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Published: Saturday, 1/22/2005

Media's scaremongers

THE Washington Post's Dana Priest has demonstrated yet again why so many Americans don't trust the "mainstream" media to tell the truth about what is going on in the war on terror.

Her Jan. 14 story on a study by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA's think tank, ran under the scare headline: "Iraq new terror breeding ground. War created haven, CIA advisers report."

One wouldn't gather from the headline or Ms. Priest's lead that the study, "Mapping the Global Future," has next to nothing to do with Iraq. Based on interviews with 1,000 non-government experts around the world, it paints four scenarios for what the world might look like in 2020.

The most important developments in the next 15 years, these experts said, will be the rise of China and India as economic powers that could rival the United States, and the decline of Europe, due to its shrinking and aging population and sclerotic welfare states.

Ms. Priest hangs her scary lead on a single sentence in the 119-page report: "The al-Qaeda membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq."

This is the rather commonplace observation that over time, veterans of the current war will replace veterans of the war against the Russians in Afghanistan 20 years ago as the leaders of al-Qaeda. The calendar alone guarantees that. But Ms. Priest describes this single sentence as: "an evaluation of Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists."

Except, of course, there is nothing "new" about Iraq being a breeding ground for terrorists. Saddam Hussein had a special camp at Salman Pak to train terrorists from other lands, and had given sanctuary to terrorist leaders, including one of the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Jordanian who is the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The biggest thing that's changed since the American invasion is that now there is a high likelihood that jihadists who come to Iraq will be killed there.

But if Ms. Priest told the truth, she couldn't turn a story on the NIC report into an attack on Bush Administration policy in Iraq.

Ms. Priest and the Washington Post are hardly the only news organs to slant their reportage to put the situation in Iraq in the worst possible light.

Marine Corporal Isaac Pacheco, who works in the Coalition public affairs office in Baghdad, wondered why no one in the "mainstream" media has seen fit to do a story on Sgt. Addie Collins, an Army reservist from Los Angeles, who - through donations from friends back home - has supplied 10,000 pairs of sneakers, sandals, and boots to children in Ar Ramadi.

"Many service members shake their heads in frustration each time they see their daily rebuilding efforts ignored by the media," Corporal Pacheco said.

"I just read yet another distorted and grossly exaggerated story from a major news organization about the 'failures' in the war in Iraq," Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, a battalion commander in the First Cavalry Division, wrote in an e-mail to friends.

"Print and video journalists are covering only a small fraction of the events in Iraq, and more often than not, the events they cover are only the bad ones," said Lieutenant Ryan, who is now stationed in Fallujah. "Many of the journalists making public assessments about the progress of the war in Iraq are unqualified to do so, given their training and experience. The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the world view of the daily realities in Iraq."

Lieutenant Ryan wondered why journalists devote so little attention to atrocities committed by the resistance, and so much on scandals like Abu Ghraib.

"The media serve as the glass through which a relatively small event can be magnified to international proportions, and the enemy is exploiting this with incredible ease," he said. "It's a disgrace when many on whom the world relies for news paint such an incomplete picture of what actually has happened."



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