Sunday, October 14, 2007

'All the News We Want to Print:' Iraq War Reality Check Missed

Americans know what's happening in Iraq: car bombings, atrocities, car bombings, futility, and car bombings. Admittedly, that's an exaggeration: but not by much.

News media certainly do not simply repeat each other: writing, as it were, from one playbook; as may be seen in this selection of lead paragraphs.
  • ABC News: "The White House insists progress is being made in Iraq despite the former top US commander there describing the war as a nightmare."
  • Bloomberg: "Retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who led U.S. forces in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, criticized American leaders for placing partisan gain at home above victory abroad and consigning America to a 'nightmare with no end in sight.'"
  • CBS: "The U.S. mission in Iraq is a 'nightmare with no end in sight' because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday."
  • Fox: "The former top commander of coalition forces in Iraq may have called U.S. efforts there catastrophically flawed and unrealistically optimistic, but much of the criticism of the media by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has been left unreported."
  • "A 'failure of the national political leadership' is responsible for the 'nightmare' of the Iraq war, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said Friday."
  • USA Today: "The former U.S. commander in Iraq, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has delivered a withering indictment of the the White House's handling of the war, telling a gathering of military journalists that 'America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.'"
And, in the English-speaking world outside America, there is even more diversity:The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that Downer said, "With the greatest of respect, General (David) Petraeus, the general in charge there, our military people in Iraq, our diplomats on the ground there, people like me who have actually been there in recent times, talked to people, looked at the situation, are likely to know a fair bit about this, not just playing a political game or trying to make a rhetorical point."

My hat's off to the news media, for reporting a former military commander's criticism of America's political leadership. That's the sort of reporting that help keep politicos relatively honest and diligent.

On the other hand, I'd be more impressed if one cable news network didn't scoop everyone else about the rest of what General Sanchez had to say.

General Sanchez, speaking at the Military Reporters and Editors Association (MREA), targeted
  • Congress
  • The State Department
  • The National Security Council
  • The Pentagon
  • General David Petraeus, the current Iraq commander
General Sanchez may have missed some potential targets of criticism, but bear in mind that he had limited time.

Besides the usual suspects in Washington politics, General Sanchez said that reporters were guilty of "unscrupulous reporting, solely focused on supporting an agenda and preconceived notions of the U.S. military."

He didn't name a specific company, but Sanchez said that the political agendas of "parent media organizations" directing news coverage of the war sometimes put U.S. soldiers in lethal situations.

This criticism of the press shows up only on Fox News. That news organization released quite a bit of General Sanchez' remarks to MREA to the general public.

"What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war. My assessment is that your profession, to some, has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, reads in newspapers and what they see on the Web," Sanchez said.

Fox News reports the current score of car bombings, just like any other news service, but I wish they weren't the only one to mention, let alone quote, General Sanchez' scathing criticism of the news media.


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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.