Accuracy in Media

During a recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused the U.S. news media of ignoring “the story of success and accomplishment” in Iraq. He said the reconstruction effort “dwarfs any other experience I’m aware of,” including Germany and Japan after World War II. In a September 10 speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., he went into detail about this. But his remarks about significant progress in Iraq were disrupted by a few “anti-war” protesters who made more news than the speech itself.

This is the lead from the Agence France Presse story: “Protestors briefly disrupted a speech by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the National Press Club, chanting, ‘How many children did you kill today?'” Of the ten paragraphs in the story, the first six were devoted to the protesters. A Reuters story carried by MSNBC began, “U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was heckled by protesters against the Iraq war during a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday and brushed aside a question on whether he might resign.”

AFP and Reuters are foreign news organizations, and their stories are picked up by many outlets abroad and circulated to an international audience. The AFP story, for example, was carried on an Australian website under the headline, “Protesters Disrupt Rumsfeld Speech.” By contrast, an Associated Press story about the speech ignored the protesters and focused almost exclusively on Rumsfeld’s comments, during the question-and-answer period, about the fate of suspected terrorists being held at a U.S. prison camp in Cuba.

Vernon Loeb’s Washington Post story also ignored the protesters, while Eric Schmitt in the New York Times mentioned in his 19th paragraph that the hecklers had “briefly interrupted” the speech. This is the same paragraph in which Schmitt mentioned Rumsfeld’s talk of “the accomplishments” in Iraq without identifying what they actually were. Loeb’s article completely ignored talk of accomplishments. Instead, Schmitt and Loeb focused on criticism of the administration’s policy and a bid for U.N. support for more troops.

What the media did not report is that Rumsfeld said military attacks on our troops are down from about 25 to 26 incidents to about 14 or 15 a day, and that they last about two or three minutes. Most of the time, he said, U.S. forces are helping the people of Iraq fix schools, dig wells, repair hospitals, provide medical and dental assistance, and even prepare soccer fields for the children.

The other important thing Rumsfeld said is that U.S. troops are training the local police forces and border patrols and helping to form city councils. “It’s impressive, I think, that in just four and a half months, we have gone from zero Iraqis involved in their own security to 55,000 who are currently engaged in border patrols, site-protection units, local police, civil defense and the beginnings of a new Iraqi army unlike the old one,” he said.

In Iraq today, said Rumsfeld, there are now over 100 newspapers offering different views. But just four and a half months ago, he noted, the Saddam Hussein regime was “still creating mass graves and filling them with bodies of innocent men, women and children. It still had prisons where they were executing people. It was still repressing thought and speech in that country, and that has ended. Those people are liberated.”

Rumsfeld said it took three years after World War II to establish the independent central bank of Germany. In Iraq it took two months. The police in Germany were established after 14 months. In Iraq, they were established in two months. It took three years to establish a new currency in Germany. In Iraq, it took two and a half months. It took 14 months to establish a governing cabinet in Germany. Iraq has a cabinet today after only four months.

A Florida-based web site, www.gulf1.com , offers updates from the troops themselves, such as Major Trey Cate, the Public Affairs Officer for the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, Iraq. His latest dispatch says, “Many people have characterized this stage of Operation Enduring Freedom as being a quagmire reminiscent of Vietnam. That is just not true from my point of view?Those that wish harm upon the coalition are in a very small minority and they do not have the support of the people.”

It is apparent that such stories are being ignored by foreign news organizations because they want to make the U.S. look bad. But our own media are ignoring them, too.

For his part, Rumsfeld may have thought that speaking to the prestigious National Press Club, a gathering place for prominent journalists in Washington, D.C., would make it more likely that he would see coverage of the good news that he had brought back from Iraq. But reporters are obviously more interested in making Iraq into a campaign issue for their allies in the Democratic Party.




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