Negative U.S. media linked to increased insurgent attacks

What Conservative Media?

What Conservative Media?

By Ari Kaufman

Despite decades of evidence from Walter Cronkite’s offense at Tet and “Bush lied about WMDs” to the contrary, today’s liberal is fond of claiming there is not only zero lefty bias in today’s mainstream media, but often a conservative bias.

The Nation’s resident leftist provocateur, Eric Alterman, most recently contended so last Fall, after he became enraged by the “lies in ABC’s mini-series Path to 9/11″ (the one the Clinton’s had changed in a remarkable cover up). Others look to their perception of the media’s “build up of the Iraq War” in 2003, or the Downing Street Memo that a professor in Florida once told me he “writes to the Times (NY, of course) daily imploring them to publicize it more” and many others.
But, naturally, facts tell a different story, as evidence amounting to a left-leaning bias in the mainstream media is as deep as the Marianas Trench.
Led by their long time hero, Chris Matthews, today’s media will mention any minor scandal from Scooter Libby to Tom Delay in order to market their erroneous claims, despite nearly a century of history showing the dangers in losing focus of the America’s true enemies.
If you watched the deplorably irresponsible journalism the host of Hardball displayed at the first GOP debate, or his racial dividing remarks prior to the Democrat debate on April 26, it is obvious his bias as thick as a humanities professor’s at an “elite” northeastern liberal arts college. Yet, the Democrats’ refusal to have Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Brit Hume moderate their debate was scarcely mentioned nationally? Too bad, as honest analysts noted Brit and Chris W. were “fair and balanced” as can be last week.
The next argument would state that talk radio and internet blogs are dominated by right-leaning folks. Well, that is true. But a closer examination makes clear why. Air America Radio and left-leaning blogs like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos continuously fail or significantly lag behind their competitors due to lack of listeners and readers. There are two overarching reasons for this:
Firstly, the writers, especially on Kos, cannot write. Seriously. It reminds me very eerily of rants of drunk collegians bashing Bush, our soldiers, Christians, anyone but the enemy, etc. Perhaps this toilet humor occurs because the “grassroots” lefty blogs are in fact run by college kids, often left with a lack of facts to support their views. If military history is tragically being retired on campuses, where will bloggers go for proper history? The “Peace Studies” Department?
People, regardless of their political persuasions, are not interested in reading such naive commentary. Kos and Huffington, who rarely pen anything of their own, might also think that having guest writers (often Democrat politicians or celebrities like Laurie David, Bill Maher, Jim Lampley and Harry Shearer) throw out their conjectures makes a blog. This has never been true. The most successful blogs—conservative ones like Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs–have no editorialists, but rather are created via links, text, photos and an occasional salient editorial comment at the end or onset, often just a line or two.
Secondly, in a classroom, the NY Times newsroom or in the studios of CNN, CBS or Comedy Central, you need not back up your partisan stances. Make your case to nodding heads, type it up and go to lunch. But live on radio, Rush Limbaugh must back up his claims. Blogs must often do the same in their comment section or with the links to facts.
Truth be told, I’m not really concerned with the Washington Post or SF Chronicle’s editorial pages being chock full of leftists; that’s just the way it is and always will be. But it’s the news stories where the subtle bias is real and disingenuous, since most folks admittedly only glance at the headline and first few lines of a “news” story on their way into work.
My neighbor just canceled her subscription to the Indianapolis Star for those exact reasons. She, a customer for more than three decades, had finally had enough. And though I put the nail in the coffin for her when a recent “news” piece included a Bush-bashing quote from a Chicago-based dental professor with zero relation to the topic {mid-way through linked article}, she had been itching for the time to cancel for a few years now.
When she emailed the paper’s ombudsman, he was concerned and informed her that the Star “does carry “conservatives” like Cal Thomas and George Will.” He missed the point, naturally. Seems too many liberal media members do this everyday.
Ari Kaufman is the author of Reclamation: Saving our schools starts from within He is currently a military historian for the State of Indiana’s War Memorials

Media Target: The US Military

Media Target: The US Military

By Gerd Schroeder

The US military, the last bastion of creditability in the war, is now the primary target of the media and the enemies of the war.  Almost like a plan. Not hatched as a coherent and complete arrangement in some dark, smoke filled room. No conspiracy is alleged. Rather, There is a certain momentum that is a product of groupthink. This confluence of widely-shared perceptions and attitudes has taken on a life of its own, the like-minded feeding off the ideas of others, then amplified in the media.
They smell blood in the water, and turn their attention to the military.  Their reasoning is that if they can turn the American People against the military, then the war effort will become unsustainable.  But they must be very careful in manipulating the story.  They have learned their lesson from Viet Nam.  The backlash from attacking the troops directly robbed them of much of their credibility.  They will not make that mistake again. 
Seize on critics from within
This time the plan is discredit the military from the inside.  They do this by seizing on genuine critics, disgruntled retirees, infighting dissidents, and a few dupes and naive people in the military to discredit the organization as a whole.  This is where we are right now.        
After writing an article in the Armed Forces Journal titled A failure in generalship  lambasting the general officer corps for not only failing in Iraq but lying to Congress and the American People many people may think that the author, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yinling is on the highway to hell with his carrier in the military.  If you figured that, I believe that you have figured wrong.  It is rooted in popular miss conceptions about what the military is like from an outsider’s point of view, which has been carefully built and manipulated by pop culture and the media for years. 
That is not to say that I agree with LTC Yinling.  I think that many of his arguments are, quite frankly, bull; but the military is really a very introspective organization.  Anyone that has seen an After Action Review of a military operation or training event understands that.  They are brutally honest and open.  No one is spared.  We all understand that respecting thin skins is a recipe for death.  The reviews are not personal attacks; they are honest assessments.
LTC Yingling’s arguments are not new. The points in his article have been debated in the Army for many years.  It is not a bombshell indictment of the military leaders the media is making it out to be.  He used Clausewitz, and other military thinker’s writings and ideas to make his point.  Look at the article Toxic Leadership, by Colonel George E Reed.  The article, written in 2004, takes on many of the same points that LTC Yingling’s article does, albeit in a more tactful manner. 
For me, the article is very stimulating, though very flawed.  Through articles like LTC Yingling’s Col. Reed’s the military stays vital and improves thought debate and exchange of ideas.
Instead, let us look at why the media has suddenly picked this story up after it has been debated in the military for years.  The media are all in a flutter because they think that they can spin this article as an indictment of the war.  They do this by pointing at the generals, and in a sly, almost unperceivable way, the media almost seem to whisper in our ears: “see, the military is bad, they aren’t worthy of our support, they failed, we can’t trust them, we need to get out of Iraq before anyone else dies because of these fascist brutes.”  Some few have come right out and said it, but most just allude to it. 
The military’s image
The military image for many people is of an environment with no freethinking, and creativity.  The image is one of an organization of mindless, strict adherence to illogical and outdated thinking and morals.  One of heavy-handed, overbearing, egotistical Neanderthals bent on world domination, violence, and hate. Backwoods rednecks.  Unintelligent dead-enders.  Look at movies like A Few Good Men, Stripes, Platoon, and Apocalypse Now.  This is the image propagated by the pop culture. 
You may say: “that may be true for some, but not for me.”  I ask you then to think back to when you considered the military.  Most men and a few women do this at some point.  For some it is just fleeting.  For others they study it deeply, but I think most, if not all, men at some point or another have considered joining the military.  Why do so few out of so many in this country actually serve?  Is it because of the ideas that have been formed from our experiences with American pop culture? 
A high percentage of the serving military has a close family member that served or is serving.  It is a generational tradition of pride, and a feeling of duty.  That is not to say that those that don’t serve are any less of a person for taking a different path; clearly not everyone can serve even if they wanted to.  However; if you reflect on it you will find than many of your ideas about the military that are unflattering have probably come from pop culture and the media.  The enemies of the war in the media use the pop culture’s long cultivated prejudice of the military to forward their objective against the war.   
Over the last year, maybe two, it is increasingly difficult to find not any positive reporting on Iraq and the larger war on terrorism, or any positive stories of the US Military at large.  There are some rare exceptions with some local news outlets.  Google “Iraq” it and see for yourself.  It is even more pervasive in the international media.
More examples
Look at the resurrection of the Jessica Lynch, and the Spencer Tillman stories as show trails against of the military in Henry Waxman’s House Committee last week.  The message: ‘The military lied,  The generals ordered the lies.  This in turn promotes the thought: ‘The military is bad.’ 
There is not need to rehash the continuing assaults by the press and the pentagon officials that leak politically motivated falsehoods about the Marines in Haditha.  John Kerry, and John Martha’s attacks on the military are like a drum beat. 
How about retired generals like MG Batiste, used willingly, in mock impeachment trails by Democrats; or BG Janis Karpinski, used by the press as a martyr, sacrificed by the military for Abu Grab, testifying to hostile governments about the evil US military.
Refer back to the countless stories about Guantanamo Bay, and false accusations of torture; many in the media choosing to believe accusations of known terrorists over the military, and false stories of Koran desecration causing riots across the Islam World. 
Look at the personal attacks on the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Pace, because he dared voice an opinion on homosexuals.  They implied that the general was unfit because he dared have a personal moral judgment; or attacks by retired Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General (Retired) Shalikashvili, on the military’s policy of the so-called ‘Don’t ask don’t tell policy’ of which he oversaw the implementation.  
Now the latest insult by Senator Reid (D-NV) that the war is lost and General Petraeus is lying if he says the surge is working. 
The press is conducting an information war against the military to discredit it, and by so doing hopes to collapse the remaining support for “Bush’s War”.
All reasonable people understand the absolute critical need to win the war in Iraq.  It is helpful, desirable, and needed to debate in good faith as long as the joint objective is winning in Iraq.  Without a doubt, the key to winning this war is the will of the American People to continue supporting the fight.  Each downtick in the polls for support of the war by the American People lowers the possibility that the military will be able to carry on the war to a victory. 
It is not that we lack the capacity.  We, in the military, have the will in spades.  But we are, in the end, the Military of the American People, and must have their support; not only to fund the war, but also to maintain morale and a strong fighting spirit.  This support of the US Military by the American People is the goal that most in the mainstream media hope to undermine.  Why they would do this is a topic for a different article.  The fact is that they are actively trying to discredit the US Military.     

A final question for the media

What would happen in the war in Iraq and to the terrorists across the world if our press put as much effort into supporting the war that they do in trying to sabotage it?             
Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army; he has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His personal views do not represent the views of the US Army or Department of Defense

Media Lynch Mob

Media Lynch Mob

By Ray Robison

Jessica Lynch was on Capitol Hill to talk about her experience in Iraq as a POW and subsequently as a media darling. This article from the Charleston Daily Mail typifies the coverage given to this topic by the media for years now. It portrays Lynch as a victim of military propaganda that pushed her forward as a hero.
The recent hearing was to cover Lynch’s 2003 kidnapping and rescue in Iraq, which the Department of Defense painted as a story of heroism, despite a differing account from Lynch.
There are two facts that get left out of this type of reporting:

a) Jessica Lynch is a hero just by serving her country whether she fired a shot or was knocked out immediately during the ambush that injured her severely and

b) the story of her shoot-out with Iraqi forces was not a product of the US military but of the US media.

The US media created this recounting of her exploits from vague, unofficial statements by “undisclosed officials” and having been revealed as rumor mongers started looking for someone to blame. Who else would they pin it on but the US military?
We all know it is hard to prove a negative, in this case that the US military did not create the shoot-out scenario reported by the media. So we have to instead ask questions. If the US military did so, who specifically did it? Do we have a name in all this media hype about the misleading Pentagon reporting? Where was the claim first made? Who was the source?
This USA Today article from July of 2003 is a hint. It states:

Lynch had been mythicized during the war. An initial report in The Washington Post said Lynch had killed several Iraqis. Later, government officials said she had killed no one.

The fact is it wasn’t “later” that the government warned against this fight-to-the-death story line, it was at the time of the initial reporting by the media. And as the USA Today article has correctly identified, The Washington Post did run the story first:

‘She Was Fighting to the Death’
Details Emerging of W. Va. Soldier’s Capture and Rescue
By Susan Schmidt and Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 3, 2003; Page A01
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army’s 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah.
“She was fighting to the death,” the official said. “She did not want to be taken alive.” Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch’s wounds had been life-threatening
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard “rumors” of Lynch’s heroics but had no confirmation. [emphasis added]

So let’s get this straight, The Washington Post single-sourced this story from one official that they couldn’t even identify. Ask yourself why they couldn’t identify a military official praising a soldier. Is that really a secret? This isn’t a whistle blower or Bush Administration insider. It would more than likely be an officer or NCO at the tactical operations center if this person existed.
So why couldn’t The Washington Post name the source? The answer is obvious; because the reporters don’t even know who it was, or if the incident even occurred. It sounds very much like one person’s ruminations in passing, chatting about rumors from unofficial sources. Then The Washington Post ran with the information despite army officials warning them about the veracity of such rumors. And this is the military’s fault? Are you kidding me?
Isn’t the media supposed to be superior to citizen journalists because of all the editorial safeguards and fact checking? But yet in this reporting, one unidentified source who may indeed be a fiction – a literary device to whom to attribute overheard conversation – trumped the military spokesperson. I challenge The Washington Post to identify this source so that this person can be questioned in the current proceedings.

Ray Robison is co-author of the book Both in One Trench, a blogger, and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.

The Media’s War on Israel

The Media’s War on Israel
By Mitchell Bard
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 24, 2007

When Israel retaliated against Hezbollah during last summer’s war, it was forced to fight two battles: one against the Lebanon-based terrorist organization, and one against a hopelessly biased global media. The first serious study of the media’s behavior throughout the conflict has confirmed this impression. The study, released in February and titled “The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media As A Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict” (pdf.), was written not by a partisan watchdog organization that would be expected to arrive at these conclusions; rather, it was produced by a respected journalist, Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

In meticulous fashion, Kalb details how the press allowed itself to be manipulated by Hezbollah. He also records the mistakes made by Israel in trying to manage coverage, points out several of the outright distortions that were widely reported, and analyzes the impact of the digital media and the fundamental disadvantage a democracy such as Israel faces in a public relations battle with a non-democratic state or terrorist organization.

As Kalb observes, Israel is automatically at a disadvantage in any conflict because it is an open society. “During the war,” Kalb notes in the study, “no Hezbollah secrets were disclosed, but in Israel secrets were leaked, rumors spread like wildfire, leaders felt obliged to issue hortatory appeals often based on incomplete knowledge, and journalists were driven by the fire of competition to publish and broadcast unsubstantiated information.” He adds that Hezbollah was able to control how it was portrayed to the world and could therefore depict itself as “a selfless movement touched by God and blessed by a religious fervor and determination to resist the enemy, the infidel, and ultimately achieve a ‘divine victory,’ no matter the cost.” (Of course, no mention was made of Hezbollah’s dependence on Iran and Syria.)

Perhaps the most serious charge made by the media throughout the war was that Israel was indiscriminately targeting civilians. Groups such as Human Rights Watch made the allegation, which was then publicized uncritically by reporters. Although Israel underscored that it was Hezbollah that was using civilians as shields, the media relied on the allegations of Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW, who charged, falsely, that Israel’s military showed “disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians.”

Kalb notes that reporters should have been aware that Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, had said before the war that Hezbollah fighters “live in their [civilians’] houses, in their schools, in their churches, in their fields, in their farms and in their factories.” Early in the war, indeed, reporters did note that Hezbollah started the war and casualties were a consequence of the fighting, “but after the first week such references were either dropped or downplayed, leaving the widespread impression that Israel was a loose cannon shooting at anything that moved.”

Kalb produces statistics that clearly show the anti-Israel bias of the Arab press. To be sure, it is not surprising that 78 percent of the stories on Al-Jazeera would label Israel as the “aggressor.” Western news services, however, would be expected to show some semblance of balance. Such was not the case. For example, the BBC ran 117 stories on the war, 38 percent of which depicted Israel as the aggressor. Only 4 percent of BBC reports placed the blame for the conflict on Hezbollah. Most media stories drew a disturbing moral equivalence between the warring sides, suggesting that Israel and Hezbollah were equally to blame.

In Kalb’s assessment, American network coverage of the war was more intense than at any time since the 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Of these stories, however, more than half focused on Israeli attacks against Lebanon. With the exception of Fox News, Kalb writes, “negative-sounding judgments of Israel’s attacks and counter-attacks permeated most network coverage.” Similarly, he reports that Israel was depicted as the aggressor nearly twice as often in the headlines of the New York Times and Washington Post and three times as often in photos.

Israel was repeatedly criticized for alleged attacks on UN troops in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Kalb notes that the “impartial” UNIFIL web site published information about Israeli troop movements while no such information was posted regarding Hezbollah’s military activities. Kalb also reiterates what media watchdogs knew all along, but journalists rarely admitted: that the media’s access to stories in Lebanon was strictly controlled by Hezbollah:

Foreign correspondents were warned, on entry to the tour [of a southern Beirut suburb], that they could not wander off on their own or ask questions of any residents. They could only take pictures of sites approved by their Hezbollah minders. Violations, they were told, would be treated harshly. Cameras would be confiscated, film or tape destroyed, and offending reporters never again allowed access to Hezbollah officials or Hezbollah-controlled areas. Kalb compared the terms to that of the Soviet era and said that only CNN’s Anderson Cooper described the ground rules that Hezbollah imposed to try to control the story. Kalb says “all of the other reporters followed the Hezbollah script: Israel, in a cruel, heartless display of power, bombed innocent civilians. Casualties were high. Devastation was everywhere. So spoke the Hezbollah spokesman; so wrote many in the foreign press corps.

Cameramen didn’t need permission to film devastation, but they were warned against taking pictures of Hezbollah terrorists. “The rarest picture of all,” Kalb observes, “was that of a Hezbollah guerilla. It was as if the war on the Hezbollah side was being fought by ghosts.” The Herald Sun of Australia also published equally rare photos showing Hezbollah preparing to fire rockets from civilian neighborhoods, the type of visual evidence that, if widely disseminated, could have quickly discredited the inaccurate reports of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Reporters always want more access to the war and the decision makers involved, so it is not surprising that many complained about restrictions placed on them by Israel. Kalb reports, however, that reports were filled with interviews with Israeli troops, generals and officials and that “the depth and breadth of the coverage seemed to belie the common complaints about access.” By contrast, he notes, “Hezbollah provided only limited access to the battle field, full access to an occasional guided tour, and encouraged visiting journalists to check its own television network, Al-Manar, for reports and information about the war.” Kalb adds, “Al-Manar was to Hezbollah what Pravda was to the Soviet Union.”

The discovery of doctored photos used by major media during the war was a major embarrassment and Kalb skewers the press for its misuse of photographs. In addition to several frequently cited examples, he mentions a photo of a southern suburb of Beirut that appeared in the New York Times that the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Erlanger later admitted was out of context. The Times used a satellite photo showing the destruction of a Beirut neighborhood that gave the impression of massive devastation throughout the city, but a larger photo of Beirut would have shown that the rest of Beirut was undamaged.

Nothing in Kalb’s report will come as any surprise to media critics or Israel’s supporters. What is shocking is that these well-documented abuses have continued for so long without the media itself taking corrective measures. The report should be required reading for journalism schools, not to mention working reporters. The serious maladies Kalb describes must be fixed if the media is to expect the public to have any confidence in its reporting.

Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.

The Media Cornucopia

The Media Cornucopia
By Adam D. Thierer
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 16, 2007

Throughout most of history, humans lived in a state of extreme information poverty. News traveled slowly, field to field, village to village. Even with the printing press’s advent, information spread at a snail’s pace. Few knew how to find printed materials, assuming that they even knew how to read. Today, by contrast, we live in a world of unprecedented media abundance that once would have been the stuff of science-fiction novels. We can increasingly obtain and consume whatever media we want, wherever and whenever we want: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the bewildering variety of material available on the Internet.

This media cornucopia is a wonderful development for a free society—or so you’d think. But today’s media universe has fierce detractors, and nowhere more vehemently than on the left. Their criticisms seem contradictory. Some, such as Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, contend that real media choices, information sources included, remain scarce, hindering citizens from fully participating in a deliberative democracy. Others argue that we have too many media choices, making it hard to share common thoughts or feelings; democracy, community itself, again loses out. Both liberal views get the story disastrously wrong. If either prevails, what’s shaping up to be America’s Golden Age of media could be over soon.

Back in 2003, a somewhat free-market-minded Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Republican Michael Powell, proposed to revise the arcane policies governing media ownership, which, among other things, limit how many newspapers, television stations, or radio stations a single entity can own in each community. “Americans today have more media choices, more sources of news and information, and more varied entertainment programming available to them than ever before,” the FCC observed. Allowing slightly more cross-ownership, it reasoned, would simply clear out the regulatory deadwood that artificially limited the ability of older media operators (broadcasters and newspapers) to compete with all the new media alternatives. Such a measure would do nothing to harm media multiplicity.

The Staggering Rise of Media Choices to Watch...

Despite the moderate nature of the FCC’s proposal, all hell broke loose on the left, and things haven’t really died down since. In congressional debates, Democratic lawmakers warned apocalyptically of the horrors that the FCC’s proposed reform would unleash. Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts—mentioning Citizen Kane but clearly thinking of Rupert Murdoch, whose FOX News and other media outlets have won a big audience for conservative views—implied that a few all-powerful media tycoons could soon run the world. California congresswoman Lynn Woolsey accused the FCC of trying to impose a centralized “Saddam-style information system in the United States.” Not to be outdone, New York’s Maurice Hinchey saw the new rules as a GOP-led “mind control” project. “It’s a well-thought-out and planned effort to control the political process,” he said. “It will wipe out our democracy.” Then–Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said that he’d break up Murdoch’s media empire “on ideological grounds.”

The circus-like “town hall meetings” that followed proved even more overheated. Pushed by Democratic FCC commissioners and organized by MoveOn.org, Free Press, and other leftist advocacy groups, these sessions gave anyone with a gripe against a media company a chance to vent. Some grumbled that TV and radio featured too much religious programming; others argued that there wasn’t enough. Everyone said that local radio broadcast nothing but garbage—but everyone defined garbage differently. And many aired long lists of complaints about the multiple radio stations, television channels, and newspapers in their areas, only to conclude that their local media markets were insufficiently competitive!

The critics did agree on one thing: government had to take steps to reverse our current media predicament—whatever it was. A variety of advocacy groups then took the FCC to court and got the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to put the whole media ownership revision on hold.

Most participants in the meetings fell into the scarcity-obsessed camp. On the face of it, the scarcity critics have a tough case to make. According to FCC data and various private reports, America boasts close to 14,000 radio stations today, double the number that existed in 1970. Satellite radio—an industry that didn’t even exist before 2001—claimed roughly 13 million subscribers nationwide by 2007. Eighty-six percent of households subscribe to cable or satellite TV today, receiving an average of 102 channels of the more than 500 available to them. There were 18,267 magazines produced in 2005, up from 14,302 in 1993. The only declining media sector is the newspaper business, which has seen circulation erode for many years now. But that’s largely a result of the competition that it faces from other outlets.

Throw the Internet into the mix and you get dizzy. The Internet Systems Consortium reports that the number of Internet host computers—computers or servers that allow people to post content on the Web—has grown from just 235 in 1982 to 1.3 million in 1993 to roughly 400 million in 2006. At the beginning of 2007, the blog-tracking service Technorati counted over 66 million blogs, with more than 175,000 new ones created daily. Bloggers update their sites “to the tune of over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second,” according to Technorati.

But the scarcity critics have a rejoinder: the apparent diversity isn’t real, because a handful of media barons—hell-bent on force-feeding us their politically reactionary pabulum and commercial messages—control most of it (even before any FCC ownership rule changes). “You can literally say you actually have more voices, but they are the same voices increasingly,” says New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta. Even the Internet isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The Consumer Federation of America’s Mark Cooper, author of Media Ownership and Democracy in the Digital Information Age, lambastes the Internet for failing to serve “the public interest,” for being too commercial, for not helping local communities, for hurting deliberative democracy, and for failing to enhance citizens’ ability “to define themselves and their place in everyday life.” Who knew that the Internet was so harmful to modern society?

...To Listen To...

It’s all nonsense, starting with the notion that a tiny group has a stranglehold on the media. A 2002 FCC survey of ten media markets—from the largest (New York City) to the smallest (Altoona, Pennsylvania)—showed that each had more outlets and owners in 2000 than in 1960. And the FCC counted all of a market’s cable channels as a single outlet (even though the typical viewer would regard each channel as a distinct one) and didn’t include national newspapers or Internet sites as media sources, so the diversity picture was even brighter than it seemed.

Nor do Americans lack a rich variety of “voices” in the media. Each new commercial media outlet must provide something at least slightly different from its rivals. If every book, magazine, TV channel, radio program, and website really said the same thing, citizens wouldn’t bother consuming any more than one or two of them. We simply wouldn’t have the media abundance that we enjoy today.

Becoming an informed citizen has never been easier. You can get up in the morning and still read your (probably liberal) local paper and several national ones—say, the Wall Street Journal (right-of-center editorial page) and USA Today (more or less centrist). Walk to the newsstand and you’ve got political magazines galore, from the Marxist New Left Review to the paleoconservative The American Conservative. On cable and satellite television: CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, PBS, local news, the big networks (at least for now), the BBC, C-SPAN, community access shows—all offer a wide variety of news and information options, some around the clock. Turn on the car radio and Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity booms out at you from the right; or maybe you can tune in to Sirius Left on satellite.

The Internet has done more to create the sort of media that scarcity critics claim to desire than any other technology. Every man, woman, and child can have a “newspaper” or broadcast outlet today—it’s called a website, blog, or podcast. It’s hard to imagine how the political blogosphere could be more diverse, ranging from the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post on the left to National Review Online and Power Line on the right to Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit, and Buzz Machine somewhere in between. A political junkie must hustle to keep up with what RealClearPolitics posts on its site every day.

The same breathtaking abundance characterizes entertainment and lifestyle media, which now provide something for every interest under the sun. Consider a truly eclectic person—a lesbian feminist African-American who likes to hunt on weekends and has a passion for country music. Would the “mainstream media” of 25 years ago have represented any of her interests? Unlikely. Today, though, this woman can program her TiVo to record her favorite shows on Black Entertainment Television, Logo (a gay/lesbian-oriented cable channel), Oxygen (female-targeted programming), the Outdoor Life Network, and Country Music Television. “We’ve gone from a few programmers in New York and Los Angeles deciding what people will watch to the people themselves voting with their remote controls every night, really every minute, on what they want,” says David Westin, president of ABC News. And that’s just television.

The liberal scarcity worrywarts thus ignore a recent history of stunning technological innovation and marketplace evolution that has made us as information-rich as any society in history. But this is where a second group of leftist media critics enters the picture.

What information consumes is rather obvious,” Nobel Prize–winning economist and psychologist Herbert Simon remarked in 1971: “the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Thirty-six years later, confronting a “wealth of information” that Simon could never have imagined, a growing group of left-wing critics warns about its destructive consequences. The titles of recent books by Todd Gitlin and Barry Schwartz—Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives and The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, respectively—capture the anxiety felt by these opponents of media multiplicity. It’s just too much.

Yet even if one concedes that the number of media choices can be daunting, notes Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, the market is responding. In his 2006 bestseller, The Long Tail, Anderson celebrates the explosion of information-sorting intermediaries and filtering tools that enable us to take full advantage of the media cornucopia. Google, Netflix, Amazon.com, iTunes, or, for political information, Huffington Post and RealClearPolitics are just a few examples. “These technologies and services sift through a vast array of choices to present you with the ones that are most right for you,” Anderson points out.

...And To Read.

But according to one of the most influential abundance-is-bad media critics, liberal law professor Cass Sunstein, Anderson’s filters only make things worse. In his 2001 book Republic.com, Sunstein notes that the hyper-customization of specialized websites and online technologies enables Americans to create a highly personalized information retrieval service—a “Daily Me,” he calls it, using a term coined by technology theorist Nicholas Negroponte. But whereas Negroponte, like Anderson, welcomes the filtering and specialization as a liberating break from traditional, force-fed media, Sunstein believes that they cause extreme social fragmentation, isolation, and alienation, and could lead to political extremism. “A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government,” he writes.

Schwartz echoes the point, fearing the antisocial effects of media offering “choice without boundaries.” “In a decade or so, when [TiVos] are in everybody’s home, it’s a good bet that when folks gather around the watercooler to discuss the last night’s big TV events, no two of them will have watched the same shows,” he writes ruefully. Similarly, Bill Carrick, a media advisor for former Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt, complained a while back to the Washington Post that the rise of the Internet, cable, and other new media was making it hard for politicians to reach the masses with campaign messages. “The danger for democracy,” he asserted, “is that we’re losing the universal campfire.”

When Sunstein and other liberal information-overload critics bemoan the loss of a “universal campfire” or shared watercooler experiences, they’re implicitly making the point that we were better off when just a few media outlets existed. Some even openly wax nostalgic about a supposed Golden Age of newspapers, radio, and television, when apparently we were less distracted, better informed, and enjoyed a better sense of community. This Norman Rockwell view is far more myth than reality. Was American democracy really better off when William Randolph Hearst dominated the newspaper business, or when the Big Three television networks brought us the news at a set time each night? And was community really stronger when everyone talked about the same things around the nation’s watercoolers every day, as opposed to different things?

In truth, one can make a strong case that the new media—and the Internet, above all—are facilitating a more rigorous deliberative democracy and a richer sense of community. “In modern American political history, perhaps only the coming of the television age has had as big an impact on our national elections as the Internet has,” observes Raul Fernandez, chief executive of the software firm ObjectVideo. “But the effect of the Internet may be better for the long-term health of our democracy. For while TV emphasizes perception, control, and centralization, Internet-driven politics is about transparency, distribution of effort, and, most important, empowerment and participation—at whatever level of engagement the consumer wants.”

As for community, “the Digital Age hasn’t mechanized humanity and isolated people in a sterile world of machines,” believes Richard Saul Wurman, author of Information Anxiety. The Internet, he points out, has enabled people across the globe to band together and communicate in ways previously unimaginable.

What unifies the two schools of leftist media criticism, beneath their apparent opposition, is pure elitism. Media abundance (which the scarcity critics must implausibly wave away as a mirage) has meant more room for right-of-center viewpoints that, while popular with many Americans, the critics find completely unacceptable. The fact that Bill O’Reilly gets better ratings than Bill Moyers perturbs them to no end. It’s just not fair!

Both liberal groups would love to put their thumbs on the scale and tilt the media in their preferred direction. Scarcity-obsessed Dennis Kucinich has recently introduced plans in Congress to revive the Fairness Doctrine, which once let government regulators police the airwaves to ensure a balancing of viewpoints, however that’s defined. A new Fairness Doctrine would affect most directly opinion-based talk radio, a medium that just happens to be dominated by conservatives. If a station wanted to run William Bennett’s show under such a regime, they might now have to broadcast wa left-wing alternative, too, even if it had poor ratings, which generally has been the case with liberal talk. Sunstein also proposes a kind of speech redistributionism. For the Internet, he suggests that regulators could impose “electronic sidewalks” on partisan websites (the National Rifle Association’s, say), forcing them to link to opposing views. The practical problems of implementing this program would be forbidding, even if it somehow proved constitutional. How many links to opposing views would secure the government’s approval? The FCC would need an army of media regulators (much as China has today) to monitor the millions of webpages, blogs, and social-networking sites and keep them in line.

That leftist media critics start sounding so authoritarian is no surprise. In a media cornucopia, freedom of choice inevitably yields media inequality. “In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome,” writes Clay Shirky of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Overcoming that inequality would require a completely regulated media.

When Rush Limbaugh has more listeners than NPR, or Tom Clancy sells more books than Noam Chomsky, or Motor Trend gets more subscribers than Mother Jones, liberals want to convince us (or themselves, perhaps) that it’s all because of some catastrophic market failure or a grand corporate conspiracy to dumb down the masses. In reality, it’s just the result of consumer choice. All the opinions that the Left’s media critics favor are now readily available to us via multiple platforms. But that’s not good enough, it seems: they won’t rest until all of us are watching, reading, and listening to the content that they prefer.

Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.

Associated Prevaricators

Associated Prevaricators
By Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 4, 2007

A RECENT ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY SO THOROUGHLY TWISTED THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE to present the opposite of reality, Bill Clinton might be writing its headlines. On Saturday, the AP ran a story with the depressing banner, “U.S. March toll nearly twice Iraq forces.” In it, AP writer Steven R. Hurst asserted, “The U.S. military death toll in March, the first full month of the security crackdown, was nearly twice that of the Iraqi army.”

 

One could begin by asking when in history the success or failure of a mission was judged by an algebraic formula comparing the number of American troops killed vs. those of our allies. (Imagine the headline: “U.S. D-Day toll nearly 6,600-times that of French.”) Aside from the fact that the reporter apparently chose this comparison from midair for the lone purpose of making President Bush’s troop surge appear a failure, it is also factually wrong – as the story itself makes clear.

 

According to Hurst, “The Associated Press count of U.S. military deaths for the month was 81, including a soldier who died from non-combat causes Friday.” So, the “U.S. March toll” stood at 80 dead. Hurst writes, “the Iraqi military toll was 44. The Iraqi figures showed that 165 Iraqi police were killed in March. Many of the police serve in paramilitary units.”

 

In other words, the number of U.S. deaths was less-than-half that of Iraqi forces. The very premise for Steven Hurst’s arbitrary story is based on an incomplete count that ignores those serving on the front lines of the Iraq war. However, since most Americans did not read beyond the headline to scrutinize his flawed methodology, they walk away believing the troop surge is proving futile.

 

It appears designed to demoralize, and it likely succeeded.

 

Hurst managed to bury the good news deep in the story: “The civilian death toll for the month was down significantly.” A somewhat less modest description of the death toll would be that of Reuters: “the lowest for four months.” Maj. Gen. William Caldwell reports in the one month since the surge began in earnest, “there has been an over 50 percent reduction in murders and executions.” Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander of the Baghdad security plan, also noted the operation’s success. Even the infamous BBC has conceded violence in the Iraqi capital has fallen by 25%.

 

The odd emphasis of Hurst’s story is highlighted by the fact that it appeared one day after Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero announced at a press conference:

 

all across Iraq sectarian violence remains at reduced levels. Attacks against civilians are down by about 20 percent, and civilian deaths are down by about 30 percent. Specifically in Baghdad, comparing the same six-week periods, attacks against civilians are down by 20 percent, with civilian deaths down by about 50 percent…The Iraqi public also shows increasing signs of support…It has reported that citizens are hoping the security plan will last.

 

All this progress took place with approximately one-third of the projected surge forces in Iraq. Nonetheless, in another story filed last Saturday, Steven R. Hurst editorialized, “While Bush, the American military and U.S. diplomats in Iraq have expressed cautious optimism about the crackdown…the ease with which suspected al-Qaida suicide bombers have continued striking Shiite targets must be deeply disconcerting.”

 

Hurst buried significant news in that story, as well: Al-Qaeda has started using chlorine gas against fellow Sunni Muslims, because the Sunnis now support America. “Al-Qaida-linked insurgents were believed to have turned to the weapon to strike terror among fellow Sunnis who have sided with U.S. forces.” In fact, the Sunnis are now engaged in “active combat” with al-Qaeda in Iraq and have signed up for the aforementioned Iraqi Police.

 

Maj. Gen. Barbero – who noted the U.S. is now receiving tips from inside Sadr City – gave a better assessment: “The use of poison gas on innocent Iraqi civilians discredits all of the Sunni extremist propaganda of being, quote, ‘an honorable resistance,’ focused on, quote, ‘driving out the infidels.’”

 

It also discredits the omnipresent objection of the antiwar Left, expressed by Hillary Clinton only yesterday: “It is time for us to get them out of the middle of this sectarian civil war.

 

The media’s coverage also deftly elided the depths of depravity to which Iraqi terrorists have sunk. Al-Qaeda packed an explosive backback on a 12-year-old boy, which detonated in Haditha on March 21. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the terrorists have burned or attacked 208 schools, killed numerous teachers, and particularly targeted schools open to girls.  

 

In response to these misogynistic, anti-human measures, the BBC has highlighted supposed Coalition murderers. The New York Times similarly complained, Hundreds Disappear Into the Black Hole of the Kurdish Prison System in Iraq.” (Arrests, the story later sheepishly admits, of terrorists taken in during the Kurds’ war with Ansar al-Islam, the al-Qaeda affiliate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi).

 

This kind of twisted, false measure is but a continuation of the prestige media’s coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom since its inception. As I reported, the day after Christmas the AP reported, “U.S. Deaths in Iraq Exceed 9/11 Count.” The ultimate casualty obsession story, the world’s largest news service reported with bated breath when the death toll hit 2,974 – one more American than died on 9/11. The implication is clear: Iraq was a “war of choice,” and by extension President Bush is a greater killer than Osama bin Laden. There were media orgies for the 2,000th casualty, the 1,000th casualty, even the 721st casualty. The media bemoaned a ban on portraying military caskets – which they quickly broke – and have taken to classifying each month as, e.g., “the fourth deadliest month of fighting.” 

This is not reporting: it is news manipulation designed to massage public opinion about the war. It is an important reminder of the ever-present filter through which Americans receive their news.

 If they haven’t smartened up.

What Ails Mainstream Journalism

What Ails Mainstream Journalism
By Alyssa A. Lappen
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 22, 2007

Why do otherwise thorough reporters lose their professional skepticism when covering the
Middle East and Islam? This peculiar journalistic phenomenon has puzzled me since I began covering the
Middle East and Islam, in lieu of the investigative financial reporting work I had done for most of my career. Indeed, it largely motivated my personal professional shift.

An informal conversation with a part-time journalism professor recently gave me important clues. Our professional dialogue was private; therefore, it would be a gross violation of trust to identify this person in any way, excepting to note that the professor lived and reported from the
Middle East for a time and now teaches how to cover current-day religious affairs and relations at a major university.

The professor’s classes often cover reporting on the Islamic community in the
U.S. today. Therefore, I was keenly interested to determine the professor’s familiarity with sacred and historical texts that motivate modern Islamic activity and dogma.

 

In financial reporting, it goes without saying that one cannot write a major investigative piece on a corporation, industry or economic issue without first reading a great deal. For public companies, this requires extensive review of all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings–recent annual reports (10-Ks, or F-20s for foreign firms), quarterlies (10-Qs), and changes to business strategy (8-K) or ownership (13-D). A good sleuth also consults the filings of major competitors and customers, in addition to interviewing as many of them as possible.

 

Only after laying this groundwork will the thorough reporter contact executives at the subject corporation.

 

A similar procedure–research first, interviews later–applies to private companies. Before 1995, Fidelity Investor chairman Edward C. Johnson III (Ned Johnson) rarely if ever spoke to reporters. Therefore before requesting an interview, I read everything available on the giant money management firm–and talked to more than 140 industry analysts, consultants, competitors, former and then-current Fidelity employees, and so on. The resulting September 1995 Institutional Investor cover story was subsequently emulated by Fortune, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

 

Likewise, for a May 1989 Forbes report on the world’s largest private textile firm, Milliken & Co., which had never previously been profiled, before asking the secretive magnate Roger Milliken for an interview, I spent six weeks filling more than 12 notebooks with every shred of data I could gather from every available source. The late Senator Strom Thurmond, then 86, for example, sent me to Florida U.S. Representatives Sam Gibbons, who, in turn, described Milliken as “a protectionist hog, H-O-G.” And former President Richard M. Nixon replied to an interview request in writing.

 

Of course, not all my financial stories required so many advance interviews, but a large number did. This point is not boastful. Indeed, without intensive advance work, interviewing hard-to-get, controversial, evasive or famous sources would be wasted opportunities or completely fruitless.

 

Such exhaustive reportage has often helped to expose corporate, Wall Street or other financial corruption. Similarly, investigative journalists have similarly raked corrupt politicians over the coals.

 

But when it comes to interviewing Muslim community or religious leaders, mainstream reporters are little inclined to submit them to tough or probing questions. Frequently, the U.S. media present leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), or Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as “civil rights” activists, “soft-spoken,” regular guys to be taken at face value, “moderate,” “really respected,” and so on.

Corporate executives caught contradicting themselves–lying, in a word–are forced out, one way or another. Such was the case for former Radio Shack CEO David J. Edmondson in 2006, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski, and an endless list of others. Given the recent prevalence of American corporate corruption, in fact, legislators and securities regulators responded with a host of new rules.  

On political religious matters, though, reporters don’t even check readily available records to verify the claimed moderation of these men and groups. Otherwise, they undoubtedly would quickly find that these organizations are actually all radical–supporting violence and terrorism–and that the supposed men of reason have usually said terribly immoderate things. But unlike the immoderate quotations and deeds of Democrats or Republicans, lesser Muslim radicals than Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al-Zawahiri go largely unnoticed in mainstream broadcasts and reports. 

The question is, why don’t reporters routinely check on these subjects, as when covering any other public figure?

 

Consider the above-noted journalism professor, teaching undergraduate college courses on how to cover modern religious communities, especially U.S. Muslim communities. This professor (with financial reporting experience no less) seemed both predisposed to believe the statements of most Muslims and completely oblivious to the inherent journalistic problem with that.

 

Moreover, lacking familiarity with the Islamic practice of hiding the truth (taqiyya, or kitman)–it would be easy to misapprehend the importance of substantiating and corroborating everything–even “unquestionable” religious precepts.

 

Probably for this reason, the professor lauded the condemnation of the September 11 attacks by the world’s preeminent Islamic university,
Cairo‘s al-Azhar. The teacher had never heard of its author, the respected Islamic scholar Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi–and was astonished to learn that Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna (The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna), consists entirely of Jew-hatred based on sacred Islamic texts.1
 

The professor, who speaks no Arabic, Farsi or Turkish, evidenced similar naiveté in suggesting that I read Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, by Columbia University’s “moderate” Mahmoud Mamdani–although Mamdani, likewise, is no moderate. In the March 2007 London Review of Books, he blasts New Yorkers protesting Sudan’s jihad genocide, which prefers to parallel with Iraq’s “insurgency and counter insurgency.” And in 2005, Mamdani sounded like Osama bin Laden, when he blamed the U.S. for creating violent political Islam during the Cold War. That year, in Foreign Affairs, Mamdani also falsely equated jihadis and neoconservatives.

 

The inadequate skepticism of the journalism professor seems representative of attitudes among the vast majority of Western mainstream journalists covering this area. The acceleration of excessive credulity screams from this oxymoron–“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”–which Foreign Affairs recently ran instead of a headline on an equally unbalanced “report.”

 

Another source of gullibility crystallized as the professor admitted almost total ignorance of the Qur’an, Hadith (reputed sayings and deeds of Muhammed), Sira (Muhammed’s biography), or such other critical Islamic texts as Al-Akham As-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance) by Ali ibn Muhammed Mawardi (d. 1058); Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib (d. 1368); or translations of any portion of Ibn Khatir’s massive Qur’anic commentary, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim.

 

Consider the supreme irony, given how Americans cherish freedom of speech, in contrast to the severe restrictions placed on it by Islam.

 

Slander, according to al-Naqib, “means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him.”2 According to the latter definition, even the truth can be slanderous if its subject doesn’t like it.

 

Lacking familiarity with these texts before interviewing a devout Muslim on religion or political Islam is akin to a financial journalist profiling a Fortune 500 CEO without reading his annual or quarterly reports, talking to any competitors, without even a rudimentary understanding of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. The CEO could have stolen and stashed a million shares of stock somewhere, and the reporter would be clueless.

 

But unacquainted with most important Islamic religious texts and laws, this professor insisted that only Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam is responsible for current Islamic terrorism and incitement to jihad–and that the original texts are devoid of radicalism.

 

In one regard, however, the professor should be greatly lauded–for requesting a “short list” of Islamic histories and important foundational Islamic texts, and promising to read and consider them all.3 

If every reporter covering Islam similarly committed to read (or at least consult) Islamic texts and history (with special attention to skeptics) the general ability to pose pertinent and challenging questions would rise exponentially along with understanding how radical Muslims, parading as moderates, have thus far generally deceived them.

NOTES:

 1 Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna], Zahraa’ lil-I`laam al-`Arabi,
Cairo. 1986-1987, third printing, 1407/1987, p. 9, pp. 107-126, 129-146, translated to English (forthcoming) in Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: from Sacred Texts to Solemn History (2007, Prometheus).
2 Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib (d. 1368), Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, 1991 and 1994, Amana Publications (revised ed., 1994), p. 730.

3 The short list includes the Qur’an (preferably in multiple translations), aHadith, (Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Bukhari, and others) Ibn Ishaq’s Sira (the oldest extant biography of Muhammed), The Laws of Islamic Governance (Muhammed Mawardi–d. 1058); Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat (Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib–d. 1368); Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim (Ibn Khatir’s Qur’anic commentary), and historical summaries including The Legacy of Islamic Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Dr. Andrew Bostom, 2005, Prometheus); Why I am Not a Muslim (Ibn Warraq, 1995, Prometheus); The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (Bat Ye’or, Farleigh Dickenson University, 1985); The Decline and Fall of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude 7th-20th Century (Bat Ye’or, 1996, Farleigh Dickenson University Press) Eurabia: The Euro Arab Axis (Bat Ye’or, Farleigh Dickenson University, 2005).


By Alyssa A. Lappen
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 22, 2007

Why do otherwise thorough reporters lose their professional skepticism when covering the
Middle East and Islam? This peculiar journalistic phenomenon has puzzled me since I began covering the
Middle East and Islam, in lieu of the investigative financial reporting work I had done for most of my career. Indeed, it largely motivated my personal professional shift.

An informal conversation with a part-time journalism professor recently gave me important clues. Our professional dialogue was private; therefore, it would be a gross violation of trust to identify this person in any way, excepting to note that the professor lived and reported from the
Middle East for a time and now teaches how to cover current-day religious affairs and relations at a major university.

The professor’s classes often cover reporting on the Islamic community in the
U.S. today. Therefore, I was keenly interested to determine the professor’s familiarity with sacred and historical texts that motivate modern Islamic activity and dogma.

 

In financial reporting, it goes without saying that one cannot write a major investigative piece on a corporation, industry or economic issue without first reading a great deal. For public companies, this requires extensive review of all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings–recent annual reports (10-Ks, or F-20s for foreign firms), quarterlies (10-Qs), and changes to business strategy (8-K) or ownership (13-D). A good sleuth also consults the filings of major competitors and customers, in addition to interviewing as many of them as possible.

 

Only after laying this groundwork will the thorough reporter contact executives at the subject corporation.

 

A similar procedure–research first, interviews later–applies to private companies. Before 1995, Fidelity Investor chairman Edward C. Johnson III (Ned Johnson) rarely if ever spoke to reporters. Therefore before requesting an interview, I read everything available on the giant money management firm–and talked to more than 140 industry analysts, consultants, competitors, former and then-current Fidelity employees, and so on. The resulting September 1995 Institutional Investor cover story was subsequently emulated by Fortune, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

 

Likewise, for a May 1989 Forbes report on the world’s largest private textile firm, Milliken & Co., which had never previously been profiled, before asking the secretive magnate Roger Milliken for an interview, I spent six weeks filling more than 12 notebooks with every shred of data I could gather from every available source. The late Senator Strom Thurmond, then 86, for example, sent me to Florida U.S. Representatives Sam Gibbons, who, in turn, described Milliken as “a protectionist hog, H-O-G.” And former President Richard M. Nixon replied to an interview request in writing.

 

Of course, not all my financial stories required so many advance interviews, but a large number did. This point is not boastful. Indeed, without intensive advance work, interviewing hard-to-get, controversial, evasive or famous sources would be wasted opportunities or completely fruitless.

 

Such exhaustive reportage has often helped to expose corporate, Wall Street or other financial corruption. Similarly, investigative journalists have similarly raked corrupt politicians over the coals.

 

But when it comes to interviewing Muslim community or religious leaders, mainstream reporters are little inclined to submit them to tough or probing questions. Frequently, the U.S. media present leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), or Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as “civil rights” activists, “soft-spoken,” regular guys to be taken at face value, “moderate,” “really respected,” and so on.

Corporate executives caught contradicting themselves–lying, in a word–are forced out, one way or another. Such was the case for former Radio Shack CEO David J. Edmondson in 2006, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski, and an endless list of others. Given the recent prevalence of American corporate corruption, in fact, legislators and securities regulators responded with a host of new rules.  

On political religious matters, though, reporters don’t even check readily available records to verify the claimed moderation of these men and groups. Otherwise, they undoubtedly would quickly find that these organizations are actually all radical–supporting violence and terrorism–and that the supposed men of reason have usually said terribly immoderate things. But unlike the immoderate quotations and deeds of Democrats or Republicans, lesser Muslim radicals than Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al-Zawahiri go largely unnoticed in mainstream broadcasts and reports. 

The question is, why don’t reporters routinely check on these subjects, as when covering any other public figure?

 

Consider the above-noted journalism professor, teaching undergraduate college courses on how to cover modern religious communities, especially U.S. Muslim communities. This professor (with financial reporting experience no less) seemed both predisposed to believe the statements of most Muslims and completely oblivious to the inherent journalistic problem with that.

 

Moreover, lacking familiarity with the Islamic practice of hiding the truth (taqiyya, or kitman)–it would be easy to misapprehend the importance of substantiating and corroborating everything–even “unquestionable” religious precepts.

 

Probably for this reason, the professor lauded the condemnation of the September 11 attacks by the world’s preeminent Islamic university,
Cairo‘s al-Azhar. The teacher had never heard of its author, the respected Islamic scholar Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi–and was astonished to learn that Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna (The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna), consists entirely of Jew-hatred based on sacred Islamic texts.1
 

The professor, who speaks no Arabic, Farsi or Turkish, evidenced similar naiveté in suggesting that I read Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, by Columbia University’s “moderate” Mahmoud Mamdani–although Mamdani, likewise, is no moderate. In the March 2007 London Review of Books, he blasts New Yorkers protesting Sudan’s jihad genocide, which prefers to parallel with Iraq’s “insurgency and counter insurgency.” And in 2005, Mamdani sounded like Osama bin Laden, when he blamed the U.S. for creating violent political Islam during the Cold War. That year, in Foreign Affairs, Mamdani also falsely equated jihadis and neoconservatives.

 

The inadequate skepticism of the journalism professor seems representative of attitudes among the vast majority of Western mainstream journalists covering this area. The acceleration of excessive credulity screams from this oxymoron–“The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”–which Foreign Affairs recently ran instead of a headline on an equally unbalanced “report.”

 

Another source of gullibility crystallized as the professor admitted almost total ignorance of the Qur’an, Hadith (reputed sayings and deeds of Muhammed), Sira (Muhammed’s biography), or such other critical Islamic texts as Al-Akham As-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance) by Ali ibn Muhammed Mawardi (d. 1058); Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib (d. 1368); or translations of any portion of Ibn Khatir’s massive Qur’anic commentary, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim.

 

Consider the supreme irony, given how Americans cherish freedom of speech, in contrast to the severe restrictions placed on it by Islam.

 

Slander, according to al-Naqib, “means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him.”2 According to the latter definition, even the truth can be slanderous if its subject doesn’t like it.

 

Lacking familiarity with these texts before interviewing a devout Muslim on religion or political Islam is akin to a financial journalist profiling a Fortune 500 CEO without reading his annual or quarterly reports, talking to any competitors, without even a rudimentary understanding of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. The CEO could have stolen and stashed a million shares of stock somewhere, and the reporter would be clueless.

 

But unacquainted with most important Islamic religious texts and laws, this professor insisted that only Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam is responsible for current Islamic terrorism and incitement to jihad–and that the original texts are devoid of radicalism.

 

In one regard, however, the professor should be greatly lauded–for requesting a “short list” of Islamic histories and important foundational Islamic texts, and promising to read and consider them all.3 

If every reporter covering Islam similarly committed to read (or at least consult) Islamic texts and history (with special attention to skeptics) the general ability to pose pertinent and challenging questions would rise exponentially along with understanding how radical Muslims, parading as moderates, have thus far generally deceived them.

NOTES:

 1 Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Sunna], Zahraa’ lil-I`laam al-`Arabi,
Cairo. 1986-1987, third printing, 1407/1987, p. 9, pp. 107-126, 129-146, translated to English (forthcoming) in Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: from Sacred Texts to Solemn History (2007, Prometheus).
2 Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib (d. 1368), Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, 1991 and 1994, Amana Publications (revised ed., 1994), p. 730.

3 The short list includes the Qur’an (preferably in multiple translations), aHadith, (Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Bukhari, and others) Ibn Ishaq’s Sira (the oldest extant biography of Muhammed), The Laws of Islamic Governance (Muhammed Mawardi–d. 1058); Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat (Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib–d. 1368); Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim (Ibn Khatir’s Qur’anic commentary), and historical summaries including The Legacy of Islamic Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Dr. Andrew Bostom, 2005, Prometheus); Why I am Not a Muslim (Ibn Warraq, 1995, Prometheus); The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (Bat Ye’or, Farleigh Dickenson University, 1985); The Decline and Fall of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude 7th-20th Century (Bat Ye’or, 1996, Farleigh Dickenson University Press) Eurabia: The Euro Arab Axis (Bat Ye’or, Farleigh Dickenson University, 2005).

Conservatives Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Justice, Media

Conservatives Decry ‘Double Standard’ in Justice, Media
By Fred Lucas
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
March 20, 2007

(CNSNews.com) – Some conservatives don’t mind that Republicans have been under fire for legal, ethical and moral mishaps, but they are concerned that Democrats may be getting away with the same types of misconduct.

“Corruption is bipartisan, always has been,” Kenneth Boehm, national chairman of the government watchdog National Legal and Policy Center, told Cybercast News Service. “The real issue is there ought to be one way to deal with every offender.”

Last month’s conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, for perjury and obstruction of justice brought back memories of an earlier incident involving a senior aide on national security.

Sandy Berger, the national security advisor for President Bill Clinton, admitted to stealing classified documents and even hid some under a trailer at a construction site near the National Archives.

He copped a plea, and a federal judge ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine, serve two years’ probation, perform 100 hours of community service and submit to a polygraph “lie detector” test. He has yet to have the polygraph.

In comparing the Libby and Berger cases, David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United, argued that the Libby case “came down to the old saw that the cover-up is worse than the alleged crime, whereas the latter [Berger case] amounted to one of the most brazen violations of classified material in our lifetime.”

“Whereas Libby is now awaiting sentencing and faces up to three years in prison,” Bossie noted, “Berger is a free man.”

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter declared of the Libby verdict, “That makes it official: It’s illegal to be a Republican.”

She cited multiple cases of Democrats who faced legal and ethical questions but have yet to be punished. They included Rep. William Jefferson from Louisiana, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Rep. Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island.

A Republican may be more likely to be forced from office over a scandal, Boehm contended, while Democrats often delay action. That’s in part because of the logistics of a federal trial in Washington, D.C., where the jury pool is heavily Democratic, he said.

Also, he added, Republicans in Congress have stronger procedural rules in their caucus regarding investigations.

But suggestions of a double standard, said Norm Ornstein, a research scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, are historically off base.

“Berger talked to prosecutors, and they felt he was relatively forthcoming,” Ornstein told Cybercast News Service. “To say there is a double standard in the Libby case, when [special prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed by a Republican Justice Department is an awfully hard case to make.”

Conservative talk radio, commentators and editorial pages have also complained about the heavy attention the media and Congress are giving allegations that the Bush administration fired eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons, when little attention met the Clinton administration’s decision to purge all but one of the nation’s sitting U.S. attorneys in 1993.

There again, however, Ornstein said the comparison was inappropriate.

“It’s one thing for a president to come in and say ‘I want my own people,’” Ornstein said. “It’s another to get rid of them because they weren’t prosecuting the people the Bush administration wanted prosecuted. It’s a false analogy.”

Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative Accuracy in Media Report, believes the Bush administration’s defensive handling of questions on the U.S. attorneys allowed it to manifest into a perceived scandal.

“The media devoted all this attention to a few U.S. attorneys fired, when Clinton fired them all,” Kincaid told Cybercast News Service. “The fault lies with the Bush administration and their Justice Department.”

It’s difficult to compare the Libby and Berger cases – or other cases of public misconduct – to make a sweeping judgment of a double standard, said Paul Orfanedes, director of litigation for Judicial Watch, a group that investigates potential government wrongdoing and ranks the most corrupt.

“There are such diverse examples,” he said. “It’s not surprising that different prosecutors take different directions.”

Sex, drugs and Florida prosecutions

A Florida prosecutor seemed to show at least a different level of aggressiveness in going after a high-profile conservative talk show host and a well-moneyed liberal.

Florida State Attorney Barry E. Krischer, a Democrat, was dogged in his pursuit of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who admitted addiction to prescription pain killers. However, Limbaugh denied he was involved in doctor shopping – or deceiving multiple doctors to get overlapping prescriptions – as prosecutors alleged.

After a near three-year probe, Limbaugh struck a deal last April without admitting guilt to the original charge, but admitted to committing fraud to obtain prescription drugs on the condition that the charges would be dropped in 18 months if he continued to go to treatment, as he was already doing.

Limbaugh also had to pay $30,000 to offset the cost of the investigation, as well as $30 a month for his supervision.

Although the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach, Fla., tried and failed to convict Limbaugh on the intended charges, Palm Beach police felt Krischer’s office lacked effort in the case of Jeffrey Epstein, a New York money manager with a home in Palm Beach and a major contributor to the Democratic Party.

Police watched Epstein’s home and reported that they found he was paying teenaged girls to come to his mansion to perform quasi-sexual acts.

When police presented the evidence to Krischer for an arrest warrant, Krischer instead chose to convene a grand jury and indict Epstein for solicitation of prostitution, when police wanted a more serious charge, since the acts involved minors.

Epstein maintains his innocence, while the Palm Beach police chief last fall asked that Krischer disqualify himself from the case.

Epstein had reportedly flown former President Bill Clinton in his 727 plane. Other Democratic candidates in 2006 – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer – returned donations they received from Epstein.

Republicans and Democrats are subjected to different standards, Kincaid said.

At the same time, however, he does not think this is something conservatives should bemoan.

“Rush Limbaugh says on the radio that character counts, so when he is caught, I don’t think he should expect to be let off the hook,” Kincaid said.

“Republicans and conservatives should be held to a higher standard. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. We’re the party of family values,” he added.

Congressional accountability

That “higher standard” may also apply to lawmakers involved in sex scandals.

In a recent example, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was forced from Congress in late 2006 when news broke just weeks before the mid-term elections that he had sent sexually explicit e-mails to under aged male congressional pages.

Back in 1993, however, Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) was censured for having sex with an under aged male page, remained in office for 13 years, and then retired.

Also censured in the 1983 page scandal was Rep. Dan Crane (R-Ind.), for having sex with a teenage female page. His accountability moment came in 1984 when the voters turned him out of office.

“In crimes of moral turpitude, you can explain a double standard,” Boehm said, in reference – again – to the importance conservatives place on morality. “In financial crimes, it depends. There ought to be one standard. Anything that detracts from one standard is a problem.”

In the realm of public corruption, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) resigned after being indicted by a Democratic state prosecutor on a campaign finance charge. He is awaiting trial and maintains his innocence.

Former Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) were both ousted and were sentenced to prison for bribery scandals that were blatant enough to ensure that few Republican partisans protested.

More recently, conservative watchdog groups such as Judicial Watch and the National Legal and Policy Center criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for selecting Democrats for the House leadership with ethical problems.

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania was Pelosi’s first choice to be House majority leader, despite being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980s “Abscam” scandal that involved the conviction of a senator and six House members.

She also tapped Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida – one of six former federal judges to be impeached and removed from office – to head the House intelligence committee.

Neither appointment was approved, but two other Democrats under a federal probe were rewarded with influential positions.

Jefferson was named to the Homeland Security Committee this year despite being under investigation by the FBI, which allegedly found $90,000 stashed in his freezer.

Rep. Allan Mollahan of West Virginia serves on a House appropriations subcommittee that supervises funding for the FBI, which is the agency probing his involvement in questionable budget earmarks to a non-profit group.

These incidents may not necessarily reflect a double standard, said Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow of conservative studies at the Heritage Foundation and professor of politics at Catholic University.

“Tom DeLay, being in leadership, had to be held to a higher standard than other members,” Edwards told Cybercast News Service.

Yet, another lawmaker in a position of leadership, Reid has yet to have a controversial $1.1 million real estate deal come under close inspection beyond scattered press accounts.

On the flip side, in 2002 then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), resigned amid a corruption scandal, amid election-year pressure from other members of his party. That same year, then-Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was expelled from the House by a near-unanimous vote after he was convicted on federal racketeering charges.

Edwards also points to scandals in past decades that brought down Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned under an ethics cloud, and Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), sentenced to prison in 1994 because of his involvement in the House post office scandal.

And of course, Edwards added, President Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, though he was eventually acquitted.

“You have to take a long view and look back over the last several decades [when looking into how Republicans and Democrats have fared in legal difficulties],” Edwards said.

But, he added, “Republicans hold themselves to a higher moral standard. Therefore, the media hold them to a higher standard.”

Blaming the Messenger

Blaming the Messenger
By Alan W. Dowd
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 13, 2007

It’s not fair to blame the messenger for delivering bad news. But it is fair to blame the messenger for delivering nothing more than bad news when there is also good news—or at least exculpatory news—to report. Four years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraq is a case in point.

The media are not contriving the news they report, of course. There are, after all, car bombings and kidnappings and killings. And there were, after all, problems with prewar intelligence and the postwar plan. But the media are choosing not to report other news about the US mission in Iraq—news that tells another side of a very complex and complicated chapter in American history. What the American people are left with is a partial picture—a picture that shapes their opinions about the war and will ultimately define its trajectory. Last month’s House resolution condemning the so-called “surge,” which supporters somehow claimed at once to be both meaningless and momentous, tilted that trajectory further downward.

 

The flagging will of the American people and their representatives is worrisome, albeit unsurprising.

 

Reflecting the recognition among American military commanders that the war on terror and its offspring in places like Iraq will be a generational struggle, Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Schissler conceded recently that “one of my concerns is how to maintain the American will, the public will, over that duration.” He is not the first to make the connection between public will and mission sustainability. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed long before the British carved out the borders of Iraq, “Among democratic nations, the private soldiers remain most like civilians; upon them, the habits of the nation have the firmest hold and public opinion has the most influence.”  

 

This connection between public opinion and those who defend the public is a good thing. But when public opinion is shaped by a partial picture, the results can be disastrous for a war effort.

 

Why does the press accentuate the negative? One reason is that the old media maxim still holds: “If it bleeds it leads.” Bad news is more interesting (which is to say, sells more papers and attracts more viewers) than good news. And there is plenty of bad news in Iraq to report. As I write this, for example, these are the headlines: “Blast kills six US soldiers in Iraq,” “Nine troops killed in two Iraq bombings,” “Snipers, bombs kill 14 in Iraq,” “At least 38 dead after Iraq bombing.”

 

But there are other reasons that major press outlets tend to focus on the negative: the major media’s latent distrust of the Executive branch, distaste for American power, mistaken sense that war itself is the enemy and sad inability to know the difference between balance and bias, neutrality and anti-Americanism.

 

Just consider how The New York Times reacted to reporter Michael Gordon’s views about the troop surge into Iraq, which caught the attention of The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and ABC’s Terry Moran. Asked if victory was within reach, Gordon said, “As a purely personal view, I think it’s worth…one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we’ve never really tried to win. We’ve simply been managing our way to defeat. And I think that if it’s done right, I think that there is the chance to accomplish something.” In response, the Times publicly reprimanded Gordon, concluding that he “stepped over the line” and that his comments “were an aberration” and “went too far.”

 

Went too far? As Moran asked, is it now wrong for American reporters “to want the US to win the war in Iraq?” For a significant number of editors and producers at influential media outlets, the answer is coming into sharper focus every day. Thus, we are treated to a smorgasbord of bad news:

 

  • A study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (and recapped by the Manhattan Institute) recently traced the steady downward spiral of Iraq reporting: In mid-2003, 51 percent of reports were negative; by late 2003, it was 71 percent; in 2004, it was 84 percent; in 2006, it was a stunning 94 percent.
  • In fact, according to the Media Research Center (MRC), for every positive story on the major networks about Iraq, there are four negative stories. Consider how CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” broadcasted footage of snipers hunting and killing American troops—footage that not only terrified stateside families and deflated stateside morale, but was delivered by enemies of the United States.
  • MRC also found that the number of casualties “was reported as a dry statistic, a morbid scorecard of what America had lost.” In other words, US casualty figures are seldom attached to any greater goal or good, and there is rarely an effort to put US losses in perspective by comparing them to losses in Vietnam, Korea or World War II.
  • The major press generally blames the ongoing war in Iraq on America’s failure to control chaos and looting in the immediate postwar period. But Iraq’s postwar war didn’t happen as some sort of spontaneous people’s revolt. It pays to recall that Charles Duelfer concluded in his postwar postmortem that Saddam “expected the war to evolve from traditional warfare to insurgency” and ordered his military to hide munitions caches throughout the country to support such an insurgency.
  • In 2005-2006, the press reported that US troops had perpetrated a “Haditha Massacre” without according the accused the same sense of objectivity and fairness reserved for stateside cop-killers—or even, ironically, captured terrorists: Recall the Orwellian decision by Reuters not to label as terrorists people who commit acts of terrorism.
  • Major print and television news outlets treated the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which concluded that terrorist activity had increased since the invasion, as if it had been handed down from Mount Sinai. Yet many of these same news outlets heaped scorn on the Bush administration for accepting the premise of the 2002 NIE, which concluded that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons of Mass Confusion

Speaking of WMDs, no matter how loudly they cheer for Scooter Libby’s conviction, major print and television news outlets have glossed over or ignored crucial pieces of pre-war and postwar WMD evidence. For instance:

 

  • The headline from David Kay’s testimony was, “We were all wrong.” What didn’t make the front page was that Kay also reported “hundreds of cases” of activities that were prohibited under UN Resolutions 687 and/or 1441; argued that postwar looting was “designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program;” described how “deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs began pre-conflict;” concluded that some WMD materials and personnel left Iraq before and during the invasion; and revealed Saddam’s illegal efforts to acquire long-range missile technology from North Korea.
  • Likewise, while Duelfer conceded that Saddam’s WMD arsenal was decayed and dormant, his report also concluded that Saddam was secretly planning to reconstitute his WMD arsenal as soon as the UN lost interest, and that Saddam had even established agreements with numerous non-Iraqi firms to enable him to build or buy “technologies for Iraq’s WMD-related conventional arms, and/or dual-use goods programs.” Toward that end, the report revealed, “the Iraqi Intelligence Service maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations.” Plus, Duelfer concluded that Iraq “was planning to produce several CW agents, including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and sarin.” Even more frightening, Saddam “could have re-established an elementary BW program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so.”
  • Similarly, major media outlets took a pass on John Negroponte’s 2006 letter to Congressman Hoekstra, which declared that Coalition forces had recovered 500 munitions containing mustard or sarin nerve agent. And they largely ignored the US Joint Forces Command Iraqi Perspectives Project, which found that “when it came to weapons of mass destruction, Saddam attempted to convince one audience that they were gone while simultaneously convincing another that Iraq still had them,” and that Saddam maintained “the illusion of having WMD,” even within his ruling circle. If Saddam’s generals didn’t know about his deadly game, one wonders how President Bush and his generals could have.

In short, the media outlets where most Americans get their news have painted a distorted picture—a tale of a country in ruins, of American troops as either helpless prey or thuggish torturers, of a war launched under false pretenses and waged in vain, of a lost cause. But there is positive news to report, if only the press cared to look for it:

 

Saddam is gone, and America is more secure as a result

 

·        First and foremost, if we consider the fullness of the assessments offered by dispassionate men like Duelfer and Kay, the American people are indeed safer now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in control of a regime with the proven capacity to build and deploy WMDs. That does not make the loss of American troops any easier, but it should make sense of that loss. In the harsh but sound calculus of this war, it is better for American troops to fight and die on foreign shores than for American civilians to be threatened or targeted on our own.

·        Second, it’s a good thing that Saddam and his sons are dead, that their thugocracy is gone, that their prewar safe haven for terror is dismantled, and that their postwar partner in crime, Zarqawi, has joined them wherever mass-murderers go when justice finally catches up with them.

·        Third, media analyses fail to entertain the possibility that the major cause of American casualties in Iraq—Baathist guerillas, al-Qaeda terrorists and Iranian-funded militias—is evidence that Washington’s post-9/11 security strategy is sound: The fact that Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the insurgencies inside Iraq, that al Qaeda sprung up immediately after (or perhaps as) the statues fell, and that Zarqawi and Saddam partnered with Islamist holy warriors and secular Baathists with equal ease adds credence to the notion that America’s enemies don’t care as much about means and methods as about realizing their common ends and destroying their common foe.

·        And finally, we should never forget that Saddam’s ouster did not occur in a vacuum. Consider Libya’s preemptive surrender of its WMD arsenal in late 2003, which, tellingly, came after Saddam’s capture. Sufficiently impressed by America’s work in Iraq, Moammar Quadaffi decided it was better to hand over his WMDs than end up cowering in a hole like Saddam Hussein. His WMD program, by the way, is entirely dismantled, its pieces shipped to Tennessee and destroyed.

 

Iraq is fighting for a more secure Middle East

 

  • To be sure, Baghdad and the other restive locales in central Iraq are not secure (hence the Bush administration’s surge). But that’s changing. Muqtada al-Sadr didn’t flee to Iran for a vacation.
  • Outside the so-called Sunni Triangle, a large majority of Iraqis report feeling safe. To expand that zone of safety and stability, Iraqi troops are fighting alongside Americans—and fighting is the operative word. Some 322,000 security and interior forces have been trained, with 104 combat battalions conducting operations in the field. After a terrible start in places like Fallujah in 2004, the Iraqi military is now an important part of the Coalition. As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Malaki intoned last year, “It is your duty and our duty to defeat this terror…Iraq is the front line in this struggle, and history will prove that the sacrifices of Iraqis for freedom will not be in vain. Iraqis are your allies in the war on terror.” (By the way, if you don’t recall Malaki’s stirring words, he delivered them to our Congress last July—not that the major media cared to report it.) 
  • Malaki brought together Iraq’s neighbors and world powers on March 10 for a regional conference in Baghdad to steer the country away from a Balkan-style breakdown. But let’s not expect too much from this neighborhood gathering. As George Walden, the author and former British Member of Parliament, once observed, “the group dynamics of diplomacy are not always the straightest path to virtue.”
  • Media mantras notwithstanding, this has never been a unilateral war. In fact, after four years of war and counterinsurgency, some 25 nations in addition to the US and Iraq still have boots on the ground. South Korea, for instance, recently extended its deployment commitment. And Britain’s February announcement of a troop drawdown, which was widely misreported as a withdrawal, is just another example of the major media fashioning its own narrative based on some of the facts. Headlines at ABC, AP and The San Francisco Chronicle all read, “Blair Announces Iraq Withdrawal Plan,” but what the prime minister actually announced was that Britain was lowering its troop commitment from 7,100 to 5,500—and that those 5,500 would stay “for as long as we are wanted and have a job to do.” We can debate whether this is prudent or helpful to the overall war effort, but it’s a far cry from withdrawal. 

Iraq is free—and trying to stay free

 

  • In 2005 alone, Iraq held three nationwide elections, including elections for the interim government, a referendum on the constitution and elections for the constitutional government. Today, there are 300 political parties and coalitions registered with Iraq’s election commission. And it pays to recall that Iraq earned back its sovereignty far sooner than postwar Japan or Germany.
  • The Iraqi government, quite unlike virtually all of its neighbors, operates under the rule of law, as prescribed by the most progressive constitution in the Muslim or Arab world.
  • A recent Pentagon progress report on Iraq indicates that the country’s GDP is climbing fast: It was $25.5 billion in 2004, but it grew to $34.5 billion in 2005 and $47 billion in 2006—a whopping 80 percent increase over three years. Iraq’s GDP is expected to eclipse the $71-billion mark by the end of 2008.
  • In 2005 alone, US AID helped immunize 98 percent of Iraqi children younger than five (3.62 million) against measles, mumps, and rubella—and 97 percent of children under five (4.56 million) against polio.
  • As of early 2007, according to the US Army’s Iraq Reconstruction Report, the US Army has launched some 3,340 reconstruction and development projects in Iraq. Americans are helping build 142 primary healthcare centers, which will serve more than 6 million Iraqis.
  • With the help of America’s ambidextrous troops, Iraq’s schools—in peacetime used as places of Baathist indoctrination, and in wartime used as anti-aircraft sites—are being rebuilt. All told, some 3,400 schools have been rehabilitated since 2003, and more than 55,000 teachers have been trained. 

In short, Iraq is far different than what many hoped it would be by now. But it is also far different than what our media messengers describe it to be.

Sources:

Tom Regan, “Duelfer report: Hussein planned on postwar insurgency,” October 12, 2004.

Charles Duelfer, “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,” 30 September 2004.

US Defense Department, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” Report to Congress, November 2006.

US State Department, “Iraq Weekly Status Report,” December 27, 2006.

US Army, “Iraq Reconstruction Report, January 4, 2007.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Iraqi dinar builds head pf steam amid nation’s chaos,” December 11, 2006.

John Negroponte, Letter to Peter Hoekstra, June 21, 2006.

James Q. Wilson, “The Press at War,” City Journal, November 6, 2006.

Media Research Center, “TV’s Bad News Brigade,” October 13, 2005.

US Department of State, “Rebuilding Iraq: U.S. Achievements through the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund,” February 2006.

US AID, “Iraq Reconstruction: A Brief Overview,” www.usaid.gov/iraq.

US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: Operation Iraqi Freedom: Three Years Later,” March 18, 2006.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers