Accuracy in Media

Secretary of Defense William Cohen has confirmed that CNN’s nerve gas smear of American soldiers was used by Saddam Hussein and Iraq to damage America’s reputation in the world. At a news conference at the Pentagon, Cohen said, “…Iraq immediately incorporated CNN’s charges into its anti-U.S. propaganda campaign in an effort to attempt to deflect attention from its own outlawed chemical and biological weapons programs.” Cohen noted that the CNN program “was telecast throughout the Middle East and throughout many parts of the globe.”

Concerning the possibility that the CNN story reflects an anti-military bias among journalists, Cohen said, “I’m not drawing any conclusions.” He was asked that question because a week earlier the Wall Street Journal had published an article by James Webb. a former Secretary of the Navy and Vietnam veteran, under the headline, “The Media’s War on Vietnam Vets.” Webb said that literally thousands of journalists had published lies, exaggerations and misrepresentations about those who served in Vietnam,and that the CNN report was another example of this trend.

Webb singled out CBS News, noting that the CBS Evening News had run a story claiming that serving in Vietnam had been scientifically linked to various emotional problems, including suicide. The story was based on a flawed study, a piece of “junk science,” as Webb put it. Earlier this year, CBS’ 60 Minutes ran an anniversary piece on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, where U.S. troops murdered civilians. Webb points out that CBS could have run a story about American bravery during the war or recounted much more serious Communist atrocities. But CBS chose not to.

What accounts for some of these stories? Webb doesn’t say so directly, but he suggests it was support for the Communist enemy. He points out that one Hollywood gathering, which was honoring an anti-Vietnam war film, erupted into a standing ovation when it was announced that the Communists had taken control of South Vietnam in 1975.

In the case of CNN, it chose to commit several staffers to several months’ work on a story that also smeared Vietnam veterans. Now that a few staffers have been fired and a retraction and apology issued, CNN wants us all to forget what has taken place. But we can’t do that, partly because of what Secretary Cohen said—the CNN report played into the hands of America’s enemies.

Last year, in releasing a special report on chemical warfare, Secretary Cohen said that Iraq had enough VX nerve gas to wipe out humanity. Referring to the findings of weapons inspectors. Now the UN believes that Saddam may have produced as much as 20 tons of VX, and this would theoretically be enough to kill every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.” CNN could have assigned its own reporters to get to the bottom of such reports, to determine what Iraq was hiding. Instead, its reporters were already proceeding to concoct a phony story about American use of nerve agents 30 years ago. And this lie was broadcast worldwide.

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