Accuracy in Media

When Al Qaeda’s second in command warned the U.S. of “horrors worse than the war in Vietnam” in a video airing on August 4, Ayman al-Zawahiri was counting on the U.S. and international media to continue emphasizing the carnage and destruction in the Iraq war caused by fanatical Islamic suicide terrorists.

Zawahiri’s reference to Vietnam was significant. The U.S. won all the battles in Vietnam but lost the war, primarily because the U.S. media, led by then-CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite, turned against the effort to keep South Vietnam free of communism and convinced the public it was a losing cause. Liberals in Congress then voted to terminate funding for the war. 

The liberals don’t control Congress now, but they are still in control of national media organizations that set the news agenda for the American people and dominate the White House press corps. To cite one well-documented example, they have already done tremendous damage to the war effort with their exaggerated reporting about abuses of terrorist prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

The impact can be seen in a Newsweek poll showing 61 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll found similar results, showing that 59 percent disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that 54 percent thought the war was a mistake.

However, one pollster quoted by USA Today noted that “public attitudes toward the war rise and fall depending on the day’s headlines.”

The polls came during and after a particularly bloody week, when 20 Marines were killed in the same city over a two-day period. Fourteen were killed after their assault carrier hit a bomb so powerful that it flipped the 27 metric ton vehicle into the air.

In the face of this brutality, including the bombings in London and Egypt, British member of Parliament George Galloway actually declared that Iraqi-based terrorists were “martyrs” and “are not just defending Iraq, but defending the whole world against American hegemony.”

We know that leftist filmmaker Michael Moore referred to terrorists in Iraq as the equivalent of America’s founding revolutionary war heroes, but one has to wonder how many of our journalists secretly share that traitorous and subversive view.

One thing is clear: rather than rally support for the war so that American troops don’t sacrifice in vain, many U.S. reporters  seem to be doing their best to undermine the reasons for going to war and staying the course. 

This is why Michael Fumento, a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, recently traveled to Iraq to see the situation for himself. He came back reporting high morale among the troops for a mission they believe in. He says that “media coverage on the war is terribly slanted?such that it may threaten our ability to win.”

We all mourn the deaths of our U.S. service personnel in Iraq and grieve for their families.

Deaths In Perspective

But the fact is, as military historian Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out, the deaths of Americans in Iraq have to be compared to other wars in American history. In the battle at Antietam in 1862 in the Civil War, between five and six thousand Americans were killed in one day. On D-Day, 3,000 Allied troops died, and another 6,000 were wounded. And in the Battle of the Bulge, approximately 19,000 Americans died and 60,000 more were missing, captured or wounded. More than 58,000 died in Vietnam.

The 1,800 killed in Iraq equals about 60 percent of those who died on September 11, 2001.

“In World War II we had censorship of the media,” notes Martin L. Fackler, a combat surgeon during the Vietnam War. “We won that war. In the Vietnam conflict we suffered the consequences of allowing our mass media unrestricted access to flood our homes with grisly scenes of battlefield combat. These powerful images overwhelmed the emotions of a gullible public and destroyed all sense of perspective.”

In a Washington Times column, he said that, in regard to the Iraq war, “our media are now repeating their Vietnam victory by providing propaganda services to Al Qaeda in our war on terror [that] should greatly concern us all. The American people had better grasp these facts soon if we are to prevent an out-of-control media, intoxicated with power, from providing the means for our enemies to destroy our civilization.”

In addition to the failure to put the casualty figures in perspective and emphasize progress in Iraq, the media have made the war unpopular by constantly telling the people that President Bush lied about the reasons the U.S. went to war. Polls show that his honesty is being increasingly questioned by large numbers of people.

This stems from media coverage of various Iraq-related “scandals,” especially the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, as if Bush somehow knew they were not there when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Clearly, Bush’s failure in this case is not that he lied to the public but that he had confidence in a CIA headed by Clinton holdover George Tenet, who told him that finding WMD in Iraq would be a “slam-dunk.”

The latest “scandal” is the Downing Street memos controversy, supposedly proving that the Bush administration was determined to go to war in Iraq no matter what the evidence showed.

In an editorial, The Washington Post noted that the memos added “not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration’s prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.”

Nevertheless, the anti-war movement has exaggerated and exploited the memos, even pressuring the major media to do countless stories about them. A website devoted to the controversy shows 12 stories carried by the Washington Post or its website, six by the Knight Ridder news service, five by National Public Radio, seven by Associated Press, and stories by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and dozens of other papers and news outlets.

The background to this phony scandal is this: On May 1 of this year, just days before the British national elections, the London Sunday Times published and analyzed the first document of what would collectively come to be known as the Downing Street Memos. It was classified “SECRET ? UK EYES ONLY.” It was the notes, or minutes, recorded of a meeting that took place on July 23, 2002, at 10 Downing Street, the British White House, as British and American officials were discussing and planning a course of action to deal with Iraq. The memo was the summary of a meeting that took place between Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, known as “C,” and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ended up winning his third term as Prime Minister. The minutes of the meeting were recorded by foreign-policy aide Matthew Rycroft. Dearlove had recently met with his counterpart in Washington, CIA Director George Tenet.

The key paragraph that has caused this memo to reverberate around the world says the following:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

No Smoking Gun

Within this one paragraph was all the “proof” the critics needed, or so they thought. It shows, they claim, that as early as July of 2002, the Bush administration had made up its mind to militarily remove Saddam from power, that he would do it by claiming that Saddam represented a threat because of his possession of WMD and links to terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda, and that the information was being “fixed” so that they could sell this policy to the UN, U.S. allies and the American people.

Another part of the memo presented the perspective of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided… We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the U.N. weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

While some see these documents as a smoking gun proving that the Bush administration, with the acquiescence of Tony Blair, was merely pretending that the war might be avoided if Saddam will accept certain conditions, the memo does not actually state that President Bush, nor anyone in his cabinet, saw the war as inevitable.

What was meant by saying the information was being “fixed?” Does it mean manipulated? If so, as columnist Tod Lindberg wrote, why didn’t the memo reflect the view of anybody in the meeting that such a course was improper, wrong or immoral? It is obviously the case that “fixed” meant “to make fast, to set in order, to arrange.”

If that explanation still isn’t good enough for some, then it is important to look at the public record at the time. An article published in the London Observer on July 21, 2002, reported that Tony Blair had “decided Britain must back any U.S. assault and had ordered defence planners to begin the preparations for a new war in the Gulf,” and that “President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is a given?What we are waiting for is to be told the details of how and when and where.”

In other words, there is nothing new here. It has long been a matter of public record that the Bush administration was seeking regime change in Iraq.  As a matter of fact, it was the official policy of the United States to accomplish that goal, ever since the Senate and House approved?and President Clinton signed?the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. A couple months later, on December 16, 1998, without getting the approval of Congress or the United Nations, Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq. Here is how he addressed the nation that day:

Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

This wasn’t the view of Clinton alone. Here were the comments that year of two of his closest advisors:

“Saddam’s goal … is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed.”?Madeline Albright, 1998

“(Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983”?National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Feb 18, 1998.

With the advent of the Bush administration, which was determined to accomplish regime change in Iraq and not just bomb a few buildings and pass a few more U.N. resolutions, the policy suddenly became controversial, especially after 9/11. The invasion of Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was based, was an obvious first step. But Iraq, as the AIM film, “Confronting Iraq” (, shows, was a logical next step. 

If a there is a weakness in the administration’s planning, it is in that area of the aftermath of the invasion. But in terms of planning or conducting the actual invasion, there is nothing controversial. It was a remarkable success.

Yet, well before the release of the Downing Street Memos, there was a book from Ron Suskind, writing with former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill (The Price of Loyalty), who claimed that it was somehow scandalous that getting rid of Saddam was among the first items discussed in the early days of the new Bush administration in 2001. Richard Clarke, a holdover from the Clinton administration who was the Counter Terrorism czar, wrote in his book, Against All Enemies, that he had been pressured by President Bush immediately after the attacks on 9/11 to find evidence linking Iraq to that atrocity. And Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, revealed that as early as the fall of 2001, President Bush had asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to begin to draw up contingency war plans against Iraq.

But the Woodward book, prepared by the most high-profile reporter in all of Washington, who was given access to the top officials of the administration, was solid proof that there was nothing sinister going on. Woodward was given access to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State Colin Powell so that the American people would have information about the deliberations and factors that went into the war with Iraq. Bush officials were confident of the case for war. The book also gives the lie to the often repeated notion that this is the most secretive administration in recent memory.

The War Was Justified

Going to war with Iraq was justifiable on many grounds. It must be remembered that Saddam’s Iraq was in violation of 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions, mostly having to do with WMD. But in his speech at the U.N. on September 12, 2002, President Bush made the case based on humanitarian grounds, Iraqi support of terrorists and terrorist organizations, and the fact that Iraq had invaded two of its neighbors and gassed its own villages. The U.N. Security Council then passed Resolution 1441, giving Saddam one last chance to come clean, and avoid war. The Swedish diplomat, Hans Blix led a team of inspectors back into Iraq, and returned to the U.N. 60 days later, on January 27, 2003, to report. Blix delivered the news to an international television audience: “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.” Blix also asked for more time, but his message was clear. Saddam Hussein was not cooperating.

Even after that, Saddam was given more ultimatums to back down. When he refused to comply, the war began. As former U.N. weapons inspector Tim Trevan pointed out in the AIM documentary, when Saddam wanted to show the inspectors he had destroyed something, as he did with a number of his missiles, he took them to the location, provided documentation, and allowed the inspectors to talk to the scientists and others involved in the destruction.

But when it came to the chemical and biological weapons, which Saddam had previously acknowledged possessing, he told the inspectors that he had destroyed them, but they would just have to take his word for it. By the terms of the ceasefire and the U.N. resolutions that followed the first Gulf War, Saddam was not allowed to destroy the materials himself. And though stockpiles of these weapons weren’t found, the Iraq Survey Group, headed at one time by Charles Duelfer and advised at another time by David Kay, both confirmed that the infrastructure and intent to activate the programs was clearly there. 

We also know, from Saddam’s chief bomb maker, Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, through his book, The Bomb in My Garden, that Saddam knew that he had buried in his backyard garden the components for an actual centrifuge for enriching uranium. From David Kay’s report we learned that Saddam was trying to purchase missiles from N. Korea, and from Lord Butler’s report in Great Britain that he was trying to purchase uranium from Africa. Yes, uranium from Africa.

What about those ties to terrorist groups? We know that Saddam harbored some of the nastiest terrorists around. Killers like Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, and Abdul Rahman Yasin, the man who built the bomb for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. In 1998, the Clinton Justice Department indicted Osama bin Laden, in one count accusing him of reaching “an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.” Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has analyzed this documentation. But except for some occasional appearances by Hayes on the Fox News Channel, with its audience of only a couple million viewers, the American people are being denied this information.

Al Jazeera Incites Terrorists

Not only are we not getting the complete truth from our own media about the justification for the war, the foreign media are inciting the terrorists against us. It was significant that Al-Zawahiri’s August 4 video warning of a Vietnam in Iraq was broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

An NBC News report by Lisa Myers revealed that “Saudis captured in Iraq say it’s because of pictures on Arab television network Al Jazeera” that they joined the war. One Saudi prisoner in Iraq said, “We saw the Americans massacring the Iraqis.”

In an article entitled, “Time to Hit the Suicide Factories,” Amir Taheri also brought up the issue of Al Jazeera’s influence on the suicide bombers. He said, “These human weapons are designed and shaped by a constant flow of anti-Western propaganda from Arab satellite TV, the so-called Islamic associations and countless madarassahs (Islamic schools) and mosques throughout the world, including in London itself.”

On a website called “Friends of Al Jazeera,” it was noted that a “renowned journalist” by the name of Riz Khan will host a new interview show for Al Jazeera International, a new 24-hour, English-language news and current affairs channel, which is to go on air from early 2006.

Khan was senior anchor with CNN International and wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal saying that “I’m fully aware of the negative image of the Al Jazeera brand in the U.S., especially at the government level, but I think part of that comes from a misunderstanding of the strong cultural position the Arabic-language channel has among the average people of the Middle East.”

Misunderstanding? Al Jazeera incites Arabs and Muslims to kill Westerners. Who would in good conscience work for such an entity? More importantly, why is it permitted to continue to operate and create more terrorists? Its operations have been banned in Iraq by the new government but its headquarters is in Qatar, supposedly a U.S. ally in the war on terror.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your choosing to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, Tucker Carlson of MSNBC, and Jonathan Klein of CNN.

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