Thursday, April 15, 2004

In today´s Guardian Roy Greenslade writes a fascinating piece on how wrong the media were about the Iraq war, called "It´s time to judge the pundits."

A year ago today, with the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, the pro-war commentators couldn't stop crowing about the ease with which the coalition forces had won a swift and righteous victory. In the immediate aftermath, their triumphalist verdict was: the war had been won; the dictator was overthrown; resistance was crumbling; Iraq was assured of a benevolent, democratic future.
As that peerless prophet William Rees-Mogg told his Times readers: "April 9 2003 was Liberty Day for Iraq, the day on which one of the foulest of the 20th-century tyrannies was finally destroyed." It was achieved, he wrote, by "the engine of global liberation", the United States.

The Times's leader writer also hymned the victory: "Jubilant crowds emerged on the streets. Elated Iraqis threw flowers to greet American troops ... After 24 years of oppression, three wars and three weeks of relentless bombing, Baghdad has emerged from an age of darkness. Yesterday was an historic day of liberation."

One of the Times's senior executives, Michael Gove, wrote of the effects that would follow "a massive infusion of western humanitarian aid", proclaiming: "Hopes are high that it will soon become the most democratic state in the Arab world." This transformation would be aided by the fact that British "troops are recognised as the world's most effective in winning battles as well as hearts and minds".

Rupert Murdoch's other cheerleader for war, the Sun, told its readers: "The spontaneous outpouring of joy in towns and cities across Iraq was the message to the world that America and Britain are liberating allies, not oppressing invaders." It spoke of the war as "a political triumph ... for Tony Blair and George Bush", because "virtually alone on the world stage, and blocked at all sides by the treachery of the French, Russians and Germans, they had the fortitude to do what they knew was right".

On April 13, Murdoch's Sunday Times saw it as "an easy military victory" and argued that the "remaining support for the regime has crumbled". Everything was just fine: "The Ark Royal is preparing to sail back to Britain. Yesterday's stop-the-war protest in London must rank as one of the silliest rallies in modern times."

Interestingly, as off-base as these pundits assessments may seem, his critique was one of the UK media, which by and large was more critical of the war than was ours. A look at our media is even more unbelievable.

"Television, newspapers wrong on war in Iraq;
Saw lengthy battle; doubted U.S. plan"

Washington Times
April 13, 2003

Iraqis danced in the streets, kissed the cheeks of coalition soldiers, threw flowers in the path of tanks and cheered as U.S. Marines helped bring down a statue of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

It was a scenario wholly contrary to a future many of those very same media outlets predicted just days before.

The Washington Post published a front-page story on April 4 with the unsourced assertion that "the U.S. invasion force, built around one tank-heavy Army division and one lighter Marine division, is not large or powerful enough to take Baghdad by force, especially with tens of thousands of heavily armed fighters believed loyal to Hussein still inside the sprawling city."

A front-page story in The Washington Post on April 1, titled "Rumsfeld's Design for War Criticized on the Battlefield," stated that "raw nerves were obvious" as officers compared the war planning of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld with that of maligned Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara.

The story's sole quoted source of active battlefield complainers was an anonymous colonel who said Mr. Rumsfeld "wanted to fight this war on the cheap" and "he got what he wanted."A story the next day told of unidentified "senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq as well as retired officers at home" who "have questioned some of the Pentagon's assumptions behind the war plans."

...Television anchors also beat the drums of doom prior to the liberation of Baghdad.

Ted Koppel, reporting from the front lines for ABC's "Nightline" on March 25, told viewers to "forget the easy victories of the last 20 years. This war is more like the ones we knew before."

A graphic beneath a report by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Feb. 25 asked: "If War Happens, Another Quagmire?"

On "Good Morning America" on March 26, ABC's Diane Sawyer wondered: "What happened to the flowers expected to be tossed the way of the Americans? Was it a terrible miscalculation?"

CBS' Leslie Stahl told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on the March 26 edition of "48 Hours" that the supply lines to quickly advancing U.S. forces were overstretched, its "rear was exposed" and these problems were endangering the needed humanitarian aid in southern Iraq.

"It's nonsense," replied Mr. Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first Bush administration. "It's the usual chatter. Every general who ever worked for me is now on some network commenting on the daily battle and, frankly, battles come and wars come and they have ups and downs, they have a rhythm to it."

John McWethy, a correspondent for ABC's "World News Tonight," told viewers on April 4 that his "intelligence sources are saying that some of Saddam Hussein's toughest security forces are now apparently digging in, apparently willing to defend their city block by block."

"This could be, Peter, a long war," Mr. McWethy told "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings.

"As many people had anticipated," replied Mr. Jennings.

On the Jan. 24 edition of CBS' "60 Minutes II," Dan Rather warned that "to win this time" the Iraqis say that coalition troops "will have to wage a perilous battle in the streets of Baghdad." And if it comes to that "the civilians we spoke with said they will fight, too," he said. Mr. Rather also warned that Baghdad's narrow streets and dark alleys are "a perfect place for Saddam to ambush the invaders."

...Pushing different agendas

Newsweek magazine's "Conventional Wisdom" column in the April 7 edition [which hit newsstands on March 31] gave out three "down arrows" - one each to Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Cheney's "down arrow" was for stating on NBC's "Meet The Press" that U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq as liberators. Newsweek called it an "arrogant blunder for the ages."

New York Times
Editorial, February 15, 2003
As much as the feuding members of the United Nations Security Council might like Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to settle the question of war or peace with Iraq, these two mild-mannered civil servants can't make that fateful judgment. All they can do, which they did again yesterday, is to tell the Council how their inspection efforts are faring. So-so was the answer. It's up to the Council members "especially the veto-wielding quintet of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China” to decide whether Iraq is disarming.

In our judgment, Iraq is not. The only way short of war to get Saddam Hussein to reverse course at this late hour is to make clear that the Security Council is united in its determination to disarm him and is now ready to call in the cavalry to get the job done. America and Britain are prepared to take that step. The time has come for the others to quit pretending that inspections alone are the solution....

Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei cannot be left to play games of hide-and-seek. This is not like Washington's unproved assertions about an alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. There is ample evidence that Iraq has produced highly toxic VX nerve gas and anthrax and has the capacity to produce a lot more. It has concealed these materials, lied about them, and more recently failed to account for them to the current inspectors. The Security Council doesn't need to sit through more months of inconclusive reports. It needs full and immediate Iraqi disarmament. It needs to say so, backed by the threat of military force

Calgary Sun (Canada)
April 13, 2003
Ted Blyfield

It's surely a good idea from time to time to look at recent events and ask yourself: "What if?"

For instance, what if the Americans had listened to the left, heeded all the protesters, all the enlightened university professors, all the people who told them how awful it would be if they were actually to go to war with Iraq?

In other words, what if they had a Jean Chretien for president instead of a George W. Bush?

Where would we all be now?

We would be taking "further diplomatic initiatives," of course.

Saddam Hussein would be paying lip service to them while building his arsenal of chemical weapons preparatory for an attack on Israel and gradually assuming the leadership of the militant world-wide Islamic terrorist movement.

And every time the Americans failed to move against him, as they had ever since the Gulf War, he would have gained that much more technological strength, that much more credibility with whole Muslim world, so that in the end the West would have had to fight him anyway, and probably a great many other countries besides.

But none of this has happened and for one elementary reason.

The Americans did not listen to the left. They knew the left didn't have the faintest clue what was going on.

President Bush, the "moron," remember? -- turned out to be absolutely right, and they turned out to be absolutely wrong. The real "moron" apparently lives in Ottawa, not Washington.

They were wrong about the tens of thousand of civilian casualties they predicted. They were wrong about the street-by-street, house-by-house battle that would demolish the city of Baghdad and send thousands of Americans home in body bags. They were wrong about Syria and Iran coming to the aid of Iraq. They were wrong, so it appears, in every particular.

Washington Times
"Inside Politics" March 21, 2003

...Eugene Dean

Politicians of every persuasion should just chill for a while, a Manchester [N.H.] Union Leader editorial observed yesterday, referring particularly to Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean of Vermont, who recently called the war in Iraq the "wrong war at the wrong time."

The editorial stated, "One can only imagine how soldiers, marines and airmen being shot at must feel to hear Mr. Dean ... who seems to be styling himself as the McCarthy-McGovern candidate of the day."

Yet Mr. Dean had no answer when asked if troops should withdraw, which the paper called "typical." It advises him and other Democratic players to suspend presidential campaigns for now or to at least declare the war off limits.

"There are plenty of other issues on which they can legitimately joust with President Bush and the Republicans. But those who, in the first days of battle, use their national soap box to declare it the 'wrong war at the wrong time' are giving aid and comfort and false encouragement to an enemy who is counting on just that sort of thing."

National Review
"A Just war, Jimmy"
Andrew Levin
March 11, 2003

Jimmy Carter wrote yet another opinion piece on Sunday, this time in the New York Times, criticizing President Bush's foreign policy. His unsolicited advice - presented in an increasingly arrogant tone - addressed what he called the elements of a "just war."

I needn't summarize Carter's piece here, as it's impossible to cover adequately all of its defects, or his, in one sitting. (For a good deconstructing, see Ramesh Ponnuru.) However, it's remarkable that a man who, as president, tolerated Pol Pot and one million Cambodian deaths, ushered in the Ayatollah Khomeini and decades of international terrorism, ignored Daniel Ortega and the spread of Communism in our hemisphere, and took no effective steps to confront the Soviets as they invaded Afghanistan and caused millions of casualties, is treated as some kind of human-rights advocate. I doubt those who suffered horribly under these regimes see him that way.

And it should shock no one that the New York Times, which is opposed to war with Iraq, is impressed with Carter's views. After all, it was only 60 or so years ago that it was slow to report on the Holocaust, for which it has since apologized. There are six million Jews who never lived long enough to hear those words.

War against Iraq is not only just, but long overdue. There are a combination of factors that make it so:

Genocide: Since coming to power in 1979, Saddam Hussein has killed 200,000 of his own people, mostly Kurds and Shiites. He has launched unprovoked wars against his neighbors, resulting in the death of over one million Muslims.

Other Atrocities: Hussein uses sadistic and barbaric forms of torture to maintain control over 23 million Iraqis, including chemical and biological experiments, disfiguration, and rape. He has used poisons, such as mustard gas, against entire towns and refugee camps, killing and maiming untold thousands.

International Law: Hussein stands in violation of 17 U.N. resolutions, including the ceasefire and surrender terms to which he agreed, by refusing to disarm and destroy his vast array of weapons of mass destruction. He has failed to account for thousands of prisoners of war, including hundreds of Kuwaitis and one American. Hussein caused irreparable environmental damage when his retreating military ignited Kuwaiti oil fields.

U.S. National Security: Hussein's continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and his hidden stores of tons of chemical and biological weapons are not intended for defensive purposes. None of the countries surrounding Iraq, including Israel and Iran, pose a threat to Iraq. It is Iraq that poses a threat to its neighbors, as Hussein's words and record make clear.

Evidence of al Qaeda and Iraqi connections continues to grow. No less an authority than the left's beloved New York Times reported recently that al Qaeda terrorists are operating in Iraq, and not only in the northern no-fly zone. Iraq is also collaborating with other terrorist organizations. For example, it funds homicide bombers, many of whom are associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In any event, Hussein and al Qaeda, as well as other terrorist groups, have every reason to cooperate with each other. They're motivated by a common purpose, i.e., to inflict massive casualties on Americans. It's illogical to argue that they would abstain from such alliances. Therefore, the risk of Hussein arming terrorists with deadly weapons for use against the United States is real and serious...


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