Accuracy in Media

In a May 7 editorial, the New York Times said that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld must go because he “bears personal responsibility for the scandal of Abu Ghraib.”  But the New York Daily News said that was “preposterous.”  It said that his critics “will not be satisfied until the man’s scalp is handed over to Al Qaeda in atonement.  Perhaps with cash reparations.  And a nice fruit basket.”

It is said by some in the media that Rumsfeld didn’t inform Congress.  But in his testimony, he said, “One mistake we have made during our initial investigation into these charges, for example, was failing to sufficiently call to your attention the information made public in the CENTCOM press release regarding the investigations they had initiated back in January.  We also failed to sufficiently call your attention and brief you on the preliminary findings of the criminal investigation announced on March 20 by General Kimmitt.  I am advised the Army has had periodic meetings to inform Congressional staffs.”  That’s right?CENTCOM?the U.S. Military Central Command?had issued a press release on the matter, and congressional staffs had been briefed.  Plus, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad discussed the matter at a briefing in March.

But the New York Times story about Rumsfeld’s testimony failed to mention these facts.  Why?  Possibly because the testimony shows that the Pentagon regarded the matter as a high priority, and that the media?and Congress?did not.  The only hint came in a statement in the story about how Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman, “criticized Mr. Rumsfeld for not informing Congress of the abuse scandal?”  But the Times then noted that the Pentagon had issued “official public announcements of the investigation and of the filing of charges?”

The fact is that the Pentagon had been investigating the matter and had put statements on the record about the investigation for the public, press, and the Congress to see.  In a column reviewing media coverage of Iraq, Michael Getler of the Washington Post noted that, “The clues were there four months earlier, on the public record, and they were put there by the military.”  They were more than clues?they were press releases and press briefings.

In information buried deep in the article, the Times noted that a senior Defense Department official said that Army investigators possessed several hundred pictures as part of the investigation, but “most do not depict Iraqi prisoner abuse.  The vast majority are pornographic pictures involving only American soldiers, the official said.”  This reflects a much-deeper problem?how American culture has been corrupted by pornography and how this corruption has crept into the U.S. military.

Consider the case of Army Pfc. Lynndie England, who is shown in photographs smiling and pointing at naked Iraqi prisoners.  She has been charged with assaulting and mistreating the detainees.  She was also involved with another soldier, Spc. Charles Graner, and England is four months pregnant with Graner’s child.  The immorality went way beyond the abuse of prisoners.  Why don’t the media want to talk about that?

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