Accuracy in Media

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on June 1 delivered a major blast at two major newspapers, without identifying them by name, noting that they 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.”  It wasn’t hard to guess what papers he was talking about. One recent example was an April 26 Washington Post editorial, “Inpunity,” insisting that top officials were being let off the hook for abusing prisoners and that “a handful of lowly scapegoats” were being blamed. The Post tried to insist the allegations of prisoner abuse have never really been “directly investigated,” which is just plain nonsense.

Fortunately, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard B. Myers responded with a letter to the editor. He said the editorial was full of “distortions and inaccuracies disguised as fact.” Myers went on to say, “The real facts show that 10 major lines of inquiry, including an independent panel composed of non-Department of Defense (DOD) personnel, found that the Defense Department did not promulgate interrogation policies or give guidance that directed, sanctioned or encouraged abuse. The DOD has always required detainees to be treated humanely.”

Myers added, “The Post’s continued distortion of the facts is a disservice to its readers and is insulting to the thousands of uniformed men and women who make sacrifices for our nation.”

That’s correct. And this is why we maintain that this kind of media drumbeat goes beyond being noxious to being subversive. As we said in a recent column, why would anybody want to volunteer for the U.S. military when reporters are depicting our soldiers as bloodthirsty killers and torturers? And why would anybody want to volunteer for the military when top civilian and military officials are being portrayed in the press as architects of a policy of torture who are managing to escape accountability for what they have done? Would you want to work for people like that?

This kind of coverage is insulting and demoralizing. It’s no wonder that when Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment went to entertain the troops in Iraq last December, he was cheered  when he told our soldiers that he would return to the U.S. and tell our media to go to hell. McMahon ripped the U.S. media for emphasizing the bad news out of Iraq and failing to tell the true story of democratic progress there.

During an appearance on the Laura Ingraham radio show on June 1, Rumsfeld was asked if he was frustrated by the media coverage of the war, especially about the handling of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. While Rumsfeld said that he can’t spend his days worrying about it, “There’s no question but that it’s harmful to the country and it’s harmful to the men and women in uniform and the job they’re trying to do.  They’re doing noble work and they’re doing a fabulous job at it and they’re going to be successful.”

Why don’t we have a media that recognize the fight for freedom?  Perhaps they want to bring about a defeat in Iraq like the one they helped cause in Vietnam.

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