Accuracy in Media

Newsweek’s false account of a Koran being dumped in a toilet caused much damage to U.S. foreign policy.  On May 20, the New York Times tried to do more damage. It devoted over 6000 words to the deaths of Afghans who had been in the custody of U.S. forces at Bagram Air Base on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Seven people have been charged for alleged abuse of those described in the Times account. But that didn’t stop reporter Tim Golden from including a lot of gratuitous details about the alleged abuse.  The article was timed just before Afghan President Hamid Karzai came to the U.S.

In a follow-up story, Golden admitted that there is evidence that the detainees had some existing medical problems when they arrived at Bagram, and that investigators said that it was difficult to ascertain whether some of their health problems were pre-existing or the result of abuse. Golden also acknowledges that “Most of the guards who admitted punching the detainees or kneeing them in the thighs said they did so in order to subdue prisoners who were extraordinarily combative.”

So they were not hapless and docile individuals who were pounced upon by soldiers with nothing else to do.

The Times obtained what it called a 2,000-page confidential file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the case. It admitted that the copy was obtained “from a person involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military’s response to the deaths.”

But since there is no official policy of torturing prisoners, and since there is already an investigation underway into these allegations, there has to be a reason why such a long story is published. And that purpose is to make America look bad in the eyes of the entire world.

On an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt show, ABC News reporter Terry Moran acknowledged “a deep anti-military bias in the media.” He said the media assume “that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous.” That’s the mind-set we see at work in the Times story. The media strongly contributed to the American loss in Vietnam and we would have to be na?ve not to think that many in the media want us to lose in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fortunately, Afghan President Hamid Karzai stepped forward to make the point that the U.S. does not condone or approve such alleged beatings. According to an AP story, he said that he was shocked by the allegations of abuse and wanted them stopped. But he also said that,  “The people of the United States are very kind people,” he said. “It is only one or two individuals who are bad and such individuals are found in any military in any society everywhere, including Afghanistan.”

Ironically, reporter Golden acknowledged that incidents of prisoner abuse at this facility, Bagram Air Base, including some details of the deaths of the two Afghans in his 6,000 word account, had been “previously reported.” So this was an old story. What was new were the sensational details of aspects of the abuse. And he devoted thousands of words to that.

Golden quoted American officials as saying that these were isolated problems, but devoting 6000 words in one story to “isolated problems” doesn’t make a lot of sense. The decision to give a story this much time and attention conveys a high-level decision by Times editors to put the prestige and reputation of the paper behind a major blast at the United States.  This is the anti-military agenda in action, from a newspaper based in a city hit by the terrorists on 9/11. It is also what we have come to expect from anti-American organs such as al-Jazeera.

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