Something called “Truthout” is one of those websites devoted to discrediting the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Like the Arab media, it has jumped on the allegations that U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners. But somebody there had a twinge of conscience, realizing that the anti-American barrage may be going too far. So when Truthout started distributing foreign press accounts of the prisoner story, somebody there decided to add an “editor’s note” recognizing the bravery of our soldiers and noting that the actions of a few should not damage the reputations of these brave men and women.
That note of caution didn’t stop the Washington Post from piling on, running a front-page story on May 3 about some Iraqi ex-prisoners describing physical and psychological hardships while in U.S. Custody. Meanwhile, Post reporter Rick Atkinson has told Editor & Publisher magazine that he was “against the war before, during and after it.” He said, “I have no mixed feelings about the hundreds of dead soldiers?it was a poor use of their lives.”
Asked whether a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at this point would dishonor the soldiers who have died, Atkinson replied, “It’s not George Bush’s military, but the country’s as a whole, and the collective proprietorship means we collectively decide if it is used properly and the cause is worth their sacrifice?and whether that cause should be truncated or we stay there forever.” The “we” refers to journalists who are deciding, through their coverage and placement of stories, whether they think the U.S. ought to stay there. Many are, like Atkinson, anti-war.
This is also the attitude of the foreign press. Tim Blair and James Morrow of the Australian Institute of Public Affairs have completed a 67-page report analyzing how reporters and commentators for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation produced coverage of the Iraq war that was negative, defeatist, and anti-American. Left-wing Australian journalist John Pilger goes so far as to label U.S. troops in Iraq “foreign invaders.” He calls the resistance to the U.S. a “war of national liberation.”
The anti-war movement here is debating whether to even support our troops in Iraq. An article on this subject has been written by Marta Rodriguez, identified as “a powerful force in the anti-war movement in Boston and on the East Coast for years.” She says that we need to support U.S. troops only “if they struggle to leave the armed forces” and that “we must also let them know that we will not support the crimes they commit as occupiers, and that our support requires their refusal to follow orders.” It follows that deserters from the military will be hailed as heroes.
Drawing an analogy to Vietnam, she said that American troops there were “affected by the loss of support at home. They were not comfortable about being seen as thugs and baby killers by their own people. The loss of support at home was the final straw which depleted them of the will to keep slaughtering.” The stories about U.S. troops allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners play right into the hands of this anti-American movement. Those stories give them a rationale for not supporting our troops.