Media-bashing on Iraq
I recently received the newsletter of the China-Burma-India Veterans Assn., an organization to which I belong. It contained an angry editorial by our local unit's commander who is obviously a Bush Administration enthusiast who eagerly supported the Iraq invasion. He complained that the print and TV media were "extremely biased" against the war and that they are damaging American morale and destroying our nation's image as "the largest provider in the world in alleviating suffrage among the world's needy."
He cited the media's excessive reporting of U.S. casualties and of the disruption of the lives of National Guardsmen and reservists called to active duty and the inadquate coverage of "the accomplishments by our troops in improving the culture of the Iraqis." By accomplishments, he referred to school and hospital openings and U.S. supplies of food to Iraqi civilians. He compared the "biased" reporting on the Iraq invasion to the media's "anti-war campaign" during the Vietnam war when the media "brain-washed the public" and presumably caused our defeat.
I wrote him a letter stating that he was doing a disservice to our troops in Iraq by challenging the patriotism and honesty of American journalists covering the war by implying that there was some sort of media conspiracy He graciously invited me to rebut his views in the newletter's next issue.
In my response, I argued that he had made a dreadfully simplistic assessment of media coverage of both Iraq and Vietnam. I noted that I had been a journalist for 40 years before my retirement and had covered the Pentagon for Business Week magazine during 1953-1963, reporting on the start of our engagement in Vietnam. By accusing the media of having an ideological agenda and brain-washing the public, the editorial in the CBI Veterans newsletter insulted the integrity of the courageous, patriotic newsmen covering the Iraq war and those who served in Vietnam.
What the reporters are seeing in Iraq, unfortunately, is a steady rise in U.S. casualties, an apparent failure to create a viable pro-American Iraqi regime, a growing military insurgency, and the deterioration of America's world image. Even worse, our war on global terrorist has been severely damaged. Al Qaeda and other Islamists, who were never a factor in Iraq before, have expanded the global battlefield in the war against terrorism. Moreover, we now face the danger after the recent election of winding up with a pro-Iranian, fundamentalist Shiite regime in Iraq that would be as much if not more of a threat than Saddam was to the U.S.
These unpleasant developments are facts reported by journalists on the ground, not opinions based on ideology. The problem is that we invaded Iraq despite the lack of an "imminent" danger from the infamous Saddam, the lack of a post-invasion strategy, and the absence of evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. In invading Iraq the U.S. has committed a blunder just as serious as our involvement in Vietnam, which was essentially a civil war between nationalists and French puppets. We inherited the stigma of the French colonialists and had no meaningful impact on what Washington had billed as a war against communism--a conclusion belatedly admitted by former Defense Secy. Robert McNamara.