through Resolution 1441, to prove to the world that he had in fact destroyed his WMD. Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, who was sent by the U.N. to seek compliance by Saddam’s regime, returned to the UN in 60 days and announced to the world that “Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.”

We have documented the case for the war more extensively in a documentary, “Confronting Iraq,” and a recent AIM Report.

It’s true that stockpiles of WMD were not found, but it has to be noted that because of the regime’s elaborate deceptions about its WMD programs, it would have been risky to the point of gross negligence to have assumed they were not there. And if you got past the headlines of the Iraq Survey Group report, you would find that Iraq had the infrastructure and every intention to continue to produce several types of WMD, including apparently, nuclear weapons. After 9/11, Bush decided that America could not take chances with an Arab regime that was already deeply implicated in terrorist activity and had waged wars against its neighbors. The Congress agreed. 

While the war is costly, in terms of lives and resources, the regime has been eliminated and the war has the potential to positively shape the future of the Middle East and the world. We have already witnessed moves toward democracy in Lebanon, which for decades had been under Syrian occupation. This is why many liberals, most notably Christopher Hitchens, see the value of staying the course in Iraq, and why they think the military intervention has been a success. A democratic Iraq can serve as a model that could mean freedom and justice for literally hundreds of millions of people in the region.

Such monumental gains might be in jeopardy if the U.S. media follow Mitchell’s advice and assume the role played by their predecessors during the Vietnam War, when it became fashionable for the media, led by Walter Cronkite, to raise the white flag of surrender in the war against communism in Southeast Asia. Mitchell is, of course, entitled to his personal opinion, but when he provides it under the authority of his position with Editor & Publisher, he is creating the impression that he is speaking for those who run America’s major newspapers and magazines.  This is a very serious development.

It is made more serious by the eagerness with which the media have assumed their Bush-bashing pose in coverage of Hurricane Katrina. If journalists get away with political finger-pointing on the matter of a natural disaster, and manage to exonerate state and local officials of any blame, they may think they can get away with further manipulation of public opinion and destroy the Administration’s Iraq policy. This would be a man-made disaster, inevitably resulting in an attack on America that could dwarf both 9/11 and Katrina.

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