Accuracy in Media

The major media didn’t pay any attention, but on June 1 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld delivered a major blast at the media, declaring that “two of the country’s largest newspapers” had “devoted more than 80 editorials, combined, since March of 2004 to Abu Ghraib and detainee issues, often repeating the same erroneous assertions and recycling the same stories.  By comparison, precious little has been written-by those editorial boards-about the beheading of innocent civilians by terrorists, the thousands of bodies found in mass graves in Iraq, the allegations of rape of women and girls by U.N. workers in the Congo.”

He was probably referring to the Washington Post and New York Times, but other papers could fit the bill.

Good for Secretary Rumsfeld. It’s time our leaders confronted and exposed the media for their anti-American slant. But it’s not just a slant; it’s bad reporting. Rumsfeld was alluding to the tendency of the Post and Times editorial pages to find top civilian and military leaders responsible for the isolated cases of prisoner abuse. Major investigations of that matter have exonerated top officials.  But the Post and Times don’t want to accept the results of those investigations.

Rumsfeld, at the briefing, went on to say, “Yes, there have been instances where detainees have been mistreated while in U.S. custody, sometimes grievously. But consider these facts.  To date, there have been approximately 370 criminal investigations into the charges of misconduct involving detainees.  Out of 68,000 detainees that have been in U.S. custody over the period since September 11th.  And of some 525,000 service members, men and women of the various services who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo Bay, less than one-tenth of 1 percent have been found to have committed illegal acts against detainees.”

Rumsfeld also had some news to report. He said that at least a dozen of the 200 people released from the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay “have already been caught back on the battlefield, involved in efforts to kidnap and kill Americans.” That fact alone would suggest that perhaps U.S. authorities have been too lenient in how they are handling the cases of the suspected terrorists at GITMO.

“Many, if not most [of the suspected terrorists] have been systematically trained to lie and to claim torture,” Rumsfeld noted. And that brings up Newsweek. “Much was made recently of a news story falsely accusing service members of flushing a Koran down the toilet,” Rumsfeld said. “But little has been said about the great lengths that the military go to at Guantanamo Bay to accommodate the religious practices of detainees in their care,” he noted. “There are specific instructions as to how those involved in the custody of detainees should handle themselves with respect to religious matters.  Special meals are provided to meet cultural dietary requirements.  Schedules are respectful of prayer. Indications of the direction to pray are provided.  Detailed guidelines are provided to the service people as to the-which govern the handling of the Koran.”

Rumsfeld said that, “Copies of these instructions have been publicly available, but they have received comparatively little media attention.  I have not yet seen a complete printing of those instructions in any journal. This lack of media attention to U.S. policy guidance to treat detainees humanely creates misperceptions.”

It certainly does.

Those misperceptions, I submit, have contributed to a recruiting problem for the U.S. military. But Don Wycliffe of the Chicago Tribune rejects that. “It all comes down to the doomsaying, undermining, unpatriotic media,” he says, trying to summarize my point of view. No, it doesn’t all come down to that. But I stand by my point, quoted in his June 2 column, that potential recruits have to consider that if they sign up, they “not only have to fight the terrorists but the American media, which is doing their best to make our soldiers out to be human-rights abusers, torturers and killers?”

Wycliffe asked me for examples of the media tendency to want to make America look bad. And one example I cited was how the media report charges of human-rights abuses leveled by the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International recently generated headlines with the claim that Guantanamo Bay was a “gulag.”

Rumsfeld was angered by that, too. He declared that, “?to try to equate the military’s record on detainee treatment to some of the worst atrocities of the past century is a disservice to those who have sacrificed so much to bring freedom to others.”

Rumsfeld concluded his opening statement at that briefing by saying, “So, to the men and women who wear our country’s uniform, and to their families who support them, I want you to know how proud we are of all of your able service.  We are in your debt.  And to those who may be considering serving our nation, know that there is no finer calling, no nobler cause, and no greater act of patriotism.”

What a tragedy that our major media did not report those comments. Rumsfeld is trying to counter the media bias that is undermining the global war on terror and threatening the ability of our nation to get the recruits we need to win this war.

Investor’s Business Daily agrees, declaring in an editorial, “If, as the military now fears, there’s a looming recruitment problem, the elite media should bear much of the blame.”

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