Accuracy in Media

Much outrage, condemnation and praise have been voiced after the United States military ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassam Soleimani in Iraq.

Soleimani was traveling in Baghdad as a part of his responsibilities as general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, which is a special forces branch of the Iranian military.

As Democratic Party lawmakers and presidential candidates condemned the airstrike, President Donald Trump and his allies praised the act as a lawful example of self-defense. The Trump administration argued that the airstrike was necessary due to Soleimani’s past involvement in the deaths of American soldiers spanning several decades, in addition to Soleimani’s alleged plans to harm more American soldiers in the Middle East region in the near future.

NBC News’s analysis attempted to accurately portray both sides of the debate surrounding Soleimani’s death, asking the following question in its headline, “Was it legal for Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general?” The analysis cited multiple sources that disagreed with the Trump administration, such as a United Nations human rights official Agnes Callamard and University of Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell. To represent the Trump administration’s side, the analysis quoted Brian Hook, the Department of State’s special representative for Iran and Bobby Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin.

The analysis fairly represented both sides of the argument on whether the airstrike was legal or illegal, under the constraints of international law. But, the most interesting part of the analysis was relating the airstrike that killed Soleimani to Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Obama was well-known in the international community for his approval of targeted airstrikes on military targets, such as terrorist leaders, during his tenure. The analysis said:

“President Barack Obama, a liberal former law professor, presided over the most precise and lethal targeted killing campaign in world history. Under Obama, the U.S. carried out more than 500 strikes that killed thousands of people, according to independent groups that tracked the strikes.”

These two sentences exposed the media’s hypocritical coverage of the airstrike which killed Soleimani because the media ignored Obama’s history of targeted airstrikes on terrorist leaders and other military targets in their current news coverage. Much of the attention is focused on Trump’s response to the airstrike, the response of Democratic Party lawmakers and presidential candidates, and protests against the airstrike. Little, if any, media coverage has mentioned Obama’s use of airstrikes to eliminate terrorist leaders or sponsors of terrorism. It is hypocritical for the media to claim the moral high ground and condemn the Trump administration, without mentioning Obama’s legacy of airstrikes.

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